So, now the real heart of the matter; deciding what the 12 challenges should be and what order in which to do them. I’ve come up with some ideas but I’d like some feedback. A few of these are undecided and the order is certainly not set in stone so if any of you have ideas for better challenges or thoughts about order please let me know!
Okay, here goes:
January: No simple carbs
It was pretty easy to figure out where to begin. I’ve cut out simple carbs before and it felt great- a whole slew of seemingly unrelated health issues went away completely. A few things have caused me to “fall off the wagon” so to speak but I’m aware of them and ready to get back on track. This means no sugar, wheat flour or potatoes.
February: Keep a food journal
This challenge actually serves a few purposes.
1) I know from past experience that it is very easy to overindulge while thinking, “Once in a while is okay.” After the no simple carbs challenge this will be especially tempting. A food journal will help me keep track of how often “once in a while” is actually occurring.
2) I tend to make better choices when I see it written out in black and white. If I know I’m going to be accountable, even if it’s only to myself, then I’m more likely to choose healthier options and portions.
3) I’ve become very attuned at figuring out which foods energize and which ones leave me feeling lethargic. I have also been able to trace some joint pain and headache issues back to specific food choices. The problem is that I don’t always remember later which foods to choose and which to avoid. The journal will be a great reference tool.
March: Test blood glucose at least once a day
The test strips are kind of expensive. It’s a pain to continuously prick my finger with a needle. I am forgetful. I get discouraged when I’m doing everything “right” and my glucose levels are still not what I want them to be. These are all of the reasons I’m not already doing this but the simple fact is that when it comes to managing a chronic illness ignorance is not bliss; it is dangerous. So, I’ll stock up on test strips and suck it up.
Fasting numbers are important and I’ll do those each morning. In the beginning I’ll probably do some postprandial (after eating) numbers as well just to get a baseline. But when I’m eating well postprandial numbers aren’t really an issue for me. It’s those damn fasting numbers. It’s also always a good idea to test when eating something new to which I’m unsure how I’ll react. Especially things with seemingly complex carbs such as fruit. Most fruits are okay but a few spike my blood sugar so I try to avoid them. I’ve added a few seemingly innocuous foods to my diet (oat flour and dates to be specific) since I last tested my blood sugar so I need to find out how I’m reacting to them. I could test and find out now but without other good eating habits established it won’t be very accurate.
April: Exercise daily
I’ve done this in another 30 day challenge. I felt great, my blood sugar dropped and then I just got lazy. No other excuse really. I just bought a Roku (streaming device for the TV) and it has a fitness channel with lots of workout options. We also have the Wii fit and spring will be upon me so I’ll be able to be outside walking as well.
I often contemplate trying to do the couch to 5k challenge and it would be a good time to begin but honestly, I don’t want to overreach. I don’t have a good place to speed-walk/run since I live on a gravel road and the nearest gym is half an hour away. We’ll see how I’m feeling about taking on something of this scale and commitment when April rolls around.
May: Take my medication
When I finally went for an A1C (comprehensive glucose screening) my blood sugar was normal. However, it was at the high end of what is considered normal and the nurse practitioner felt that a low dose of Metformin would be helpful. There are few side effects to this medication and I really wanted my blood sugar to be a bit lower so I filled the prescription. But I often forget to take it.
I’ve mentioned that I’m forgetful. I think if I could just get into the habit of taking it every morning that I wouldn’t forget and hopefully this challenge will help me establish that habit. And I’m saving it until after I’ve made the above changes because I want to see what effect the meds actually have on my blood sugar when I’m following a healthy lifestlyle.
June: Sleep better
I am not a good sleeper. I suffer frequent bouts of insomnia, I stay up late even when I’m tired, I toss and turn throughout the night. I am tired most of the time. I want to change that.
I’m going to implement a few ideas to assist with this goal: a soothing bedtime routine of stretches, calming scented lotion, cutting out caffeine after dinner, going to bed by 11 pm (even if just to read since I know trying to force sleep sometimes exacerbates my insomnia but reading in bed actually helps) and perhaps some sleepy time herbal tea.
My goal is to be able to wake naturally, without the use of an alarm. I thought about establishing a time but letting my body be the guide instead of the clock seems like a better idea.
July: Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables
Okay, I admit it- I saved this one for July because it’s the height of our local gardening season. I’ll have easy access to tons of fresh fruits and veggies at little to no cost (my neighbors are very generous).
August: No soda
My name is Hope and I am addicted to diet soda. I’d like to break the habit.
September: Mindful eating
Eating while I’m distracted or because I’m bored are some of my most difficult habits to break. Mindful eating will consist of not eating while reading or watching TV, putting my fork down between bites, paying full attention to the tastes and textures of my food and choosing when and how much to eat based on my body’s hunger and satiety cues.
October: Drink at least 8 glasses of water
I love water but this one can be a bit tricky because of that forgetful side of my nature- I have great reusable water bottles but forget them all the time. I also hate paying for bottled water so when I leave the house empty handed I often simply don’t drink anything (or drink diet soda, see August). Hopefully this challenge will help me establish a new habit.
In the interest of full disclosure I’m admitting that I picked this one for October because I think it will be easy to keep up with while we’re on our beach vacation. Staying hydrated in the Alabama sun also just seems like a good idea. 🙂
November: No eating out
When I eat out it’s usually fast food. Nothing at a fast food place are the best, healthiest choices I can make for myself (not even the preservative filled salads). As an added bonus this will help me save some money as Christmas approaches.
December: Daily meditation
I’m not really very woo-ish and I don’t think there are any supernatural benefits to meditation. However, I do know that the deep breathing, relaxation and focused attention associated with meditation have been linked to a lot of health benefits. And I feel better when I do it, both physically and mentally.
That’s it- 12 months of challenges. What do you think?