My health and wellbeing design – Evaluate and Tweak

I began this design 18 months ago in May 2014. Since then I have learnt so much and made a lot of progress along the path to wellness, acceptance and happiness. To evaluate the design, I must first look back at what my initial aims were. This was my initial vision and reasons for taking on this design project;

VISION – To design some tools that help me to achieve my aims of losing weight, improving my fitness levels, improving my food choices and providing me with some time to devote to myself.

During the design process, these aims were refined and finally set as follows.

1. To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family.

2. To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularly

3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges.

 

So did I manage to fulfil my aims and visions? What designs did I create? Did I use them and were they successful? 

The main designs I created were as follows;

  1. A weekly food planner. I tried various methods of food planning and this is the one I finally settled on that is working for me now. The heading of soup, rice, pasta etc remain the same every week and I fill in the details of what I’d like to cook in each category. This method of working from pattern to detail has really helped me not to feel overwhelmed at the task of deciding what to cook. I often choose one cookery book each week and add a number of new recipes from it to my weekly planner. This keeps me learning new recipes and keeps our food interesting and varied. This works really well, but only if I find the time to update it on a sunday evening. I probably use this planner about half of the time but I do hope to build up to using it more often as it really helps with shopping, food planning and simplifying my decision-making in the evenings. IMG_0111
  2. A weekly activity/food/exercise planner. This is drawn up on a huge blackboard I have painted onto my kitchen wall. I update it every sunday evening to plan the week ahead. I don’t always use the ‘dinner’ column, some weeks it works better for me to have flexibility about which meals I cook on which days, allowing me to react to unexpected events like kids coming over after school for dinner. IMG_0112
  3. A wheel of the year challenge planner. Each month is given a Permaculture principle as a theme and a challenge to participate in. This worked well until June, then I have floundered a little with this one. I found my available time to work on permaculture diploma projects has shrunk significantly over this year due to other work commitments. So the task of finding out about and writing a blog post each month on a principle rather fell to the bottom of my to-do list. I have tried to get back on track and hope to complete the challenge for the year albeit in a rather shortened version than I had envisaged. IMG_0113
  4. A calendar to keep track of exercise challenges and events coming up and participated in. I have updated this regularly with the main exercise activities that I have done. It is gratifying to see these all listed in one place and see how busy I have been!
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So did these designs help me to fulfil my aims? PNI evaluation.

1. To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family. 

POSITIVE – my knowledge of health is far improved from where it was 18 months ago. I eat a mainly vegan, wholefoods diet now and feel that this suits my lifestyle and body type. I have more energy and feel fit and strong, I have not lost weight but feel my body is more muscular now. I enjoy cooking and have made some really positive changes around how we buy food and manage our food budget. I have thrown away my scales and am on my way to loving and accepting my body as it is now rather than pining for what it used to be before I was a mother.

NEGATIVE – I don’t always use the planning tools that I have created due to time constraints, laziness or just forgetting about them! I feel more organised and the week runs more smoothly when the tools are used. So I will be making a concerted effort to use them more in the future. My children, particularly the younger two don’t always eat what I make them. They can be fussy and so self-limit their diets, which can be rather frustrating for us all. I will keep on offering them tiny bites of these health-giving foods in the hope that they will come around eventually.

INTERESTING – This aspect of this design led me onto another design (Leicester food group) about how I buy and plan my foods. See this design write-up for more details.

2. To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularly

POSITIVE – I found a cheap gym to join and use it on a weekly basis. I attend a boot camp class, yoga, use the gym and swim each week. I found a local dance class and take part in a tap and a ballet class each week which is fantastic fun. I have taken part in lots of running challenges, muddy runs and 10km cross country runs. I try to fit running into my life and really enjoy the clear head space and quiet time that this gives me. We take a lot of walks as a family and are encouraging the kids to pursue their sporty interests of running, bike-riding, swimming and climbing. I have been on a few date-nights with my husband, but not enough!

NEGATIVE – My exercise opportunities are at the bottom of the priority list. If Joe has to work late, then I can’t attend. So Ideally I’d like to find another childcare option as a fall-back option for next year so that my needs don’t always come last. The same goes for ‘me-time’ This has also slipped down my list. I have been super busy this year studying and building up my business. I love these activities, but they take every available moment that I had. So time away from the children is generally spend in front of the computer working hard and time for exercise and relaxation is squeezed.

INTERESTING – I have noticed that if I prioritise exercise and time out for myself, it makes me a better parent and partner as I am happier and calmer. I need to remind myself of that and grab that 30 minute run or long bath to unwind rather than tidying up the playroom. I think every parent has this internal debate about want versus needs and where to draw the line.

3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges. 

POSITIVE – I have taken part in 3 thirty day challenges and a 6 month health coaching course. I have learnt a lot and made positive changes around my health. I want to keep learning more and making improvements. I am enjoying the journey. I enjoy having regular small challenges to work towards and this gives me momentum.

NEGATIVE – The negative here really just echo the ones mentioned in the above areas, resistance from family members and lack of time.

INTERESTING – I have met some interesting people along the way and its fascinating how they are fitting into my social circle. My health coach now attends my outdoor playgroup along which her young daughter and some people I met online at FB food forums have now become good friends.

TWEAKS

  1. Strive to use the tools (that I created as part of this design) every week
  2. Set myself more challenges for 2016 to keep up the momentum
  3. Come up with an alternative fall-back childcare option
  4. Work in more free-time to my weekly schedule and spend this on me-time. quality time with my husband or one to one with my children.
  5. Keep on making improvements on what I cook and how we purchase food
  6. Make improvements to the children’s packed lunches and aim to eliminate these few processed foods that we do still buy

South Leicester food group. Diploma design write up 3

The food group has been going well. We have sorted out the ordering system into a lovely easy to manage design now. We have just received our fourth order and the food is amazing. It’s mainly organic wholefoods. So I know that I am cooking nourishing foods for myself and my family and gradually crowding out the bad habits by having my cupboards and fridge full of the good stuff.

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I am using the OBREDIMET design system to work through this design. Today’s post will clarify the D for Design and look at the M for Maintainance, E for Evaluation and T for Tweaks. I will also do a personal reflection on this design.

DESIGNIMG_6803The photo above is a reminder of the functions we wanted the food group to serve

1. For the ordering of food from Suma to be straightforward to manage and for responsibility to be shared out amongst group members.

2. For the delivery be easy to receive and manageable to divide up on delivery day.

3. For us to meet up regularly (once a month?) to place orders/ collect items/ discuss ideas and have social with shared meals. (I wonder about also introducing the idea of guilding with this group of wonderful women?)

4. To expand the potential of the group to include shared group cooking days, apple juicing, jam making etc

5. To share useful tools and resources around the group (such as meal planners, recipes, book recommendations etc

Reflections on all of these are below.

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IMPLEMENTATION, MAINTAINANCE, EVALUATION AND TWEAKSIMG_9728

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PERSONAL EVALUATION

Looking back over my thoughts at the beginning of the design process, I can see where this design has been successful. Looking at the ‘why do I want to be involved’ section of the brainstorm below sets out my aims quite clearly for this design.

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The following table looks at my personal aims and the wider aims of the group for this design taken from the brainstorm above. I have evaluated each of them and it shows me that this design has been successful.

WHAT WERE MY AIMS? DID I ACHIEVE MY AIMS? HOW?
To further my personal development around food that I started in ‘My health and wellbeing design’ Yes. I eat mainly vegan food now, much of which is organic and wholefoods. I feel far more knowledgable about what is healthy and what isn’t. Ordering from Suma

Ordering an Adel and Cole box each week

Growing lots of my own fruit and veg, especially perennial fruit crops.

Attending healthy eating festivals locally

Taking part in Eat smile live spring and autumn cleanses

Meeting useful and knowledgeable people

Talking with Andrea (naturopath) and Rochelle (Healthy living coach)

To gain control of my family food budget and improve planning in this area Yes. We now have a weekly budget which we are managing to stick to.

But I do aim to keep reducing the amount I spend each week and start adding essentials like loo roll and almond milk to my suma order.

£200 each 6 week Suma

£150 each 6 week abel and cole

£300 each 6 weeks local co-op, waitrose, aldi and farm shop.

Keeping a record of what I spend and limiting local shops/ supermarket spending to £50 per week.

To get great food at the best possible price Yes and No

It depends on where the quality/price spectrum you fall. I thing this food is great value for money as its mainly organic and real. It fills you up and keeps you healthy, but its not cheap.

Buying in bulk from suma and sharing with other in the group.

Buying seasonally

Looking for bargains and stocking up.

To spend time with people I like and who support my food choices Yes

We don’t all make the same food choices but are supportive of each other.

The group members

Eat smile live forums and FB

people who I’ve met.

To write-up a diploma design with a time limit of ten hours writing and ten hours meeting/ordering. Yes I have limited my write-up time. Not sure I’ve quite made it under the ten hours, but it’s definitely been a far quicker writing up process than any of the other designs I’ve worked on so far.
ADDITIONAL AIMS OF THE GROUP DID WE ACHIEVE OUR AIMS? HOW?
To develop a network of people who appreciate wholefood and can share heathy recipes.

To be part of a co-operative venture.

To have meet ups and shared meals with the group

Yes The group is fab
To get better at stock control and knowing what is in my pantry

To improve my meal planning

Yes, we all feel that we are getting there. Still work to do though. By planning ahead, meal planning, checking what we have before placing next suma order, not doing unnecessary shopping. No shopping week challenges where we eat up what we already have.
To use my purchasing power at ethical shops

To be buying good quality food in an affordable way

Yes We feel very happy with the ethics of Suma, abel and cole and the healthy food shops/ farm shops that we use.
To create less food waste Yes and no We are all more aware of throwing food away, especially if its expensive in the first place we are more likely to use up leftovers and limit portions to avoid waste/ However, having young children there is always waste. We all compost/ feed birds/ chickens with our scraps
To create a ‘new normal’ for my kids.

For my children to meet others who eat similar food to them.

Getting there My daughter especially finds it very hard to eat around school friends houses, so eating with the food group really helps. We also make an effort as a family to have lots of gatherings where people can eat our food, or ideally bring and share dishes do that everyone is exposed to new dishes.

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I will be continuing on this healthy eating path for ever. I am learning lots and loving the journey. Its made me feel so much better and stronger and more energetic. The food is bloody delicious too!

I have noticed that this design write up did not include any info about applying the principles of Permaculture. We spoke a lot about permaculture, which was new to the other group members. One of which has gone on to attend a PDC alongside her husband after I sparked their interest. So Permaculture was a big part of the design, but in order to make this more evident in the write up, I’ve reflected on how we used the principles in this table.

Principle Possible application in this design
Observe and interact ·      We started by looking at our current buying and eating habits. We each did a ‘stock check’ of our pantry and observed on what we were buying and using.

·      Part of this design plan was to learn from others and share ideas around the group

·      The design is all about interacting and creating community through the medium of food

Catch and store energy ·      We had planned to meet up and harvest fruit together and make jams and preserves, to expand the season that home-grown foods were are available to us.
Obtain a yield ·      Ensure that the group is useful to us all by feeding back to each other and making changes to our systems as required.

·      Make sure I am getting useful results

Apply self-regulation and accept feedback ·      Observe and note any positives and negatives to each design we trial

·      Make changes and tweaks to the design as needed

Use and value renewable resources and services ·      Consider where I am sourcing my purchases. Is Suma the it the best source?

·      Should we try the local food co-op, farm shops or health food shops instead?

·      What resources do we have that we can share around the group?

·      Shared meals

Produce no waste ·      Use what I buy

·      Use all of the foods I purchase and if they are not getting used up by the ‘use by’ dates, then consider why? Do I need better recipes or to change my purchasing habits?

·      Trying ‘buy nothing’ weeks to use up foods in our houses and reduce waste

·      Bring left overs to our shared meals and share out the remaining left overs!

Design from pattern to detail ·      Try different design patterns and work towards the best solution.

·      Establish a pattern of meeting/ ordering every 6 weeks

Integrate rather than segregate ·      This design is all about coming together and the power of buing in bulk to get the best deals then sharing around our little community
Use small and slow solutions ·      See what we already have in our pantry before rushing out and buying more food.

·      Establishing which design works best by tweaking small changes

Use and value diversity ·      Working together with other women on this design was a big goal of mine, gathering a diversity of ideas and experiences.
Use edges and value the marginal ·      Not sure how this one fits?
Creatively use and respond to change ·      Observe and note what designs we trial

·      Make changes and tweaks to the design as needed

·      Respond to the changes in the group make up and be prepared for the group members and how we meet up to change over the years as we all grow and change.

 

End of 2016 update– This design is still working for me in some ways but not in others. I still order from Suma with this group every 6 weeks or so. I now have a weekly fruit and veg box delivered from Riverford rather than Abel and Cole as I feel they are a more ethical company with better employee care and less gimmicks.

The Suma group has now grown to ten families. This growing process was not easy to negotiate. Some members wanted new people to join, others did not, some people wanted to keep it women only, others wanted men to join. Its been tricky and some feelings were hurt and toes stepped on. Now that there are 10 families involved, we never all order every time, that would be just too huge a delivery for any one household to receive. But it does seem to work out that whenever anyone wants to order, there are sufficient numbers to do so and take the total well beyond the minimum order.

The big negative for me of having a larger group, is that we rarely get together for our shared meals any more. Its become too hard to co-ordinate schedules and too many people to fit into our houses! As our children grow, people return to work, kids schedules fill up and its harder and harder to find the time to get together socially. That is a shame. But I have made some solid friendships within the group and tend to see four of the members on an individual basis now rather than on mass.

Doing this design has made a sustainable change in the way that I buy food and manage my pantry. I’m really happy with that outcome. This design has also taught me a lot about group dynamics and the importance of picking carefully who you want to form groups with! Its taught me a lot about how I myself am in groups, that I like to lead but then I can easily get burnt out when it becomes expected that I will lead. We’ve got better at taking turns and other people taking the initiative, so I feel the group will probably tick along quite smoothly now. Maybe some people will leave, maybe others will join as time rolls on but I think we can sustain these changes.

South Leicester Food Group. Diploma design write up 2

Our second order from Suma was delivered last week. I took delivery at my house this time and hosted a lovely get together last Wednesday. We ate good food, enjoyed good company and wonderful weather. The system was easier to manage this time around but still needs some work.

This post brings me up to date on developments with this design and looks at the E for Evaluations and D for Design and I for Implementation of OBREDIMET.

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After the first delivery we discussed the key functions that we wanted the group to fulfil.

1. For the ordering of items to be straightforward, manageable and time efficient.

2. Delivery to be easy to receive and to be able to to divide up people’s orders with ease.

3. For the group to meet up regularly to discuss and place orders and share meals.

4. To expand the remit of the group to include recipe sharing and group cooking days.

5. To share useful tools, such as meal planners around the group.

I looked at each key function in turn and considered multiple ways or systems of achieving that function. I then reflected on that possible system using the PNI tool. See the two photographs below.

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As a group we decided that we would trial various elements of the systems detailed above and reflect on how we get on. I have begun a table to evaluate each design and will continue this for each design we trial until we come up with something that works well for everyone. The evaluation looks at how well or badly each design worked in term of the 5 key function, a PNI and against Earth care/ People care/ Fair shares (the 3 ethics of Permaculture)

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As well as dividing up the order, we had a lovely ‘bring and share’ dinne with all the kids included as it was half term. We have 12 kids between us, 10 of which were present. IMG_6666IMG_6668IMG_6667

The children played together happily, dressing up, putting on a play, jumping on the trampoline and running around in the sunshine. That was very helpful in allowing us adults to divide up the food order and do our reflections. IMG_6671

 

I will post about this design again in late summer or autumn when we have had time to try out a few more designs and reflect on them. I will aim to complete the OBREDIMET design system and look at the M for Maintainance, E for Evaluation and T for Tweaks. I will also do a personal reflection on this design.

South Leicester food group. Diploma design write up 1

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BACKGROUND TO THE DESIGN

I have been wanting to do a design around how I plan, buy, prepare and share foods with my family and friends. This carries on from the my health and wellbeing design that I have been working on for the past year. I have learnt so much from the previous design and met some great people along the way. I have been speaking with some of these people about setting up a food group concerned with making bulk food orders and coming together regularly to share meals, recipes and ideas around healthy eating.

I have set up a group with six other women, all parents of young children like myself. The diets eaten by this group of women are quite diverse, encompassing vegans, veggies, meat eaters, wholefoodists, grow-you-own gardeners and keen cooks. What we all have in common is a great love of fresh healthy wholefoods and an interest in feeding our families the best possible diets from an ethical source and at a price that we can afford.

So this design aims to look at how to create a sustainable design for our group to order food in a co-operative manner and to meet up regularly to plan this and share meals. Most of my designs to date have been long, drawn out processes in the planning and writing up stages. I wanted this design to be different so have set myself a limit of ten hours writing up and ten hours meeting with the group to plan. I used the design process OBREDIMET as I am comfortable with it already and plan on using design tools that I am familiar with to use my time efficiently.

OBSERVATIONS

Via our Facebook group and over informal discussions at meet ups we discussed our current shopping habits, the changes we wanted to make and why we had wanted to be involved in this group. I pulled this info together in the brainstorms shown below.

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BOUNDARIES 

The group was formed with the intention of ordering from Suma http://sumawholesale.com We decided to jump straight in and place our first order deliberately without applying a design to how we ordered. People were in a hurry to order and I thought it would be interesting to be able to see the difference in ease of ordering with and without a consciously applied design process. The first order was placed in early April and we met up again late April to reflect on how we had found the process so far and plan for the future. I used the fact-finding tool ‘Gives, gains, grins and groans’ ( which I had used before in a Muddy Boots design after originally adapting it from a tool suggested by Looby Macnamara in her fab book, People and Permaculture) to find out lots of info in a quick and easy manner about how people had found the process of ordering. This info was then reformatted as boundaries and resources.

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RESOURCESIMG_6496

EVALUATION 

I then carried out a brief evaluation of what we/I had done so far and made a plan for what to do next.

A brief evaulation of how the first order had gone was also carried out with the group and is reflected upon in boundaries and resources. To summarise, the food is great, but the ordering took hours and dividing up individual orders on delivery day was a nightmare.

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DESIGN

We decided that the design should have five key functions; the details of how to make each goal SMART is still a work in progress at this point.

1. For the ordering of food from Suma to be straightforward to manage and for responsibility to be shared out amongst group members.

2. For the delivery be easy to receive and manageable to divide up on delivery day.

3. For us to meet up regularly (once a month?) to place orders/ collect items/ discuss ideas and have socials with shared meals. (I wonder about also introducing the idea of guilding with this group of wonderful women?)

4. To expand the potential of the group to include shared group cooking days, apple juicing, jam making etc

5. To share useful resources around the group (such as meal planners, recipes, book recommendations etc)

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The next thing I will do is look at functions and elements and PNI possible ways of achieving the key functions.

 

My health and wellbeing design – IMPLEMENT and MAINTAIN

To help me implement and maintain the slow and steady changes I have been making to my lifestyle through using the designs, I decided to keep a record of progress each month.

May 2014– Began thinking about doing this design. Looked at Vision, helps and limits. Not exercising other than walking school run and gardening. Eating veggie diet.

June – Began Eat Smile Live health and nutrition programme. Began slowly accruing new knowledge and making a few changes to my diet.

July– Began 30 day exercise challenges, sit ups, squats, planks- enjoyed but found hard. Enjoying ESM programme. Eating lots of greens and finding it easier to eat health and raw foods as the weather improves.IMG_4016

Aug– Began the Coach to 5KM challenge. Enjoyed this but hurt my knee. Rested for 3 weeks then began running again on hols in Cornwall- loved it! Ran 30 mins without stopping. Began cutting out dairy products to help my health and for my son’s skin.

Sept – Began a weekly kettlebell class. Drinking lots of green smoothies and fresh juices. I did my first 5KM Parkrun. Eating 80% vegan now. ESM autumn cleanse began late sept.

Oct– Running 3X per week. Set myself the 6 week exercise programme. Started using the weekly meal planner design. Gearing up towards the Wolf run 10KM race

Running woman

Nov– Took part in the Wolf run race and loved it, immediately signed up for another in April. Finding it slightly harder to eat well in the colder months. Not loosing any more weight. Stuck around 11 stone.

Dec – Dark mornings and evenings, finding it harder to fit in runs. Managed to reach 100th mile since I began running in august. Tried a few times in the dark and didn’t like it. Loads going on, so didn’t make any kettlebell classes this month. Ate and drank too much over xmas but had fun!

Jan 2015– Aims for the month, no booze all month and Vegan January.  I enjoyed the Vegan challenge, didn’t find too hard at all so keen to continue. Running challenge for myself 365 miles throughout the year, so aiming for between 7-10 miles per week. Spa day for my birthday, a bit of a healthy treat and some ‘people care’ for myself and my mum and sister.

Feb – Aims for the month, try three new recipes each week. I brought a few new cook books for vegan meals and we are loving them so far. Drew up plans for the larger blackboard design and began using this. Managing to hit targets of running at least 7 miles each week. Evenings and mornings getting slightly lighter now, so exercise is easier to fit in. Life is feeling very busy, so glad to have my planners and targets to keep up the momentum. Began 6 week programme leading up to The Reaper Run next month. Scheduled in and went on a date night with my husband!

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I currently feel very motivated to continue with all aspect of this design. I am enjoying the exercise, my meal planning is easier, I am loving finding out more about health and the me-time/quality family time is wonderful. Long may it all continue!

My health and wellbeing design – DESIGN

IMG_8635Reminder of the aims I initially set myself for this design,

1. To learn about nutrition and health foods for myself and my family

2. To exercise and improve my fitness levels

3. To lose the excess baby weight

4. To take time out for myself without feeling guilty

During the design process, these aims have been revised and tweaked as follows.

1. To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family. 

2. To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularly

3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges. 

Ideas for designs I could use to fulfil these aims.

1. To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family. 

First I looked at a few ideas from other sources for meal planning. IMG_5488IMG_5487

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Then I tried out a number of my own ideas and analysed them using PNI.IMG_5486Post-it notes on a piece of card.

Positive – I used this for about 6 weeks. it worked really well because you can keep the post-it notes week after week and re-use them.

Negative – The post-it notes fall off and get muddled up. I needed to make more space for the ‘ideas’ section or create a place to store meal ideas not being used that week. I also found it unnecessary to plan breakfasts.

Interesting – It is easy to juggle the meals around and it is a flexible way of planning.

IMG_5485 Incorporating it into my existing weekly planner blackboard.

Positive – This works well as it is easy to see at a glance just what else is happening that day and so how much time I will have for preparations.

Negative – The board is too crowded with too much information going on, so it’s not easy to fit all required info in. A larger board would be needed

Interesting – I tried allocating each day of the week a theme for example monday-soup, Tuesday, potatoes, Wednesday, rice etc. This really helped with planning and thinking up ideas. It was great to have a space for a shopping list next to the board, so as I planned I could update my shopping list accordingly and make sure we had the correct ingredients.

2. To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularlyIMG_5570I used McHargs exclusion method to look at my daily and weekly routines and see when I had time to exercise. I found out that most of my available time was early mornings or evenings once the children were in bed. Weekends were also more flexible as my husband is around to help with the children. These times are marked with a ‘P’ for ‘Possible’ on the above planner.

IMG_5571I then created an overlay looking at possible activities that could work well at the available times of day.

IMG_5572I then created a third overlay looking at possible boundaries or challenges to taking on activity at these times. This helped me to be more realistic about what I could fit in as well as planning ways to overcome barriers I may come up against.

IMG_5574Finally I used this planner to set myself a realistic weekly plan incorporating up to 10 miles of running per week in three slots, plus a kettlebell class, a yoga session and quality time with my children and husband.

3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges. 

IMG_5559I used a yearly planner to keep track of key dates for when related activity happened or I planned to happen. I will keep on updating this throughout 2015.

IMG_5590I created a new monthly planner at the beginning of 2015, looking at one Permaculture principle each month and planning related activity. Also on this planner I set myself one challenge each month; for example January’s challenge was to be Vegan and alcohol free all month. February’s challenge is to try out three new recipes each week. Next month, March, I will be trying out new forms of exercise. I will continue adding to this planner as the years rolls around. Not all challenges will relate to my health and wellbeing design, they will be tailored to fit with whatever diploma design is foremost in my mind at that time.

FINAL DECISIONS ON DESIGNS.

I decided that this diploma project needed a number of designs, all based around a calendar. I have considered ways of joining up some of these designs to create an easy flow of ideas and sensible, time efficient planning. I needed to find a way to plan meals that fitted around our schedules. I needed to carefully plan to allow for quick and easy cook meals on busy days or plan in advance by batch cooking meals and filing the fridge or freezer. So it was important that the meal planner linked with my weekly family diary.

I decided to expand the blackboard in our kitchen where I map out plans for each week. This is updated every Sunday evening to ensure we are organised for the week ahead.  I added a ‘Dinner’ column to this wall planner and added a task of weekly meal planning to my sunday chores list. I now check what ingredients are required for the planned meals and update the shopping list on the blackboard accordingly. This list is then photographed on my i-phone and taken to the shops with me.

The blackboard also allows me to see which days I am most able to fit in exercise sessions. The activity I did detailed above that showed me the best times to exercise was very useful, exercise is now scheduled in early mornings or evenings or quiet parts of the weekend. I added an ‘Exercise’ column to the blackboard and write in 3 runs, one class and 1 quiet/date/one to one time each week. I aim to stick to these commitments.

So the blackboard design photographed below helps me to achieve aims 1 and 2

To plan balanced and health-giving foods for myself and my family

To fit exercise and me-time into my life regularly

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Aim number 3. To continue expanding my knowledge of health and to set myself regular challenges Is more of an ongoing design. I am using the wheel of the year design photographed above and will keep on adding challenges to this as time goes on.

 

My health and wellbeing design ANALYSE

In order to analyse my possible options for creating this design, I firstly took a step back and considered my energy needs and yields. In other words an input output analysis, all about being healthy and happy. I looked at how these inputs and outputs linked up together too and discovered lots of complex links.

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This confirmed for me that the four areas I had chosen for the design to address where the right ones and they dovetailed nicely together with lots of areas of overlap. I then did a detailed brainstorm, looking at lots of possible options I could explore to achieve my four aims. As a quick reminder, the areas this design hopes to address are;

1. To learn about nutrition and healthy foods for myself and my family

2. To exercise and improve my fitness levels

3. To lose the excess baby weight

4. To take time out for myself without feeling guilty

IMG_5560The whole brainstorm ( close-ups below for ease of reading)

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From the ideas explored in the brainstorms, I chose my favourite 6 or 7 for each area and put them into the table pictured below. I looked at each possible idea and considered how it worked with the Permaculture ethics of earth care, people care and fair shares.

I then did a PNI (positive, negative, interesting) for each possible idea and this eliminated quite a few options as they did not fit with the ethics.

I ended up with a much reduced list of ways I could approach each of my aims. I then looked at each one of these against the Permaculture Principles too and ticked which ones they linked with. (The table below shows all this process)

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So this is what I ended up with;

1. To learn about nutrition and healthy foods for myself and my family

Use online research, online courses, book research and talk to people. Try wholefoods and vegan diets.

2. To exercise and improve my fitness levels

Gardening, outdoor exercise, running, cycling and walking

3. To lose the excess baby weight

Lose this as a separate aim as it links in with the two aims detailed above and practice acceptance of my body rather than focussing on what I weigh. Aim to be fit rather than thin!

4. To take time out for myself without feeling guilty

To allow myself time out alone and recognise the benefits this has on myself and the whole family. To schedule in date nights with my OH and one-on-one time with each of my children. Set up a local guild group to take time out to meet with others and focus on my diploma (This will become a separate design I think)

So in summary, my analysis has shown that my design needs to focus on using the nutrition information I have been gaining in a way that makes family mealtime easier to plan. My design needs to schedule time into my life for exercising and set myself targets and challenges. My design also needs to schedule in down-time for myself to be alone or with the family.

 

My health and wellbeing design – LEARN

A really important part of this design for me is to educate myself about health and wellbeing. So I have added ‘L’ for Learn to the design process acronym  SADIMET Making it now SLADIMET. I wanted to find information and inspiration from a variety of sources to draw on to develop my design. I love learning new things and wanted this design to give me the inspiration to continue expanding my knowledge.

One of the first thinking tools that I found useful was The circle of life. This divides your life into twelve important areas. They are; spirituality, creativity, finances, career, education, health, physical activity, home cooking, joy, social life, home environment and relationships. You grade how successful you feel your life is in each area by plotting a point on the circle. The centre of the circle is’ terrible’ and the edge of the circle is ‘wonderful’. The resultant image gives you a visual indication of areas that may require your attention or work.

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So from this activity I noted that four main areas that required my attention were home cooking, physical activity, spirituality and career/finances. I did some initial work on trying to link all four areas into this design, but eventually decided that career/finances, was too separate from the other three and really required a design all of its own. I am working on creating a poly-income for myself, so will definitely be coming back to address this area of my life in due course.

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I used the twelve ‘circle of life’ headings to begin a brainstorm for my Zone 00 design. I looked at each area again, just in case I had missed anything and to spark off new ideas. This was a very useful exercise and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to make positive changes in their life and not really knowing where to begin.

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A lot of my learning came through the 6 month course that I undertook ‘Eat, smile, live’. It was carried out via regular videos and link sent to me. There was also a lively Facebook forum created where all the students on the course could share ideas and ask questions of the tutor and each other. I learnt loads about wholefoods and healthy lifestyle attitudes. I have lots of new ingredients in my pantry now and new recipes under my belt. I have met a network of people on a similar path and made new online and real-life friends. I have cooked healthy lunches for friends and helped other people learn more about improving their lives through making healthy choices. I can see how this knowledge links very naturally with my work around food growing. So I feel this will help me with future career options too.

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I brought a few new books to help me find out more about wholefoods, veganism and healthy eating and to inspire me to try new recipes. I used Graham Burnet’s new book “Vegan permaculture’ and found it very inspiring and helpful. Following are photos of some of my other favourite books.

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As well as writing this blog, I love to read other people’s blogs too and probably spend far too much doing exactly that. Here are some of the most useful blogs that I bookmarked and have returned to time and time again.

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I joined the local Vegan challenge for January 2015. I attended a few of their meetings and social events. I ate a fully Vegan diet during January and am still 90% vegan now, but I have begun having honey in my tea again. I love bees and feel that as long as they are being kept in an ethical manner, then bee-keepers are helping rather than harming the planet. So sweet tea is back in my life thank goodness!

 

Twelve Principles for twelve months. January. ‘Energy cycling’

Throughout 2015 I will be looking at Bill Mollison’s Permaculture Principles. I have allocated one principle per month at random. I will aim to find a relevant image, some quotations around the subject, some possible applications and a challenge for myself that relates to the principle and the Permaculture activity I am involved in at that time.

January ‘Energy cycling’

IMG_5344The image shows a leaf that has recently fallen from an oak tree and come to settle on the snowy ground in my local woods. It will be broken down by the actions of time, life-forms and the weather. As it decomposes it brings life to the forest floor and add fertility to allow more trees to grow, bloom, then drop their leaves in turn and continue the cycle. 

QUOTATIONS

“Our work as Permaculture designers is to prevent energy leaving before the basic needs of the whole system are satisfied, so that growth, reproduction and maintenance continue in our living components”                                                                              Bill Mollison

“Energy Cycling: Permaculture systems intend to stop the flow of energies off-site and instead turn them into cycles. The interaction between plants and animals produces energy, which is caught, stored, used and re-cycled. Incoming energy –sun, water, wind, manures– are used at its highest possible use, then its next highest, and so on. “Source to sink”: moving water across the landscape in a series of interlinking ponds to prevent erosive runoff. Cascading nutrients: turning the waste of one product into a multitude of other products using various life kingdoms i.e. plants, animals, bacteria, and fungus. Kitchen wastes to compost, animal manure to biogas, grey water to the garden.”                                                              Bill Mollison ‘Introduction to Permaculture’ 

“Design to make the best use of any energy or resources moving through a site. Link as many elements together as you can to create self-sustaining cyclic systems.”                                                                     Aranya ‘Permaculture design a step-by-step guide’

APPLICATIONS

I use this principle in my garden. I use prunings, weedings, animal bedding and food scraps to add to my compost bin or compost in place to return fertility to the soil. My local council supply ‘green’ bins for garden scraps but I declined to take one. I see my neighbours filling up these bins every week at the same time as buying compost from the garden centre. By keeping the fertility in my garden I hope to avoid having to buy in too much additional fertility from outside the system.

CHALLENGE

I wondered if I could apply this principle to a Zone 00 design (zone 00 means the self) I am working on a design currently about health, nutrition and exercise. Personal energy or lack of it has been a big issue for me over the last eight years of baby-raising and broken sleep. I felt very much like I needed to retain my energy whenever possible, so resisted exercising for a long time as I felt I did not have spare energy to burn. However, my attitude has now changed as I have began building exercise into my life and noticing that it actually inputs energy into my life.

I have done a quick input/output analysis and looked at where I could make links between energy needs and yields and ensure energy is being cycled around the system. I noticed how interlinked five elements were, getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, taking exercise, achieving my tasks and finding time for myself. If one of these elements fails for any reason, then the whole system is thrown into disarray. So how can I ensure these energy needs are satisfied, energy continues to cycle and the system remains resilient? That is my challenge for this month.

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Adventures in whole foods

I am now four months into a six month health and nutrition course. The course is led online by a local lady called Rochelle Hubbard. her company is called Eat Smile Live.  I have learnt so much, lost almost a stone on weight and am feeling re-energised. I have started kettlebell classes and running and I have rediscovered my spark in the kitchen!

So, after being a good girl all summer and eating my greens, I decided it was time to whip up some sweet treats. As well as being totally delish, these treats are definitely on the more healthy end of the spectrum, containing nuts, seeds, nut butters, dried fruit and raw chocolate. Because of the healthy fats included and the richness of the raw chocolate, one portion really is enough to crack a craving for something sweet and delicious.

ENJOY!

IMG_4017 Heavenly dates. Dates filled with a raw chocolate ganash topped with a nut. These are very sweet and satisfying.

IMG_4018 Almond butter cake. I loved this but the kids were not so sure. The high coco chocolate gives a rather bitter taste, so probably one just for the adults really- even better hehehe!

IMG_4659 Raw chocolate double layer brownie. This is raw, no baking involved. You use the freezer to set it and store in the fridge or freezer.

IMG_4660Peanut butter and coconut oil cookie. Perfect with my favourite cup of decaf tea with almond milk and honey. I am right fussy about my tea now (no dairy and no processed sugar) So I only drink it at home. Its water all the way for me now when I am out and about.

I am planning on writing up a Diploma design over the winter months about my healthy eating and exercise plan. I am training for ‘The Wolf Run’ currently. I have four weeks left to prepare until I subject myself to a 10KM run, a swim through a lake (In November in the UK, what was I thinking) and army style assault course. I am scared but feeling motivated too. Wish me luck!