Thursday, 7 September 2017

Positive Life Changes


As we move into September, for many of us it feels like a fresh start. For many in the UK, this week marks the beginning of a new academic year, and even for me, who has been out of academia for six years now, that feeling has never left me. September feels like a landmark time to make positive changes as we start to bring 2017 to a close, and I personally am going to take full advantage of that feeling.

In all honesty 2017 has been the weirdest year ever for me. I have had some incredible times and experiences this year, yet the weight of losing my Mum has constantly been sat on my shoulders. Along with these amazing experiences I have still felt an emptiness sat inside of me, so I’m not sure I’ve truly embraced the amazing experiences I’ve had because in a way, I suppose I’ve felt guilty. Guilty for making wonderful memories when my Mum is gone.

I’ve realised recently that I’ve been trying to fill that emptiness I’ve been feeling in a couple of different ways. First of all, with food. It’s something I’ve done for a very long time, and is a result of my constant weight gain over the past six years since leaving University and being less active. I’ve been a stress eater for a long time. Bad day at work? I’m going to treat myself to a sharer bag of crisps and two giant chocolate bars (Which yes, I will eat all in one sitting!). Personal problems? Let’s order the entire menu on the Chinese takeaway!

My mind set started to change when I went to - of all places - Dinseyland Paris with my oldest friend and my sister. My friend is very health conscious and very mindful of what she puts into her body, unlike me who would eat anything and everything I wanted despite the circumstances. Instead, I tried being more mindful whilst I was in Disney. I thought about what I was ordering during our meals, what I was snacking on, and what I was fuelling my body with at breakfast. I started to think about how certain foods would make me feel, and I actually kind of enjoyed it. I felt like it was a bit of a challenge!

I continued this thought process the week following my trip to Disney, then decided to step on the scales to see if there had been any changes, and to my delight, I’d lost 6lb! This didn’t continue the week following from this though, because although I continued to be more mindful of what was going into my body, I still wasn’t being accountable in the sense of portion control and generally the amount I was eating per day. I could put all the good stuff in to my body as much as I wanted, but whilst ever I was putting more in my body than what my body was able to burn, I was never going to continue dropping the pounds.

That weekend I decided to up my game and make an investment. I bought a Fitbit Blaze, and re-dowloaded both the Fitbit app and the My Fitness Pal app, and linked them all together. The FitBit app is great for keeping track of my steps, exercise, and sleep (And I much prefer the gentle, vibrating wrist alarm opposed to a harsh, loud iPhone alarm in the mornings!), and My Fitness Pal is brilliant for logging all of my food and drink, and for being more accountable for what I’m putting in to my body and how much is going in there, and because I have My Fitness Pal and my Fitbit linked up, it means that all information is shared across both apps, so I only have to input the information once.

I’ve had my Fitbit for around two weeks now, and I’m noticing results.  I don’t just mean the numbers on the scale too. They are slowly creeping down, which is incredibly positive (Slow and steady wins the race!), but I’m also feeling more energised, and I’m finding it easier to get out of bed in the morning, even on days where I’ve maybe not had as much sleep as I probably should have!

I never used to believe the whole “It only takes 21 days to change a habit” that everyone has tried to drill in to me, but after changing my habits and being more mindful of food in general, I can absolutely say that I stand corrected. So much so that when I decided I wanted to buy myself some naughty treats from the supermarket last night, I in fact came home with a big box of mango (What has become my sweet treat of choice!) and a small packet of McCoys crisps. Still a little bit naughty, but not so naughty as to undo all of my hard work so far!

So what’s keeping me driven? I had a vision in my head whilst at Leeds Festival a couple of weeks ago. Whilst there I realised that I want to attend/work/volunteer at a heck tonne more of festivals next year, but whilst stood there, sweating like a pig in the sweltering heat because I’m too self-conscious to show too much skin (Nobody needs to witness these thunder thighs in the flesh!), I decided I want to be at a stage where when I attend my first festival next year, I will feel comfortable in a pair of shorts, and feel less conscious of my body in general so I can feel comfortable when I’m slummin’ it out on a field. Being able to envision my goal has really helped me stick to the straight and narrow with my weight loss journey, when at times I’ve come close to giving up.

My second downfall, which if I’m honest, has been an issue in general, not just since losing my Mum, is my spending habits. Again much like eating, I spend to make myself feel better, and I honestly hate that about myself. It’s almost like an addiction. I convince myself and convince myself that I need whatever has got stuck in my head. That it’ll make all of my problems go away, make me feel better about myself and I always, always promise myself that “This’ll be the last big splurge! No more spending after this one!”, then a few days later I’ve convinced myself that there’s something else I need to make my life better.

My Mum very much looked after my sister and I in the wake of her death. We weren’t aware at the time of her passing, but she had a Death In Service pay out plan at work, which was put into mine and my sister’s name in the event of her death, which sadly, came to light. This money has helped Spencer and I clear our debts (Something that was important to me as I know my Mum struggled with debt issues for most of her life.), which was the main thing I wanted to do when I first found out I was getting this money. This was done as soon as the money entered my account, and it felt wonderful. I then had plans to take up my driving lessons again and put a big chunk of the money towards a house, but then didn’t really act upon these things.

The last thing I wanted to do was dwindle this money away, but if I’m honest, I have spent some of it. Given it’s been on some pretty incredible experiences, but I can’t help but feel I could have invested it elsewhere now.

I don’t know why I’ve just felt a need to spend it. Maybe partly because I feel guilty for even having this money. Maybe because it feels really shit that it cost my Mum her life for me to have this money, so I’ve kind of just wanted to get it out of sight?  I'm not sure.  Luckily the chunk I have spent is minimal and the majority of it is still sat safely in my savings account.  In fact, the majority has been put into a separate 'House' account, where we plan on adding to it to put towards a mortgage, and I can happily declare that I have paid for pretty much all of my driving lesson, theory test and practical test up front, and am on a waiting list to start my driving lessons this coming October.  I'm finally moving in the right direction!

I won’t sit here and regret spending the money I have. It’s done, and it’s not been a waste. I’ve made some wonderful memories, but I want to start saving, not continue spending. I have to face the harsh fact that I’m not getting any younger, and I need to start working towards building myself a stable future. One that will allow me to retire comfortably, and see out my later years without worrying how I’m going to pay my bills.

It occurred to me yesterday that I’ve been successful so far with the weight loss side of things because I’m regularly logging my progress, meaning I can see in front of me the results. As I said earlier, seeing what’s going into my body and what I’m losing from my waistline is helping me hold myself accountable for my actions more. So why not work in a similar way with my finances?

I took to my App store on my phone last night and started searching for money saving apps, and this is where I came across Daily Budget. It had glowing reviews, and was free with the option to purchase add ons if felt necessary (And for £6.99 for the whole package of add ons, I’m seriously considering it if it will help me save more in the long run!).

Daily Budget is a super simple app to use. This really stood out to me as I’ve tried using money saving apps in the past that were just far too complicated than what I needed it to be, and I soon gave up. With Daily Budget, you simply input your income (Which you can select as weekly, monthly or fortnightly, depending on how frequently you are paid), input your outgoings (Which you can either split into categories or input as one lump sum – I opted for putting it all in as one lump sum!), and finally input the amount of money you would like to save each month (Which you can input as a percentage or a lump sum – again I opted for a lump sum.), then the app will work out how much money you can allocate yourself per day. It’s strange working on a daily budget opposed to a weekly budget like I’m used to, but I like the theory behind it. Basically you input all of your spending each day, and if you spend less than your daily allowance, you can add that on to the next day’s balance, and so on and so forth. However, if you spend over your daily allowance, then this will be deducted from the next day’s balance. This is in a bid to encourage you to spend less and build up your budget each day.

Only having downloaded it yesterday evening, I’m not in any position to say whether this is working for me or not yet, but I’m really liking having a visual in front of me showing me what money I can allocate myself each day, and again, I feel like I’ve set myself a bit of a challenge to spend as little of my daily balance as possible. If I’m successful with this, I think at the end of each month I will add the money I’ve saved into my savings account to help me build up even more money! Or use the money I’ve saved to treat myself to something I’ve been wanting to invest in for a while.

With the help of these apps, and a little will power I’m hoping I can see out these changes into the new year and beyond. Now I’ve declared all on here too, you can help me continue to hold myself accountable for my actions.

So this is me, giving you permission to give me a virtual slap on the wrist if you notice me wavering towards an unnecessary spend or a cheeky McDonalds! I won’t hate you for keeping me in line; honest!
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2 comments

  1. Sorry to hear of your struggles this year and the loss of your Mum. Congratulations on the weight loss, over the last year and a half I have lost 2stone and its made a huge impact on my life. I am healthier and happier and finally I quite like what I see when I look in the mirror. I used the Weight Watchers app to track what I was eating and how many points I had used etc. I also kept a food dairy to go back to when I was having a 'bad' week. I bought a menu planner and stuck it to the front of the fridge so that we didn't stray from the plan. Good luck with it all going forward and with the budget planning. xx

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    1. 2st is a huge achievement, and it's great that you found methods that really worked for you, and the fact that you didn't give up if you had a bad day or week xx

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