At this stage in life, I am working in an office environment, and although I truly enjoy my job, in an ideal world and if money were no object, I would be enjoying a far different existence.
However, it is what it is, and so I have been honing a few different habits in order to make this lifestyle easier and more practical for the every day average-Jane, such as myself.
1. Prep, prep, prep!
It sounds so lame and typical and mum-sy, but you really can NEVER be too prepared! In order to save time effort and sanity, I try to do all of my grocery shopping one day a week, and then either that same day or the one following, I will prepare ingredients, or entire meals to last me the week. Nothing I cook is complicated; most of it is one-pot style meals (or maybe two *gasp*). Bulk cooking and food prep means that I also only have to do it once or twice a week, and then I have a stock of healthy meals to last all week long.
I suppose this could technically fall under an element of preparation, but for me it kind of applies to other aspects of this lifestyle as well. You need to plan your meals so that you can plan your grocery lists, so that you can plan your food preparation.
However, I personally also need to plan my days out in a little more details so that everything just gets done. There is nothing worse then falling into bed at night, wishing you had utilised your time more effectively, and with an anxious knot already forming in your belly about all the things you never got around to doing.
So, in order to combat this insomnia-inducing panic, I try to keep ‘to-do’ lists for each aspect of life. At work, I have one I keep on my desk to make sure deadlines are met, and all accounting, paperwork and background information is completed by the end of the day; at home I have a list outlining when I need to drop off/collect dry cleaning, buy medicine for the dog, restock the water supply, pay electricity bills etc. When I have done this well enough, I can combine all my errands in to one or two solid afternoons after work, preventing me from needing to dash all about the place all week.
Also, as until recently I was studying at home, I had a to-do list when it came to homework, in order to make sure I actually sit my butt down and do it. It is so easy to come home from work and just flop onto the couch in exhaustion, but with the help of my handy lists, I somehow manage to get everything done…. usually.
So lists kind of rock my world. They help me organise exercise routines, homework problems, household errands…. and then I organise them into a timetable, so that at the time slot designated for ‘homework/study’ I can simply look up my most recent to-do list for that area of life, and I am immediately on track with what I have completed, and what I still have to look at.
It can be a pain in the butt to get into the habit of making lists and setting schedules for yourself, but I promise that in the long run it will make like SO MUCH EASIER and you will rapidly become addicted to it.
3. Knowing your weaknesses.
We all have them. Its unavoidable. Some of us loathe getting up any earlier than strictly necessary, others have a weakness for sweets or salty snacks whenever offered. Some people will use any excuse not to exercise. It’s important that you sit down and think honestly with yourself about what your weaknesses are, and figure out ways to combat them and trick yourself into tackling them.
For example. I am sitting at my desk at work, and there is a container of crisps and cashew nuts in the kitchen, calling my name. Nay, singing my name. Their salty deliciousness demands to be recognised.
But no. I am not going to listen to those naughty crisps.
Knowing that I have a weakness for all snacks salty and crunchy, I have brought to work several apples, a large banana smoothie, and a portion of dried oats, so that if I experience true hunger, I have literally NO EXCUSE CONCEIVABLE to reach for anything unhealthy. And if I keep reminding myself of that, I usually will eat my healthy foods, rather than something naughty. (I said usually- sometimes I do still indulge a little, but hey, I never said my process was perfect! Plus, who could go a lifetime without crisps? It would be miserable).
Similarly, I knew I would wake up this morning not really feeling like doing exercise since I did a hard class yesterday, so knowing that, I organised with three girlfriends to go to a yoga class this evening. I can’t let them down, so I have to go, and I know once I actually get there I will love it.
Personally, I find it much harder to be a grump when I have been eating well. So lately I’ve been pretty positive, because I’ve been OD-ing on mangoes, veggies, potatoes and other lovely things. But when times are tough, or I’m feeling homesick, as I do quite regularly, I have to remember how extremely LUCKY I am to be able to live the lifestyle (HCLF Vegan) that I currently do now. If my own mental strength isn’t enough to pull me out of a rut, some sloppy kisses from my puppy, or a little living-room jam sesh with my boyfriend never fails to cheer me up. Or, I put on a power song as I’m driving, and pretend I’m in a movie. Or a racing car driver (including making my own car noises).
5. Know your stuff!
Perhaps its that I am surrounded by a culture that heavily features meat eating, but it is ALWAYS a good idea to know your argument. If you are a vegan for ethical reasons, health reasons, practically ANY reason, I have found that its often ends up a topic of conversation. A number of people have genuinely asked me about my diet, things like protein, iron, etc, and I believe in being fully informed before you make any radical changes to your life. As a result, if anyone tells me that I will never get enough protein, I have the stats to back it up. Irrespective of other people I should have put this point first), I still recommend knowing your nutritional information for your own health and wellbeing. Too many people simply Google and follow the latest eating trends, without looking into how to make them work. As a result, thousands of people around the world develop unhealthy eating habits, which then can become a potential problem in future.
6. Make time to exercise
It goes without saying that no health journey is complete without a sufficient exercise routine. After all, no matter how well you eat, you won’t reap all the health benefits unless you incorporate a little movement in there as well. The same is true even if you are working a standard 9-5 job; it just means you may have to be a little cleverer about it. In my case, I cycle on a stationary bike a few times a week, I play netball, soccer, and then walk my dog and do body weight exercises when the mood strikes.
If you’re just starting out with exercise, keep in mind; it doesn’t have to be non-stop cardio, nor would I recommend that, but it does have to be regular, and it should be something you enjoy. Ideally, it should also incorporate some body weight exercises, or weight lifting. Hate running? Don’t run; cycle instead. Hate cycling? Swim instead. There are an infinite number of ways to get your sweat on, and its in your interest to pick something that you love enough to incorporate as part of your regular routine. If you aren’t into solo exercise, recruit a friend to work out with, or join a sports team for exercise that teaches you a skill, as well as provides a huge amount of fun!
7. Don’t sweat the small stuff, and find what works for you.
In the HCLF Vegan community, there are so many people who are purists; thinking that you must adhere 100% to the guidelines set by any one person, book, or website. This is completely, undeniably false. The best diet is the one that works for YOU. No one can tell you what diet will satisfy you, or what diet will work best for you. While I believe that human beings are all designed to eat a similar diet to each other, there IS such a thing as being an individual, with unique biology and feelings. If you need to eat a little more fat or protein than some people advise, THAT IS COMPLETELY OKAY. You are the driver of your own destiny. Take the wheel and strap yourself in. It may (and probably will) take you some time to find out exactly what routine works for you. Enjoy the ride; taste all of the wonderful meals out there, and have fun with it! Food is an integral part of life, and is meant to be enjoyed. No matter whether you eat high fat, low fat, high protein, low protein, whole-food plant based, or processed; if you are eating vegan, you are doing the world, and the animals, a wonderful service.