Eight Week Challenge

In May of last year, one of my favorite bloggers, Queen of Blank (real name, Danielle), undertook an eight-week challenge in advance of her marriage to her sweetheart Brad and her move to Texas. She and Brad are now married, she now lives in Texas, and I know she took part in last year’s NaNoWriMo, though I haven’t seen as many posts from her this year.

Last year, to prepare for her move, Danielle set herself an eight-week challenge. And she inspired me to set up my own eight-week challenge. My goals last year were simple enough:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • walk at least 5,000 steps per day,
  • spend one day a week reading the backlog of magazines sitting on the end table, and
  • write at least 500 words per day for at least five days each week.

I succeeded in my goals last year, but wouldn’t you know it? I’m almost back where I started from. I’ve slipped up on my nutritious food goal by letting a lot of calorie-laden foods back onto my plate, and my weight and waistline show it. I have a long list of excuses for why I can’t get out the door for a brisk walk each day. The backlog of magazines I had to read last year peaked at 38. As of today, I have 45 magazines in my stack of “to read.” And I’ve been concentrating on reading books for my Goodreads challenge instead of writing much.

Bottom line: All four of my goals for last year are relevant again this year. I’m thinking it’s like spring cleaning: I need to take the time to do these things, and I know I’ll feel great once they are done. But I’ll probably have to repeat the exercise again next year.

This year, I’m not waiting for someone else to set up a challenge to follow. I’m setting my own. I don’t have a specific event to mark the end of the eight weeks. But eight weeks seems like a good length of time. And the weather outside is glorious during summer.

Because we have a trip planned at the end of May that will complicate taking the right steps, I’ve set June 4 as my start date, a week later than last year’s challenge. The eight weeks will take me almost to the end of July.

I invite anyone who wishes to challenge themselves with a little mid-year adjustment of habits to join me. Include a link back to this post so I’ll know you’re joining in the challenge. Let me know what your goals are and I’ll check in on you each week to see how you’re doing. Maybe Danielle will join us, too.

I’m ready to dive in. I hope the water’s not too cold.

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Eight Results

Week 8

Last week of the eight-week challenge is done! Whoo-hoo! Again, thanks to Danielle for inspiring others and me to take on this challenge.

I wish I had done better, but I’m pretty darn happy with having met the first goal, at least as measured by my body-mass index, for the entire eight weeks. And for cleaning up that backlog of unread magazines.

As a reminder, here are the goals I set for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • read at least five magazines each week to clear out my backlog of unread magazines, and
  • write at least 500 words (raised to 750 words once the magazine backlog was cleared) per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

I tried one more twist on my eating habits this week, mostly to provide easy-to-prepare meals for my husband: I signed up with Blue Apron.  Our daughter-in-law signed up first, and after the first week she received three invitations for one free week of meals to share with others.

She shared one with us. The following Friday a refrigerated package arrived with everything needed for three meals-for-two: Serrano Pepper & Goat Cheese Burgers, Lemon Chicken & Green Beans, and Sweet Corn & Tinkerbell Pepper Pizza. I’ve cooked up the first two. Hubbie approved, though he did turn down most of the vegetable side dishes. More for me, so I can’t complain, though I would like him to eat more balanced meals, too.

I went ahead and had the burger the first night, though I fantasized about replacing the meat with a quinoa burger. I cooked up both chicken portions the next night, but left one for Hubbie to eat this week. I supplemented my meal with the rest of the summer squash he wouldn’t eat and the leftover veggies from the previous meal.

So now I have three invitations to send out to others interested in trying out Blue Apron. Interested? Let me know.

Exercise

The weather is getting warm here–one day was over 100 degrees by 9 a.m. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration to get sympathy. But I didn’t always get up early enough to walk while the heat could still be beaten. So I missed my goal more often than I met it. I managed to get to at least the half way point more often than not, so I count that as a half win.

Writing

My writing goal to write at least 750 words at least five days a week took a big hit this week. Too much to do again. The bright light in this area is that I was able to finalize a couple of first drafts. And I realized that one reason I haven’t reached the point of sharing my writing is that my standards are higher. A year ago, I shared anything I managed to complete that had a beginning, middle, and end. But now I know that showing, not telling, is important. And the really difficult piece, admitting how I feel or felt about the story, has been a big challenge.

But I’ll keep working.

Overall

AverageAs a wrap-up for the eight weeks, I calculated the averages for my weight/body-mass index, number of steps walked, and number of words written (for at least five days of each week), to see if the overall picture is closer to my goals than the last week’s results.

I like it! At least there is no red.

 

 

 

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Seven Results

Week 7

One week left! Each week one of my goals takes a back seat to something. This week the goal I was short on was writing.

As a reminder, here are my remaining goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories and
  • write at least 750 words per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

I continue to try out new vegetarian recipes–or more often just try putting vegetables together in new ways. This week I found organic strawberries and rediscovered what strawberries are supposed to taste like–so much better than the commercially grown and chemically treated bits that taste more like styrofoam than fruit.

Writing

WWIndexingEvent

My goal to write at least 750 words at least five days a week took a hit this week. Earlier in the week, the cause was too many other things on my plate–a common occurrence, according to my husband. And he’s right.

But the last three days the cause was my participation in the Family Search Worldwide Indexing Event for 2016. For those three days I reviewed scanned versions of draft records, death certificates, and lots and lots of Kentucky marriage records going back to the 1850s. Nearly every record I indexed suggested story. There were the cases of much older men marrying young women, very young barely-older-than-juvenile boys and girls marrying, even one case of a note being filed to request that a marriage license not be issued to a teenage boy and an older woman.

So many of the records of marriages in the early 1940s listed the occupation of the groom as US military. No surprise there.

All in all, I felt it was a good trade. Perhaps I’ll be able to marry up the experience with my writing goals in the future.

 

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Six Results

Week 6

Six weeks into the challenge, and my progress remains positive, though always with something just beyond my easy grasp. Something worth striving for.

As a reminder, here are my goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • spend one day a week reading the backlog of magazines sitting on the end table (changed to read an average of five magazines each week from the backlog, now completed, so I’ve dropped the reporting), and
  • write at least 500 (increased to 750 since the magazine backlog is gone) words per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

I have been experimenting with ways to make my plant-based meals more interesting. For salads, I’ve added a variety of flavored vinegars including a great orange flavored one I found at Trader Joe’s. To complement it, I add orange segments to my salads, something I learned to do years ago when a church in my home area that hosted an annual spaghetti dinner found fresh tomatoes to be too expensive to use in their salads one year. They substituted oranges that year. It was so popular the church continued using oranges instead of tomatoes ever after.

Several months ago I purchased a spiralizer which I use to turn zucchini into a spaghetti substitute. Before I switched my diet, I would top the zucchini swirls with meatballs and sauce. Now, I add thinly sliced onions and julienned green peppers and stir fry them in coconut oil (long believed to be bad for health because it has saturated fat, but more recent studies indicate it has significant healthy properties). I add lentils, beans, or nuts for protein, and top it off with salsa. Today’s variety was a western salsa that included corns and black beans.

Writing

I increased my target for writing from 500 to 750 words each day at least five days per week since my magazine backlog is gone. And that is proving to be my challenge. My hope was to use the challenge to get more done on my memoir, but more often than not, I’ve been writing posts for this blog to get above 750 words. I’m pleased with having written more here, but disappointed that I can’t seem to get past the plateau I reached a few weeks back with my memoir draft.

I’m considering starting a  new project, a children’s book, instead of trying to plod on with the memoir. Perhaps I can bang some new thoughts from my brain by looking at things from a new viewpoint. And I have a built-in audience to try out the children’s book idea in our grandchildren.

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Four Results

Week 4

How Am I Doing?

There is a lot less green for this, the fourth, week of the challenge. But I knew that would happen. We were out of town for most of the week which means my walking routine was shot and I didn’t have time to write anything. But I did read, making a sizable dent in that magazine backlog.

As a reminder, here are my goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • spend one day a week reading the backlog of magazines sitting on the end table (changed to read an average of five magazines each week from the backlog), and
  • write at least 500 words per day for at least five days each week.

Healthy Eating

The first goal was the biggest challenge since I wasn’t in the kitchen to prepare my own meals. I stuck to salads without dressing for most of the restaurant meals. Eating at the homes of family members challenged me more, though this is the season for fruit everywhere. I made the best food choices I could and watched the size of portions. By the time we got home, I had regained two pounds, but my overall weight is still well within my desired range. And now that we’re back home, I am back to walking first thing each day. Next week I should be almost back into the green for the walking column, too.

Clearing Up the Backlog

I began the challenge with a backlog of 34 magazines that included a couple of issues of The Sun from 2013. I now have only three magazines left to read. I read three magazines on the way to our destination, two while we were there, and three more on the way home. So at the half-way point in the eight-week challenge, I have almost knocked off the backlog.

But not only is the backlog almost gone, I also have met some amazing people through the interviews in The Sun in the process. People like The Rev. Lynice Pinkard, former pastor of First Congregational Church of Oakland and founder of Share First Oakland, a food-aid organization; singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco; Francis Weller, author of The Wild Edge of Sorrow: Rituals of Renewal and the Sacred Work of Grief; Daniel E. Lieberman, author of The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health, and Disease; Linda Kreger Silverman, an outspoken advocate for the gifted; David Mason, the past poet laureate of the state of Colorado; sociologist Dalton Conley who asks questions about why some people get ahead and others fall behind; David Hinton, whose interest in ancient Chinese poetry grew from a youthful fascination with ecology, Eastern religion, and the American landscape poets of the West coast; and writer and herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner whose 1999 book Herbal Antibiotics deals with how plant medicines can be used to treat bacteria that have become resistant to pharmaceuticals; among others. Each of the interviews has inspired me to read more non-fiction. And by following the links within this paragraph, you, too, can be inspired.

Writing Each Day

Once the backlog is gone–maybe even by the end of week five–I will increase my daily writing target. This week I plan simply to get back on track with at least 500 words at least five days each week. This post, with its 558 words, makes today a green day.

 

 

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Three Results

Week three. I knew things would change. Time for my report.

As a reminder, here are my goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • spend one day a week reading the backlog of magazines sitting on the end table (changed to read an average of five magazines each week from the backlog), and
  • write at least 500 words per day for at least five days each week.

week3

This was the week I knew would come–I stumbled. This week I stumbled on two: I didn’t get in as much walking as I had hoped, falling short three days this week; and I missed my writing goal three out of the seven days, one day short of my goal of at least five days each week.

But I still learned something.

First, I discovered that instead of having more energy on my plant-based diet, I found myself sleepy in the middle of the day several times this week. So I took naps. And that meant less time for writing and exercise. A friend, one with a solid background in nutrition, suggested it may be my diet is short on protein. She pointed out that it is necessary to eat a lot of beans to get the same level of protein I was getting before through eating meat most days. So I may cut short my goal of sticking entirely to fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes for six weeks and consider a four-week transition long enough. This should not negate my first goal; it will just temper how I manage it. It had always been my plan to add in other foods after six weeks.

Second, I concentrated more on the quality of my writing which diminished the quantity. A better goal, though harder to measure, is a balance between the two.

I know next week will be challenging. There are several events on my calendar that deserve more time.

Eight-Week Challenge: Week Two Results

Week2

Week two–done! Time for my report.

As a reminder, here are my goals for the eight-week challenge:

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories,
  • spend one day a week reading the backlog of magazines sitting on the end table, and
  • write at least 500 words per day for at least five days each week.

What I learned during week two of my eight-week challenge:

  • Body Mass Index: So long as I continue eating a plant-based diet, I not only meet this goal, but I also feel good all day long.
  • If I don’t get up early enough to get in a good 30-minute walk before I do anything else, I’m not going to meet my daily goal of walking at least 10,000. Or even my half goal of walking 5,000 steps.
  • I changed the way of representing the status of my goal to get rid of my magazine backlog to report on whether I have read at least 5 magazines a week, the rate at which I need to read them to clear up the backlog. Green means I’m on track. But I know I will have to work very hard to keep it up.
  • Writing at least 500 words a day is easy–when I’m not on grandparent duty. But quantity doesn’t equal quality. I am going to have to work on that.