Though most people already know this – something about “common sense”, pffft – if there is one time of the year that a writer really, really needs to take extra care of their health, it’s during NaNoWriMo. This month of frantic writing is infamous for causing tens of thousands of writers to:
- eat only foods that are microwavable, take-out, or scrounged from neighbor’s garbage cans
- eat junk food instead of any of the aforementioned foods, simply because it’s ‘faster, easier, and more convenient’
- forget to eat anything at all (except maybe chocolate)
- drink waaaaay too much coffee or other caffeinated beverage of choice
- forgetting to sleep
- not exercising… we’re talking “not even walking across the hallway for a drink of water” lack of movement
- not having time to do laundry, and therefore wearing dirty clothes, socks, and… er, let’s not go there
- not having time to clean… anything… thus turning kitchens and bathrooms into terrifying toxic wastelands until that magical day of December 1st, when the writer blinks and realizes the pigsty he or she is now living in
There are other consequences, certainly – such as the lack of social interactions and thus ability to communicate verbally with other human beings for a month – but these other consequences can be overcome with a simple phone call or visit from a friend who’s finally allowed back over once December hits.
As for the other things… well, they can have further-reaching consequences. If you don’t eat properly, you’re going to either gain weight, get sick, or both. If you don’t drink anything but caffeinated beverages, you’re going to find yourself rather dehydrated within a short period of time. If you don’t exercise, don’t sleep, and just stare at a screen all day, you’ll probably gain weight and have a few splitting headaches to boot. And if you wear dirty clothes all month… well, I’ll let your doctor fill you in on that one.
So what can a Wrimo-er do to stay healthy during a month like this? Er… when you figure it out, let me know.
No, seriously. I’ve had more than my fair share of unhealthy days this month, and there are still 10 days left in November. I currently feel like crap, and it’s also the beginning of cold/flu season – what better way to get sick than when your immune system is down from not taking care of yourself? Here’s a few things I’ve learned over the course of my two NaNoWriMo attempts.
Tips for Taking Care of Yourself (While Still Being Allowed to Eat Chocolate) During NaNoWriMo
1) Drink water. And lots of it.
This applies particularly to those individuals like myself who find themselves not only consuming more caffeinated beverages than usual during the month of November, but who also find that they’re craving more warm drinks because it’s getting colder outside. What’s nicer than a warm mug of coffee or tea on a cold November night? Not much, that’s for darn sure. However, if you drink too much of this stuff (or Coke, or Red Bull) and not enough water, you’ll find yourself dehydrated and feeling pretty awful. How do you know if you’re dehydrated? There are a few signs: headache, sore stomach, constipation, and bright yellow urine (your own, that is). I know, “TMI”, but it’s something to watch for. If you’re feeling off, think about what you’ve had to drink lately, and go grab a glass of water.
If you’re having trouble getting cold water down on a cold day, there are a few good solutions to keep yourself well watered: have an herbal tea; add some honey and lemon to hot water (very good for sore throats, as well); drink some pure fruit juice (not this uber-sugared, “from concentrate” stuff).
2) Give yourself a good night’s sleep.
I know, I know: who has time to sleep? But you’ll be a better writer for it… and you’ll feel better too. I’ve learned this year that nothing beats sleeping at least 7 hours a night, and it definitely improves my concentration throughout the day if I’ve had enough sleep. Sure, there are times when I’ll get on a roll and stay up late – usually, I’m the Queen of staying up late – but especially during a month like this, when you feel your eyelids start to droop and you do the keyboard faceplant several times in a few minutes… take your body’s hint and get some rest. Some good rest, too. And give yourself a treat: sleep in on weekends!
3) Put away the chips, get out the carrots.
It’s so, so easy to just open a bag of chips or candy and start snacking away… and the next thing you know, the bag is empty and you’re nursing a sore stomach for the next several hours. There’s a very good way to avoid this, and to make sure you don’t gain a pile of weight in the process: have healthy snacks that taste good. I know, I know, you’ve heard it a thousand times. But seriously, try a few of these ideas and see what you think: carrots and celery with peanut butter or dipped in Caesar dressing; apple slices with honey; multigrain crackers and cheese; pita bread brushed with olive oil and placed under the broiler until crispy (cut into triangles and *voila!*, a convenient snack!). And what about grapes? There’s a fruit that’s easy for a writer to eat: not messy, very sweet, and bite-sized.
You won’t feel sick, it won’t pack on the pounds, and you can still enjoy that chocolate bar at the end of the day when you make your word count. Everything in moderation, right?
4) Get up and get out.
No, seriously. Every 500 words or so (or every 45 minutes/hour), get up and do something on your feet. I don’t care what it is: walk the dog, do the dishes, start your laundry, dance around the room to that new Britney Spears song you secretly love (come on, you’re not fooling anyone), walk to the corner store for some more pita (since you ate it all while snacking earlier). Just get off your butt and do something physical for about 15 minutes.
I’ll admit, this is the hardest of my own advice for me to follow. I always think that there’s no time, I can’t take a break if I want to get anything done, blah blah blah. But think about it: how much time do you spend sitting there, staring at your screen, wondering what to write? Or procrastinating by checking your email… Facebook (“yay, one new notification!”)… Cakewrecks (“ooh, isn’t that cake awful!”)… MSN Celebrity news (no comment)… the NaNoWriMo forums (guilty as charged)… you get the idea. Now take all that time, add it up, and… what? You mean you could have walked the dog three times during the space of the time you wasted?
Hmm. Seems you do have the time after all. And while you’re at it, clean your bathroom. Or better yet, come clean mine. I don’t have time to do it, there’s this great new Facebook app invite I have to check out…
5) Stop Eating Crap.
I know, I know, I sound like a broken record. You’ve heard this before. But this time, I’m talking about breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’m talking skipping the McDonald’s and going for that bag of frozen vegetables in your freezer instead. Know how long it takes to cook some frozen peas or corn in the microwave? About 3 minutes, that’s how long. Know how long it takes to wash a potato, pierce it with your fork, and stick it in the oven? About a minute and a half. Add an extra 30 seconds for salting the thing after you’ve cooked it, and you’ve now got veggies and potatoes in 5 minutes (not counting the potato cooking time – mainly because you can go write while waiting for it to cook). What about meat? Okay, easy enough.
1) Buy a box of lean ground beef meatballs from the grocery store.
2) Read the instructions for cooking them in the microwave.
3) Follow the instructions.
So, now you’ve got meatballs, vegetables, and potatoes in about 9 minutes. While you’re waiting for the meatballs to finish in the microwave, you can get yourself a burger bun from the bread box, grab a cheese slice, slather on your favorite condiments, cut the meatballs in half when they’re done and place them on the bun, and… *ta-da!*: easy home burger. Heck, it’s an easy home meal that isn’t as healthy as, say, cooking everything from scratch, but it’s a million times better for you than just hitting the drive-thru and paying $6-7 for a McCombo. And you know what else? It’s cheaper. The whole meal described above will probably run you about $2 (if even), assuming you have basic staples in your house like ketchup and cheese.
Yeah, I know, you can’t eat the same thing every night. But there are plenty of options like that available to the time-challenged WriMo-er, all which provide the basic elements of nutrition that a person needs to stay healthy in a month like November.
Let’s face it – it sucks to feel disgusting, and no one wants to come to the end of November with their health in ruins, especially as Christmas season begins (two words: Christmas. Baking.). If you didn’t do so well with your health this NaNoWriMo, well, you still have 10 days left, and all the best to you. There’s always next year. For those of you who are still on track with your word count and feeling great, I salute you. You’re a figure of envy and awe to the rest of us.
Now, I wonder where I left that bowl of chocolate bars…
NaNo Fuel Count
Cups of Black Coffee: 29
Lattes (cafe or home-made): 6
Mugs of Hot Chocolate: 4
Cups of Tea: 10
Cans of Bawls (energy drink): 2
Baked Goods: 10
Bowls of Ice Cream: 3
Mini Chocolate Bars: 23
Tags: health, NaNoWriMo