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Dublin: 3°C Saturday 23 January 2021
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My week in wellness: A 32-year-old doctor who wants to get back into a physical shape she’s happier with

This week’s diary writer is halfway through a strict six week fitness and nutrition programme.

WELCOME TO HOW I Live, TheJournal.ie’s wellness diary series.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of their mental and physical routines every day for one week – what their stress levels are like, how much activity they fit in (or don’t fit in), and how much sleep they get.

Each wellness diary is submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that this is simply an account of a week in someone’s shoes, and their situation may not be relatable for everyone.

If you’re interested in submitting your own How I Live diary, email wellness@thejournal.ie with your name, age, location and a few lines about your current health and wellness goals.

This week, we hear from a doctor in Dublin who’s trying to stick to her no-alcohol, no-sugar plan while on a week’s holidays from work.

Option 2A Final

Occupation: Doctor
Age: 32
Location: Dublin
Who you live with: My partner and our dog

I was pretty fit until around this time last year when a combination of moving away and giving up vegetarianism conspired against me. I gradually became less active and less well able to fit into my clothes.

When lockdown 2.0 was announced, I decided to take the opportunity of no socialising and lots of downtime to try to get back to a physical shape that I’m happier with. I try hard not to let my weight and body shape determine my self worth, and mostly I manage pretty well. But at the same time I like a challenge, and I’m quite goal orientated, so I signed up for a six week intensive programme a few weeks ago.

Usual activity levels: Since starting the six-week programme, I do five 30-min workouts per week, and a walk on Saturday and Sunday. My job is mostly office-based, and my walk to and from work only clocks in at about 5000 steps.
Daily stress levels: My job can be stressful, but I would say I’m generally pretty good at managing stress and blowing off steam. Even on a tough work day, the walk home and a quick cuddle on the couch with my dog (and/or girlfriend) usually has me feeling alright again by evening time.
Your eating/drinking habits: Laziness and comfort eating saw my usually fairly good diet deteriorate a lot over the middle part of 2020. Right now I’m on a ketogenic food plan (no carb, high fat), so I’m having to put much more thought into the food I make and eat, and alcohol is out.
Usual sleep quality: I’m pretty lucky with my sleep, and generally get 7 or 8 hours a night. I used to take ages to fall asleep but then discovered that listening to a podcast at low volume seems to switch off my brain perfectly, and now I often don’t hear past the opening credits.
Usual self-care: If I’m having a hard time at work or if I’m down in the dumps for whatever reason, I would step up the amount of time I spend intentionally minding myself and doing nice things that boost my mood. Meditation and journaling are two old reliables that always help me feel better if it’s a tough week.

Monday

Morning: We’re both off work on annual leave for the week. I get up around 8.30 and get my workout done ahead of the day. We have big plans – a grocery shop in Tesco rather than our usual trip to Lidl! It’s interesting not buying wine or beer, and just sticking to wholesome keto-friendly food. We spend a while trying to find sugar free dark chocolate, to no avail. But we do buy a fancy new frying pan and snuggly bed sheets.

Afternoon: We go for a seaside walk in the afternoon. It’s blustery but sunny, and we watch little shore birds pick at the surf, running so fast their little legs seem to almost disappear. Being outside and noticing nature around me always makes me feel so good. We walk for about 30 or 40 minutes, stopping in the middle to snap some pictures.

Evening: In the evening I read my book for a bit while my partner roasts a chicken. The book is called The Gift, and it’s written by Dr Edith Eger, a psychologist who survived a concentration camp in the holocaust. It’s an amazing read. The chicken is perfectly roasted – crispy skin and juicy inside. We serve it in a bowl with avocado, a peanut butter dressing and some cheese. It sounds strange but tastes delicious. Kind of like a burrito bowl but without the rice and beans. We play Trivial Pursuit (she wins) and go to bed around 11. It’s easy to go to bed early when it’s dark before 5pm. I think I’m naturally programmed to hibernate in winter, and it feels nice to be able to roll with the impulse to sleep lots!

Tuesday

Morning: Today I have a meeting for a work project that I’m doing. I have spent part of the weekend making up slides presenting the results of a research survey, and will present them to a group of consultants over Zoom. It doesn’t start til 11, so I spend the morning as usual – my skin care routine and my 30 minute workout. I make a nice coffee to have as I Zoom, and remind myself there’s no need to be nervous. The presentation goes pretty well, and I am so delighted once it’s over to have my week off back, free of any stresses.

Afternoon: We go for a walk by the sea, and I go for a little sea swim. I plunge in, remembering Wim Hof’s advice about breathing: strong inhale before you plunge, strong exhale as you come out of the water. It’s exhilarating and I swim out for a bit to a buoy before turning back. I lose my breath a bit on the way back, and am glad to notice one of the other swimmers pausing to check that I’m ok before he gets out of the water. Sea swimmers are generally such a friendly bunch of people. Thankfully, turning over to swim backstroke for a bit helps me breathe more easily and I get back to the shore without any problem.

Evening: We have fish chowder for dinner, a keto recipe that is essentially just fish and cream. It’s delicious, and very warming. Of course, it would benefit from being served with a glass of white wine, but it’s nice to know I won’t have a muzzy head in the morning. We play a game of Trivial Pursuit and watch Crazy Rich Asians.

Bedtime: I always sleep like a baby after a swim in the sea, and I head to bed feeling deeply relaxed after a lovely day.

Wednesday

Morning: We wake at the usual holiday wake up time (around 8.30) and potter around doing some tidying. I love having a clean space around me, clean floors especially are a big quality of life issue for me! We visit my partner’s mum’s house – standing out in the garden to admire her new back door. Then get home around 1pm.

Evening/bedtime: I break keto as a treat and order a pizza. I haven’t had one in two weeks, and order a small sourdough woodfire pizza. I don’t feel too stuffed afterwards. The evening is spent on a Zoom chat with some pals, as well as watching the week’s episode of The Great British Bake Off.

Bedtime: Maybe the pizza helps, but I don’t even really hear the podcast we put on, and I sleep like a baby from around 11pm.

Thursday

Morning: I get up early (around 6am) to go for a sea swim with my friend. It’s dark and cold as we leave, but on our way to the coast we are rewarded for our early start with the most beautiful sunrise. The water is freezing – colder than it’s felt all year – so we only stay in for a few minutes. We get coffee and sit in our respective cars chatting until we’ve warmed up a bit before driving home. The early morning swim routine is my absolute favourite way to start a day.

Afternoon: After a late-ish breakfast of bacon and eggs (back on the ketogenesis bandwagon) around 11am, I read my book for a while. It’s a thriller and a real page-turner. The perfect holiday read. Then I cycle to meet my mum in the overlapping part of our 5km radius. We get coffee and sit in a park catching up about anything and everything.

Evening: Around 6pm I do my 30 minute workout, focused on the chest and back area. Lots of panting and puffing during the rounds of push ups. But it’s surprisingly do-able, and I wonder if maybe I’m getting a little bit fitter already. Dinner tonight is a Tesco Finest steak, with asparagus, mushrooms and a creamy sauce. For dessert, we watch a couple of episodes of Gilmore Girls – sweet enough to satisfy any sugar cravings. Head to bed around 11.30pm and a true crime podcast sends me off to sleep.

Friday

Morning: I wake up feeling unwell and can tell by the symptoms that it’s a familiar old bout of recurrent tonsillitis. I guess it’s classic, after a week off, to get sick a few days before I have to go back to work. I stay in bed a bit later than usual, with a podcast playing in the background. It feels nice to relax and revel in being on holidays. I get up around 10.30am.

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I sit down to read with a coffee, followed by a Lemsip, and enjoy the winter sun coming in the window. I think about making a plan to meet a friend for a walk, but since I’m feeling a bit unwell it doesn’t seem smart. I do some online Christmas shopping, and take the dog for a walk on my own instead.

Afternoon: The friend I was going to meet ended up getting engaged today! And my throat feels a lot better after a Lemsip, so I click and collect a bouquet of flowers and drop them over to her – feeling grateful to live within 5km of most of my good friends! We sit outside as her fiancé explains all about the planning and ring designing. It feels almost normal to be together like this.

Evening: I skip my workout for the day, but plan to do it on Sunday instead. We spend the evening watching Mrs America and go to bed a little later than usual. It feels a bit sad to be finished the holiday part of my holiday, and to be on the regular weekend countdown to work, but also I’m conscious of how incredibly lucky I am to have had such a relaxing week off.

Bedtime: I do my face cleansing routine and then we listen to a mystery podcast that’s about ghosts or something of that ilk. To be honest, I have no idea because I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Saturday

Morning: It’s rainy and blustery this morning so I stay in bed late. I finish the Jack Reacher novel I’ve been reading, alongside the Edith Eger book. I often like to have fiction and non-fiction books on the go simultaneously so I can choose whether to immerse myself in fantasy or broaden my mind a little bit. Today, fantasy wins out.

Afternoon: We order some keto-friendly Korean food – beef and kimchi. The poor dog gets attacked by a local cat out in the courtyard so we spend a bit of time minding her and giving her cuddles on the couch, as well as going out to play a bit later once the cat has cleared off. She is definitely a big part of my wellness, and a few minutes of watching her fetch and wrestle with an empty water bottle (in place of a ball, which she always loses) makes me feel so happy.

Evening: My coach sends me over a new recipe book of meals I can make and I spend part of the evening looking it over and making a shopping list. I haven’t been great at logging all my meals while I’ve been on holiday so I make a plan to do it in the evenings before bed from now on.

Bedtime: We have an early night, the dark evenings are definitely making me sleepy much earlier. It feels quite nice to be able to snuggle up in bed early, especially when my holiday is nearly at an end!

Sunday

Morning: I wake up early and ready for a swim but high tide isn’t until 10.45am. I get up around 10 and do my workout, before getting into my togs. It’s incredibly blustery, and the waves are pretty big, but surprisingly it doesn’t feel too cold in the water. We get out after 5 or 10 minutes and dress in the freezing wind. We head to a local cafe for a coffee. I manage to resist the allure of a breakfast butty, and then come home for a hot shower.

Afternoon: I make the keto equivalent of a breakfast butty – mashed boiled eggs with streaky bacon – and snuggle up with a big mug of tea, wrapped in my cosiest clothes. It’s a quiet day and I take the chance to do a bit of journalling and start a list of Christmas gift ideas. I should probably do a grocery shop to set me up for the week, but for now just buy some mincemeat in the local shop to make burgers, in case I don’t fancy leaving the house later!

Evening: I change the sheets on our bed. There is something so delicious about a freshly made up bed, and it feels like a good way to set myself up for the week ahead. I’m expecting it to be a busy work week since my boss will be away, so it feels good to do whatever I can do to make the week a bit nicer. I make one of the new keto recipes for dinner – broccoli and tuna salad with almonds. It’s tastier than it sounds, and really filling.

Bedtime: I head to bed around 10.30pm to read a chapter of The Gift and put on a podcast to fall asleep to. I feel very lucky to have had such a relaxing week off. And quite virtuous, after drinking very little and exercising most of the days. It’s a far cry from how I’d usually spend a holiday, but I go to bed feeling happy and healthy.

What I’ve learned…

  • I watch more TV than I thought I did! And I have stopped meditating as regularly – probably because that’s what I used to do before going to sleep, and now I’ve replaced that with a podcast.
  • I’d like to get back to meditating more regularly – probably before bed. And I think I’ll try getting up earlier than usual so I can work out before I go to work – I noticed that on the days I exercised in the morning, I felt more energised for the rest of the day.

Last week’s diary: A 57-year-old in Cork who’s trying to cut down on screens, wine and late bedtimes>

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