Tuesday 9 February 2016

Word of the Year for 2016: Health – One Month On

As it is one month into the year already, I thought I would review myself against my word for the year: health.

My intention for this year was to focus on all aspects of health, diet and self-care for myself and my family.  My reasoning for this is that I feel that I have focussed so much on other aspects of my life that I have neglected my health and self-care to the point that it has an impact on all of the other areas of my life – worship, creativity, work, confidence, because of lower energy levels. I was also getting worried that the kids were picking up some bad habits regarding their eating.

A month on, my first reaction is that not enough has changed.  A kinder assessment would be that I have started making changes and need to build on that.

What have I done so far:

  • I have been having breakfast every single day – one slice of brown bread with butter and a skinny latte or coffee
  • I have been having a healthy salad for lunch most days, although on days I have been tired and not made it the night before, I have slipped and had whatever the canteen is offering.
  • I am drinking a 2-3 glasses of water at work and about 3-4 a day, which still sounds terrible, but is better than no water and lots of soda I was drinking at one point. I also have to manage my water intake because I make ablution for prayers at lunchtime and try not to go to the loo again until it is time to go home (as this invalidates the ablution).
  • I have been taking the stairs at work a few times a day instead of the lift
  • I have been power-walking 2-3 days a week with my husband for about 20 minutes
  • I have come to a place where I like myself as I am, don’t feel lesser in any way because I am heavier than I was and refuse to berate myself; but at the same time I know I will look better and feel more energised if I get fitter.

What hasn’t changed (yet!):

  • I am still eating too much!!! My potion sizes are too big , I am eating out too often and I am still defaulting to take-away when I am tired and being too quick to reward myself with chocolate.
  • I am spending a little too much time on my phone or laptop in the evening. Mealtimes are slightly chaotic with trying to get both babies fed, which means that I am slightly less mindful of what I am eating and how much I am eating.

What I would like to be doing:

I think a big part of trying to make a change or achieve something is knowing what the end point is and being clear about how that looks and feels like. I have focussed a lot on what I need to do and not as much on where I need to get to. The vision of where I want to be should also serve to motivate and encourage me. So for me this would look like:
  • Having a healthy breakfast of fruit, yoghurt, dates or wholemeal bread and green tea instead of coffee
  • Having a salad for lunch with lots of greens and drinking plenty of water
  • Taking a longer lunch break and making time after I pray to meet with friends or go for a walk every day
  • Feeling more alert and awake through the latter part of the day
  • Thwarting the 4pm munchies I get every day with a healthy option like dates, nuts or fruit
  • Having an early dinner which includes protein, healthy carbs and veg, but with a sensible portion size – and enjoying my dinner guilt free
  • Going for a walk every day with my husband
  • Being able to have and enjoy chocolate and stop at a small, sensible amount
  • Going gadget/smart phone free at least one hour before bed and spending the time reading
  • Sleeping early, as soon as I can after Esha (the night prayer)
  • Taking my suppements every day (Royal Jelly, multivitamins, vitamin D and slow releasing iron)
Reflecting over the last month has also given me time to ponder over some of the things I tell myself when I am making choices about what to eat and how to spend my time. It is easy to say that with the kids and work that I don’t have time to make healthy lunches and exercise, but as always you have to prioritise what is important at the cost of something else. So I know I have to make the time and most likely it will be at the expense of writing and creative endeavours.

Another excuse is too much information but not enough of the right information. I feel as if I am bombarded with information about health and diet and some of it is inconsistent or contradictory. So my intuition at the moment is to go with the elements I am confident about: less sugar, less salt, less of the wrong kinds of fat, more natural and whole foods, more water, keep moving and get enough sleep. I also aim to focus on the sunnah as a guide for the right way to approach diet, rest and sleep. Finally I will aim to read or study a little every day and develop my understanding and knowledge of the different things that contribute to good health, using some common sense as a filter for the multitude of information that seems to be out there.

I am finding the right kind of encouragement can also really help – for instance something we do with our children is model the behaviours we want to see, as the saying goes: children do what you do, not what you say. In this context, being told I have put on weight in a really judgemental/negative way didn’t really help me. It makes me feel indignant or like I just want to hide away. Being in an environment where everyone is trying to do the right things and succeeding has really helped me. In my team at work, everyone currently has a gadget called a Fit Bit which records the steps they have taken. They are all in competition with each other and it has made them work really hard to get the most steps each day including taking the stairs instead of the lift, which also makes me want to take the stairs instead of the lift. I am finding having everyone around me trying their best has really made me want to raise my game. The Fit Bit is out of my budget at the moment, but the reason I have not bought one yet is that I want to take a more natural measured approach, based less on competitiveness in short bursts and more on creating a natural rhythm that works for my daily life in the long term. For that I believe I need to listen to my body and try out different things until I find the right approach for myself.

I don’t find it easy to share my journey where it touches on health and weight. It don’t have any trouble admitting to myself and others my flaws and weaknesses, but it feels embarrassing to admit to what feels like a lack of willpower. Even if this is perhaps disguised as: I have better things to do, or I don’t have time or I’m completely happy as I am. I also hope that I am not boring you – there are plenty of people who are not interested in this topic and I remember during all of the years that I could eat what I wanted and stay slim, I would find it boring when women started talking about their weight and diets. At the same time, I feel as if writing about this helps me to unpick and get to the heart of where I am going wrong. It brings me back to what I need to do and it helps me to hold myself to account and not make excuses. I also think there are a heck of a lot of women that will be going through the same journey of finding their way back to being fit and healthy and I would love them to share their experience and what has worked for them and perhaps even gain a little inspiration or learning from my journey insh’Allah.


  1. I'm on the same path right now! My second child is almost five months old and I'm also focusing on my health, after giving myself some grace during and after pregnancy.

    My biggest point of attention is portion control. I eat healthy but just too much if I don't pay enough attention.

    I try to improve one habit a month because I know I would burn myself out very fast if I try to do it all at the same time.

    What motivates me (sadly enough) is knowing people who are in pretty bad health in their late fifties, early sixties, mostly because of the less than ideal choices they made starting at my age (early thirties). If I want to be healthy and active when I am older, I should start a healthy lifestyle right now. Not just to be a good example for my children now, but also to be there for them in the future, insjallah.

    I really like these kinds of posts as they are motivating and also hold me accountable. Maybe you could post regularly (like monthly) on this subject so other sisters could join? I would love too, as I like doing this together!
    Love, Maryam

    1. Salaam dear Maryam,
      I was thinking to update monthly and see where I am at the end of the year.
      Like you one of my motivators is seeing the terrible health of people in my community by the time they are in their 50's and 60's.

  2. Same here SNAP!

    I'm trying my hardest to change some bad eating habits. I think it's just easier for most of us to slip up and have a quick takeaway. That my downfall also :(

    But breakfast is DEFFO something I doing well with Alhamdulilah.

    1. I'm still getting the hang of being more creative with breakfast and making a meal of it, would love to hear what kinds of things you like for breakfast.

  3. Assalamualaikum
    I am 62+ and have tried no carbo, tiny portions, all sorts, none shrinks the waist. About 2 months ago I started fasting either Monday or Thursday, and surprisingly it works! After my haj etc, and at my age, it is now easier to do the Monday or Thursday fast (either day if I dont hve business meetings), alhamdulillah, and I hope to do both days a week soon. the lighter body is a bonus.

    1. Assalam-alaikam and thank you sooo much for this. Fasting Monday's and Thursday's is something I very much aspire to, so certainly I am glad to hear that it has been effective for you.