"I have come to believe that there really is no such thing as a backslide. It's all part of moving forward, even when it doesn't feel like it.
There are many clichés in the dieting world: Get back on the wagon, Get back on track, Start again tomorrow (or on Monday,) and so on. I like to think that it's more a matter of continuing from right where I am."
For me a big key to not eating when not hungry seems to be keeping busy. But not just any kind of busy. When in the throes of Workplace Busy, my brain still reserves a sector for perhaps this would be better with chocolate thoughts. No, the most effective kind of busy is absorbing, interesting, hands-on busy.
Yesterday afternoon I got home in a munchy mood, ready for some mindless spearfishing in the fridge. I was interrupted by Gareth needing a hand with a ladder (a gutter was blocked). It was pouring rain and miserable, but once I was out there it felt good after zombie-ing at the computer all day. I splodged on over to the veggie patch and saw that the beetroot and garlic were ready to harvest. Next thing an hour has passed. I was covered in mud but had a big pile of veggies and no d'oh feeling for eating a bunch of food I didn't want/need. Instead I felt relaxed and calm. And just a little bit proud of this fella…
On Saturday night I was full from dinner but could not stop thinking of biscuits. I thought I'd try a distraction technique. I'd been asking Gareth for about seven years to teach me a bit of bass guitar and he always said When? and I'd say I dunno. Righto then. No time like the present!
Three hours later I was slowly, paaaaiiiinfully plonking out about five notes from each Smells Like Teen Spirit, Everybody Hurts, Seven Nation Army, Walking On The Moon and Day Tripper* thanks to Gareth's improvised Bass for Dummies curriculum. Sure it sounded bloody terrible but the time flew and it felt so good to exercise the brain instead of the outer limits of my stomach.
Of course it's not possible to spend all day every day doing absorbing, interesting, hands-on things. You gotta scrub the loo and pay the bills. But I reckon making time for things that make you feel happy, alive, challenged, busy… there's less room for mindless eating. Interesting!
* That one was my request and proved too much for the Dummies curriculum. Hehe!
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Holy slackarse, Batman. I was digging around in the archives looking for an old post when I noticed I'd said last September that I would write a post "later in the week" about the books that had helped me with my mindful eating/living experiments.
Rather than faffing around for another eleven months I thought I'd jot down a few of them RIGHT NOW. Action woman! Kapow!
|When You Eat At The Refrigerator, Pull Up A Chair by Geneen Roth
A good Gateway to Geneen book. I read her mega famous Oprah-blessed Women, Food And God but the writing style didn't gel with me as much as this one. Refrigerator consists of short essays written with humour and straight-to-the-guts-ness. There's a nice mix of insight and practical ideas. I was chuckling throughout, "Geneen you crazy cat! I do that shit too!". I went a little crazy with my yellow highlighter pen.
"If you start eating when you are not physically hungry, it is very difficult to stop when you've had enough. It is like pouring water into an already full glass. There's no space for the food to fill."
This book is a follow-up to another Albers book with an equally unwieldy subtitle, Eating Mindfully: How to End Mindless Eating and Enjoy a Balanced Relationship with Food. I skipped straight to this one as it's a workbook full of quizzes and practical exercises and I really love writing inside books. With pen! Naughty naughty.
Seriously, I enjoyed Eating Mindfully. It's practical and the exercises ask some very insightful questions. And just when you're feeling rather raw and vulnerable having learned a lot about why you go crazy with the chocolate, there are practical steps to help you move forward, from setting up your environment, mindful shopping and how to let go of old habits.
Beyond Chocolate: How to stop yo-yo dieting and lose weight for good by Sophie Boss & Audrey Boss
I mentioned Beyond Chocolate during the 10th Birthday Sell Out earlier this year. Here's what I said:
"… I like that Beyond Chocolate is not written by doctors or scientists. It's about two ordinary women who got fed up with dieting, worked to find a new way of eating without going bonkers, then shared their learnings with others. The book has a good balance of "the deep stuff" and practical tools and information, to make the book both useful and enlightening.
What I like most is that Beyond Chocolate stresses the importance of "being your own guru" – that you can have all the information in the world but only you know what is best for you and your body. They don't pretend to have all the answers for you, just tools and ideas to get your started on your own path. At first that can be a scary concept – especially if you've been following other people's diet rules all your life. But it's so empowering when to realise (re-realise, in my case) that you know yourself better than anyone else, and treating yourself with kindness and respect gets far better results than punishment and deprivation."
|Feed Me!: Writers Dish About Food, Eating, Weight, and Body Image edited by Harriet Brown
This collection of essays offers a great variety of perspectives – women of diverse sizes, cultures, backgrounds and ages. There's some fantastic raw and honest writing; I particularly liked the essays by Wendy McClure, Kate Harding and Joyce Maynard – you can read her essay Pie online. The book left me thinking, Dang, we all got issues. That might sound a depressing thought but it was kinda reassuring and I felt more peace and perspective on my own body image niggles. Thanks again Nikki for kindly sending this book!
|The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are by Brene Brown
Brené Brown is a research professor who has spent the past ten years studying vulnerability, courage, authenticity, and shame. I'd watched her TED talk (a great place to start to see what Brené is all about) but I didn't order the book until Jen of Perfect in Our Imperfections wrote about it. Jen is my personal barometer of good things, you see
It took me three months to finish the book. At first I thought, "I'm cool with me these days, I don't feel unworthy and I'm no perfectionist!". But one phrase in the book kept singing out: hustling for worthiness. To quote from her DVD of the same title: "If we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and have to hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving."
The Four P's of the human doormat! Anyway… I think I'm still digesting this book, but parts of it really resonated. I've since noticed since that so many times when I reach for food it's triggered from uncomfortable feelings of shame or unworthiness. It's been very helpful to recognise that. Interesting stuff!
So there's a wee sample of books that have got my rusty brain cogs working! Note: As always the book links are Amazon.com affiliate links. I make a small commission from any sales made via the links. As a non-US resident I am rewarded in Amazon.com gift vouchers, and have use them to support my workout DVD and almond butter habits. A huge thanks to everyone who has purchased via these links over the years
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Just advanced warning… I'm really tired today and bordering on delirious so this may not make any sense whatsoever
On the weekend I was browsing at a department store beauty counter. A twenty-something sales assistant sprang out from behind a mirror and said, "Can I help you? How about this primer?" She waved a tube in my face. "I think you'll love it. It's great at smoothing fine lines and wrinkles!"
Yeah, thanks very much lady!
This trifling anecdote is the only way I could think of to start writing about the tangled pile of stuff I've been thinking about lately. Ageing and health and relationships and work and meaning and whatnot.
At times I've lived like I had a neverending bucket of time. Like no matter how poorly I treated my body I'd have time to Ctrl+Z the damage. But really, it's only luck that I've escaped relatively unscathed (thus far).
Recently I've been humbled by how fast life can change – seeing how the most healthy specimens can become fragile overnight. We humans are really are so vulnerable. It's left me feeling quite rotten for gambling with my own health so much.
Another thing that's brought clarity was hanging out in Brussels with my Up & Running compadre, Julia Jones (better known as Coach Julia to the ladies she bosses around with her virtual megaphone!). The premise of our meeting was to do lots and lots of work, which we did; but I came away feeling like my brain and heart had been dismantled, scrubbed and polished, then put back together again like new.
I dunno, maybe Julia hypnotised me or something? But hanging out with her makes me look forward to being 50 years old. She is kicking arse. Not just because she finished a freaking half iron man a couple of weeks ago, but because does things with purpose, thoughtfulness and consistency. She lives with the kind of structured mindfulness I've been striving for. She squeezes her running shoes into her carry-on luggage – it wouldn't occur to her not to move her butt on a long weekend away. She orders exactly what she wants and relishes a yummy restaurant meal, but eats lighter and healthier at the next meal without making a big thing of it. She works hard, on projects she cares deeply about, but knows when it's time to down tools and chill out. She gives so much to people, but she knows when to draw boundaries. I admire the hell out of her approach to life.
Does this post have a bloody point, woman? you may be asking. Yes! Sorta! I guess lately I'm feeling very conscious of time passing, and the cumulative effects of my thoughts and actions. I'm seeing this Making Healthy Choices thing in a different light. Sometimes a slice of cake is just a slice of cake, but when scoffed too often cake numbs; it dulls the edges and clouds the thoughts. I'm trying to be more thoughtful about what's going on when I reach for cake and what happens afterwards… both the immediate sugar crash and mood plummet, and the effects arteries years down the line.
Likewise when I choose to lift some weights, or go for a bike ride, or eat a salad… sometimes a salad is just a salad. But when it's bursting with colour and flavour it almost feels like a declaration of intent…
I want to live a long life
I want to have strong bones when I'm an old lady
I want to spend my days doing meaningful work
I want to walk for miles without hurty knees
I want to be a strong, clear-minded partner, friend, daughter, sister, business partner
And I really don't need a £30 tube of primer!
(I could really do with a nap, though )
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I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals.
We're 50% done with 2011!
- Kettlebell Love. Wow that weird lump of iron makes you feel like such a badass. But a lot of the love is for lazy reasons. There's only one item to deal with: no faffing around switching plates on a barbell or putting dumbbells away afterwards. Makes it easier to get past the "I don't wanna" tantrums!
- Bike Non-Hate. I cycled up my very first hill without stopping this month. I know most people achieve this when they're 8 years old, but one must celebrate the victories. I had to use the very lowest gear but at least I got up the bloody thing. I attribute the attitude improvement to this wee cycling computer. Now I can geek out on how fast (okay, how slow) I am going and how far I've been.
- Six months of Food Mood Journal Spreadsheet completeness. Nerdgasms ahoy!
- Six months of not gaining weight and actually very slowly losing, without being an obsessed dieting crazy lady. That feels great after steadily expanding for so long.
- I completely unravelled for about ten days. There have been some challenging times lately and I managed to carry on with the mindful habits for a good while, but for awhile this month I lost it. It started innocently with running out of yogurt for breakfast leading to me deciding to buy a pastry from Starbucks, then a chocolate after lunch, then skipping a few workouts, then feeling really crap then just wallowing that feeling. And while being aware of exactly why I felt crap (which is progress in some ways), I decided to continue feeling crap by making poor choices, not planning meals, ignoring hunger signals and not pausing to think before I ate.
The positives: I've returned to the healthy habits so much faster than previous setbacks. I'm back to Tuning In and the meal planning is sorted so July is looking better.
It's been a modest kind of year so far. But when I think about my mental state and the inability to breathe in my jeans back on January 1, it feels like real progress.
- Improved consistency with strength training – twice a week minimum. Need to remember how much I enjoy it when thinking of ditching it for a cuppa and a book!
- Cycling cycling and more cycling. There's only three months til Cycletta, eep.
Hope you're all well… thank you gazillions for reading. Apologies for the cobwebs on the blog lately!
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I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. ONE THIRD of 2011 is now done and dusted!
The lovely Jennette wrote on her blog today:
I have often wondered if someone who's lost a ton of weight has to become a fitness and health fanatic for the rest of their life to keep it off, or if they can just integrate it into a normal part of the life that is not any more or less important than other things in their life.
Recently I was emailling with some podcast listeners about the Maintenance episode and we were pondering pretty much the same thing. The thought of having to be "hardcore" for the rest of your life was just totally depressing, quite frankly. But I've been thinking about it and I reckon what I've been doing this year is sustainable and realistic – healthy but not hardcore.
Sure, progress is happening at a glacial pace and thus I too shall be fat at Fitbloggin next week (loved Jennette's post there – ditto to all that!). But I feel so peaceful and positive right now, and a helluva lot happier than I did when I got to my so-called Happy Weight a few years ago.
- I'm not constantly thinking about food
- I no longer feel like I'm on any sort of wagon, poised to fall off at the slightest wobble
- I'm getting better every day at pausing before I eat to decide whether I am really hungry
- I no longer fear losing control around food
- There's no good or bad foods anymore. I'm starting to observe how different foods make me feel and choosing accordingly. Lately my body makes the choices more often than my mind, if that makes sense!?
- I can now recognise when I am feeling upset or angry or tired rather than hungry. Sometimes I still eat anyway, but the ability to pinpoint the real emotion just plain rawks!
- I'm getting better at doing what I need to do to feel sane and happy and not worrying about what others may think
- I am getting better at being honest with myself e.g. Are you really sooooo busy or just can't be arsed to go kickboxing?
- I'm getting better at dealing with problems and issues as they arise, instead of letting them rot and/or eating to supress the feelings.
All this progress feels SO HUGE to me but the changes aren't quite as big on the outside yet. I have no idea where all this will lead in terms of my size. I feel it is more important to keep working on the problem, rather than the symptom. The emotional eating, not the weight loss. I don't want to screw that up and get all obsessive just to get back into The Jeans of 2007.
I'll be honest. I would like to lose some weight, simply to have more choice of clothes and to have less wobbles in the way when I exercise. But I am prepared to be patient and focus on being consistent and sane. Ahhhhhhhh
April highlights (aside from the Zumba ferret dude of course):
- I hit my goal of exercising consistently, until the 'flu and a very loud and annoying cough slayed me in the last week
- I hit my goal of consistently planning meals. Amazing how that half an hour of effort every fortnight brings so much freaking CALM and order to everyday life
- I lost a grand total of one pound
- Food diary is still humming along. I tell you it is so satisfying to a spreadsheet lover to see four months of entries filled in!
Hope your May is going smashingly so far!
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I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. One quarter of the year has passed, for feck's sake.
- I started to properly enjoy kickboxing again, instead of spending the whole class fuming about my lack of fitness.
- Pilates is fantastic. Some moves that killed me in the first week are getting easier.
- I lost a couple more pounds.
- Food diary still going great guns.
Things that didn't go as well:
- Once again I lost momentum with my eating at the end of the month. The pattern is now clear: I plan the meals for about two weeks, then the groceries run out, then I get busy and tried and just buy bits and pieces here and there, and the meal choices don't end up being quite as healthy. The plan for April is to set a reminder to re-shop. I do it online; so I could really just click one button and they'd deliver me the same stuff as the previous order… it's really not bloody hard!
- Once again my exercise frequency tailed off at the end of the month. I simply did not make it a priority and that cannot go on. I have the time, I just have to make the time.
Example: A few weekends Julia and I were feverishly working on Up & Running over Skype. After awhile she announced, "Okay I'll be back in an hour, I need to get in my bike ride".
What!? I felt rather indignant. What about all this work we had to do? When she returned later all refreshed and energised, the words were blurring in front of my eyes and my bum was numb.
And what had I been editing while she was away? A post about the importance of making time for exercise. For crying out loud
These past few weeks I've been marvelling at the lovely Up & Runners planning their schedules, ditching excuses and truly committing to themselves and their training. While I had been skipping workouts and not getting enough sleep.
This has been my pattern for a long while now. I'm not being harsh on myself here when I say I find it very easy to find "very important" reasons not to exercise. Some of it comes from worrying about what other people think if everything's not perfect and wonderful, but a huge part of it that I really quite enjoy spending hours in front of the computer in my tracky dacks, instead of going outside and working up a sweat.
I need to take a leaf out of Julia's book and put the exercise first. She plans her exercise, then she schedules in her work tasks, then she sticks to the bloody plan. She thinks highly enough of herself to keep that committment.
I know I do better work when I make time for physical activity. I know it helps my lard-busting efforts but most importantly it keeps my mind clear. And althought I'm not a runner, I don't want to be a hypocrite and cheer on all our lovely Up & Runners for making time to exercise when I'm not bloody doing it properly myself
So in April it's all about working smarter, not harder. Let the glacial progress continue!
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"Social media has made us even more aware of the things we are missing out on. You’re home alone, but watching your friends status updates tell of a great party happening somewhere. You are aware of more parties than ever before. And, like gym memberships, adding Bergman movies to your Netflix queue and piling up unread copies of the New Yorker, watching these feeds gives you a sense that you’re participating, not missing out, even when you are."
It's an amazing post with many brilliant thoughts. If you ever lay awake in bed at night thinking about how crazy is this internet, what would happen if you switched off your computer and just never went back, and what is all this social media bollocks doing to our brains anyway; what does it all MEAN?, well then I highly recommend Caterina's post.
(I get total FOMO reading Caterina's writing, by the way. FOMO in the form of, Fear I've Missed Out On About 70 Million Brain Cells compared to this wonderful woman. She invented Flickr, you know.)
Anyway! I was then having a gander at Mighty Girl Maggie's site this morning and she had shared her thoughts on Caterina's post:
"The thing is, I still love social media, despite the occasional sense that everyone is popping bottles of champagne on city rooftops while I watch The Office reruns in my yoga pants. Seeing what I’m “missing” has shaped how I decide to spend my time, reminded me to fill my life with stuff that makes me feel like there’s nowhere else I’d rather be. Now when I feel like I’m missing out, I see it as a flag that I’m unhappy about something else, an indicator that I need to invest some time in finding my own fun, or a reminder to stay in the moment — even if the moment is just enjoying my friends photos in my PJs."
I like her perspective. Some really interesting comments too, including a reader who is giving up Facebook for lent and this one made me smile:
"Just hooked up a thrifted 1970’s phone that weighs, like 32 pounds. It rings and I have no idea who is calling until I answer. A surprise or two every day! Then, because of short cord, I have to sit down and really talk to whomever is calling. And if I hear my sausage sizzling on the stove. Sizzling too hard – I tell the person to hold on and then I go over and really focus on my sizzling sausage. Then I come back and the surprise person and I will have an intense sausage conversation…"
I've got about half a dozen unfinished posts on the go about this technology and mindfulness sort of shenanigans but will spare you for now (PHEW!). Hope you are having a most excellent week!
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I'm doing monthly updates on my New Year Goals. 1/6th of 2011 is gone. Yikes.
Once again I'm late with the monthly update. Aside from feeling lame talking about this stuff with earthquakes and tsunamis going on, I've also been in the kind of overly emotional mood where it's best to steer clear of blogging. The kind of mood where one says or does ill-advised things, as per this hilarious tweet I saw from writer Sali Hughes:
- I spent a long weekend in Paris with Dr G (my birthday gift to him – "Here, have an Easyjet ticket! Yeah, I'm coming too!" Everyone's a winner.) and I didn't put on any weight. Blow me down with a feather, I ate mindfully in the land of pastry and cheese.
- I started a Pilates class! For the past four years I've pined for the weekly class we had when I worked at the House of Sport. I finally found a place on a Beginners course (yep, back to Beginner level, d'oh) and really loving it.
- I lost a couple of pounds.
- Food diary still going strong.
Things that didn't go as well:
- Very inconsistent with exercise in the early part of the month.
- Got sloppy with meal planning post Paris. It really helps to buy some bloody groceries!
I am happy with my glacial progress. I'm working more on the exercise and planning this month, but overall it feels like I'm devoting the right level of brain power to the task. There are still the PMS-y moments of I should do more panic, but I know that would mean taking away time and energy from other parts of my life and would no doubt trigger nutty behaviour and serious overeating. So I'll keep plodding along.
It felt like amazing progress to walk around in Paris and not have my guts knotted with regret for stuffing my face nor fear that I'd blown a diet. Instead, somehow I was able to switch off the lard-related chatter in my brain and focus on being there. It sounds cheesy but for the past few years I've not properly savoured some really cool moments because I was too caught up in angstypants thoughts.
This time I tried to focus on all five senses, not just taste. The tiny details of the Notre Dame. The echo of our voices when the river boat went under a bridge. The bright smell of a Vietnamese dinner. The flaky pastry of a chausson aux pommes dissolving on my tongue. The icy night air in my lungs as I raced Gareth around the Louvre pyramids on our bike tour. Gareth's yelp of pain when I accidentally rode too close and stabbed him with my handlebar. The unfortunate stink of that dog poo I failed to ride around.
Good times, people. Good times!
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Happy new year comrades! Hope your 2011 is off to a cracking start.
Things were rather crapful, healthwise, in the last six weeks of 2010. I was about as mindful as bulldozer! While there was some brilliant bits (good times with friends and family, progress on a groovy new web project) but there were also very messy bits – workplace madness, my 6th major cold of the year and the re-emergence of that old self-destructive streak. I dropped the ball completely and just did not have any interest in looking after myself. I took to hiding in the bath tub with the bubbles a foot high so I could pretend I didn't have a body. Next thing my rubbish bin was jangling with the sound of foil wrappers from chocolate coins and the size 18 dress I reluctantly wore for a summer wedding was now too tight to wear to a party. D'oh.
I've come out the other side now after a couple of weeks off work and some time to rest and think. I learned so much in 2010 with the shrink visits and mindfulness stuff – many lightbulbs went off. But I wasn't able to translate those lightbulbs into meaningful, lasting changes.
The missing element was a plan. It's not enough to realise you have work to do – you have to figure out how the hell you're going to do it. Otherwise I could see myself muddling on forever, slightly more aware of why I do the things I do, but still bloody doing them!
So it was time for action. I spent Boxing Day mapping out a wee strategy. I thought I'd talk about the lard-related bits of it on here…
Yeah, that old chestnut! But it works for me. When I acknowledge and document what I eat, I'm thoughtful with my choices and more likely to tune into hunger signals. When I don't, I do okay for a while but then I get sloppy with portion sizes, then unhealthy choices creep in, then it's "quick, noone's looking!" mode, then the slide into all-out denial.
All year the shrink tried to get me to fill in a diary and I never stuck with it. I don't know if it was because a) I didn't want her to see how bad my "mistakes" could be (interesting to seek the approval of someone you're paying), or b) I didn't want to acknowledge what I was eating, because it might mean giving up the fleeting diversion of eating rubbish. Maybe both?
I've realised since, that I just have to buckle down and DO IT, but in a way that suits me. Which leads us to…
The food diary is a Google Docs spreadsheet. It's inspired by the paper Food/Mood journal the shrink gave me, but I'm finding it so much easier to update on the computer or phone. One row per day with columns for meals and observations. The document is shared with a good friend who's on a similar path – we have a tab each and check in on the other's progress daily so theres no scope for slacking off. And so on to…
Accountability & Real World Support
Getting help from a professional is great but in many ways it's an expensive way of talking to yourself. You can dump all your woes in the session, walk out of the office and kind of leave it there and not really do anything with it back in the "real world".
I've always been most successful when I'm open about my eating struggles with those closest to me. My recent strategy of trying to fix things myself and pretending all was okay did not work, and was no doubt unconvincing for my loved ones as I slowly inflated before their very eyes.
So I've had some conversations with my nearest and dearest along the lines of, "Well, obviously I've been struggling a wee bit here. This is what I'm planning to do about it. Do you reckon you might like to buddy up on a food diary/go somewhere healthier for lunch/eat at the table instead of on the couch/etc etc etc?". Simple things, low key support, but for someone who has not wanted to acknowledge what was really going on to herself, let alone out loud to others, it was huge step forward. It had been very lonely on Planet Denial.
I'm back to the good old weekly meal planning. There's a spreadsheet for that too! Healthier meals but not boring, single spear of asparagus and a glass of air diet food. Normal, everyday food but remembering I don't need a mountain of rice and that toast doesn't have to come in pairs. This is becoming less of a drama each day now that I'm getting back to…
The mindful eating tools and techniques I'd adopted last year were really helpful. I'd just stopped using them! So it's back to things like: tuning in to hunger levels before and during eating, putting my food on a plate and sitting down to eat it, exercising for enjoyment not punishment, etc etc etc.
I've got a combination of practical and mindful tactics, accountability measures and support. I'm ready to tackle this now. The black dog is back in his kennel! Unlike a year ago, addressing my eating now is not a diversion – the "designated issue" as Martha Beck calls it – because I've worked on the bigger issues.
That's enough baby steps for now, I reckon. Are you still awake?
Disclaimer: My pal Lainey is always bemused when I put disclaimers on my blog but I should show her the emails I get from folks insisting, "you're doing it wrong". So I'm disclaiming that this is the plan of action I have come up with based on what worked in the past combined with what I've learned since about my wily ways. I'm giving it a red hot go (one week down) and will reassess at the end of the month. Yee-ha!