Eating with Agency

I’ve been following my new eating plan for a couple of weeks now, and it’s going great. I feel that I have a sense of agency that I didn’t have before. I’m not mindlessly eating junk food because I’m hungry or bored or upset. Instead, I’m keeping the fridge stocked with unprocessed and minimally processed foods, so that I can make a healthy choice when I am hungry. I’m also planning my meals more thoroughly. My day goes like this:

Breakfast (Sunday – Monday): Porridge (oats and milk) topped with fresh raspberries and blueberries. Homemade Americano.

Breakfast (Saturday): Wholemeal toast, butter and marmalade with a Flat White at Costa Coffee.

Lunch: some kind of salad with some kind of unprocessed fish or meat or minimally processed cheese, with a small serving of salad dressing or balsamic vinegar. Followed by nuts, seeds and dried fruit.

Dinner: one of several dozen meals that form our evening meal menu, tweaked to reduce the amount of ultra-processed ingredients.

Dessert: fresh fruit with or without some fat-free Greek yogurt (with or without a serving of Options Hot Chocolate powder). Maybe a square of Green & Blacks 85% Cocoa Dark Chocolate.

I haven’t been snacking much, as I’ve not been hungry between meals. If I snack it’s on fresh fruit or a homemade smoothie. For drinks, I’ve ditched Diet Coke (Never thought that would happen!) and have been drinking water with a slice of lemon or lime. At breakfast, I have one cup of coffee that I make using my coffee machine, and, if it’s not too hot, I’ll have a cup of decaf tea in the evening.

That’s a big change from what I was eating and drinking before: toast, Flora Buttery, jam, biscuits, cake, crisps, snack bars, ice cream etc etc. And I feel better for it. I have more energy in the day, and I’m sleeping well at night. I don’t know if I’ve lost any weight, but that will come.

Keeping a food diary has helped me make these changes. For the first couple of weeks (see above pic), I wrote down all the foods I was eating under the following headings: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, beige and other. This was in an attempt to eat the whole rainbow and was before I watched the ‘What Are We Feeding Our Kids?’ documentary about ultra-processed foods. After I’d watched the show, I went back through my food diary and drew a box around all the UPFs, just to see how I was doing on that front. Not too bad! This week, though, I’ve modified my food diary (see left pic) and am recording my food under the following headings red, orange & yellow, green, blue & purple, white & beige and UPFs. I don’t think I need to differentiate between orange and yellow or blue and purple. When it comes to nutrients, I think they’re the same. I wanted to create a separate box for UPFs though, just so I could spot them more easily.

So what’s next for me? I’m going to follow this plan and keep my food diary, tweaking as needed, but I’m also going to put our evening meals under the microscope and look at the herb and spice packs I use to see if I can substitute them with less processed ingredients. I do have to keep reminding myself though, I don’t need to eradicate UPFs entirely from my diet; it’s okay for them to make up a small part!

Working Toward Wellness

Hello, stickerators! It’s me, Natalie, back on the blog with a tour through another set of trackers. Last month, I shared some of the ways I’ve recorded gratitude over the last four years because recording gratitude has played a big part in my recovery from mental illness. This month, I thought I’d do the same but with my wellness habit trackers. One of the lightbulb moments in my recovery was realising that recovery is not curing illness; it’s discovering wellness. To cut a long story short, I have developed habits that help me live a satisfying, contributory life even though I am technically not ‘cured’ of my illnesses.

One of the things that’s helped me develop my wellness habits is habit tracking. When you decide that you need to turn an activity into a habit, it helps to track whether you’ve done that activity as regularly as you need to. Say, for example, you want to brush your teeth after every meal, you can create a habit tracker and check off a box every time you brush your teeth. At the end of the day, week or month you can look back and see how many times you did (or didn’t!) brush your teeth and decide on a way forward. Maybe you always forget after lunch, so you set an alarm on your phone to remind you. Or maybe you notice that you don’t brush your teeth after dinner, because you want to enjoy a cup of tea or a glass of wine in the evening, so you decide to move your evening brush to just before bedtime. Whatever the habit you want to get into, tracking helps.

A note of warning though, don’t use your habit trackers as a stick to beat yourself with. Analyse them with curiosity instead of criticism. Ask questions such as: what stopped me from making this activity a habit? Is this habit too big for me right now? Can I break it down into smaller steps? Is this habit even relevant to me right now? Do I really need to do this habit every day, or would every other day be sufficient? Or once a week? Twice a month? I have several habits that have remained constant over the last few years – waking up at the same time, going to bed at the same time – but I also have habits that come and go as and when they’re needed. Habit trackers should work for you, not the other way around.

With all that said, here are a few of the habit trackers I’ve used this year.

In January, I used the large sticker from the ‘Hello 2021’ Goals Kit sheet. I love these tracker stickers because it makes the process so quick and easy. You just peel it off, stick it down and write your habits in the space provided. Job done! I always add a ‘wellness’ sticker and some washi to the top of my tracker page for decoration. For this particular page, I also added some full boxes to fill up some space.

In February, I drew out my own habit tracker in a traditional bullet journal log style, with the days and dates going down the page and my habits written at the top. For decoration, I added washi and deco from the ‘Follow Your Heart’ collection. Obviously, drawing out a table is more work that just using a sticker, but it can be quite satisfying!

In April and May, I created pastel rainbows using Rainbow Monthly Habit Tracker Planner Stickers (Sheet R244), assigning one habit to each sticker. I loved tracking my habits this way for a change – the colours were so pretty, and it felt very neat and tidy.

For June, I’m using Rainbow Monthly Habit Tracker Planner Stickers (Sheet R235) to create another rainbow, this time in long thin strips across the page. I love how bright and bold it looks. I think this one might be my favourite.

Are you a tracker of habits? Which stickers are your favourites to use for forming habits? Do let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Natalie x

For 10% off planner stickers at EllieBeth Designs UK, you can use my code NATALIE10 or follow this link. This is an affiliate code, which means I will earn a few Rainbow Rewards each time you use it, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support! x

What Are We Feeding Ourselves?!

A couple of days ago, I was pootling around BBC iPlayer looking for a drama to watch, when I stumbled across a documentary about food and what we’re feeding our kids. I was drawn to it for two reasons: one, because I’ve recently made a fairly radical change to my own diet and have been thinking about food A LOT, and two, becuase it was presented by the twin doctors from Operation Ouch, a programme I used to watch with my kids when they were little.

Anyhoo, as I watched the programme, I had one of those lightbulb moments. Over the last thirty years, I’ve tried all sorts of weightloss and fitness programmes: Slimming World, Weight Watchers, Rosemary Connely, Special K, The Weigh Ahead, gym memberships etc, etc, etc, and, while I’ve lost weight on all of them, nothing has stuck. I’ve always fallen off the wagon and back into old habits. The lightbulb moment came when, after eating a diet that consisted of 80% ultra processed foods (UPFs), Dr. Chris had his brain scanned, and it showed that new connections had formed that were very similar to those seen in people with addiction. Not only that, but after 30 days of going back to eating a diet low in UPFs, those connections remained intact. EEK! Why was this a lightbulb moment? Well, over the course of my recovery from severe mental illness, I’ve been regularly practicing mindfulness and meditation because I learned that doing so for ten minutes a day for at least six months can actually rewire the brain. It shrinks the amygdala (the fear centre) and reduces the number of connections between the amygdala and the higher brain (where we do all our thinking and worrying). This made me wonder whether I could rewire my brain again, not to reduce my anxiety levels, but to decouple the reward part of my brain from the ‘eat all the yummy food with no regard for your health’ part of my brain. I’m not a neuroscientist (although my background is in biochemistry), so I have no idea if that is actually a thing, but I reckon if I can train my brain and body to be less anxious, I can train my brain and body to eat more healthily, and maybe even do it for the rest of my life.

Recently, I’ve been trying to ‘eat a rainbow’ every day and cut back on processed food, but this programme and the realisations and questions it prompted, has made me want to go further. I want to significantly reduce the amount of UPFs in my diet while increasing the amount of un-processed and minimally processed foods. No calorie counting, no Syns, no points, very little weighing and measuring – I’m simply moving to a less processed, more ‘food in its natural state’ diet and trying to pay attention to how hungry or how satisfied I am. There’s no official programme for this; I’m researching and experimenting as I go, but I’ll share this journey here in the hopes that you, dear reader, might find it helpful.

Thanks for stopping by! xxx

Happiness in a Half Box

Hello, stickerators! It’s lovely to be back on the blog today, sharing my love of stickerating with you. I’m sure we all know how important gratitude is and how gratitude is strongly associated with our sense of wellbeing and happiness. I’ve certainly come to value having an attitude of gratitude over the course of my recovery from mental illness. During the last four-and-a-half years, I’ve made a point of using my bullet journal to record the things I’m grateful for. At the end of every day, I jot down one or two things that have brought me happiness, joy, satisfaction, or that have just made my day a little less difficult. Sometimes, I look back through my bullet journals to remind me of these things, but often it’s simply the act of reviewing my day and looking for the good in it that does me good.

I’ve used many methods for recording gratitude over the years, but one of my favourites is to use EBDUK half-boxes. For me, they are the perfect size. Big enough to write one or two things, but not too big that I feel I have to write an essay! And, of course, they’re pretty and colourful so they brighten-up the whole process.

Here are a few ways I’ve used half-boxes:

For months that have 30 days in them, I stick 30 half boxes on a double page spread, 15 on each side. At the end of each day, I flick to this page and add my gratitude. I love watching the boxes fill up as the month progresses, and it’s easy to see a whole month’s gratitude at a glance.

Another way I often use half boxes is to add one to each of my daily logs, so when I’m reviewing my task list at the end of the day, it’s right there to remind me to record my gratitude.

Over the years, I’ve set out my daily logs in different ways. Sometimes, I set them out in columns across two pages. When I do this, I often place my gratitude half boxes at the bottoms of the columns. Again, their placement reminds me to fill them in. I’ve also been known to place half boxes at the bottoms of the daily columns on my weekly schedules instead of my daily logs. It’s just another way to do it – I do like to switch things up every now and then to keep things fresh and fun!

So that’s how I use half boxes to record my gratitude. How do you record yours? Do let me know.

Until next time … happy stickerating!

Easy Mixed Media Background for Cards, Journals and Scrapbooks

Hello, lovely friends! Today, I needed to create some thank you cards to send out with shop orders, and I thought I’d share the process with you. I make my cards from an A3 piece of mixed media paper onto which I add powdered pigments, stenciling, stamping, painting and doodling. I then cut up the paper into 3×3 inch squares and write a little thank you note on the back. If you’d like to see how they come together, then check out the video below. Thanks for stopping by! x