66 days to change: Stumbles and falls

I thought that it would be Valentine’s Day that did me in, but it wasn’t, it was Ye Ole Faithful,


I thought that it would be Valentine’s Day that did me in, but it wasn’t, it was Ye Ole Faithful, my real kryptonite: baking.

Who can resist cookies fresh from the oven, taking a lick of double-fudge frosting before it goes on the birthday cake? I thought I was stronger, I thought my quest to change was not only pure, but steeped in resolve.

Who was I kidding?

My daughter turns five today ‘ Happy Birthday Lily! There was no way I was going to stop baking her cake from scratch, as I have done every year. However, I planned a ‘Frozen’ chocolate mint cake, then decided I wouldn’t stop there: I would bake do two kinds of cupcakes for her party: because that’s how I roll.

I did bake healthy fare for the party ‘ muffins with zucchini and carrots, cranberry scones sweetened with fruit. But kids are savvy, and didn’t touch the stuff. They wanted the ‘real’ deal. And I never want to be ‘that’ mom ‘ the house the kids avoid because they are going to get chocolate avocado chia pudding instead of Jello. When my daughter turned to me a few days ago and said, ‘Mummy, you aren’t going to eat any cake, because you don’t eat sugar’ it broke my heart a little.

I sampled as I baked, and I had a small taste of the cupcakes. How did they taste? How did I feel?

I had a bit of a headache. I know that sugar withdrawal can cause headaches ‘ but was a bit surprised that something I hadn’t had for six weeks could give me a headache. Of course, the chocolate tasted delicious ‘ I’d be lying if I didn’t saying otherwise. But more than anything, I felt like I’d taken a couple of steps back. I hate to resort to a cliché, but old habits die-hard. I felt like a bit of failure. To be expected.

How often has that happened to someone trying to make change in their life ‘ we try to break a habit, or form a new habit, and we stumble? The reformed non-smoker who bums a cigarette at a party? The Weight Watcher who has a bad day and scarfs down all the candy in the house? The newly minted fitness buff who forgets her gym clothes for days in a row?

It is easy to get buried in negative self-talk, and feel defeated. Or, it can bolster you to try harder. I’m going with Plan B.

My feelings of failure have not been reserved for sneaking a bit of sugar; my real feeling of failure stems from my inability to launch my sleep challenge further than a day or two. Truthfully, I don’t miss wine that much and I can do without sugar. But sleep? Who knew this would be one of the most difficult ones to tackle?

When I started the sleep challenge, I arrogantly and naively thought I would nail it. Who doesn’t want a great night’s sleep? And several in a row ‘ nay, a new lifestyle where you get 7-8 hours sleep a night and reap all the benefits? Bring it on!

Oh, wait’you have to put measures into place to ensure success? Didn’t read that fine print. And here’s what happened ‘ a little thing called the Sochi Olympics. Because I work from home around my kids’ schedules, I have a block of time to write. Last week that time was spent watching moguls, skating, skiing and hockey. But deadlines have to be met, so after the kids went to bed I had to do the work I’d put off doing. As the time slipped past, and my fingers tip-tapped away on my laptop, I thought, ‘There’s another half-hour sleep gone; there’s an hour sleep gone.’ Tick tock. Sleep is like a chunk of ice, and we each have an icepick, hacking away at that chunk as we finish work projects, clean the house, scroll through friends’ photos on Facebook. 8 hours sleep, 7, hours sleep, 6’5′

When I get sleep, I feel like a viable member of the human race. I look better. I’m patient. I don’t crave sugar. I don’t yell at my kids (as much). I don’t have moments where all I think about is how comfortable my bed is, and why is it we must be apart?

The Olympics won’t last. But there’s always going to be something to procrastinate upon. Which is leading me to yet another 66 day challenge ‘ how to procrastinate less. As I reflect on my ‘stumbles and falls’ I wonder how to measure success and failure ‘ look at successful people, and they live their lives with a sense of purpose and discipline. But I recognize that I’m going to make mistakes. Instead of taking strides, maybe I need to take small steps ‘ and hopefully find my way there. I’ve discovered if I need to avoid sugar, I shouldn’t have it in the house (the fact it lurks around every corner is something else).

To set myself up for success with my sleep challenge I have to get the steps right. My friend Sue gave me a good tip ‘ she washes her face and gets ready for bed when she’s bathing her daughters. It might not be sexy going to bed at 9:30, but that’s life. Who said the party was meant to last forever?

And speaking of the party – the sugar left a huge mess. I now have a new task: cleaning my kitchen. I forgot how sticky sugar is’it’s kind of gross.

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Erin Phelan is a fitness trainer and mom of two. She’s a regular contributor to Best Health and will be blogging here every Tuesday and Friday for the next 66 days.