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

My garden design – Tweaks

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I have started this post with an image of a sunflower head as I think it fits well with my current activity of bringing all my ideas together in a harmonious way and looking to nature for inspiration.

To approach the ‘Tweak’ stage of my garden design, I revisited OBREDIMET.

Observations – I looked back at my notes for 2014. I walked around the garden and checked what needed immediate attention. I looked back over the monthly photographs I had taken of my garden.  See post here. I used my in-depth knowledge of my garden, its eco-systems and microclimates built up over the seven years I have lived here.  I looked back at my records of what I harvested from the garden and graded each crop and garden feature to access the effectiveness of my design. See more about this on this post

Boundaries– I looked at what did not work last year and needed changing. I looked at my available time, energy, assistance, resources and money to make changes. I considered the changing needs of my family, how they use the garden and what they like to eat.

Resources– I again looked at my blog posts planning the garden and read over my notes from last year. I looked at the flip-side boundaries and focussed on the positives of time, energy, assistance, resources and money I had available to devote to the design. I looked at the seeds I had left over from previous years. I looked at the garden vouchers I was given for Christmas. I looked at what I could propagate from existing plants in my garden.

 

Evaluation – I brought all of the above together and considered what my priorities were. I set myself aims for my garden in 2015. These are detailed at the bottom of this post.

Design – I looked back at my original design and created an overlay. I used a temporary pen to play around with fitting crops into spaces on the plan, using the tool ‘planning for real’ When I was happy with these I wrote them in with permanent pen. I used the Permaculture principles of ‘Least change for greatest effect’ ‘Creatively use and respond to change’ ‘ Apply self-regulation and accept feedback’ and ‘Observe and interact’

Implement – I will create an implementation plan over the next few weeks

Maintain – I will create a maintenance plan.

Evaluation – I will keep notes on the effectiveness of the design like I did during 2014 in order to evaluate it against my aims at the end of the growing season.

Tweak – I will tweak the garden again next year and continue this cycle year after year.

IMG_5497The original design

IMG_5495 The tweaked overlay

The overlay shows new planting plans for the annual vegetable beds and more focus put onto Forest garden areas. I looked back to my notes about which crops were best for the needs of my family and the environment of my garden. I have excluded lots of crops that don’t do well in my garden and plan to focus on a more limited range of crops this year. I have chosen crops we like to eat a lot of and those that taste better fresh from the garden. I also plan to use varieties that are not easily to purchase in the shops. I also plan to develop the forest garden areas.

IMG_5496This image shows the original design and overlay combined to show how the new and old designs work together.

 

Aims for my garden design during 2015

1. To develop the forest garden areas. I plan to re-read my books on Forest gardening and plan these areas carefully to be as self-sustaining as possible.

2. To focus more on perennial crops I have a lot of demands on my time this coming year which will take me away from the garden, so one aim for this year is to plant less annuals and focus more on perennials that will need less input from me to do well.

3. To ensure the chickens are safe and well cared for. To develop a new enclosed run area using the space behind the greenhouse that is currently neglected. A fox has moved into the area and took two of my chickens recently, so I am being far more wary about allowing them to free-range.

4. To experiment with new varieties of crops that I know do well in my garden.

5. To grow more edible flowers and salad crops.

6. To maintain and develop the good work I have started in the garden, especially with composting, mulching and water capture.

 

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Diploma design for Muddy Boots – Reflection

Evaluate progress… What is the current situation? What is going well? What is challenging?                      L.Macnamara People and Permaculture 2012

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I am writing this with two more sessions of Muddy Boots to run before we stop for the Winter. I have been reflecting on how the design has worked all the way through the process really. It is a natural human response to look back over what has happened in your life and ponder. In order to make my reflections useful to me, I have formalised this pondering process and carried out lots of reflective activities for Muddy Boots.

1. I have kept a reflective journal. Immediately after each session I made notes about the following points; how many people attended the session, what the theme was, a brief description of activity, who led the activity, what the weather was like and how much I enjoyed the session. I tried to be honest in this and I have found it a revealing process. In summary, the sessions where I was well supported felt great, positive, inspiring and worthwhile. The few sessions were I felt I was battling through on my own, felt unfulfilling, hard work and unenjoyable. An easy lesson to learn there about working with others.

2. I have used The four questions a number of times when thinking about Muddy Boots. I have discussed the design during guilds and I have used the questions on my own. Especially at times when I am feeling stuck or troubled, I find it helps to settle my thoughts and see a way forward if I write down my responses to the four questions. ‘What is going well?’ ‘What are you finding difficult?’ ‘What are your long terms plans and visions?’ and ‘What are your next actievable steps?’

3. After the 7th session, I began doing Midpoint evaluations. I asked the group participants to complete a short questionnaire about where they found out about the group, what they enjoyed, why they came along, what changes they would like to see etc. This provided me with useful feedback, some of which led to immediate changes within the group like swapping squash for water and continuing to run sessions even if it rains.

4. At the final session on October 31st I will be doing Final evaluations. I need to spend some time thinking about what format this will take. I don’t want to do another written questionnaire really, so we may do a brainstorm activity. I would also like to give participant’s who may not be at the final session for one reason or another a chance to give me feedback. So I will welcome this via emails or the Facebook page. Again I need to consider exactly how this will work.

5. The four types of reflection listed above will feed into my reflections and resulting tweaks to the design. I hope to run Muddy Boots again next spring and summer but making some changes to how the group runs and hopefully proving me some payment for the hours I put in. So this design is very much ongoing and is hopefully the start of something much bigger for my future career path. Watch this space!