Eight-Week Challenge Final Report

Eight-week challenge final resultsWeeks Five through Eight did not vary enough from the previous four weeks for me to have much to say worth sharing. In this final report I will focus on what I learned through setting out this personal challenge.

Again, a reminder of my goals:

  • 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.

Lesson One: It’s good to be humble.

I set out this challenge with the hope I could repeat my success with joining Queen of Blank’s (real name, Danielle) Eight-Week Challenge almost a year ago. My goals were the same. Why would my success level be any different?

That’s where a bit of humility comes in. Last year I joined a challenge set out by someone else. I wasn’t the only person to join her challenge, so I thought I would see similar success with others joining my challenge. But that didn’t happen.

Last year the challenge followed shortly after I took part in the April A to Z challenge. I discovered Danielle and a number of other talented writers through that challenge. I followed many of them and many of them followed me.

But then I didn’t do much posting to my blog once I completed Danielle’s Eight-Week Challenge. By the time I set out my own challenge, I suspect many of those blogging friends I met the previous year were no longer looking for information from me. I had been silent for too long. I should have taken part in the A to Z challenge again this year.

Lesson Two: Without peer pressure, I don’t follow through very well.

I managed to meet my first goal–eating nutrient rich food–throughout the eight weeks. My success with the other goals was not so good.

I managed to increase the number of days I walked at least 500 steps over the course of the eight weeks, but overall I walked less during this eight-week period than I did last year.

As for goal three–getting rid of the magazine backlog–it looks like I did well if you focus on the green cells on the chart. But the truth is that I read all the short, easy ones first. I got ahead of the goal very early. But those longer magazines, filled with meatier articles that I want to savor and not just flip through, those magazines are still on the end table, waiting for me to pick them up.

Goal four–writing at least 500 words a day at least five days a week. That’s where I really slipped up. This is the one I hoped I could jump start by having others comment on the challenge, boosting my motivation. My posts only garnered one true comment (thank you, Dana Ellington) and three correctly spelled and punctuated comments that I identified as likely spammers–clever ones indeed to get past the spam filter.

Lesson Three: Quality is not improved by greater quantity

Another challenge I have taken part in for the past two years is the Goodreads Reading Challenge. Last year I set my goal to read 50 books. I finished that number of books with months to spare, so this year I set my goal at 75 books. And I found I sometimes picked up thin books just to be sure I would reach my goal. I went for quantity instead of quality. I finished reading 75 books this year by the middle of July. But some of those books represent wasted time.

The one success I can take from my failure to produce at least 500 words each day, my fourth goal, is that I didn’t just put something together to turn the white space with a 0 in it green. I knew I wasn’t in the right frame of mind every day to produce something, even as a first draft, worth putting on paper or screen. So I didn’t settle for quantity.

This lesson makes me wonder if, in the end, setting up the challenge may have been a negative influence instead of a motivating one. I’ll have to try keeping my goals to myself for awhile.

 

 

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Eight-Week Challenge: Week Two

Week Two: not much difference from Week One. Again, a reminder of my goals:

  • 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.

A summary:

  • Food: Close enough.
  • Walking: Not enough.
  • Magazines: Whew!
  • Writing: Oh well.

As for my last two goals: I am writing, though I’m in the research phase, not the putting words to paper phase.

I’ve been struggling with whether my story of life in Iran in the mid-1970s (what we now know were the good old days) is worth telling, or more precisely, what audience may be interested in the lessons I learned during my 28 months there. As part of my survey of comparable or competitive books, I’ve requested a hold on every book in the San Diego County Library on Iran if it deals with the period spanning 1950 to the present, with an occasional book dealing with history from before that time. All those books are showing up at the same time. I have eight checked out right now. Reading those must be my priority. Those magazines can wait.

This week I’ve read the following:

Sky of Red Poppies, Zohreh Ghahremani. A coming of age novel of two schoolgirls from families professing opposite political viewpoints in 1960s Iran. It was my great luck to meet the author this week at an event sponsored by San Diego Writers, Ink, where she read a portion of a short story included in SDWI’s 10th anniversary A Year in Ink anthology. I’ll be reading more of her work. The Moon Daughter is on my to-read list.

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America, Firoozeh Dumas. A memoir focusing on the humor the author sees, perhaps only in hindsight, about her years as an Iranian émigré. Her comments regarding the prevalence of Iranians having nose jobs reminded me of the fact that nearly everyone I met in Iran asked how long ago I had had my nose done. Apparently, the one I was born with was the Iranian ideal. I contacted the author via Twitter and exchanged flattering comments, mine about her writing, hers about my nose.

Esther: Royal Beauty, Angela Hunt. When I expressed surprise that there were Jews living in Iran, my new Persian friend, Abie Beroukhim, explained that Esther of the Bible was Queen Esther, wife of the Persian King Xerxes. She and her guardian, Mordecai, who served in King Xerxes’s court, were part of the Jewish diaspora that chose to remain in what became Persia instead of returning to Jerusalem from Babylon when Xerxes’s predecessor several times removed, Cyrus the Great, released them from captivity in 539 BCE.

(An aside: Having read this story, I conducted a Google search for Abraham Beroukhim, Abie’s full name, and found this interview with his nephew of the same name. I’m glad that I had previously learned the sad news that Abie had been arrested in the early days of the revolution because reading—or hearing—about it from this link would have been too much of a shock. What happened to Abie is one of the reasons I want to complete my story—he was a major player.)

Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope, Shirin Ebadi and Azadeh Moaveni. This is the first of Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi’s books detailing her struggles in Iran to defend those facing political persecution or the uneven impact of Iranian legal judgments on women who are considered worth only half the value of men. The most heartrending story in this book concerns the rape of a girl by three men who were arrested and charged. One of the men committed suicide and wasn’t tried. The other two men were tried and sentenced to be executed, but the girl’s family was expected to pay blood money to cover the value of the two men’s lives. In their struggle for justice for their daughter, they lost all their possessions, still failing to come up with the amount demanded of them. As a result, the two men were released.

Honeymoon in Tehran: Two Years of Love and Danger in Iran, Azadeh Moaveni. The author grew up in California as a result of her parents being caught there when the revolution broke out. In spite of her parents’ objections, she returned to Tehran, intending to remain, working as a journalist for Time. She fell in love, married, and gave birth to a child while in Iran. Nonetheless, the challenges of remaining true to her profession while not crossing lines her security services minder continually reminded her of proved insurmountable.

Until We Are Free: My Fight for Human Rights in Iran, Shirin Ebadi. The most recent of Shirin Ebadi’s books explains how and why she now lives in exile, unable to return in spite of having earlier chosen to remain in Iran, fighting injustice from inside, no matter what machinations the government devised to frustrate her in their attempts to get her to stop her advocacy for human rights in Iran.

So I’m writing through the research and reading I’m doing. That’s good enough for now.

Eight-Week Challenge: Preparation 2

Get More Exercise

My second 2017 eight-week challenge goal is

  • Walk at least 5,000 steps per day.

Yeah. That’s only half the distance I should be walking each day. But it’s a lot more than I’ve been walking recently. You know, in winter it was just too cold to go outside to walk. Driving to a mall might tempt me to buy something I don’t need or even want. And when the weather got better, I really just wanted a few more minutes to lie in each morning. What’s the point of retirement if I still have to get up early to do something I’d really rather not do?

That has got to change. So I will resume keeping track of the number of steps I walk each day. I’ll give myself a nice pat on the back when I reach at least 5,000 steps in a day, but I hope to step it up for something extra whenever I reach 10,000 steps. Hmmm. I wonder what the right incentive would be. I don’t suppose I should reward myself with ice cream.

 

Eight-Week Challenge: Preparation 1

Make Better Food Choices

My first 2017 eight-week challenge goal is

  • eat more nutritious food with fewer empty calories.

I was doing so well last year. I had adopted Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s recommendations in his book, Eat to Live, and was benefiting from not only the promised weight loss (with the more important reduction in the size of clothes I could wear) but also controlled my blood sugar level for six months without taking any medication. I also stopped taking a statin for cholesterol because I reduced the animal protein in my diet.

But then something got in the way. (Ok, I know, this is the beginning of the excuses.)

First, my husband wasn’t keen to join me on my nutritarian diet (Dr. Fuhrman’s term), so I was cooking two meals each evening, or more likely stir frying veggies for myself and then adding strips of meat to the same veggies for him. That option falls far short of the meat and three veg he prefers. For him, the veggies need to be cooked separately.

Then, no matter how much he praised the soups I cooked in large quantities to stock up the freezer, he started asking for something else instead.

So we tried going out for evening meals more often so I could stick with salads (dressing on the side, please) and he could have whatever he wanted. But something else on the menu seemed to catch my eye.

Eventually, the evening snack routine returned. I started out grabbing carrots and celery sticks. Then I added the hummus as a dip. After that, I started asking myself what’s it going to hurt if I just have some pita chips with that hummus.

One slipped step backward led to another, and now I’m right back to the weight I was before I started on Dr. Fuhrman’s journey. The good news: the clothes still fit, so something went right.

I’ll measure my progress the way I did last year, by calculating my Body Mass Index. I’ll be happy to keep my BMI at 25 or less.