67 brother-clucking pounds! That’s 3lbs short of a nice round 70lbs which tots up to whole 5 stone (in UK old money, lol) and 4lbs away from getting into ‘Onederland’. And do you know what? It only feels like I decided to do this a few months ago...how did I get here so quickly? So easily? It doesn’t even feel like I’ve had to put all that much effort into it! Sure things felt a bit weird for the first week or so, but once I’d gotten my head around the idea that this is just how I eat now, it’s actually been a bit of a breeze.
I know, I know, I’m probably jinxing myself and speaking too soon, because I’m far from done and the weight-loss is only going to get slower the closer to goal I get, but aside from the annoying “Shark Week” shenanigans that annoy me every month, this really hasn’t been a big deal to me. In fact, if anything, it’s actually been quite fun; seeing my body shrink and change, eating tons of good food, and getting to experiment with a bunch of low-carb products available on Amazon and other places online.
Why didn’t I do this sooner?
I mean, I know that the real reason is that my health just wasn’t being negatively impacted by my weight and food choices, so I never had anything pushing me to do anything about it. But now that I’m at the point I’m at today, seeing all this progress and knowing that it took so little effort to get here, I just wish I’d had the presence of mind to make all these changes sooner, before the health issues started to compromise my quality of life. That’s just life I guess and these are the lessons we learn along the way, but I’m a bit annoyed at myself that it took an issue with health & mobility to spur me on to decide to lose the weight.
It’s not even that I hit a “rock bottom” but I definitely left it a lot later than I should have. That’s not to say that I’m not seeing and feeling the benefits – because yo, y’all, I’ve never felt better! – but I’m just more annoyed at myself for not doing something sooner. Like, I sort of feel stupid for having put it off for so long. If you’re reading this and you know that you need to lose weight, but keep on procrastinating – JUST DO IT!
If I can do it, anyone can. I’m middle-aged, past 40, have zero history of doing anything fitness related, I have fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis and I’m a stubborn old, stuck-in-my-ways harridan who hates change. Yet this whole weight-loss thing has been so much easier than I imagined. How easy? Well:
I eat chocolate almost every day.
I eat spoonfuls of peanut butter straight out of the tub.
I pile my plate high with lots of meat.
I eat loads of cruciferous vegetables or salad most days.
I eat cheese every day.
I drink loads of coffee.
I drink energy drinks every day.
I haven’t stopped drinking sugar-free soda.
I do barely any exercise (although that’s mostly due to the fibro & arthritis).
I don’t have a massive appetite anymore and can skip a meal easily without thinking about it.
My brain feels so much clearer again after years of brain-fog.
My flare-ups are fewer and shorter lasting.
Yes I know that there are going to be people who find some of those admissions to be a little dubious; energy drinks and diet sodas aren’t exactly the best, most healthful choices one can make, right? Well yeah, that’s very true, but I’m working on making gradual, cumulative changes to my habits over time that I can make work and that don’t fall by the wayside because of overwhelm. Will I always drink an energy drink every day? Maybe, maybe not. Will I cut back on my diet soda intake? Maybe, maybe not. Will I try to do more exercise as I lose more weight? Definitely. But that’s something I really need to go easy with and for now I’m happy just to get in a few 2-3 mile walks a few times a week.
The reason all this has been so easy for me so far, is precisely because I haven’t tried to do too much, too soon. I never went into this thinking I needed to “DO ALL THE THINGS” all at once; what was important for me was getting the basics down pat and steadily making improvements along the way. Now here I am 7 months later and I can’t believe how simple it’s all been. Sure there’s been the odd occasion where a product I’ve been consuming turned out not to be as suitable for me as I’d first thought, but none of that has really caused me any issues. The most annoying problems I see with all this is when “Aunt Flo” comes and wreaks havoc on my weight for a week or so – but I’ve had very heavy, painful periods for years now. If anything, this way of eating has actually made them less painful and not quite as heavy for the full 7-10 days.
There have been zero negative effects from my having switched to a low-carb WOE and a whole boat-load of positives. So if you’re a middle-aged, overweight harridan like me and you’re even considering changing up your diet to lose some fat and improve your health, DO IT! Give it 2 weeks and see how you feel. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be amazed at just how much better you feel for having tried it, the scale will reflect your efforts and you’ll want to carry on a little bit longer to see how well you really can do with it.
I’m not normally one for regrets. I’m always happy to take everything as a lesson I can learn from, but if I regret anything, it’s not starting this weight-loss mission sooner. Who knows how much better I’d be feeling already? I guess I’ll never know. But what I do know is that this has been one of the best decisions I ever decided to make and I’m so happy to be reaping all the benefits, from so little effort.
Here’s to another 7 months of eating well and feeling awesome folks!
“Even through the darkest phase Be it thick or thin Always someone marches brave Here beneath my skin”
For as long as I can remember, I have always been hungry. Or at least thought I was. I’ve spent the best part of the past 40 years, constantly riding the blood-sugar rollercoaster that had me feeling a real need to keep on consuming, despite my body being anything but actually hungry. But that all changed on 31st August 2020, when I switched over to a low-carb diet. No longer at the mercy of a lifetime spent trying to satiate an addiction to the chronic overconsumption of carbohydrates, I learned for the first time what real hunger felt like and have been able to drop a considerable amount of weight as a result. But even when keeping to a maximum of 20g of carbohydrates a day, I still get plagued by the occasional desire to eat something sugary. Something wickedly and deliciously decadent – chocolate!
I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think of myself as an emotional eater and for the most part I still believe that. But I’m beginning to come around to the idea that there is a slight aspect of emotion involved in my own relationship with food, even if it’s not what most of us associate with ’emotional eating’. I’ve never used food as a form of comfort, to cope when I’m sad or angry or scared. I’m not completely joking when I say that the size of arse is a testament to how happy I’ve been throughout most of my life; because when I am sad or upset, I lose my appetite. (Probably could’ve done with being a bit more miserable in my former years, considering how massively overweight I managed to get, lol.)
But ever since I began this switch over to eating a low-carb diet for health and weight loss, I’ve had to confront moments when I’ve found myself wanting to eat, when upon further consideration I realise that I’m not actually hungry. Not physically anyway. It’s not me wanting to eat because I’m bored – largely because I’m just not the sort of person who gets bored. Even during this long, frustrating lockdown nonsense, my days are filled with things to do; in fact somehow, even with all this extra time on my hands, I’m still left feeling sometimes that there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. So it’s not that.
And of course it’s not even real hunger, because I’ve definitely learned the difference between genuine hunger and something else. It’s really more of a craving. Not in the:
“Omigod I can’t stop thinking about Dairy Milk bars! If I don’t get to eat one then I’ll go mad!”
It’s more of a knowing what I’m “missing out” on and just wanting to experience that taste sensation again. Do you know what I mean? It’s not that I don’t enjoy the food I’m eating, because I love it. I’m not starving myself or letting myself go hungry, and I’m not allowing myself to become nutritionally deficient. I just sometimes really miss how certain sweet things taste. It’s kinda similar to how I feel about certain perfumes. I’m really scent-oriented and I’m never not wearing some kind of fragrance. Some scents really resonate with me, to the point where I bulk-buy them and store them in one of my refrigerators to preserve them as best I can, just in case they get discontinued. So many perfumes I’ve loved over the years have have been discontinued and I really miss them. I hunt down old stock, or people offering sample sized vials, just to try and keep them in my life for as long as I can, because sometimes I just really want to smell a particular fragrance.
And that’s the best way I can describe how I feel about wanting to experience certain tastes too. It’s like a kind of nostalgia, but it has nothing to do with wanting to recapture some lost happiness of times gone by; one of my favourite perfumes of all time is one I was wearing during a time when I was working a job I hated and just coming to the realisation that I wasn’t happy with the relationship I was in. If anything that fragrance evokes more negative memories than anything, but it just smells SO freaking good! I actually crave wanting to smell it and when I dab a couple of drops onto the inside of my wrist, I’ll sit there sniffing at it repeatedly, just losing myself in all the composite notes emanating from my skin.
I enjoy fragrances. I enjoy luxuriating in a halo of decadent sillage, just for the sake of it. It’s not because I’m sad and want to feel happy. It’s not because I’m bored. I just want to smell a certain scent, because I like doing it. And it’s a harmless enough thing to enjoy. I can afford to splurge on these little luxuries and it’s not as if I have any other vices these days. (It also makes me a really easy person to buy gifts for, lol. If you want to buy me anything and you settle on one of my favourite fragrances, it shows you know me. I could have 4 other bottles of the same stuff, already stashed away in the fridge, but if I open a gift to find another bottle of it inside, you’ll have made me a very happy woman!)
Taking my love of perfume as an example of how I sometimes just crave a certain stimulus to one of my senses, is probably the best way to describe to you how I feel about having the occasional craving for another one of my senses to be stimulated. But when we start talking about food cravings, suddenly things start to sound much less innocent, as we try to intuit the more sinister root of such a terrible, negative desire.
“You must be deficient in some nutrient!”
“It’s probably your body trying to tell you to eat more!”
“I bet you’ve been getting lazy and you’ve let sugar back into your diet!
“Maybe you’re stressed out – have you tried mindfulness techniques?”
“Are you bored? Perhaps you need to think about finding a new hobby!”
Urgh. Like, I get that y’all are trying to be helpful, but could you at least try to be original? Lol. Is there any chance that this might just be an entirely benign desire to just want to revisit and reexperience a familiar sensory experience? I know, I know, they’re the exact same things that I’d probably suggest myself if someone came to me and told me that they were experiencing cravings for something sweet. But I’ve already worked my way through those considerations on my own time and I’ve even tried eliminating certain foods here and there to see if anything was causing these sensory triggers. I haven’t spoken about it in here before, but I’ve tried cutting out the low-carb friendly protein bars for a fortnight and even went 10 days just eating a carnivore style diet. Not to try and lose any more weight quicker than I already am doing, but because I was curious to see if doing either things would stop me from having those occasional moments where I just fancied a taste of something sweet.
Spoiler alert: neither methods did the trick. And like I said before, these aren’t intense cravings that burn inside me like the faux-hunger of old; it’s just like the thing I have with certain fragrances: I simply want to experience the taste again. It makes me wonder though if this is to do with an underlying addiction to sugar that will take a lifetime of discipline to perpetually steel myself against. On the one hand I think it’s not because isn’t an issue whereby my every waking thought is consumed by the desire to “relapse”; but on the other hand I think back to conversations I’ve had with heroin addicts who got clean, but said they always had to remain vigilant against the little head-games the addicted part of their brains would play with them, making them think every now and then, that they’d really like to just experience that feeling of the gear rushing through their veins again. Just one more time. But they know that they can never have “just one more” hit, because they’d end up right back where they were all those months or years ago, spending their entire lives scurrying around trying to score and worrying how they’d be able to pay for it.
Is that what my cravings are? The mind of an addict trying every little trick in the book to get me to give it “just one more” hit of the sweet stuff? Or is it more like my perfume penchant, proclivity or predilection? Nothing more than an innocent fancy that crosses my mind from time to time? Obviously the 2 situations aren’t entirely similar – as far as I know, I’m not causing myself any lasting physical harm by indulging my love of fragrance, whereas I know that sugar is genuinely bad for my physical and mental health. But the way the brain processes the detection of scent (olfaction) and flavour (gustation) are closely linked. Just as hearing is the perception of sound and sight is the perception of light, smell and taste are our perceptions of tiny molecules in the air and in food. Taste and smell information appear to converge in several central brain regions (we’ve all noticed the relationship between taste and smell when a cold or flu stuffs up our noses and everything tastes bland) but there are also neurons in the inferior frontal lobe that respond selectively to specific taste and smell combinations.
So I could easily just write off these occasional niggles of gustatory desire, as being no different to the olfactory cravings that I’m always more than happy in indulge. But that doesn’t mean I can just give in to those urges and eat a boatload of sugar because I want to experience the taste again “just one more” time. Don’t get me wrong, this post isn’t my way of trying to rationalise the choice to eat off plan – far from it – I’m really just trying to understand the whys and wherefores behind these feelings that crop up from time to time. It’s weird because it’s not like I have cravings for all things carb-laden, it’s really just a couple of very specific items. I don’t think about pizza, or potatoes or pasta or most of the food I used to eat. It’s not even just chocolate as a whole.
Believe me when I tell you that I used to eat chocolate every single day, and I enjoyed every variety and brand out there. Nestle, Lindt, Green & Blacks, Thornton’s, Mars, Rowntree’s, Marks & Spencer’s…I even had a monthly subscription to the ‘Hotel Chocolat Tasting Club’ (which the other half and I used to enjoy working our way though while having one of our film nights on the sofa). And I loved them all. But the only one that seems to plague me now, is Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Not Galaxy, not Yorkie, not Marks & Spencer’s Single Origin Dominican Republic 32% Cocoa Milk Chocolate With Salted Butterscotch & Maple Syrup (yeah, it tastes as epic as it sounds, lol)…but Cadbury’s Dairy Milk.
I’ve tried to think back over my childhood, to see if perhaps that was the particular treat of choice that I now associate with such pleasure. Or even if maybe it was a treat that was withheld for one reason or another. But there’s nothing that I can think of. I was an ‘equal-opportunities chocolate botherer’ all throughout my childhood, youth and into adulthood, yet it’s only that purple-packaged bar of chocolatey loveliness that seems to stir my senses. The other half was eating a Wispa bar the other day (which are basically just a bar of aerated Dairy Milk with some tiny bubbles in it – same taste, just a different texture) and I made him let me smell it, before he polished it off, lol. It smelled just like I remember and whilst for many, allowing their ultimate craving to get so close to their mouth might be a very dangerous game, it did feel good to inhale that familiar aroma. I think smelling it also might have helped to alleviate the craving somewhat; which kinda makes sense given what I mentioned earlier about the connection between gustation and olfaction.
But I didn’t eat any of it. To bastardise a famous idiom from the bible (Matthew 26:41) “My flesh may be strong, but my spirit is a little weak.” I may wish to indulge, but my resolve remains strong; craven thoughts be damned. I know some people reading this are probably thinking I should just eat the fricking chocolate and get over it, but I’m not in the right place to start introducing the odd sugary treat, just yet. Maybe one day I will, but for now I’m just going to keep on sticking to my plan and refrain from doing anything other than sniffing the other half’s Dairy Milk from time to time! I have to keep reminding myself that this isn’t just about weight loss, it’s also about overall health. And sugar is one of the most unhealthy things I could choose to consume with abandon.
I think it was Shakespeare who was first quoted as saying that: “Quod me alit, me extinguit.” I’d like to get that tattooed on myself somewhere one day; a permanent reminder of why I stay the path of continuing to follow a low-carb way of life. Then any time of one of these little cravings – however benign – starts to creep in at the edges of my consciousness, I could look at it and just wait for the feelings to pass. Right now though, I’ve got a serious urge to go eat some bacon, eggs and a fried mushroom…and I have no intention of ignoring that craving whatsoever. I know this whole post has just been a jumble of thoughts, but that’s what’s been going through my head these past couple of days (I don’t think the current glut of Easter Egg adverts are really helping the matter, lol) so I figured I’d share them here. I hope at least some of it will resonate with a few of you out there.
Other Half: “How long have you have you been doing your low-carb thing now babe?”
Me: “About 6 months.”
OH: “Are you not thinking about having a day off of it any time soon?”
Me: “No. This is just how I eat now.”
OH: “But don’t you miss any of the stuff you used to eat?”
Me: “Not really. I don’t even think about it much anymore.”
OH: “There must be something you still wish you could have. Something you can’t make a low-carb version of?”
Me: “The only thing I haven’t had that I’d like is a chocolate cake, but I can always make a keto version if I really feel the urge.”
OH: “So you’re never going to eat any of that stuff ever again?”
Me: “I don’t know. I mean, never say never right? I just don’t want to go back to that way of eating.”
OH: Yeah but just having one day off isn’t going to hurt is it?”
Me: “Probably not. But I’m afraid that I might just go completely overboard and I don’t know that I want to risk ruining everything I’ve achieved so far.”
OH: “Yeah but you already know that you can do this.”
Me: “Yep. But the idea of losing control again really scares me.”
BOOM! There it is again folks. Our old friend ‘Fear’ and its trusty side-kick, ‘The Control Freak’. That little back-and-forth was part of a conversation I was having with the other half today about how long it’s been since I switched over to a low-carb way of eating. He’s been nothing but supportive of me ever since I decided to change my eating habits and whilst he never doubted my ability to stay committed to something I set my mind to, even he’s been surprised at my refusal to eat off-plan even once. We’ve been together for over a decade and up until August 31st last year, I was a total sugar-fiend. He knows how much I loved eating all the high-carb processed crap; how much I loved take-away food, cakes, biscuits, fudge, chocolate and sweets of every variety. So it’s only natural that he’d be wondering whether I missed any of it or if maybe I ever thought about taking a day off to indulge in some old favourites.
But I wasn’t lying when I said I don’t really think about it. I’m not one of those demanding harridans who simply cannot have junk food in the house, simply because I’m not eating it anymore. I made it absolutely clear from day 1 that he shouldn’t feel bad about eating however he chooses. My choices are on me, not him. The rest of the world should never have to bend to my will, just because I can’t eat that stuff any more – and anyone who expects that kind of kid-glove treatment needs to get a grip, because you’ll never be able to escape being surrounded by temptation in the outside world. Plus it’s just really selfish to expect other people in your home to alter their own diets, because you lack self-control. Don’t get me wrong, I love that he’s so supportive and it was really cute when he tried to stash his own snacks away out of sight when I first switched to eating low-carb, but over time I’ve made him realise that whilst I appreciate his concerns, I’m a big girl and I’m not about to go mad and inhale an entire packet of Wispa bars, just because they’re sat on the living room table.
I still make bread and cook potatoes, rice, pasta, chips and whatnot for him. I order him take-out pizza when he wants one and it doesn’t bother me at all to have it in the house. And I think that comes down to me having made a very clear decision in my own mind, that I simply do not eat those foods any more. There’s no grey area around any of it, I just don’t eat that way. You’ve probably heard others talk about the notion of being either a moderator or an abstainer. Moderators can eat a little bit of something and then leave it alone, but can’t imagine life without it altogether. Abstainers can cut something out entirely, but can’t just have a little bit, or it will remain present in the forefront of their minds, tormenting them with thoughts of always wanting more. I’m an abstainer. Some might call that “all or nothing thinking” but it’s no different to me, than an alcoholic swearing off of drink for the rest of their lives. It’s what I decided to do from day 1 and even stuck with that approach all through the festive season.
And I can’t think of any reason as to why I’d want to deviate from my low-carb WOE any time soon. It’s become almost second nature to me now. I eat food I like, there are plenty of options for keto-friendly versions of some items I want and I just feel so much healthier. I’m about 35lb away from hitting my initial 100lb goal and when I get there I’ll probably extend that even further by another 30lb. It’s all going really well, completely according to plan and even though I know I’m definitely due to hit a stall sometime soon (we all get one eventually), I’m totally prepared for it and happy to continue eating this way indefinitely.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, it occurred to me during that conversation at the beginning of this post, that one of my underlying reasons for not wanting to have a “cheat-day” or “day-off” was my fear of losing control of my eating again and spiralling back into some kind of inevitable inability to get back on track. Thinking on it some more, I had to admit that I’ve become somewhat of a “Carbophobic” of late, never wanting to use my full 20g daily max allowance, always trying to keep to 15g max every day instead. If I buy a premade salad and it contains grated carrot or tomato in it, I’ll spend a good 5 minutes fishing out every last bit of those ingredients, because I look at them as being too high in carbohydrates. I won’t eat any protein bars that contain more than 3g of carbohydrates. I avoid even the slightest dash of any sauce or condiment that contains sugar and if I’m being completely honest, the main reason I haven’t gotten my other half to help me make a keto-friendly cake yet, is because the one’s that look even remotely worth the effort have anywhere between 5 and 10 carbs for a slice – and ain’t nobody about to keep themselves to one tiny sliver of cake. I’m an abstainer, not a moderator remember?
And I’m a little bit worried that I might be developing a bit of an intense and unhealthy fear of carbs. Which is weird, because I know that the human body doesn’t need to consume carbs for any reason – post infancy that is, when we’re supposed to get it from breast milk, but I digress – and there’s no reason for me to ever have to consume them again (I mean, except maybe if there was some huge disaster and the only food I had any access to was a bunch of processed crap once my fat stores ran out, but I’m talking regular life here.) I have every reason to fear sugar and the damage it does to the human body. It’s an unnecessary substance that provides no nutritional value, whilst causing a whole heap of medical issues from Type II Diabetes and obesity, to dementia and inflammation all throughout the body. Shouldn’t more people be afraid of this stuff? Surely I’m right to want to give it a wide berth?
But maybe I’m not just reasonably concerned about consuming sugar. Maybe I’m becoming obsessively afraid of it, to the point of it being unhealthy in and of itself. I know I’m a natural control freak and when I had a stress related nervous breakdown, that part of me mutated into intense hypervigilance that crept into all aspects of my thinking. I’m completely over that breakdown now, but I always worry that I might be prone to another episode if enough stress factors all come together in the same kind of perfect storm that triggered the last one. So I like to always check in on myself from time to time, just to make sure that I’m doing okay. I know what to look out for and any time I feel as though things are starting to get a little too hectic, I know exactly who to speak to in order to get the help I need.
And I’m not saying I’m back lingering on the outskirts of Crazytown, about to lose my shit again anytime soon (yes, I’m allowed to use those terms, I’m a fully-fledged member of the Crazy Crew which gives me a crazy-pass to refer to mental health in the most politically incorrect terms I see fit, lol). But the thought of something getting the better of me never sits well with the control-freak part of my brain, and the added concerns surrounding a fear of certain foods, just sort of niggle at me in a way I’m not comfortable with. It’s not that I want to eat sugar. It’s that I want to carry on not eating it, by choice, not out of an unhealthy fear that’s rooted in a bad relationship with food. Does that make sense? If I can use the alcohol analogy again, I choose not to drink alcohol. Not because I fear what it will do to me; I’ve never had any problems with alcohol. I just choose not to consume it because it makes me feel like shit the next day. My house has loads of alcohol in it, but it never occurs to me to drink any, because I just don’t choose to drink alcohol. Which is how I want to feel about sugar and carb-laden junk food. I’m fine having it in the house, I can eat meals around others who are eating it and not be bothered by that. But it just feels like I’ve become unreasonably scared about sugar and carbs…and I don’t like having that fear.
If I fear something, I’m allowing it to have more power over me than it deserves. I’m attributing powers to something, that in this case, is an inanimate foodstuff. I don’t want to allow it to have that hold over me, because while it still does, I’m not wholly healed of my sugar-addiction and I don’t have the completely neutral, proper relationship with food that I’m working on achieving for myself. This concern actually first occurred to me a few days ago when I was watching a video by Thomas DeLauer. In it he said that whilst he mostly follows a keto WOE combined with a fasting regimen, sometimes he goes off of it for a day or so. I think he was trying to make a point about how he’s able to be pretty relaxed about his own eating at this point in his life and it’s normal for others to do so too, but I remember having an almost physiological reaction to hearing him say that.
“WTF? No way. I can’t do that. I don’t want to do that. I’m not gonna do that!”
The thought of “just taking the weekend off” horrified me.
“I’d gain weight immediately! How do I know I would be able to stop again? I do not want to have to go through the 3 days of hell, to get back into ketosis again!”
And I know the beginnings of concern about my having that knee-jerk response did start to creep into my mind at that point, but I just reminded myself that I’m still in the early stages of getting my health to where I want it to be.
“I need to make more improvements, lose more weight and become more settled into this way of eating, before I should even think about that kind of thing. Tom’s in a near perfect state of physical health and he’s been doing the keto and fasting thing for over a decade. He’s in the right place physically and mentally to start being able to relax a little with his diet. But I’m nowhere near where he is. No, now is not the time for me to flirting with such a dietary disaster.”
I mean, you can’t fault my logic there right? I can’t expect to cure myself of a lifetime of poor food choices in just 6 months and think I’m home free, can I? Trust me, I can make an argument for anything I think or believe – and that might just be part of the problem. Arguing happens to be one of my stronger suits. My parents encouraged heated debate in the family home, always putting the emphasis on using logical, rational propositions or defences and always keeping one’s cool. As a result of that I have always been able to stand up for myself, challenge those I disagree with…and rationalise my way into making all manner of less than intelligent decisions, lol. Part of the reason why I switched to low-carb in the first place, was because the evidence for it made complete, logical sense. I didn’t just choose to follow it because I wanted to lose weight and it was the trendy new diet on the scene. When I followed up on the books I read and the videos I watched, there was no compelling reason for me to keep on eating sugar.
And there still isn’t really. Except maybe I need to do it, just to prove to myself that I can do it and then go back to my normal low-carb WOE the next day. Urgh! Just typing that sentence out, like I’m seriously considering doing it, is already making my anxiety start prickling. I don’t want to put that stuff in my mouth or into my body. I don’t want to feel the way I used to feel when my brain’s reward centres were getting hyper-stimulated by all the crappy food I used to eat. I don’t want to like it. I don’t want to have those tastes back in my mouth, and then back in my memory, reminding me of just what I’ve been missing out on. I’m scared of eating like that again. Which again makes me feel like that’s the exact reason I should do it.
Do you see what I mean? I can provide numerous reasons as to why I shouldn’t have a day off of eating low-carb; the main one being that I just don’t want to. I have only one reason to make myself do it, and that’s to prove to myself that this stuff doesn’t have any power over me. That I can pick it up and then put it down again once I’ve proved my point. But what point would I be proving? That my control-freak nature can adhere to any rules I decide to impose upon it? Because that sort of experiment would still be me maintaining a firm grip on the reigns of my eating habits; it wouldn’t be me being “relaxed” about carbs, in any sense of the word. All it would really achieve is me proving to myself, yet again, that I can stay in control. And isn’t that really part of the problem to begin with?
I don’t know. All I’m certain of right now is that I have no immediate plans to deviate from this way of eating. I’m on a mission to lose all this extra weight, get healthy and have a better quality of life. I don’t want to do anything to ruin any of the progress I’ve already made, or scupper my chances of progressing any further. There is no need for me to consume sugar from a nutritional point of view, nor any social obligation or personal desire to do so. I’m not self-imposing this WOE for any moral reasons, I just don’t want to put that shit in my body. Not right now anyway. So I guess all I’ve done here is talk myself back to maintaining my original position, regardless of any concerns I might have about my increasing “Saccharophobia”. But it’s something I know I need to keep an eye on going forward.
And after talking some more with the other half, I made a deal with him: I’m going to stay completely on plan for as long as I see fit. But…on the 1 year anniversary of my switching over to low-carb (August 31st) I will go out to dinner with him to our favourite Indian restaurant and eat my favourite dish. So, I’ve got 6 months to work up the courage to have an ‘off-day’! 166 days and counting folks – GULP!
“Give me something for the pain, Give me something for the blues Give me something for the pain when I feel I’ve been danglin’ from a hang-man’s noose Give me something I can use To get me through the night Make me feel all right”
It’s about 3.30am where I am now and I’ve just gotten up from a 23hr sleep. Every part of my body is ringing with nerve pain and the diazepam and pain meds are just starting to take the edge off of it. I’m exhausted and all I really want to do is crawl back into my bed again. But I thought I’d log on for a bit and write about how I’m thinking and how I’m feeling during one of these “Long Dark Tea-Times Of The Soul“. Because this is the reality of living with a chronic condition; of living with chronic pain that flares up any time it feels like it – or in this instance, after I’ve spent a day over-exerting myself.
“So why do you over-exert yourself when you know what it does to you Blue? Sounds kinda dumb, even for you!”
Well, sure. I could just sit on my arse and do nothing every day, but I’d still have flare ups. And besides, I’m not dead yet. I still have a life that I need to get on with; things I need to do for myself; a partner who I need to be there for. I’m not about to just throw in the towel and give up any semblance of normality and independence that I can still muster, just to avoid the days like today when my entire body feels as though it’s pierced right through and enmeshed within a web of barbed wire. Life is all about trade-offs. It’s about the choices we make every moment of every day and the subsequent benefits or repercussions those choices bring about. As cold and unemotional as it sounds, we’re always rationalising our decisions, doing immediate ‘cost-benefit analyses’ – often without even realising it. But I’m always hyper-aware of the effects that my decisions will have on my body, and despite knowing how much something is going to end up hurting me, I have to weigh up the pros and cons and choose what is worth doing right now in the moment, fully understanding just how much I’m going to end up paying for that choice later on.
So sometimes I just have to choose to accept that more pain is going to come, if I’m to have any life at all. And I’m sort of okay with that. Obviously I hate that this is a trade-off that I have to accept: pain for life. And I really fucking hate the fact that I have these horrible conditions in the first place. But I’ve learned to live with it and also to really understand and appreciate just how beautiful and valuable life is. There’s a reassuring pleasure to be found in the mundanity of everyday life, that we rarely see any worth in until that everyday existence is threatened. As someone with a curious mind and need for constant stimulation, I struggle with the notion of just “being” – I’ve written before about how I will never be someone who can just sit and empty their mind or meditate – and I’ve spent my life always looking for ways to keep myself occupied. But suddenly finding yourself unable to pursue all the activities that one has previously taken for granted, really causes a person to stop and take stock of all the little things that make life worth living.
We often hear about people who upon receiving a terminal illness diagnosis, immediately find a real zest for life and become determined to make their last days on earth really count. It’s sad that it takes something as horrific and final as one’s impending death to make us really appreciate every day for the gift it truly is. But it’s also completely normal and understandable. Life is a chaotic blend of good and bad; of the exciting and the boring; of the sacred and the profane. And it’s so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind of working, providing for our families and caring for those we love. We choose our little battles and focus on our goals and with only so many hours in the day, it’s easy to forget about stopping to “smell the roses” from time to time. Nobody really likes to think about the inevitability of their own mortality, so we just keep on keeping on. Always moving forwards, rarely pausing to think about what it’s all for, all this effort of doing, striving and struggling to get…somewhere. Until that is, something happens like a terminal diagnosis – of ourselves or someone close to us – that forces us to get up close and personal with just how fragile, brief and valuable our time on this planet actually is.
Yeah, I know I sound like some hippy-dippy, new-age spiritualist right now, but bear with me okay? I don’t have a terminal illness, but I do have chronic conditions that will only get progressively worse as time goes by. I’m never not going to have arthritis and fibromyalgia, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do everything within my power to stop these conditions from worsening more than they would if I just accepted my fate and did nothing. Which is why I decided to lose weight and improve my health in the first place. In a way I’ve actually been luckier than a lot of people because the little push that caused me to re-evaluate my life choices wasn’t a terminal diagnosis with an immediate end in sight; it was something far less serious that gave me enough pause to start making better choices every day. And I’m weirdly grateful for that. Because who knows just how much more damage I could have done to my body before I found any real reason to do anything about it? It feels like I skated really close to the edge of somewhere really dangerous, only to be brought back from the brink by forces beyond my control or comprehension.
And on top of that, learning to live with a chronic illness has also made me really value life in all its crazy shades and hues, for the amazing gift it really is. Pain does things to a person. It jolts us to a level of awareness that just isn’t there during our more comfortable moments. When we’re experiencing pain, we’re very much living in the moment, as awful as it might be. It’s almost impossible to think beyond the agony and how to get through the next few minutes, but once that pain begins to relent (as mine is doing right now) it’s like we’ve been delivered from evil and born again into a place where everything is so much brighter.
I’m speaking purely from personal experience here, so don’t any of y’all come at with the ways in which I’ve gotten it all wrong because your experience differs wildly from that which I’ve written about here. Of course this is a personal, subjective reflection; none of us can ever actually know how another person experiences pain or the absolute levels of hell it visits upon each and every one of us. I’m not trying to write a definitive treatise on pain or even view it objectively. Far smarter men than I have written far more insightfully on the subject (that Jung quote above really resonates with me on a literal and metaphorical level – everyone should read a bit of Jung if they want to get a better understanding of themselves!) I’m just…heck, what am I doing? I’m writing about all this because I’m feeling like crap and I need an outlet and I guess this place is as good as any. When I write things down it helps me to clarify my own thoughts and whilst this post isn’t really anything to do with weight-loss, it’s as much a part of my life as anything else I discuss on this blog. If you’re looking a really brilliant and impactful book on the subject, I’d highly recommend “In The Land Of Pain – Alphonse Daudet”. Really more of a collection of notes and scribblings it chronicles the hellish descent into agonising madness by a man suffering with syphilis. It’s only a very short book (about 120 pages) and whist being immediately readable and relatable, the descriptive writing is both viscerally tragic and eerily beautiful.
But getting back to what I was trying to say about the positives that can be gleaned from experiencing a chronic illness, whilst I still do hate being beset with these frustrating conditions, having sat and thought on my own situation long and hard, there really is a silver lining to what initially looks like one great big mofo of a cloud. Yes it makes life difficult because I really have to plan out everything I do on the understanding that I will suffer later for anything that causes me to push myself a little further than my body is comfortable. And yes, it’s infuriating to know that there are some things that I simply cannot do. But I’ve also found a new appreciation of not just the moments when I’m enjoying getting to do the things which end up hurting me (I’m not a masochist, I swear, lol!) but of the times when the pain recedes and my joints aren’t as seized up and I can just “be” – in whatever banal, mundane moment that might be. And I’ve never had that before. I’m not saying y’all will ever find me sitting in the lotus position, surrounded by joss-sticks, chanting “Om!” (as if, lol) but those times when I’m wracked with pain, unable to do anything other than make it through the next few minutes, make all those other times when the pain relents and becomes the normal hum of background pain that I pretty much always have, so much sweeter.
In order to know happiness, we really need to know what it is not to be happy. It’s that contrast in experience which gives happiness so much value. I’ve been incredibly lucky to have lived a life mostly free from sadness. I’ve had injuries and illnesses like everyone and experienced the normal losses of family members and pets that we all go through. But I’ve largely been able to do whatever I wanted to, safe in the knowledge that anything I chose to really pursue would be utterly attainable. I’ve had mad experiences, worked like a demon, wasted a bunch of time on nonsense and gotten to my middle-age relatively unscathed. But it took developing a chronic condition to actually make me truly understand how much there is to love and appreciate about life. Would I take the magic pill and have my illnesses cured in an instant if such a thing were to exist? Well yeah, duh. I’m grateful, not stupid. Who wouldn’t want to be able to avoid the agony of a grotesquely gnarled body, all twisted up in contorted pain?
But I wouldn’t want to unlearn the lessons that all this has taught me. I’ve really begun to see value in the everyday and the mundane. I still want to find things to keep my mind occupied when I’m stuck in the house, but I’ve developed an appreciation for all those times when I’m not enduring a flare-up or suffering after a day of over-exerting myself. Being in pain has made me appreciate not being in pain – or just experiencing the low-level background of pain which I’ve pretty much gotten used to. And sitting here now as the first twitterings of birds waking up are coming in through the open window, I’m feeling a little better than I did when I started writing this meandering waffle of a post. My arms and torso are still throbbing (because in my sillier moments on Thursday I decided to do some push-ups in the hallway with my other half…yeah, I know, I’m an idiot, sue me) but the muscles in my leg have stopped spasming and the needling pain in my feet has mostly abated. It’s a cool Saturday morning and I’ve got books to read, YouTube videos to catch-up with and some laundry that needs to be done.
I’m obviously not going to be overdoing things today, but things are already looking brighter than they were a couple of hours ago (it’s now about 5am here in the UK). I’m looking forward to spending the day with my other half and seeing all the sparrows and crows and blackbirds as they come to feed on the smorgasbord of comestibles that I’m about to put out for them for breakfast. I’m going to be sore and stiff for the rest of the day, but today is going to be a good day, I know that much. So what was the point to this post? Well, it really just started out as a means of catharsis for me. I needed an outlet to distract me a little bit as my meds kicked in and figured I’d share the way I was feeling with you guys, because why not? But I guess the underlying take-away from everything I’ve talked about today is that whilst it’s important to set goals and strive to achieve them, never lose sight of what’s going on around you while you work hard at whatever it is that you want to succeed at. We only get one life, so enjoy as much of it while you can. Take the rough with the smooth and be truly grateful for every minute you get to live on this planet. And no matter how shitty and difficult things might get from time to time, appreciate what you have and every now and now again, maybe stop to smell the roses.
“I am one of those melodramatic fools Neurotic to the bone, no doubt about it”
Every so often my mind likes to short-circuit itself a bit, just to remind me of who’s really in control. This week was obviously time for my regular mini-meltdown, because I’ve just been way too sane and chill for far too long. And it sorta came out of left-field because everything’s been going really well…a little too well, if you know what I mean? And my brain simply cannot be having that. I’ve already told y’all before that I’m a bit of a control freak and I’m actually really glad that I am. It means that I am responsible for always owning my shit and making things happen. But the downside to this trait (a hot-mess mixture of conscientiousness and neuroticism) means than back when my mental health went a bit awry, this amped up into an extreme form of hyper-vigilance. I never developed OCD, but I would often struggle with ambiguity and when presented with problems to which there were no clear solutions, I would spiral a little into an obsessive quest to know all the contributing factors and predict the most likely resolution.
If that all sounds a bit wild and “out-there” well that’s probably because it is, lol. But bear with me, because I promise it will all make sense soon (no self-respecting hyper-vigilant, control-freak would just leave you hanging like that, bro, lol). Last September when I was about 4 weeks into this new low-carb way of life, I wrote a post called ‘Fear’ in which I explained how I was suddenly feeling about the whole ‘not knowing’ if I was going to be successful in my attempt to lose weight / improve my overall health. And I think a lot of people resonated with the things I wrote about because it’s one of the most popular / liked posts I’ve written on this blog so far; fear and uncertainty surrounding our ability to succeed is obviously something many of us experience when we’re striving to achieve our goals. With me though, my own fear is much more rooted in the unknown. It’s not that I doubt my own ability to do something, more that I struggle with the potentially infinite external factors that I have no way of keeping track of, or even anticipating.
So why am I going back over all of this today when I’ve been quite contentedly plodding along with my low-carb WOE and getting the exact results that I want? Well – now you have to promise not to laugh when I tell you this, because I know (objectively) that what I’m about to say is going to sound a bit silly – it’s all because of what I saw when I weighed myself on Monday. The scale said I’d lost 3lb.
“Um, isn’t that a good thing Blue, you absolute fruitcake?”
Kinda, but not really. You see, you have to look at that “result” from the POV of a lunatic control-freak like me, who hates surprises and just wants thing to go exactly the way I expect them to. It might not sound like a big deal, but I only want to be losing 1-2lb at most every week. I’ve been relaxing into a nice, predictable pace that I feel comfortable with, knowing that I’m doing this sensibly and sustainably. If I maintain on some weeks, I’m totally okay with that because I know that’s something to be expected when embarking upon a weight-loss mission; especially one like mine which is going to take a bit longer than most, because I’ve got more than 100lb to shift (probably closer to 150lb in total, but I’ll adjust my “goal weight” once I’ve hit that initial 100lb loss). I’d factored in ‘maintain’ weeks before even starting down this path. I also prepared myself for weeks where the scale goes back up a notch (even if I do get absolutely outraged at the utter audacity of the scale for telling me I’ve gained, lol). But once the initial bursts of bigger numbers were out of the way and I was settled into a comfortable pace of losing 1-2lb max a week, I didn’t really think about the potential for any weeks where I’d lose more than that again.
Losing 3lb last week really threw me for a loop.
Why is the scale suddenly showing a larger loss at this stage in the game? I’m not doing any weird challenges, or restricting my intake at all. Surely the rate at which I’m losing weight now should be slowing, not increasing? What happened to make me lose that extra pound last week? Yeah, it was around this point where I started to have another mini-meltdown, rooted in ‘Fear’.
“If I’m losing more than I’m expecting or hoping, does that mean something’s not right?”
“Oh frick, maybe I don’t have as much control over this whole process as I thought!”
“If I have no control over how much weight I’m losing each week, what’s to say I’ll even be able to make my goal?”
“What if this is the last big drop and after this I’m going to plateau for like, months?”
“Does this mean I’m not eating enough?”
“How much should I be eating then? I’m already eating to satiety and rarely hungry?”
“I thought I was gong to have to start reducing my portion sizes…but now…?”
“What if I DO get to goal weight and then I don’t know how to stop?”
“How am I going to figure out how to maintain my goal weight without regaining or losing even more?”
“Maybe I have cancer!” – Because of course, that’s always where the mind goes to when there’s any suggestion that something might not be right.
Yep, the hyper-vigilance spiral was in full force folks, lol. And before anyone says that I’m overreacting and that weight-loss is never linear blah, blah, blah….I know that. I’m well aware that I’m “overreacting” because that’s just what I do when presented with an anomaly and far too many contributing variables, for me to be able to know what caused it. (I might be a crazy person, but I’m not crazy enough to not know that I’m crazy, y’all!) Something that most people would just easily write off as the human body doing it’s own thing, triggered the part of my brain that deals badly with ambiguity. When I say I’m a control-freak, I don’t mean in the way that I dictate how others behave around me or demand a high degree of compliance from them. It’s entirely internal and I rarely let anyone else know just how much something like this 3lb weight-loss absolutely wrecks me. (The fact that I internalise all this probably played a big part in why I had such a lunatic breakdown – I’m well aware of that.) I can talk about it here though because none of y’all know who I am and it’s more like keeping a journal than actually exposing my weakness for all and sundry to see.
If you met me in real life, you’d think I was a lot more relaxed and easy-going than I really am. Because I know intrinsically that my tendencies are all about my own issues with disorder, unpredictability and the need to know / understand everything that’s going on around me. Obviously my other half knows my crazy ways – and him being genuinely ‘laid-back almost to the point of horizontalization’ is good for me, because it a/ helps me learn to accept a little more “chaos” in my life, and b/ it also means he rarely gets stressed out about anything; including my neuroticism, lol. I know that my dysgenic tendencies aren’t well received by other people, so I try to keep them in check as much as possible (knowing you’re a lunatic is half the battle, amirite?). I can even live with his untidiness, because that’s what I’ve come to expect from him. I’d actually be more freaked out if he suddenly started being more tidy. I only tell y’all all this, so you can get a better idea of who I am and why I flipped out a bit this week.
I know that I cannot have or even expect to have, any control over the actions of others or the way the world goes on around me. And I’ve made my peace with that as best I can. But I still expect to be able to control my own actions and by extension of that, how my body responds to my wanting to lose weight and improve my health. Is that an unreasonable expectation? Well yes and no. Yes because the human body is a sophisticated machine, literally and figuratively with a mind of its own. Forever growing, changing, reacting, processing and overseeing all the necessary logistics required just to keep us alive, there are far too many potential variables involved to ever truly be able to keep track of everything on a conscious level; let alone control the entire incredible thing. But it’s a no too, because we know that are some things we can do to change our bodies and affect our health. We all have to find the right balance between all that so that we can go through life relatively sane and only focusing our attention on the areas that we do have any control over. That’s why the ‘Serenity Prayer’ is such a powerful, effective part of Alcoholics Anonymous and other twelve-step programs.
I’m not a remotely religious person, but even I can see the eternal truth and wisdom in those words – even if I do struggle with the ‘acceptance of things I cannot change’ part! The ‘Serenity Prayer’ might have codified by Karl Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930s, but the message and the wisdom it contains has been around forever. The Stoic ‘Dichotomy of Control’ is simultaneously the most intuitively simple aspect of Stoicism to understand and the most profoundly difficult to practice consistently. The stoic philosopher Epictetus explained the ‘Dichotomy of Control’ in ‘Enchiridion 1’. The intuitively simple part of the ‘Dichotomy of Control’ is the assertion that some things are “up to us” (within our power), and others are “not up to us” (not within our power).
“Make the best use of what is in your power, and take the rest as it happens. Some things are up to us and some things are not up to us. Our opinions are up to us, and our impulses, desires, aversions—in short, whatever is our own doing. Our bodies are not up to us, nor are our possessions, our reputations, or our public offices, or, that is, whatever is not our own doing.”
Enchiridion 1 – Epictetus, 108 AD
Trying to get a handle on the things we can and cannot change – whilst having the wisdom to know the difference – has been an eternal dilemma taxing wiser men than we, throughout the ages. And that’s actually quite comforting in a weird way. I’m not going to try and pretend that I’m a stoic (I’m pretty sure neuroticism is the antithesis of stoicism, lol) but when I was working on getting over my mental breakdown, I started reading a bit about stoicism to try and find a bit of rational, logical guidance that I could try to use any time I had an attack of the crazies. And whilst I’ve really only skimmed over Epictetus (probably not the best thinker to start off with if you’re interested in stoicism) I really enjoyed ‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius. Seriously, don’t be put off by the couple of millennia time difference, Aurelius is eminently readable; ‘Meditations’ is completely accessible to the modern reader and is filled with utterly quotable musings that anyone will find relevant and easy to identify with.
I think the reason it’s so timelessly relatable, is because it was never supposed to be something considered for publication, education or mass distribution. These were the personal writings of a man trying to control his impulses and be the best man he could, at a time when he was Emperor of frickin Rome! His personal struggle with wanting to do what is right, while also understanding his own motivations and behaviours, is something everyone can relate to – even a couple of thousand years down the line. Which is why I’ve started re-reading it recently (annoying enough I can’t find my hard copy, but I’ve got it on my Kindle too thankfully – which is probably a blessing in disguise really, because it allows me to highlight various passages that I can find again later with a quick search.)
And I’m not saying that it’s the cure-all, self-help manual that single-handedly stopped me from spiralling further into the hole of hyper-vigilance (or that just one reading of it will fix your own intrusive thoughts) but it’s definitely helped me to mentally take a step back and just breathe deeply. It’s not a long book and is divided up into 12 chapters – which are referred to as ‘books’ in themselves – so you can dip into it here and there, stopping to sit and think or maybe even journal a bit about what you’ve just read. (And don’t be surprised if you find yourself wanting to underline or highlight every single sentence, because this baby is all-killer-no-filler!)
It’s not that I don’t already know the advice contained in ‘Meditations’, more that I need a little prompting every now and again, to remember what I do know and put it into practice.
“Every moment think steadily as a Roman and a man, to do what thou hast in hand with perfect and simple dignity, and feeling of affection, and freedom, and justice; and to give thyself relief from all other thoughts. And though wilt give thyself relief, if thou doest every act of thy life as if it were the last, laying aside all carelessness and passionate aversion from the commands and discontent with the portion which has been given to thee.”
Book 2: The Meditations Of Marcus Aurelius
It just feels like I’m being calmed down and spoken earnestly to by some avuncular gentleman, wiser in the ways of the world than I could ever aspire to be. Taking a little time out to sit and read ‘Meditations’ was exactly what I needed to help stop me from spiralling further into a haze of hyper-vigilance. Partially because the simple act of reading itself is a very calming way for me to interrupt my crazy thinking anyway, but largely because Uncle Mark (can I call him that? Do you think he’d mind me being so ‘familiar’ with him? Lol.) just helps me to find a way back to my saner, more rational self. Because whilst I’m a somewhat neurotic fruitcake who sometimes feels the need to know all the things, I’m also a very logical thinker and problem solver who values rationality and truth. (When I told y’all I was a ‘walking contradiction in terms’ I wasn’t lying folks!)
If you’ve read anything about the ‘Big Five’ personality traits in psychology, you’ll already know how each person is considered to have a high, medium or low tendency towards extraversion, openness to experience, agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism. Each trait can have both positive and negative elements, depending on the situations we’re in and the people we’re dealing with, and are interconnected factors which make up our individual, personalities. According to the researchers at the Personality Project, personality is “the coherent pattern of affect, cognition, and desires (goals) as they lead to behaviour” (Revelle, 2013). Meanwhile, the American Psychological Association (APA) defines personality as “individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving” (2017). So of course, it’s entirely possible to rate highly on more than one trait – I guess I’m just a super “extra” kind of person with a really big, complicated personality.
And it’s not like my being conscientious isn’t compatible with a degree of underlying neuroticism. I’m a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to applying myself to tasks that I really care about and actually want to succeed at; being a bit neurotic about the things that are beyond my control might seem unreasonable at times, but it’s definitely understandable when you look at the bigger picture. I’m not naturally extravert, but I’m able to be gregarious and social when needs be; it just exhausts me whenever I have be around lots of people and afterwards need to retreat to the quiet calm and restorative peace of my own company at home. I’m not hugely open to new experiences either, but I will push myself to try things if I think there are some benefits to it. As for agreeableness…yeah, that totally depends on who I’m around. I can be the nicest, most polite and friendly person you’ve ever met, but if I don’t think you’re deserving of my time, pleasantries or good side, I won’t just play nice for nice’s sake. Woe betide the poor unfortunate miscreant who underestimates my feisty side and ends up getting into an argument with me, lol.
As you can probably gather from all that, I’m a mixture of various traits – like everyone – but I’m incredibly self-aware of the aspects of my personality which can sometimes get in the way of my being happy. I know my weaknesses and I’m forever looking for ways to improve on the areas which might not being helping me get where I want to be in life. That’s why I really like the underpinning ethos of stoicism and the writings of Marcus Aurelius. They speak to my rational, logical side and force me to reassess the neurotic side of me which causes me to feel as though things are beyond my control. And that’s what I’ve been trying to tap into this week after that 3lb loss made me feel like things weren’t going the way I wanted them to. Some people who had a weird extra loss might have looked to other weight-loss resources in order to feel better about how things were progressing. But I knew that it wasn’t the loss itself that was the problem – like I said before, I’m perfectly aware of how weight-loss isn’t a linear process and that logically, there will always be weeks when the scale shows something I’m not expecting. It’s all to do with me and the way I respond to the unexpected.
And that’s why I reached for some Marcus Aurelius, rather than the reassuring words of someone else going through a similar weight-loss experience. I know I don’t think the same way as other people, so their words regarding their own experiences aren’t necessarily going to resonate with me. No, what I needed was a good stern talking to from a 2000 year old Emperor of Rome (because, why the frick not?). And it definitely worked, because I now feel a lot less ‘freaked the frick out’ and better able to accept the unexpected number on the scale. Because it’s not about the weight; it’s about dealing with the unexpected, trying to let go of the reigns of control, and ultimately it’s about ‘Fear’.
So, what was the point to this entire ramble? What can you take away from everything I’ve said today? Well basically, it’s that knowing yourself and understanding why you do the things you do, is the most important factor in wanting to enact change. Yes this post was about weight-loss on the surface, but it’s actually about the way in which I deal with the unexpected. A 3lb loss instead of a 1lb or 2lb loss is really neither here nor there; in fact I’m probably going to end up seeing a gain on next Monday’s weigh-in because it’s “Shark-Week” and I’m bloated and I always gain in “Shark-Week” (or “Shark Fortnight” as it was last time!) That extra pound that I lost last week means absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of things. But it really brought to the forefront my own issues with control, surprises and how I deal with the unexpected; things I know I have to work on for myself.
Whether you’re trying to lose weight for yourself, or if you’re attempting to change some other aspect of your life, it’s absolutely essential that you not only understand your motivations for doing so, but you really need to know yourself and how your own personality plays into your ability to succeed or the likelihood of failure. And when you truly understand what makes you think and act the way you do, you can then figure out the best tools to have in your arsenal whenever you find yourself getting in your own way. It’s really easy to look at something like weight-loss as a simple numbers game that revolves entirely around the food we eat and the amount of exercise we do. But it’s so much more than that and that’s why the answers to any issues that crop up around weight-loss, can’t simply be found in the areas we initially think to look for them. For me, I found answers and solutions in the writings of Marcus Aurelius and the ideas involved in stoicism; because that helped me to understand my motivations and guide me towards a calmer sense of acceptance of the things I don’t have complete control of.
Everyone is going to be different and what strikes a chord with me isn’t necessarily going to resonate with you. But when dealing with our emotions, thoughts, feelings and behaviours it’s the underlying motivations that we need to deal with, not just the superficial effects that initially seem to be the problem. For some people therapy is the best route to them being able to better get to know themselves, but I would never do well in a therapeutic setting. I don’t trust people to know or understand me better than I know myself and I don’t have the patience to have to faff around with trying different people, when I know that I have the capability of working through my own issues myself – using the writings, words and wisdom of individuals who speak to me in a way that makes sense. But you have to find out what works for you personally and you just gotta find out the best way of getting know and understand what makes you “you”.
Change is always difficult, but it will never hold unless you already have a firm foundation on which to build upon. Trying to fix all the external components that we dislike might work at first, but you have to know why you developed the negative thing you wanted to change in the first place, if you ever want to make those changes permanent. So go do all the things that make you happy, healthy, slim, pretty and successful – you owe it to yourself to be the best version of yourself that you can be. But know that none of the changes you make on the outside will ever really stick or truly make you happy, unless you also work on fixing who you are on the inside. So be honest with yourself, work on getting to understand yourself and remember that change comes from within.
“Now I wanna be strong try to be there just like you I wanna be the mirror that you’re proud to look into I wanna be the one who always follows through…”
I’ve never really been one for trying to make people like me or have them be pleased by my actions. In fact this arrogant little madam has almost dickishly, gone through life often doing the very thing that will piss people off – purely because they didn’t want me to do it. Is that a bit moronic? Hell yeah; I got to about 30 years old before I even began to realise that this was just a cringey form of ongoing teenage rebellion…that really ought to have been put away like other childish things at least a decade earlier. But I still, to this day, hate being told what to do by anyone. If you ASK me to do something for you, chances are I’ll bend over backwards to try to accommodate you. But if you just EXPECT something from me? Ha ha…sorry bro, I think you got the wrong person here. And if you TELL me to do something? Well I’m just going to tell you to go fuck yourself. (Because yes, I’m the kind of person who can have both immaculate manners whilst swearing like a sailor, and an attitude that will make you wish we’d never met, should you provoke that side of me.)
The notion of wanting to make other people proud of me, is also something I’ve never much cared for. What’s always mattered the most, is whether I’m proud of myself for accomplishing something. I love and value my family, but I’ve never lived my life in order to please them. Which is probably something I get from my mother who has always encouraged me to do whatever I want. She has literally gone out of her way to tell me that it’s my life and my choices that I alone will have to live with. She’s never been the annoying kind of helicopter parent who tried to push me into doing anything I didn’t want. (Of course as a child she was instructive and instilled discipline during my younger years – as all good parents ought to – but as I got older and became independent, she let me make my own mistakes, choose my own path and never judged me for any of it.) There are many things she’ll tell you she’s proud of me for accomplishing, but I’ve never gone out of my way to impress her or try to earn her approval.
So what’s with the title of this blog post? Well, I’ve recently been doing my best to lose weight, improve my health and try to fight the progressive nature of my various physical ailments. And whilst I’m proud of myself for making the necessary changes to get as far as I have done, what really surprised me was how good it felt to hear my other half tell me that HE was proud of me for doing all this too. Now I have to reiterate the fact that he has never made me feel as though he wanted me to lose any weight. He met me when I was only a fraction less heavy than I was when I started out on this mission and we’ve been together for 12 years. He’s been nothing but loving, complimentary, affectionate and completely supportive of me for those 12 years and when I told him I was going to make a concerted effort to lose weight, he was just as supportive of that. Not because he’d been secretly wanting me to shrink down to a slimmer size for the past 12 years (he’s as outspoken and opinionated as me, so I always trust and take him at his word) but because it was important to me and when I explained the whole health reasons behind it, he obviously wanted me to be as happy and healthy as possible.
But when he first told me how proud he was of me for doing this (he’s since told me again on a couple of occasions) something inside me went a bit “gooey”, lol. Now I’m not the most sentimental person in the world (big surprise there, I know) but it really meant a lot to me. Not because I’ve ever tried to seek his approval, but because I could see that it came from an unprovoked, place of absolute, unmitigated sincerity; and I really appreciated that. I was so happy to have been able to do something that made him proud – and I’m not gonna lie, it really threw me for a loop there, for a moment.
Maybe I’m getting soft in my old age, but it made me feel like I WANTED to be able to make him proud. It’s not like it made me want to do anything different, or ramp up my efforts to get more recognition from him, but I wanted to at least continue to make him proud of me. And that’s a really big deal for me. Wanting to outsmart him and kick his ass in a general knowledge quiz is one thing (he’s the exact same BTW… we’re super-competitive when it comes to quizzes!) but wanting him to be proud of me is something entirely different. It’s a much more vulnerable place to come from. It means I know that this is something that I could fail at, but so far I’m actually succeeding and I feel good about that – which goes back to what I spoke about in a previous post: Fear.
This wanting him to be proud of me also acknowledges just how much he means to me and how much I value his opinion. He isn’t easily impressed, so my being able to impress him means I must be doing something really good. Of course I already know that he loves me, but I want him to see my ability to do whatever I set my mind to, and be pleased with that. Not because it involves my weighing less, getting smaller or looking differently, but because it allows him to see that his other half keeps to her word and can make shit happen.
So yeah, he’s feeling very proud of my success so far and that just spurs me on to want to keep succeeding. And he’s probably the only person in the universe who I’d want to keep making proud. But enough of that for today – time for the results of the weekly weigh-in! So where were we last week? Well after a particularly long, drawn-out and heinous “Shark Fortnight” (and a mid-week “ghost-gain” of 5lb – which disappeared again a couple of days later) the scale showed no overall loss when I weighed in last Monday. No big deal. I always seem to have a reading like that around that time of the month. I wasn’t worried, because looking back at the Fat Stats page, that’s exactly what I should have been expecting last week. But this week?
Well, food-wise I really haven’t been doing anything different – as always I’ve just stayed 100% ‘on-plan’ every day. The only new thing I’ve been trying to cultivate is a more relaxed, nonchalant approach to food in general as I wrote about last week. The idea being that having a healthy relationship with food means not allowing thoughts of what I’m going to eat for lunch or dinner or whatever, to preoccupy my mind. And whilst it’s only been a few days, I’ve definitely started to make some inroads into that new approach. Not every meal has to be some tantalisingly tasty morsel of gourmet standard. Just grabbing something nutritionally adequate is a perfectly reasonable way to regard the majority of our meals – and that way of thinking will probably stand me in good stead when it comes to having this WOE become a permanent way of life.
But onto the weigh-in results. Hopping on the scale this evening, I got a reading of 15 stone 1lb (211lbs), which means this week I’ve lost another 2lbs! Perfect! That’s exactly the amount I want to be losing each week (“Aunt Flo” and her “visitations”notwithstanding, lol). That means I’m 2lb away from getting under the 15 stone mark and 12 pounds away from getting into “onederland”. So I’m completely on track and ready to see what the upcoming week will bring. I’ve just ordered some new coffee mugs from Amazon, which will allow me to make a single cup of properly brewed fresh coffee without having to fire up the coffee machine. They’re really cool; I used to use them a few years ago in work when me and my buddy would try out various beans and blends for our mid-morning coffee-breaks.
Whilst I’m trying to take my focus off of the food I’m eating, I think that giving myself a nice cup of freshly brewed coffee to look forward to will provide a nice little psychological boost to me during the day. Dr Rob Cywes often talks about eating no more than twice a day and then using coffee as a “bridge” between meals. As a self-confessed “carb-addict” himself, he understands what it’s like to come from being a person who constantly responds to sugar-cravings by eating any time the brain demands it, so this “bridge” technique is his way of dealing with years of entrenched habits surrounding food. Coffee keeps him sane and allows him to feel as though he isn’t depriving himself in between his 2 meals. I tend not to fire up the coffee machine when it’s only myself having a cup and whilst my preferred brand of instant is better than most, I do really love a proper cup of coffee. So here’s hoping that these clever little mugs will allow me to not only enjoy a cup of freshly brewed java, but also reduce my focus on foods. I shall keep y’all posted.
Now though, it’s time for me to go make the other half some dinner and go catch up with my favourite YouTube channels.
Okay, let’s be real folks. Losing weight isn’t all that interesting. I mean, it’s exciting and new when you first begin out on a new regime, fuelled by all the promises of what the end result will be, and it’s cool to see the progress pics and update videos by other people trying to lose weight, but the everyday process itself? Yeah it’s pretty bloody dull. But you know what? That’s exactly what you should be aiming for. Probably not what you wanted to hear, but lemme explain.
Everyone starts out on their weigh-loss mission pretty psyched – and that’s completely normal. We prep ourselves by reading as much as we can about our chosen plan, immerse ourselves in weight-loss communities where we can share stories, pick up tips and get support, and it’s so cool because it’s new and different and exciting. We’ve gotten to a point where we’re able to accept that we have a problem and then realise that fixing that problem is completely within our grasp. We feel empowered with all this new knowledge and as we start making the necessary dietary changes, we feel amazing because we’re getting results. We’re fricking doing this, y’all!
And it’s great. As long as we’re sticking to our plan and doing all the things we’re supposed to, the weight continues to come off, albeit a little more slowly than it did in the first few weeks. But the scale is still moving down and everything’s working and yet…suddenly it doesn’t feel that exciting any more. We’re no longer feeling the newfound excitement we felt right at the beginning, and the end is still quite a way off. So it’s only natural when some of us start looking for other ways to get that feeling of excitement back. Maybe we’ll add in a fitness challenge – those always seem really popular – or maybe we’ll consider changing up our plan – eating challenges are also all over YouTube. What we’re looking for is a return to that high we felt way back when we first started out on our weight-loss regimes…but that’s not necessarily a good thing.
The phrase “This is not a diet, it’s a lifestyle” has become a bit of a cliché, with many people repeating it verbatim, without really living by it. But the reality is, that for weight loss to not only be successful but sustainable, this really does have to be a complete lifestyle adjustment – not just a quick fix to get us to our goal weight. And like it or not, for this to BE a lifestyle change and not just a fad, we’re really going to have to expect the whole thing to become a bit boring. Is cleaning your teeth every day a blog-worthy event? I doubt it. Do you get ripples of adrenaline coursing through your veins every time you wash the dishes? I hope not. (I mean, you do you boo, but if that’s what really gets you going every day, you might want to look into trying a new hobby…just saying.)
What I’m trying to say is that whilst eating can be a part of how we celebrate or socialise, it really shouldn’t be the focal point of our entire day. I’ve mentioned this before, but my other half is a tall, athletic guy who has never really had to worry about his weight (except for one time when a course of medication for an injury caused him to lose his appetite a drop a little too much weight – but that was soon remedied by reducing his meds). He turned to me earlier while we were watching ‘My 600lb Life’ and said:
“You know, I’ll never really understand what all this is about.”
And thinking that he meant the severely super-morbidly obese people on the show, I told him that I didn’t fully understand their mindset either; that their pathological relationship with food is far more dangerous and damaged than mine has ever been. But he shook his head:
“No…I mean, I’ll never understand ANY of this weight-loss stuff. I can’t imagine having to think about everything I eat, all the time, every day. It’s completely alien to me.”
And he truly meant it. Don’t get me wrong, he’s incredibly supportive and frequently reminds me that if there’s anything he can do to help me with this, then just say the word; but it’s a whole other country to him, this world of weight-loss, fitness and food-plans. Which is exactly how it should be for someone with a totally normal relationship with food. Sure, it pays to be at least somewhat informed with regards to nutrition and activity levels, but for those who have never experienced any weight issues or food allergies / intolerances, food really isn’t that big of a deal. They enjoy a nice meal out, or a special celebratory dinner, but for the most part, food is a fuel that they need to consume in order to not die. If it tastes nice, that’s great, but they don’t feel the need to make every morsel some hyper-palatable gourmet offering that Heston Blumenthal would be proud of. And that’s one of the huge differences between those of us who have good relationships with food, and those of us who don’t.
A lot has been said recently about the notion of ‘Intuitive Eating’ and the twisted way that the ‘Fat Acceptance’ have chosen to bastardise it for their own ends. But the ideas at the core of ‘Intuitive Eating’ do make sense…for those don’t have a screwed-up relationship with food. It’s exactly how my other half eats every day. Sometimes he wakes up wanting a fried breakfast; other days he gets up and doesn’t want anything to eat for a few hours. Some days he’s happy to have a few smaller snack-like meals throughout the day, and on others he prefers a big roast dinner with all the trimmings. Aside from my obsession with wanting him to up his protein intake a bit, he normally gets enough of a wide range of food in his diet to keep him strong, lean and healthy – and he doesn’t ever stop to second-guess any of the food choices he makes.
(Yeah, I know…I really should hate the dude for that, but he’s pretty to look at and I can’t reach up to change the lightbulbs, so I like to keep him around, lol.) My point is that his relationship with food is the kind that we all should aspire to having ourselves. And part of that relationship will involve our having to find a way to stop food from having such an intense hold on us that we think about it from dawn ’til dusk. I hate to piss on everyone’s Cheerios, but not every meal needs to be interesting or exciting. What’s important is that we figure out how to get sufficient nutrition from our diet, find a plan that allows us to lose weight without feeling hungry or deprived, and then just go about the rest of our lives, like normal people do.
I’m not saying we can’t enjoy our food or that y’all should be suffering on some foul diet made up of foods you actually hate (because that shit ain’t sustainable for anyone in the long term) but if a lot of our food choices end up being pretty boring, that’s not the end of the world. That’s normal. Going out of your way to try and imbue every meal you consume on your weight-loss regime, with amazing flavours, textures, colours and fragrances, isn’t how most people eat. The very fact that we treat going out to dinner or having a celebratory birthday meal with such reverence, is precisely because they’re supposed to be special experiences that elevate the humble meal to an altogether different level. And I think we as a society have forgotten that.
“By the end of the 19th Century, fine dining restaurants had become part of the landscape for the wealthy aristocratic Europeans and upper-class Americans. These groups transformed eating out into an art form. Through the 20th century, restaurants continued to evolve through two world wars and the Great Depression. The 1950s saw the rapid growth of fast food, while the 1960s marked the beginning of casual family dining and chain restaurants. By 2000, more and more families were dining out on a weekly basis.”
Eating out regularly is still a relatively new concept for the working & middle classes as a whole. And it’s no coincidence that our ever-expanding waistlines have gotten bigger at exactly the same rate as the explosion in choices with regards eating out. It has become so much easier and cheaper for the average person to eat out, that dining culture is no longer the preserve of the upper classes. Everywhere we go there are myriad options to cater to our taste and wallets, offering intentionally hyper-palatable food combinations that we can choose to eat on the premises, take home or even have delivered to our doors. And we’ve gotten so that we almost feel as though we’re entitled to all this choice and convenience. We work hard, raise families, keep households, attend schools and at the end of the day we’re exhausted. So of course we feel like we deserve to ‘treat’ ourselves and our families to something quick, easy and tasty. But all we’ve really done is condition our taste-buds and our dopamine circuits to associate food with always being something that should taste epic and provide a massive bang for our buck.
So when we finally realise that we’re fat and out of shape, we naturally start to try and make our new food-plans really tasty and interesting and exciting, because we’re still trapped in the mindset of a person with a fucked up relationship with food. We look for recipes that will provide satisfying alternatives to the foods that we over-consumed to get fat in the first place, because we’re still obsessed with making food the focal point of our daily lives. And we really need to stop doing that.
Hey, I’m not claiming to be free of this way of thinking folks. I say all this as someone who realised a while ago that my own relationship with food was completely skewed, because of the type of ‘stimulant seeking’ mentality I have. I wrote a blog post about that very realisation which ya’ll can read here: Stimulus Chick. I know that I have a very active mind that loves to be stimulated and hates to be inactive (I have never been able to ’empty my mind’ and meditate and probably never will, lol) and that ‘stimulant seeking’ mentality plays out in the way I have approached food. Y’all, I’m as bad as everyone else with this, but it’s something I’m working on fixing because I don’t want food to be the controlling aspect of my day-to-day life; I’ve got way too many other things I could be focusing my attention on. And that’s why I’ve come to a second realisation about food, weight-loss and why it’s actually completely normal and healthy, for it to all be incredibly mundane.
When I look back at my previous posts on here I can see that I have yet to shed that obsession with having amazingly tasty food all the time. I’m not altering my behaviour, merely finding an alternative conduit through which I can continue to satisfy that ‘food-centric’ mentality. And I see it in so many other people who are trying to overhaul their diets and implement permanent “lifestyle” changes too. Letting go of the idea that all food has to be hyper-palatable and exciting is difficult. It’s scary and that fear is rooted in our aversion to the unknown, and filtered down through these comestible crutches we develop over time. It’s hard enough to cut out something like sugar from our diets; taking the next step towards a relaxed – almost nonchalant – form of ‘Intuitive Eating’, where food is no longer a perpetually intense, sensory experience is something else. But it’s what I truly believe is at the core of a successful lifestyle overhaul and a healthy relationship with food and eating.
Does that mean I’m suddenly going to become the most clean-eating, nutrition-focused, A+ example of how to eat? Um…no, I’m a work in progress folks; always have been, always will be. But I do want to try and take a mental step back from having an obsessive preoccupation with the food I eat. It’s going to be difficult, because I’ve a/ got a whole 40 years worth of habits to try and undo, and b/ also need to make sure that I’m sticking to my low-carb WOE by always having enough of the right food on hand to tide me over. But I’ve been eating this way for just over 5 months now. I know what I can and cannot eat and going forward, just grabbing something simple to eat because it meets my nutritional needs, is how I’d like to start regarding most of my food choices. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to be eating foods that I enjoy or not enjoying the food that I eat, because I will never get sick of eating steak! But not every meal has to be a sensory adventure. Food is and should be primarily, a source of fuel. And I need to remember that.
So, if you take anything away from this post, let it be this: weight loss is going to get boring over time AND THAT’S A GOOD THING! If you’ve been plodding along for a while and you’re no longer excited by your food choices, don’t immediately rush to try and inject a sense of excitement back into your life. At least not for the reasons I’ve been talking about today. Most of us got to where we are – being overweight, addicted to sugar and having a dysgenic relationship with food – largely in part through us abusing our pleasure / reward pathways with a constant stream of sensory overload from hyper-palatable food sources. Simply put, we’ve gotten addicted to the pleasure gained from eating. And it’s hard for us to let that go.
But if we’re ever to find our way back to having a normal relationship with food, we need to work on breaking that association between food and being constantly, pleasurably stimulated. It sounds trite, but finding other avenues from which to get our kicks, really is the best alternative. Cultivating interests outside of weight loss and food is a healthy route to living and eating like a “normal” person. I know it’s really tempting to want to ‘shake things up’ and find new, exciting ways to lose weight, but by always seeking that new injection of stimulation, we’re only feeding into that same cycle of ‘stimulant seeking’ behaviour. Deciding to do an egg fast for a week might get you some great results on the scale, but is that how you’re going to eat for the rest of your life? And how do you think your body is going to react once you return to how you were eating previously? By all means, consider things like intermittent fasting as a permanent way of eating that will become boringly second-nature over time; but if all you’re after is that initial ‘high’ you get from doing something new and different with your food, then you’re never going to find your way out of this ‘stimulant seeking’ behaviour around eating.
Like I said, right now I’m as guilty of this as the next person, but I’d like to think that by coming to this realisation, I will be better equipped to do something about it. Because I hate the idea of something as mundane as food having such a powerful hold over me. I want to eat to live, not live to eat.
I have never enjoyed ‘shopping’ in actual stores IRL. Be it trying to hunt down a book that I’m interested in (which will invariably not actually be stocked in our local bookshop because my interests are generally more esoteric than the latest bilge-fest of woke clap-trap that everyone is falling over themselves to be “seen” to be reading – I ain’t wasting my money on books that try to make me feel guilty about being white, or that try to push the new “stunning & brave” narratives about black, Muslim, gay, transgendered drag-queens, or feminist revisionism that wants us all to believe that women did all the things that won the second world war – bite me!) or navigating the supermarket aisles in Sainsburys to get the weekly shop. It’s always just an annoyingly necessary evil that leaves me wanting to hole up in my house and avoid the rest of the population forever.
Queuing is soul-destroying, waiting for sales-assistants to go pretend to look for an item they know they don’t have in stock is infuriating, and trying to push a trolley past the groups of women stood 3-4 deep in the middle of an aisle while they talk about the same shit they post on each other’s Facebook walls, ALL drives me completely nuts and makes me wish ‘tier 5’ lockdowns were a permanent fixture. I’ve never understood how some people actually consider shopping to be a fun, recreational pursuit; it’s literally just a means to an end. Sure, the things you purchase might be super-cool, useful or pretty to wear…but the act of going out to procure said items? It’s a boring, time-consuming task that sucks the absolute life out of me!
But online shopping? Man, that shit is the greatest improvement to my everyday life, since mp3-players made it possible to carry my entire music collection around in my pocket! Especially since I live in a very small, quiet area that doesn’t even have a pound-shop in it. I might not enjoy actual IRL shopping, but clicking a few buttons and getting whatever I want delivered to my door, has become something of an obsession with me. I just went over my list of online purchases in my bullet-journal, added up the cost of everything I’ve been buying lately, and it turns out that I’ve spent £966.54 (roughly $1321.59 USD) on Amazon and £298.21 (roughly $408 USD) on Ebay, since December 3rd! That doesn’t take into consideration any of the other online stores I regularly buy from or any of my regular IRL shopping. Oh, and none of that had anything to do with Christmas shopping, or clothes shopping or any bigger, considered purchases – it’s all just “stuff” that I decided I needed over the past 2 months. The only thing I really have to show for all that is a boat-load of protein bars that I’m accumulating way faster than I’m consuming them, a couple of bottles of perfume and a few notebooks/journals. I seriously don’t know how I managed to spend so much.
So of course, this past week I found myself back on Amazon, buying even more stuff, because why the frick not? I have this weird fear, front and centre in my mind (a fear that isn’t necessarily irrational, since the recent lockdowns created all the panic-buying madness that stripped supermarkets of pretty much everything) that something is going to happen to stop me from being able to buy everything I need, so I’m bulk-buying EVERYTHING from toilet-roll and deodorant, to frozen veg and ibuprofen, and stashing it away in case of emergency. And it’s not an altogether ridiculous notion really. Being prepared for all eventualities is actually a really good idea – as recent events have definitely shown us. But I think having changed to a low-carb WOE has really reinforced that idea for me, precisely because I don’t have as much access to the same range of stores as someone in a big town or city might have.
I know that at the most basic level, I can normally get by on fresh, locally sourced meat and produce. Great. But when this lockdown crap starts to ramp up, tier by tier, the local butchers end up shutting down temporarily and access to supermarkets becomes even more restricted (there are no 24hr stores open around here). After the first wave of lockdown madness, supermarkets and other stores responded by only allowing customers to purchase limited amounts of products – which is entirely understandable – and that was actually pretty inconvenient for me, because a lot of what I eat is the same thing on a daily basis. Letting me only buy two bags of broccoli just isn’t enough and the hassle of having to get taxis to-and-from the shops every time I went out just made everything a huge pain in the arse. I eat a LOT of meat and fresh veg and there have been some days where I literally couldn’t purchase as much as I needed to get me through the week.
Yeah, I know these are just the #FirstWorldProblems of someone with more specialised dietary requirements, but I’m not about to screw up all my hard work and efforts at improving my health…just because of some new restrictions put in place to “allegedly” keep me (and everyone else) healthy. Having fibro/arthritis also impacts the amount of times I can get out and actually go shopping too, so I have to try and be as creative with my time spent leaving the house, as possible. Whenever I go out I have to work out the best way to hit as many of the few shops as I can of the few shops in my locale. But as weeks rush by it just feels like my household stores are dwindling faster and faster, so online shopping has become a total life-saver.
Nobody knows how much longer this palaver with lockdowns is going to go on for – we seem to be getting different messages from the government on a day-to-day basis – and that’s really triggered the little panic-mode alarm to go off in the back of my head. I do NOT want to hear next week that we’re being escalated back up to a tier-7 level lockdown and are only allowed to visit the shops once or twice a week, only to find once I get there that my ability to purchase stuff is so severely restricted that I simply cannot make sufficient meals for the following 7 days. So…I’ve been bulk-ordering a bunch of stuff from Amazon and stashing it away in case things get more difficult. I’ve already mentioned in a previous post, what protein powders I use and I’ve stocked up on a good half a dozen of each of those recently, on top of those buckets of Manilife Deep Roast Peanut Butter (we’ve got them stashed in cupboards and on shelves all over the kitchen) and crates of sugar-free energy drinks.
Protein bars though…they’re my absolute obsession. I eat about 6 or 7 of them a week, but I’m buying boxes of them at least twice a week, leading to my acquiring quite the stash. I have a load in a huge oversized shopping bag in the front room, but they’re also squirreled away in my filing cabinet, in the spare room, and in the bottom drawer of the plastic storage drawers we keep in the bathroom (it’s mainly used to keep skincare stuff in it, but now the other half thinks I have some weird eating disorder that has me keeping protein-bars in there too. Dude, I’m not sat eating the damn things on the toilet like some freakish secret-eater…I’m literally just running out of places to store them, lol!)
But I feel a lot less stressed out just knowing that I’ve always got these suitable food-stuffs tucked away (all over the house, lol) should lockdown restrictions get even more insane and I start to feel as though I just don’t have enough food in to keep me going. It’s like my inner ‘Doomsday Prepper’ has begun to rear its ugly head and I want to be prepared for any and EVERY actuality. My other half has never had to worry about his weight (the guy took his very sculpted physique and actually sat for a bunch of life-modelling classes, completely naked, because he’s just THAT comfortable with his – incredibly nice – body!) but I’ve been trying to get him to swap out his regular Mars Bars and Snickers Bars, for their higher-protein/lower sugar alternatives. He thinks I’m nuts, but they don’t taste any different to the ones he usually eats, so he’s happy to oblige my nagging and go for the high-protein versions…even if it’s just to get me off his back, lol. So I’m also stashing boxes of those around the house for him too, in case lockdown life gets any harder. I’ve even been binge-watching Steve1989MRE’s channel and will probably be ordering some of the MRE food parcels he often reviews, just so I know that there’s always going to be plenty of food on-hand for himself, should the end-of-the-world happen.
Does all that sound mental? Probably. But I would much rather bulk-buy a tonne of stuff that I don’t necessarily need, than leave it all to the chance of my permitted trips to the supermarket, potentially leaving me short of enough food to get me through the days ahead. And I’m still 47lb away from meeting my 100lb goal, so I’ve got plenty of fat stores on my body to survive on. But I know how much harder it is to endure an enforced lack of food, than to go through an intentional fasting period of my own doing. Does that make sense? Because I’ve never been unlucky enough to not have access to food. The only times I’ve had to go without are on days when I’ve literally just been too lazy to do a food shop and found myself scratching around the kitchen trying to make a meal out of whatever weird dry-food crap is tucked away at the back of my cupboards. This lockdown thing is the first time I’ve ever had to worry about not having stuff in my kitchen to see me through the week. And I’m not gonna lie, it really does scare me. The virus doesn’t worry me (I had it last year and it was less intense than a regular flu or bad cold) but the idea of being stranded in my house, banned from going anywhere by the bloody government and not having enough low-carb foods on hand frightens me.
And I know that’s a lot to do with control. I’m a bit of a control freak and like to think that I’ve always got everything taken care of. This lockdown has taken away my ability to have the absolute control I need in order to feel comfortably able to stick to my health goals. It’s taken me out of my comfort zone and made me realise that I am also vulnerable to certain events upsetting not just my everyday routine, but my plans for losing weight. And I HATE that. Having to try and be all zen and accepting of the daily changes to how I live my life? I am so NOT about that, lol. Change isn’t something I fear…when it’s on my own terms. But this imposed set of changes that I have no control over? Nah, this shit drives me crazy. Hence the ‘panic-buying’ shenanigans. I know that fear is at the root of this behaviour and that I’m trying to assert a sense of control over my life by doing it…but I also know that logically, I’m being a bit insane and worrying a bit too much. I just refuse to let things get beyond my control, to a point where I end up having to resort to eating off-plan. Because there’s absolutely no reason for me to allow that to happen. Every meal is a choice and I’m choosing to make every meal count. Screw resorting to off-plan crap, just because the world is going cray-cray. I’ll be damned if I’m gonna let the goddamn ‘rona stop me from getting where I need to be!
We all just gotta do, whatever we need to do to get through these crazy times. And if turning my house into some low-carb bug-out shelter eases my stresses a little bit, then my other half is just going to have to get used to finding tubs of peanut butter and protein bars in the strangest of places. Because if the zombie apocalypse does end up hitting us, he’s gonna be coming to me for food supplies before the week is out!
“Tell me why all the best laid plans Fall apart in your hands”
It’s already happening folks. The inevitable, annual dieting drop-off that happens every February, a few weeks after new year. So many people who swore up and down that THIS was going to be their year…who started a new “diet” (again), embarked upon a new fitness regime, vowed to drink a gallon of water every day and purchased a whole heap of supplements and new products that they were totally going to use every day without fail…yeah, a lot of them really aren’t doing so well. A lot of them have hit the wall and many have already given up. Of course, a lot of us knew this would be the case, because virtually every study tells us that around 80% of New Year’s resolutions will be abandoned by February. So why do so many people still carve out this arbitrary date on the calendar, as the day they’re going to make it all happen?
Well, a lot of it is just down to herd mentality and the desire to do the “good” thing on the “correct” date, like so many of our fellow friends, family and co-workers have elected to. It’s the “done thing” to commit oneself to a righteous sacrifice in the New Year, after a period of festive indulgence – and we don’t want to miss out on being a part of this mass declaration of pure intent, on what we see as a magically symbolic date. And it just feels so right to draw a line under the previous year doesn’t it, so we can start anew with a clean slate, free from who we were “last year”. New Year, New You. Amirite?
Yeah, I’ve never been one for making New Year’s Resolutions. It always seemed a bit odd to me that this one day – during the coldest, darkest time of the year – would be the exact date and time when everyone (regardless of their personal situations) went and overhauled their lives for the better. Any time I want to embark upon something new, I do a bit of research and then get on with doing it at the time most convenient to me. That could be tomorrow, next week, next month, or something I’m planning on doing a year from now, once I’ve got everything I need in place. But I sure as shit don’t pick a date that has no real bearing on my own life, just because everyone else is doing it. That just seems weird and doomed to fail.
And failing is what we’re seeing a lot of right now. We’re not even a whole month in and folk are dropping like flies, getting as creative as possible with the excuses as to why they’ve had to abandon their goals:
It’s too cold to go out for a run
I just need to eat some real, satisfying food when the weather’s like this
It’s so busy as work this time of year…I don’t have time to eat properly
I’m going to wait until the mornings start getting lighter so I can start going to the gym before work
I’ve still got so much Christmas food / snacks in the house. I don’t want to waste money throwing it out
My S.A.D. is really bad at this time of year so it’s really hard to get motivated
I think I might need to change plans and restart in a month or so
And that’s just a few of the reasons I’ve seen people give for quitting their diet / fitness plans for 2021. I’m not saying that those aren’t true or that they’re not valid reasons for feeling like throwing in the towel. But I think in a lot of cases there’s a much bigger underlying problem:
We humans are a curious breed. Blessed with these fabulously big, beautifully complex brains of ours, you’d think that we would have the act of goal-accomplishment down to a fine art. Yet more often than not, we over-complicate matters to the point where we no longer know how to get anything done. We like to draw up hugely complicated plans, taking solace in the notion that the more detailed and structured we make them, the less likely we are to fail. That way of thinking is often rooted in fear: we lack confidence in our own ability to do the thing we want to do, so we try to create a failsafe plan that we can have confidence in instead. And if that plan is based on something that we’ve seen other people doing, even better right?
Birds don’t stress out about all the things they need to do to build a nest. They just go out and get twig after twig, leaf after leaf, and build it bit by bit. But us? The super-intelligent, evolved species? We’re not happy unless we’ve wargamed the bejeezus out of EVERYTHING. And then, THEN we hang all of our hopes on us being able to maintain our focus and commitment to doing ALL THE THINGS…only to become demoralised and dejected when we fail to get it 100% right, 100% of the time. That’s when so many of us quit. If just one thing goes awry, that’s it. Fuck it. Might as well just jack the whole thing in and go sit in the mud and eat a cake or nine. It’s like we’re hardwired to never be able to see any of the good we have accomplished, whenever we make a single mistake.
Managed to overhaul your diet, cut out all the extra sugar and started drinking more water? Yeah but you only went to the gym twice last week, instead of three times, so you’re obviously just a big fat failure and might as well give up, right?
And y’all know I’m not even being remotely hyperbolic here. Because that mad shit is exactly the kind of bonkers garbage that goes through so many people’s heads whenever they hit a bump in the road. It’s that ‘All Or Nothing’ mentality, that again comes from having a lack of self-confidence. When we don’t have any faith in our own ability to succeed, we put all our faith in ‘The Plan’ instead. But if we can’t succeed at ‘The Plan’, then nothing is ever going to work, we were stupid for ever thinking it would, so we might as well just give up and never try to do anything else, ever ever again.
Or, there are the obstinately ridiculous ones doing the exact opposite.
Trying to cut carbs AND calories, starting a crazy new gym routine, drinking a gallon of water every day AND trying to go vegan / carnivore / whatever, all at the same time was way too much to attempt all at once and they failed…so…let’s try and do it all again starting on Feb 1st! Because THIS time, THIS month will magically and miraculously be different, right? Sigh. Some of y’all will never learn, will you? I swear some people are just so monumentally invested in the idea of “dieting” and being perpetually ON a diet, that they’re doomed to subconsciously self-sabotage any small successes they achieve, by staying in the diet / binge cycle:
I see it every day in the various weight-loss communities online and I just wish I could grab each and every one of these people, shake them and tell them to just chill the feck out. Pick one thing that you want to change. Just one to begin with – because most people are simply unable to work on changing multiple habits at the same time – and then sit down and make a realistic plan that will allow you to make small, cumulative improvements over time and then do it. I know people want all the results right now and hate the idea of having to make slow, steady progress towards a goal, but that’s the only way you’ll ever be able to make permanent, sustainable changes that will actually last. If fast-fixes and short-cuts to sustained weight-loss actually worked, we’d all be thin and never have to worry about our weight ever again.
One of the biggest hurdles that so many people face when trying to lose weight, get fit and be healthy, seems to be impatience. Never mind the fact that so many of us have been overweight, inactive and unhealthy for so long, for some reason we think that a lifetime of poor choices, ingrained habits and health problems can – and should – be fixed right now. I mean, we’ve made the decision to change, to improve, so that should be enough to make this shit happen, right? Wrong. Undoing a lifetime of shitty decisions doesn’t happen overnight. Even if you were a superhuman goal-getter who was able to implement all the right choices going forward, the effects are still going to take a long time to emerge. And most of us ain’t superhuman, y’all (not even me, lol!).
This post is getting kinda long and I was going to talk a little bit about how heuristics play a huge part in keeping us from being able to make long-term, sustained changes, but I think I’ll save that for another time, because I know it’ll take a bit of explaining for me to get my point across. But the main thing I wanted to convey today was that change is hard. It takes a lot of effort to focus our attention on improving just one aspect of our habits and behaviours, so trying to do all the things, all at once will inevitably doom you to failure, with all the added despondency and demotivation that brings along with it. So be honest with yourself when you’re trying to create change in your life. Be realistic with your goals and always remember that small, cumulative changes over time, WILL add up to greater improvements in the long run. There are no short-cuts, so stop looking for one.
“It’s a new dawn It’s a new day It’s a new life…for me And I’m feeling good”
Today (Thursday 28th January 2021) is 150 days since I switched over to the low-carb way of life.
That’s pretty fricking cool, y’all. Not one single day off-plan, not a single cheat. Just 150 days of eating well, losing weight and feeling hella better for it. I can’t believe I didn’t think of doing this sooner. Time always passes, whether you decide to make changes or not. And now, I can’t believe I’m sat here and I’ve been doing this for 150 days! Where has the time gone? It only feels like a month or so ago I was deciding to change my diet and yet, it’s been (lemme just say it again, lol) ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY DAYS!
Every day that passes with me eating lo-carb, just makes me want to keep on eating this way for ever. The better I do, the better I want to do. It’s a brilliantly self-reinforcing cycle of success and motivation. And I am SO here for it! I mean, I always knew that if I just set my mind to it, that I’d be able to shift some flab, but that doesn’t take away from the immense feelings of pride and satisfaction that I’m experiencing right now. I’m just past the halfway point and this way of eating has become so incredibly normal, it isn’t even an effort to stick to it. Surely losing weight isn’t supposed to be this easy?
I feel like I just want to take everyone who’s struggling with their weight, move them into my house and feed them everything I’ve been eating to show them just how effective a low-carb WOE can be. I want everyone to understand the science behind this WOE and then find health, happiness and success with it too! I know, I know, I’m ranting like the newly converted – a “ketoevangelist” if you will – but this approach really works and I just wish I could get more people to take the leap for themselves and feel the incredible benefits that I have!
Don’t get me wrong, eating this way hasn’t cured everything that ails me; I’m always going to have fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis and this past week has been a bit of a nightmare with my hands seizing up. But the way my body feels as a whole is just so much better than it was back in August last year. A lot of that will be due to my now carrying less weight on my frame, but my flare-ups are much less intense now. They don’t last as long as they used to and I know that’s down to getting rid of the sugar. My brain feels more focused, sharper and better able to process information. I’m finding it easier to read books again and remember what I’ve just taken in. I’m even going to speak to my doctor about reducing some of my medication, when I’m actually able to get an appointment. I’m feeling that good!
Sure, I know that I’ve still got a long way to go and things are definitely going to harder, the closer I get to my goal – never mind the real test, in maintaining my weight loss which will be a lifelong commitment – but right now I’m really happy with the way things are going. As I should be! I alone decided to make these changes and I alone am responsible for sticking to this WOE. So I have every right to feel good about myself. And if that sounds like I’m bragging, or being arrogant…well suck on it, lol. Anyone who commits to a plan to improve themselves and sticks to it, deserves to feel really bloody good about themselves. So to all my fellow fat-fighters out there, kicking arse and taking names, y’all better be feeling real proud of yourselves right now. Because you’re fucking awesome!
And while I’m on the topic of celebrating milestones (did I mention I’ve been successfully at this for 150 days now? I did? Oh, sorry, I didn’t realise, lol!) I thought I’d run through a few more little steps on my journey to success. This week I weighed in at 15 stone 3lbs (213lbs) which means:
I have lost 57lb – that’s 3lbs away from having lost 60lb.
Converting that 57lb into old money, I have passed the 4 stone loss mark – 4 stone and 1lb to be exact.
I am 4lb away from getting under the 15 stone mark and into the 14 stone range for the first time since I was in 9th grade.
I am 14lb (1 stone) away from being 199lb – that’s “onederland”, baby!
I am 43lb away from hitting my initial goal of losing 100lb.
I’m so unbelievably happy with my progress right now! I could jump for joy…if my arthritic knees weren’t so goddamn knackered, lol! And I haven’t had to start tinkering around with calorie amounts, intermittent fasting or even incorporating exercise yet – I still have all those tools at my disposal, when (or if) I feel I need to use them. For now though, I’m just going to keep on eating the same way I have been from Day 1, for as long as I keep on seeing the results I want. I seem to be losing around 1-2lb a week right now, which is absolutely perfect. If that slows to just 1lb a week I’ll still be happy, because that’s completely sustainable and feels totally doable.
I often see people getting down or discouraged because they “only” lost a single pound in a week, and that’s ridiculous. None of us got overweight overnight and we’re not going to lose it overnight either. This has to be something we can be successful at for life, not just one great week where we hit the elliptical like mad and manage to get a big loss in a 7 day period. I’m still hugely overweight and losing a larger amount by really restricting my intake one week would be pretty easy, if I were so inclined. But that’s not going to make this a realistic, lifelong achievement. That would just tell me that in order to maintain that big loss, I’m going to have to continue to push myself that hard forever, to keep it off. And I’m really not about that way of life. I want this to be something I can easily continue to follow and sustain in the long term, without having to commit to some crazy exercise regime that I’ve never followed before and won’t want to carry on with in perpetuity. Sure I want to get to being more active in time, but that’ll be because my body is in a position to want to enjoy being more active; not because I’m trying to make a quick gain – or loss, rather – in the short term.
So yeah, I don’t plan on being a yo-yoing “dieter” who just throws everything they have at their weight problem, slacking off once I hit goal, only to have to ramp up my efforts all over again, once the pounds start to creep back on. That way of existing just sounds miserable and I know it won’t do my underlying health problems any favours either. I’m going to turn 41 this year FFS. Time really isn’t on my side, when it comes to getting my health in order.
So if the weight loss starts slowing (which it will do) and the pounds no longer come off as quickly as they did to begin with, that’s fine with me. I’d rather a slower, steadier trip to the finish line than a sprint that I have to keep pushing myself to complete, every bloody year. And if any of you guys out there are feeling discouraged because your own weight loss is slowing down the closer you get to your goal – don’t feel bad about it. That’s how it’s supposed to happen. Obviously, if you’re still quite a way from your target weight and you know you’ve been getting a bit slack (either with your carb count or your calorie deficit) then by all means re-evaluate your food intake, making sure to accurately track everything you’re eating etc, but don’t go overboard and start imposing a load of unsustainable bollocks on yourself. You might have a good week or fortnight and feel elated at seeing the scale drop down really quickly; but if you aren’t prepared to continue to do what you had to do to make that big drop happen in the first place, the minute you back off on your efforts, you’ll start to see less favourable results on that scale.
Be realistic with your weight loss goals folks. As tempting as it is to try and get all the weight off ASAP, in the long run that just isn’t going to be sustainable. And that’s what we all want right? Long term success that we can maintain in the long run. So I’m going to keep on feeling great about the progress I’ve made so far and just keep on doing what I’ve been doing from Day 1, letting nature take its course. As trite, cheesy and hackneyed as the saying is, this really is about cultivating a lifestyle, not just going on a diet.
“How the hell you can keep being on fire without ever getting burned out?”
And I replied – almost without thinking – the truth about how I:
Surround myself with motivational quotes
Obtain and read motivational books
Immerse myself in nutrition related literature
Watch YouTube or TV shows that feed my motivation
All of which are really helpful and are things that almost anyone can benefit from. But there’s a bit more to the equation than just those simple suggestions. Because motivation isn’t something you can just absorb passively without putting in the effort to actually make it work for you. Nor is it something that you can just focus on one time, and then expect to retain infinitely without you working on keeping it going. The way I like to look at motivation, is by comparing it to a car. You are the car. Motivation is the fuel. Your car won’t go anywhere without petrol / gas, but you can’t just fill up the tank and expect it to move by itself. You need a ‘spark’ to ignite that fuel and get it power you along. And to further that car metaphor, you can’t just fill your tank up the once and expect it to run forever. You gotta keep on refilling that tank every time it starts to run dry, or your car isn’t going anywhere.
So to look at that first scenario, what do I mean by you needing a ‘spark’? Well, we’re all familiar with the myriad motivational quotes, books and videos that are out there available in both internet-land and the meat-space. If you’re anything like me, you especially collect quotes, write them down in your journal or planner, stick them to your fridge and basically have them perpetually on hand, ready to help boost your resolve on those days when you’re feeling a little sluggish, unmotivated or uninspired. And that’s great. But simply collecting motivational materials and expecting them to be the magic miracle that will suddenly make you successful, isn’t going to cut it. You need to make these resources work for you and that involves effort. It involves effort, application and dedication.
“But that’s what I need them to help me achieve in the first place!”
Yeah, naw, sorry dawg. It really doesn’t work that way. That ‘spark’ I mentioned earlier? That has to come from you. You have to want to make these tools work for you and be willing to interact with them regularly, for them to do what you want. You can buy all the books you want, but if they’re just sat on your bedside table then you’re never going to benefit from the information they contain. And you can read all the books in Waterstones, but if you don’t then take that information and find a way to actually utilise it, then you might as well not have bothered reading them in the first place. You have to want to get something out of these resources and be willing to make them work for you, by figuring out how to take the advice they contain and incorporate it into your life.
It’s probably not want you want to hear, but there are no short cuts to being a motivated person. I know a lot of people just think that they can read a few cutesy sayings, post them onto their Instagram and then absorb all the sentiments in some easy kind of passive, pseudo-osmosis. Then when they don’t suddenly become the fully fired-up, ass-kicking, goal-smashing success story they want to be, they whine about how they just aren’t motivated enough. Well duh, of course you’re not. You haven’t gone out of your way to make these motivational resources work for you, so of course you’re not just becoming magically motivated by them. You need to create that ‘spark’ yourself.
So what constitutes a ‘spark’? Well, first you need to figure out what it is that you want to be more motivated to do in the first place. A lot of people like to utilize the S.M.A.R.T. goals method, which can help you to carefully delineate all the aspects involved in your goal as well as all the parameters within which you need to operate in order to succeed at it. The most simple way to approach any goal though, is to first figure out your “why”; or rather, what reasons lie at the heart of your decision to achieve this goal. If you don’t have any real, tangible reasons for doing this, then you’re going to find it less important – and ultimately less likely – for you to achieve. So sit down with a journal, notebook or a piece of paper and really think about what it is that you want to achieve. Think about all reasons this is important to you, the ways in which your life will improve, the added benefits that may also come along as a by-product of doing this, and really think about what achieving this goal will mean to you. If you’re having trouble coming up with any meaningful, tangible reasons for achieving this goal, then it may not be something you need to waste your time, money and effort going after. It has to matter to you – REALLY matter to you – if you’re going to stay the course and do what needs to be done.
Once you’ve figured out what’s really important to you and the reasons behind it, take that list and put it somewhere where you can easily regularly refer to it. This list is your “why” and whilst you’ll always know deep down what it is that you want to achieve, sometimes it can get a little hard to see the wood for the trees and you just need to go back to where you started and reinforce your “why” to help keep you on track. But to get the most out of this step, you should schedule some regular ‘check-ins’ with yourself, where you refer back to this list and go back through all the reasons you first came up with – maybe even adding to that list over time. That act of actually scheduling a regular ‘check-in’ (weekly at first, then fortnightly and then monthly as you make more progress is a good time-frame to operate from) is you putting in the effort to create that ‘spark’ I talked about. Your “why” list is a motivational resource in and of itself, but just writing it up and never referring back to it again, will never motivate you. YOU need to make the time to sit and go back over it, checking to see if it’s valid over time and letting those initial reasons reinforce your resolve and help strengthen your commitment.
That same process applies to a motivational quote. Read it; take the time to sit and think about what that quote means to you and why you feel it resonates with you. Again, journaling or just jotting down your thoughts is a really good way to process this because the very act of putting pen to paper alone, helps you to clarify your thoughts and reinforce the impact behind their message. By taking your thoughts out from inside of your head where they’re floating around with a bunch of other stuff (like remembering to call your mum, thinking about what to cook the kids for dinner, and wondering if you really like that particular shade of nail-polish you’re currently wearing) and committing them to paper, you allow yourself to view them in isolation and much more objectively. Of course, this isn’t something you have to do with every single quote you see, from now until the day you die; once you’ve gone through this process a few times, you’ll find yourself better able to get the same results and implement the core strategies you develop, without really thinking about them. But to begin with, interrogate the quote that you think is going to be useful to you. Look beyond what might just be a warm-fuzzy sentiment that sounds good and search for the kernel of truth within that’s really resonating with you. Ask yourself the following questions:
Why do I like this quote?
What does this quote mean to me? What is it actually saying?
How can the wisdom or sentiment contained within this quote be applied to my own goals? How is it relevant to me and my situation?
Again, this isn’t a process you’re going to have to manually complete with every quote you see for the rest of your life; but when you’re starting out it’s important to understand why and how a particular quote is going to be useful in keeping you motivated. By asking yourself these questions, you will be essentially finding out the ways in which a quote helps to tap into – and reinforce – your “why”. You want to be using this process to weed out the unhelpful (however pleasant sounding) quotes from those which actually help you to remember why you’re doing what you’re doing. You’re looking for something that will act like a quick short-cut back to your own personal “why”, without having to go back and reread the entire list every single day.
After having done this a few times, you’ll start to recognise what are the really useful, relevant quotes to keep around, and what are just what Dan Dennett would refer to as a “deepity” As with anything, the more you practice doing this, the better at it you become and you’ll no longer need to keep on writing out an intensive analysis of every quote you like, in order for it to become truly useful to you. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t use this process ever again going forward (remember what I said about how you can’t just fill up your tank, you have to constantly refill it?) because using a notebook or a journal to clarify your thoughts about anything, is an invaluable tool that can be applied to almost any problem. I still journal about various quotes I find from time to time, because I know how much more I’ll benefit from really interrogating the message behind them and figuring out how they apply to me. This repeated commitment to going back and not only re-evaluating my “why”, but also finding new resources to bolster my resolve, is the effort required to keep me motivated. That’s me regularly igniting that ‘spark’, any time I need to use that fuel resource to get me moving again.
Motivational quotes might seem trite, silly and completely pointless to some, but the very fact that we bother to clip them, pin them, post them or jot them down at all, shows just how much we as a society value a witty statement with an underlying message of wisdom. They’re not for everyone, but for those who can see the value in them they can be a really beneficial method of staying connected to your “why” and giving you that extra boost when you’re feeling a little ‘meh’. The real truth about these quotes however, isn’t that they’re telling you something you don’t know and providing you with new knowledge (that’s the job of ‘facts’ lol); no, they’re really just allowing you to tap into something you already know, by presenting it in a simple, succinct and memorable format. THAT’s the real beauty of a good quote!
I also mentioned reading books or watching video content – usually designed to help motivate you either to start something new or stop a habit that you wish to cease doing. Far longer than quotes, these require a longer attention span; but the way in which you interact with these resources is much the same. Don’t just read the book and toss it aside once finished. Don’t watch the video and then immediately after go right on to watching or doing something else. You need to actively be utilising the information they contain, for them to be of any real value to you. So as you’re going through the material presented to you, take notes. Take regular breaks at suitable intervals and be sure that you’ve gleaned the information you just read or heard. If you don’t understand something, take the time to go look it up – don’t just assume that you’ll be able to infer the meaning as you go along or that you’ll totally go read up on it at a later date – do it now. Make sure you know what it is the writer or speaker is trying to convey and when you’ve figured it out, move on to the next part.
When you come to the end of the video or book in question, go make yourself a cup of tea (don’t read your emails or check your phone for texts) and allow what you’ve just learned about to coalesce in your mind. Sit for a few minutes, mull it over a bit and then return to your notes and see what you’ve jotted down. At first you might find it a bit maddingly overwhelming – especially if this is your first time trying this approach – but you’ll soon see nuggets of wisdom and useful tips that you can implement, jumping out at you from the paper. Either grab a highlighter or just circle the bits that are of value and when you’ve identified what’s useful, take another page or piece of paper and write them out clearly and concisely. You might want to put all the tips together in a list that you can use as a plan going forward, whilst keeping the motivational quotes and quips separate. Whatever works for you. But just be sure that you’re collating information, advice and instructions that are pertinent to your goal and how best to achieve it.
Then, once you’ve got your pared down useful content, decide on how you’re going to utilise the information it contains. Are you going to move forward with a plan? Well make sure you’ve got that plan set out in a way that you can realistically follow, always making sure that it ties back in to your “why”. Are you going to use the motivational quotes or quips it contains to keep spurring you on when times get a bit harder? Then as we just went through previously, interrogate those quotes to find out why they’re so relevant and why they resonate with you, then write them out on a piece of paper to stick on your fridge, keep on your desk or stick in your planner. The information is all there for you – you’ve just got to use your own initiative in order to make it work for you. And just as I talked about when figuring out / writing up your “why”, go back over your notes regularly to make sure that you’re implementing the advice they contain and reinforcing the underlying message.
If all this sounds like a lot of hard work, well…I don’t really know what to tell you. If you’re looking for an easy option that will somehow just magically make you perpetually motivated, there isn’t one. What I’ve just laid out for you in this post is admittedly just my own personal method of making motivational materials work for me; but no matter what the specific details are in formulating an approach to being and staying motivated, it’s always going to involve YOU making the effort to make your method work for you. Motivation isn’t the ‘spark’ which sets you off on your path to success – it’s the fuel that keeps you going. If you take anything away from this post it’s this:
Be willing to put in the effort
And the best part about motivation is that as it brings you closer to achieving your goals, that sense of accomplishment feeds straight back into your fuel tank, helping to motivate you even more. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle. Even if you don’t get to experience the immediate completion of a goal, just seeing yourself successfully implementing positive changes, making good decisions and being intentional with your behaviours is – by itself – incredibly rewarding. You might choose to set mini-goals along the way (lots of people like to use Non-Scale Victories as indicators of their cumulative progress towards a weight-loss goal) and reaching those can also be incredibly motivating, if you take the time to sit down and allow yourself to really understand and appreciate what all your hard work has helped you to achieve already.
At the end of the day, I’m not just motivated because I happen to be born with the inherent ability to be that way. I’m not lucky or special or even all that insightful. I just know that in order to keep my motivation tank full, I need to be the one going out and refilling it. And I alone need to make the effort to constantly refill it, because that shit ain’t going to top itself up. It’s all on me. Always has been, always will be.
Okay, so for those of y’all who have been living under a rock for the past 6 months, the young lady in the video clip above is of Laura Lynn, who has created a You Tube channel where she is documenting her progress along the way to losing 200lb. I adore her content and she’s one of a handful of You Tube creators who I follow religiously (I’m probably going to do a post featuring all my fave guys & girls in the near future in case any of you are looking for some extra inspiration and motivation during your own weight loss escapades!) because she’s just one of the realest, most honest, straight-talking, sweet, funny, intelligent, insightful chicks making content in the online ‘Weight Loss Community’.
And she’s really been through the ringer lately as various underlying health problems have conspired against her, throwing every possible spanner into the works. But she’s worked her way through them all, maturely and honestly using the skill sets she developed in her career as a mental health therapist, to help navigate her way through the really difficult and low times. I have a huge amount of respect for her; not just because of her unwavering self-awareness, but because she puts it all out there – warts and all – to share with others who may (or may not) be going through some similar issues. She’s immensely likeable and tuning in to one of her videos is like settling down for a chat with an old friend. Her determination really inspires me and her smile is utterly infectious. So if you haven’t watched any of her content before now, y’all really need to go check her out because she isn’t just entertaining, she really helps to get her viewers to approach their own weight-loss goals from a mental-health perspective too, by sharing the tools she uses both at work and in her own life; as well as her recent little series of ‘journal prompts, quotes and challenges’ to help get us all thinking about the deep-rooted reasons behind why we a/ got too overweight and b/ decided to do something about it.
And today I thought I’d respond to the prompts, quotes and challenges from this week’s video, here in a blog post for y’all to read for yourselves. I do keep my own personal, handwritten journal, but I thought it might be fun to put some more of my own thoughts and responses out there and maybe try to convince some of you to check out her channel and perhaps get involved in doing some of this introspective home-work for yourselves. So without further ado, let me start by addressing the quote of the day. (You should probably watch the video first so you can get a better idea of what it’s all about – the video is only about 7 minutes log, so I’m sure y’all can manage that, right?) Anyway today’s quote is:
“It’s time to create a body I enjoy living in.” So what does that mean to me? Well, as I’ve shared on here multiple times before, I have two conditions – fibromyalgia and psoriatic arthritis – which have gotten progressively worse over time, affecting my flexibility, my mobility and overall health. I’m only 40 years old and my weight had never caused any noticeable health problems for me before last year. I went from being ‘Little Miss Always On-The-Go’, to a stiff, slow, shuffling crone, wracked with daily pain throughout my body. That was not okay. I could feel how much harder it was getting to just move my limbs about with all the extra weight they were having to deal with, so I decided right then and there to do something about it. Being fat had never stopped me from enjoying living in my body up until then, so I’d never been bothered about losing any weight. But as soon as I realised that I was no longer enjoying living in my body, I knew I had a choice: do nothing and carry on letting my mobility decrease and my quality of life along with it, or, get my fat ass into gear and make the necessary changes in order to mitigate what will be permanent health problems that I will always have to work to deal with.
Yeah, that wasn’t a difficult decision. I know I’ll always have these conditions and they will always flare up for one reason or another, but there is no reason whatsoever for me to just allow the extra weight to continue to exacerbate my symptoms and further incapacitate my already exhausted body. With any luck (especially if my family’s longevity is anything to go by) I’ve got another half a century left on this mortal coil, so I’ll be damned if I’m going to spend it miserable and feeling like a prisoner in my own body. Thankfully, I think I implemented the necessary changes just in time, allowing me to make great inroads into the goals I need to achieve, in order to get to live that happy life.
Creating a body that I can begin to enjoy living in again, starts and ends with food. Yes, there will be exercise and fitness goals to work into my life somewhere down the line (right now I’m still just about coping with a few bursts of walking a week, which always leaves me incredibly sore and stiff the next day) but – most importantly – I have to eat in a way that not only allows me to lose weight, but also reduces the effects of insulin resistance and the subsequent inflammation, on both my arthritis and fibromyalgia. A low-carb / ketogenic WOE is the most therapeutic nutritional approach to dealing with my particular health problems, which is one of the reasons why this is “not just a diet” to me, but a lifelong approach to food & nutrition. Knowing that every time I eat, I’m making choices that are cumulatively contributing to that healthier, happier body is incredibly empowering. I get a real kick out of feeling so completely in control of what I put into my body, while also enjoying the food that I’m eating. This whole experience feels exciting. I make a decision to do the things, follow through with it and then see the results of my efforts. It’s a self-reinforcing cycle of determination —> achievement —> motivation —> further achievement. I freaking love it!
Of course I’m currently only 53lbs into my initial goal of losing 100lb, so I know I’ve still got a long way to go. My health problems haven’t magically evaporated overnight, but the improvements are already oh-so-very noticeable. I’m lighter on my feet; I have fewer pains in certain parts of my body and my knees are definitely feeling a lot better. And it’s only going to get better as I continue to move down the scale and free myself up more and more. To know that I’m the one making this happen – all through my own good choices and efforts – is awesome. Understanding that I get to own my own shit, take responsibility and create that body that I will feel happier and healthier in for many years to come? That shit just inspires me to want to do more, lose more and do better. I’ve become my own fricking role model, y’all! THAT is what it means to know that I’m creating a body that I will get to enjoy living in again.
“How Will My Life Be Different Or Change For The Better When I’ve Lost Weight? – Be Specific!” Well, I probably already covered that for the most part in my previous answer, but I’ve sat and had a think about what else I have to look forward to, aside from the improvements to my mobility. It’s a bit of a strange one really, because I have no idea what life will really be like as a much smaller person. I’ve always been overweight and the flab just kept piling on incrementally over time, without me really noticing it. I mean, obviously I knew I was getting bigger because I had to keep buying larger clothes. But when I had youth on my side (oof, that really made me feel like a wizened old harridan, lol) it didn’t impact my life at all. I worked a lot of very demanding jobs, both physically and mentally, and partied just as hard on my downtime. I did all the things I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to, and never once found it difficult to navigate the world of dating and relationships. I know I say time and again that “nobody gets fat behind their own back” but when there are no tangible negative side-effects to getting progressively larger, it’s very easy not to think or worry about it at all. I’ve had a bunch of illnesses and injuries and whatnot over the years, like any other person does; but I’ve pretty much been able to just take my health for granted up until now. And that’s something that really had to change once the fibro & arthritis started to impact on my ability to live normally.
So of course, losing all the weight I need to will also mean being more intentional with my own body. I now have to take responsibility and realise that I’m the captain of my ship – not a passenger. And so on top of the continued commitment to a low-carb WOE, I want to also work on building on my strength and flexibility with regular exercise. I want to be as active as my body will allow me, with the help of some supervised instruction from someone who knows how to help a person with my underlying health problems. I’d love to take a boxing class if at all possible. I have no idea if that will be something suitable for my body and I’ll have to start from the bottom and work my way up through the basics of strength training and some aerobic activity; but if it IS something I can do, then yeah, I wanna take up some boxing classes. Because there’s something incredibly primal and exciting about the idea getting into a (completely legal, lol) fight and using a mixture of skill, discipline & tenacity, be able to not only defend myself, but kick the other person’s arse! I used to be able to handle myself in a scrap, but these days I don’t even win the fights I get into with my damned duvet cover! I want to feel strong and capable again. And maybe, just maybe, that’s something I can achieve somewhere down the line.
But it’s just so hard to imagine myself at 170lb, 160lb or even less. I don’t know what that even looks like on my body. I saw my own reflection in a shop window recently and was really taken aback by how much smaller I look. It’s so weird. I can feel myself getting lighter and see the clothes as they get so big they fall off me, but I never truly see it when I look in the mirror. I know a lot of people have this mental block too when they’re losing weight and it will just take time for my brain to catch up with my body. But for some reason, when I was out in public, I could see my reflection for what it actually was. And I was very pleasantly surprised. This never began as a vanity project for me – not that there’s anything wrong with anyone wanting to lose weight to look good; y’all do what you gotta do, for whatever reasons you want. But there is an aspect of vanity starting to creep in to my consciousness as I move further down the scales. My cheekbones are even more defined. My face is thinning down to it’s natural heart-shape and my eyes look even bigger and prettier than they already did. I’m actually kinda cute, lol!
So again I have to ask myself, how will the weight loss affect how I feel about the way I look, once I get to my goal? And I just don’t know. I have no frame of reference to work from that can give me an idea of exactly how I’ll look at 170lb. For all I know, I could end up being one of those people who look hella ugly once they shift the flab! Maybe my “cuteness” is entirely attributable to being an absolute chunkster and with every pound I lose, I get increasingly less attractive! (That would actually be weirdly funny, in a horrible kind of way, lol!) Will I dress differently? Well, I like the style I already have, so I don’t think I’m going to suddenly go from ’emo-scene-girl’ to ‘prom queen’ or ‘sporty-spice’…and I’m never going to go the route of ‘crass-cougar hag-beast-about-the-town’. But who knows what’ll look good on a much smaller frame 6-12 months down the line. Not me; not yet.
There aren’t many things I think will change as I lose this weight. Like I said earlier, I’m already half-way there and Victoria’s Secret have yet to send out a scout to see if I’m going to be runway-ready for the 2021 Summer Swimwear Collection. I’m so focused on the health benefits from all this that I don’t really have much else to consider. Improvements in health, will mean retaining my independence, having a huge improvement in mobility and hopefully adopting a more active lifestyle that I can pursue going forward. It won’t affect my career choices which are investment related and involve sitting down for 8 hours a day. Nor will it affect my relationship with my other half, because I’m not one of those super-morbidly-obese folk on ‘My 600lb Life’ who literally become an entirely different person to the one their partners married. I never even hit 300lb. My level of fatness was a much more socially acceptable, normal level of obesity that never really raised any eyebrows or garnered me much in way of negative attention. Plus I carried my weight well, inasmuch as it was quite equally distributed all over my body, still allowing me to have a decent waist / hip / boob ratio! I wasn’t unusual enough for anyone to pay any attention to me – unless, of course I wanted them to, but that’s another story altogether, lol.
Aside from feeling healthier with every passing week and getting more fit and active as I get closer to my goal, there are no other things I actually anticipate being particularly different at 170 or 160lb. The increase in mobility will hopefully see me get to attend some more live music gigs (if we finally get let out of this lockdown bullshit and any of the bands I like are still even touring by then – ‘Iron Maiden’ I’m banking on y’all to still be selling out stadiums where I can get to the front row, after hours of standing and queueing to get in, while Bruce defies all logic and runs about the stage set like a man half his age, belting out classics and just being an absolute legend. That’d be fun.) I do miss live music shows. I’ll also be able to get out to watch some live motorcycle racing too, which always involves a lot of walking to find a good spot, then trying to get comfortable on a grotty embankment for a few hours. Haven’t been able to do that for a few years now. But aside from that? I have no plans to take up any adrenaline sports or do the utterly cliché thing of jumping out of a plane with a parachute on, like every other unimaginative ex-whopper seems to feel compelled to do, the minute they hit goal-weight.
I’ve always been confident in my abilities and assertive in all social settings, so that’s not something I have to consider. Nor do I have any desire to become more social once I hit goal; because both the other half and I became intentionally reclusive home-bodies, long before the fibro & arthritis started to slow me down. We’re pretty simple folk with our wants and needs. We don’t like banal, beach holidays where all you do is drink, swim and sunbathe – that kind of crap bores us. But we have a few little holiday breaks we’d like to take once things get back to normal: a week-long canal-boat break, with just the 2 of us stopping off at towns and villages with interesting museums / galleries, is something we’ve been looking into since before the whole palaver with the pandemic kicked off. And none of that is dependent on my being thin, merely my being more mobile, fit and healthy.
So…no, I can’t really see my life changing all that much at all when I eventually hit goal. I’ll just be in a better place health-wise and in the perfect position to ensure that I use all the knowledge and experience gained along the way, to keep on making better choices and take good care of both myself and my other half. Not the most exciting of life “transformations”, but then I haven’t had as much weigh to lose as many other people do, so the resulting impact is bound to be quite minimal. Which is exactly what I wanted and expected from this whole experience in the first place. Nothing earth-shattering, just some pretty mundane improvements to my health that will improve my life and longevity.
Is that a pretty dull answer? Probably. I’m a pretty dull, set in my ways kinda person. My ambitions have largely been intellectual pursuits and my ability to achieve them is not dependent on my being 270lb or 170lb, or any weight for that matter. But I will at the very least, hopefully be able do all the things I want to, with a slightly more sprightly spring in my step. Both physically and metaphorically. And “Woah…I’m (already over) halfway there to that (wo-oah, living on a prayer!” I’ll make it. I SWEAR! Lol
“Write A Letter To Yourself To Read On A Day You Feel Unmotivated Or Like Giving Up – Include Non-Scale Goals You Are Most Dedicated To!”
Do you remember when you wrote this? Is it all coming back to you now? Because if you thought for one minute that this was going to be some cheesy, load of old crap designed to try and make you feel good about yourself right now…well honey, you’re one damned delusional fuckwit, you know? I mean, you’re the one who wrote this freaking thing in the first place, so you know exactly what you got coming to you, boo. And it ain’t any of that ridiculous ‘rainbows & unicorns’, pat-you-on-the-hand-and-tell-you-that-you’ve-been-a-good-girl, bullshit, that’s for sure.
So why are you here, huh? Things starting to get a little more difficult for ya and you thought you deserved some magical intervention of reassurance from “Past You” because your current ass is too lazy and pathetic to figure out a way to get yourself out of that funk you’re in? HA! That is NOT the way we do things around here Blue – as well you know! And the shitty or miserable way you’re feeling right now, is nothing more than a mixture of laziness and fear; 2 things you aren’t prone to letting get the better of you. So why now? Why today?
Because if you’re just going through one of those moments of self-doubt, then bitch you better pick your chin up and shake yourself out of that funk RIGHT FREAKING NOW, ’cause there ain’t NOBODY coming to make this better for you. Only you can save yourself – and you have all the tools you need to do so. So quit acting like some poor, put-upon little victim, get your motherducking head back in the game and lets start smashing some more goals. Resting on your laurels is just wasting time – time you really don’t have. I get it though, every so often even you can fall prone to the occasional moment of self-doubt (I mean you’re only human…I think) but you’ve had your little moment of self-indulgent wallowing, okay? So quit acting like any of this is outside of your control, pick yourself up and get back to the task in hand.
Have you hit a “stall”…well, so what? You either caused that yourself with some carb-creep (and it better hadn’t be carb-creep you absolute moron, because there really is NO excuse for that kind of carelessness) or you’re at an actual plateau and just like everyone else, you’re going to have to go back over your food diary, make sure you aren’t eating ‘off-plan’ and if you still can’t see where you might have been going wrong, then it’s time to accept that plateaus happen to the best of us. All you can do is try to wait it out for a bit, allow your body some time to recalibrate itself and have a little patience. Yes I know that isn’t your strongest suit, but tough shit. This is just what happens to someone when they try to lose a significant amount of weight. Yes, even you Blue.
Just chill the frick out will you? I know you’re not used to not getting your own way, but you need to remember that you’re not superwoman (I mean you almost are, but even you have your off-days), you can’t control everything and sometimes you just gotta go with the flow. Let nature take its course for a while. But don’t think that that absolves you of any responsibility ok? You can’t just throw caution to the wind and start eating a bunch of junk, getting slack and sloth-like, just because your body is taking a break from losing fat for a while. You DO NOT get to take days off from taking good care of yourself Blue! Do you hear me? The days of taking your health for granted are long gone. Every single day counts, so you damn-well better make them count, by continuing to make good decisions, eating healthily and keeping your head in the freaking game.
You know that if you choose to veer ‘off-plan’ and start to disregard your health again, you will regret it for the rest of your life, right? You’ve hit 40, girl. Your younger days are in the rear-view mirror now. There are no second-chances or re-runs. You have to get your shit together RIGHT NOW and stop pissing your life away in a self-absorbed, cry-baby moment of weakness. Because that is NOT how we do things around here Blue. We don’t DO wallowing. You’re fucking better than that. You’re fucking indomitable, ya hear? Giving up might be an option for some people, but you ain’t “some people” Blue. You’re a cut above. When you decide to put your mind to something, you damn well follow through with it. No matter how difficult, frustrating or exhausting it gets, you keep on pushing through, because that’s how you were raised, Blue. You don’t come from a family of quitters and you sure as shit don’t come from a family of failures. You come from strong stock and if anyone is going to succeed at a challenge, then it’s gonna be you. So get that stubborn head of yours back on again and pull your fricking finger out.
Okay. Pep-talk over. You know what you got to do, so go do it. It’s how you act when times are their most difficult which test and reveal your true character. So embrace your inner INTJ, make a plan for how you’re going to move forward and then get your freaking shit together.
You’ve got this. Always have, always will.
Okay, so I’m guessing my ‘letter to myself’ probably looks a lot different to how yours or anyone else’s might do, but then I really don’t benefit from anything other than a stern talking to. Commiseration ain’t my style and I’m never going to go easy on myself when I know I can and should do better. Of course life can throw up all manner of curve-balls and it’s real easy to use those occasions as an excuse to slack off. But that’s really not me. And unless something really serious rears its ugly head, literally preventing me from continuing to stick to my plan, then I’m going to continue to use all the tools I already have at my disposal to keep on keeping on. That’s kind of the point of these tools and strategies. They’re consistently applied methods that over time become habits, so that during the inevitable struggles that we’re bound to encounter at various points throughout our lives, we can continue to rely upon them without having to think twice about them. Because when life gets tricky, the last thing I want to be having to think about is how or what I’m going to eat. Having that stuff already taken care of frees up my mind to be able to focus on whatever else it is that I need to worry about. So I’m glad I have that part of my life nailed down and good to go.
Anyway, that little exercise posed by Laura was pretty fun. It’s nice to have someone else provide a prompt or question for me to have to think about and I’ll definitely give it another go in the future. I already checked with Laura to see if it was okay to include this exercise here on the blog and she graciously gave me the go-ahead; so again, if you’re not familiar with her channel, please go check it out because she’s a brilliant creator and she’s consistently putting out great content. You won’t be disappointed.
And on that note, I shall bid y’all adieu. Tomorrow is weigh-in day, so I’ll see you back here for an update, real soon.
The video clip here is a trailer for a British TV show about the vast number of people employed to work around the clock, attending to the everyday needs, health concerns and emergency situations that face the morbidly obese. There are quite a few shows about hugely fat people on TV now, but most of them are focused on the individuals themselves – with many programmes covering subjects like extreme weight-loss surgery and skin removal. But this show is a little different, in that the focus is on the people who have to be brought in to deal with this growing number of morbidly & super-morbidly obese in Britain today – aka -The Big Body Squad.
And even though I only caught the second half of the programme, I watched enough to be thoroughly shocked by what I saw. Not by the massively fat bodies (it’s a sad indictment of our time that seeing super-morbidly obese bodies on TV or in the real world, is no longer anything new or shocking) but by the amount of time, effort and money being forked out by the NHS to cater for these hugely fat people: £5000 hoists being installed into the (already adapted for the supersized) home of a 40 stone (560lb) man; 70 foot amputations being performed every week at a cost of £6000 a procedure, on overweight patients with Type II Diabetes; specialist shoes being made to fit the massive, deformed feet of obese people costing anywhere from £200-£600 per pair.
And that’s all on top of the extra costs incurred for the 800 specially constructed ambulances designed to carry the super-morbidly obese, the supersized hospital beds / medical equipment and extra staff all needed to transport and treat these huge patients. Just listening to all the costs racking up for people who have essentially chosen to eat themselves to the point of invalidity shocked and appalled me. In a country with socialised healthcare, these services are all taxpayer funded. Obesity isn’t something that just happens to a person, it’s something that some of us choose to allow to develop through bad habits. In Britain you can choose to eat yourself almost to the point of death, safe in the knowledge that the taxpayer will always be there to foot the bill for any and all treatment you require. And realising that actually disgusted me.
Because I am one of those selfish fat people who up until recently, was on a clear-cut path to requiring medical intervention for a problem that was almost entirely of my own making. And I’m ashamed of that. I’ve been an accident prone klutz all my life and have broken bones in every part of my body. I’ve had casts, crutches, sutures, x-rays and so many trips to the ER that it’s a wonder my parents were never flagged up as potential child abusers, lol. As an adult I’ve had kidney stones, a sterilisation procedure and been treated for a mental health breakdown – all thanks to the NHS. Of course, I’ve been paying into the system ever since I was 18 years old and first went out to work, so it’s not as though I’ve simply been taking but not contributing to the pot. But 4 months ago I weighed 270lb (19 stone 4lb) and was in danger of seriously impeding my own mobility due to a mixture of fibromyalgia, arthritis and the vast amount of weight I’d allowed myself to put on over the years. If I had allowed that to happen, I would’ve been completely housebound and continually taking from the pot of socialised healthcare, without ever paying into it again.
But it gets worse. On that television show they showed a fire department in Essex as they carried out an emergency evacuation drill on a simulated plane crash. One of the people they were practicing the treatment and evacuation of, was a 25 stone (350lb) man who needed to be taken out on a stretcher. Because of his size, he not only required more firemen to get him out, but they also had to take into consideration the escape route available. His size meant that they would have needed to use axes and hammers to make the exit larger in order to get him out on the stretcher. They also had to evacuate all the other passengers first to make way for his extra bulk, so he was in extra danger himself the whole time. When I watched that drill all I could think about was:
“That could have been me.”
Think about it. Let’s pretend that I’m still 270lbs and my house catches fire. Smoke inhalation renders me unconscious, but still alive. Firemen then have to rescue me from the burning building, but I’m not your average-weighted woman. I’m 270lbs! I know those guys are strong, but in a burning building where they’re already weighed down by their heavy protective clothing and breathing apparatus, to then have to pick up and carry my disgustingly vast frame out to safety would probably take at least 2 of them. That’s 2 or more men when there would also be other people in need of rescuing, but my fat arse is taking extra resources away from saving other lives. How utterly fucking selfish of me!
Throughout my life I’ve always made sure to know exactly how I’d get out of a building should it catch fire. I’m hyper-vigilant with regards to knowing where the fire-exits are in places I go to like hotels, bars, restaurants and music venues and I’ve always had escape routes fully planned out in every place I’ve ever lived. But I’ve never previously taken the time to consider how I would get out if I were injured or rendered unconscious. We all just tend to assume that the emergency services will be able to get us out in those instances. But what about those of us who weigh a lot more than the average citizen? How easy would it be for firemen and ambulance crews to rescue us, when we’re morbidly or super-morbidly obese?
Just thinking about these scenarios made me realise what an inconsiderate fat bitch I’ve been all my life. I’ve never once given a thought to all the extra effort, time and money that I would require, just because I was too greedy, fat and lazy to get my own weight under control. And this isn’t me pushing for some extra government intervention to force fat people to lose weight – I’m actually very much against the ever-growing bureaucratic tyranny in the west – but if we’re going to live under a system of socialised healthcare then there really needs to be some kind of cut-off point where we simply refuse to help those who refuse to help themselves. Because the amount of tax-payer money being spent to enable super-morbidly obese people to continue to wallow in their bad decisions is insane. Socialised healthcare and the welfare state are supposed to be social safety nets designed to enable those who simply cannot – through no fault of their own – provide for their own food, lodgings and medical treatment. Yet the abuse of these systems is so rife now, I’m surprised that anyone wants to actually go to work and pay any damned taxes.
Yes, I know that it’s not just the mega-fat people placing an extra, unnecessary burden on public resources, but it’s a (literally) vastly expanding demographic made up of those who actually have the power to change their own lives and become less of a drain on the system. And I say that as someone who is personally disgusted with myself for having chosen to get to a weight of 270lb with no regard for how that might actually impact both the lives of others and the amount of public spending required to keep me alive. There are so many people with illnesses and conditions that are not the result of poor choices, who need the everyday services of the NHS and special attention in emergency situations. What right do I have to take from a public purse, just because I chose to eat myself to the point of immobility? It’s disgraceful and I’m really ashamed of myself for ever having gotten to that point.
It’s just one more reason to never allow myself to get so fat and out of shape ever again. I will NOT be that morbidly obese woman who requires a team of paramedics to evacuate me from my home because I’m just too fat for a 2 man team to deal with. I will NOT eat myself to the point of immobility and cost the NHS thousands of pounds just to have me fed, cleaned and kept alive with CPAP machines and the like. It is incumbent upon me as a member of society to employ a sufficient amount of personal responsibility, so as not to be an unnecessary burden on my fellow citizens, due to my own bad choices. Because to live any other way is selfish, greedy and indicative of nothing more than a childish level of expectation that someone else will always be there to save my pathetic arse. I just wish I’d had this moment of realisation sooner.
Because I am by no means out of the water just yet. I’m only 50% of the way towards my initial goal and I still weigh about 220lb (15 stone 9), which is far more than I ought to be for a woman of my height (5ft) and build. I am still going to be more difficult to evacuate and treat than a normal sized woman, should an emergency situation arise and I am still putting myself at a further risk of cancer or heart disease – things that would be another unnecessary drain on the NHS – and I’m just not okay with that. Watching this show really was a “lightbulb moment” for me, making me realise for the first time in my life, just how selfishly irresponsible I’d been behaving. I do not want to be that selfish person anymore. I want to be personally responsible for my health and wellbeing, and own my shit!
It’s funny, because we’re currently in lockdown over this global pandemic, which has led to a lot of militancy regarding mask-wearing; because we’re supposed to be doing our bit to protect other people and reduce the strain on the healthcare system. In Britain for example, the government have created and disseminated slogans like:
“Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save lives!”
as non-essential businesses such as bars, pubs, restaurants, cinemas, nightclubs, theatres, gyms and leisure centres as well as places of worship were instructed to shut. I’m not about to get into the realities of the efficacy regarding mask wearing (or the various arguments regarding civil liberties) right now, but it’s amazing to see just how many people are out there parroting these slogans and demanding that we all wear our masks to “Save The NHS!” whilst continuing to engage in habits and behaviours that over time will impact their own health and therefore put an avoidable extra strain on the NHS. (I’m looking at you, “fat acceptance” morons!) Funny how that expected level of civic duty only seems to extend to the kind of action that involves absolutely no effort whatsoever, huh?
And this isn’t something that only affects the UK because of our socialised healthcare system. In the States, there is no NHS. If someone gets ill, it’s likely they will have to pay for their treatment themselves. The US government does fund two kinds of health plans though: Medicare and Medicaid. They are especially designed for the elderly, disabled, poor, and young. However, many Americans have their healthcare paid for by their employer. It’s often included as a fringe benefit in job packages. If a person is in receipt of Medicare or Medicaid, they are still going to be taking more from that ‘pot’, if they are creating more health problems for themselves via unhealthy habits and behaviours. Those who pay insurance premiums aren’t really off the hook either though, because an increase in morbid and super-morbid obesity only leads to insurance companies increasing the cost of those premiums to deal with an ever expanding population of fat, unhealthy citizens. Plus, the other emergency services like the police and fire department receive funding from a variety of revenue streams, including local public funds, federal grants, fines and fees, forfeitures, and private donations. So any time a massively fat person requires extra rescuers, a larger stretcher or other supersized rescue equipment, that’s still coming out of a central ‘pot’.
Like it or not, massively obese people are an unnecessarily selfish drain of resources that could be better apportioned to those who haven’t gotten disgustingly immobile because they just really like eating doughnuts. And I know that there will be people reading this who think I’m being a total hypocrite for calling out other fat people when I’m still hugely overweight myself. But I’m willing to stand up and say that I HAVE been a disgustingly selfish, potential extra drain on resources over the years and I fully own that. I was wrong to let myself get this fat, thinking it was fine because there was no immediate noticeable effect on my quality of life – and I need to keep on working hard to make that right.
Personal responsibility isn’t a particularly sexy or popular idea these days, but we as a society really need to change that and have individuals start making it a priority. Systems put in place to help the most desperately unfortunate have now given way to becoming an easy resource for people to take advantage of, and all this does is beget a population who through laziness and expectation allow the tyranny of bureaucracy to creep further into every aspect of our lives. The more we come to rely and depend on the assistance of others, the less self-reliant and independent we become as a result. And that in turn makes us apathetic, easily controlled sheep, ripe for control and domination.
Screw that. I don’t want to be lazy, fat sheep. I’m going to do everything I can to take care of myself, continue to lose weight, improve my fitness and embrace my inner cat: sleek, smart and unpredictable, with the ability to take other people or leave them, depending on my mood. I want to be as self-reliant and responsible as possible – for as many years as possible. Because the upcoming Chinese zodiac sign might be an Ox, but for me 2021 is going to be ‘The Year Of The Cat’.
This is probably the most literal blog post title I’ve created so far.
I. Have. Cold. Feet.
Not metaphorically, in the sense that one can have second-thoughts about pursuing something, no my feet are literally like blocks of ice. Why am I telling you all this? Why have I written a blog post all about my frozen toes? Well, because this has never happened to me before. Seriously. I cannot remember a time when I ever had cold feet before. In my life. And it’s weird. I mean sure, it’s snowing outside and it’s the beginning of January, but this isn’t something that’s ever happened to me in all my years of icy cold winters.
So what’s going on?
Well, I’ve lost a bunch of weight haven’t I?
Yeah, turns out that when us fatties shed some flab, we start to experience the joys of cold weather just like everyone else. Except maybe even more so, because when we’ve spent 365 days a year for over 30 years, cosily ensconced in our whopping layers of sub-cutaneous insulation, we’re used to always having that fat on our bodies throughout all 4 seasons. Bodies are smart and they work around the clock to maintain a level of homeostasis that stops us from overheating in the summer and freezing to death in the colder months. But when you suddenly change up your bodily composition (and while 50lbs isn’t the hugest amount of weight-loss, it’s still pretty substantial) so it’s carrying less of that insulation around with it, you’re definitely gonna notice it.
I’ve never liked the summer months. I hate the feeling of the sun on my skin and the shorter nights / longer days that are filled with way too much intrusive daylight; but I also hate the warmer temperature and smothering levels of humidity. I’ve often thought it largely to do with my being so overweight for all my life, but I also come from a Scottish family (who hail from the North-East of Scotland which regularly sees temperatures of -10°C / 14°F and lower in winter) and many of them who are of normal weight, also dislike the heat, so it’s probably a mixture of both. But having always loved the winter and colder months up until now, I’m beginning to wonder if the increasingly lower amounts of fat on my body will make me change my mind.
I implemented the changes to my eating habits back on 31st August last year, which was right at the end of the summer. Maybe I didn’t pick the right time to choose to try and lose all this weight, because as the temperatures outside started dropping with the change in season, I began to use up some of my fat-stores, thus exacerbating the way those changes in temperature felt to me and my shrinking carcass. Of course I’ve always noticed the change in the weather (I look forward to being able to wear my super-snug winter coats in winter, every year!) but this year…I’m really noticing it. I wore gloves for the first time in years when I went into town a couple of day ago – something else that felt bizarrely foreign to me – so it’s not just my feet that are feeling it. To paraphrase a bit of La bohème: My (Not So) Tiny Hand Was Frozen!
And I’m not sure what to think about this. I mean, obviously I’m not going to suddenly decide that life was more pleasantly toasty and warm before I lost weight, ergo I should just intentionally gain it all back again. But it’s one of those things I never even considered before deciding to lose weight. It’s not something I’ve heard people talk about when discussing their own weight loss experiences. But it must be pretty common right? It can’t just be me.
So I did a bit of Googling and it turns out that feeing cold after losing weight is actually a pretty common phenomenon and there are a ton of forums out there where people are complaining about this exact thing. I found an article on Insider called “8 unexpected — and negative — things that could happen when you lose weight” in which Caroline Apovian, Director of the Nutrition and Weight Management Centre at Boston Medical Centre says:
“Your body is going to lower your metabolic rate when you lose weight to try to conserve energy. And in conserving energy, it doesn’t have a lot of extra calories to keep you warm. Another reason you might feel colder is because you no longer have fat acting as an insulator.”
Caroline Apovian, Insider.com – Jan 10, 2018
Both of those explanations make total sense but in my case I’m not as worried about it being as a result of my reducing my caloric intake. I don’t count calories right now, but I know I eat quite a lot of the little blighters just seeing the of the size of my meals. 2 porterhouse steaks and asparagus, mushrooms fried in beef dripping with broccoli and cheese is my favourite meal right now and I’ve gone from eating it 1 to 2-3 times a week. That’s a typical evening meal for me and it comes in at over 1000 calories alone. Add to that a protein shake with added collagen powder & almond milk for lunch, a protein brownie cookie for breakfast, coffee with cream a couple of times a day (with the occasional couple of pieces of Perlege chocolate to accompany it – yum!) an energy drink and pieces of ham and cheese and some nuts or nut butter throughout the day…and all that probably comes in at just under 2000 calories in 24hrs. Which is allegedly around about what a “normal” woman is supposed to eat every day. Sure, that’s still less that what I was previously eating, but it’s certainly not the kind of caloric deficit that one would expect to have a particularly negative effect on their metabolism.
So, I’m not completely writing off the possibility of this new “feeling cold” phenomenon as being something to do with a decrease in my metabolism, but I’m inclined to think that it is as much – if not more so – to do with there just being less insulation on my body. And my levels of sub-cutaneous fat have been decreasing at the same time as the seasonal temperatures, making the effect feel so much more noticeable. But whatever the reason, I guess it’s just another one of those new things for me to have to get used to. It does have me wondering though, just how much more “noticeable” the whole temperature thing is going to get. There are some accounts on a reddit weight-loss board where users claim that since losing 100lb+ (and maintaining for a few years) that they now always feel the cold; no matter what time of year it is.
Yikes! Life as a much slimmer person sure is going to be different, huh? But I’ve always wished that I could wear more cosy seasonal stuff like hats, scarves, gloves and lots of layers (stuff I’ve always just been too warm to wear previously) so there are definitely some positives to being more sensitive to the cooler weather. The other half has absolutely zero sympathy for me though, lol. It’s almost a meme to hear about guys who complain that their wives and girlfriends have freezing cold hands and feet, but up until recently, me and himself were the exact opposite. At well over 6ft tall and with a slim, athletic frame, he was always the one with the deathly cold feet and I’d always laugh at him for needing to find gloves to wear outside during the winter. Now though, the joke’s on me I guess.
I still can’t imagine me ever coming around to the notion of loving – or even liking – the longer days and shorter nights of summer (I will always be a princess of darkness and a lover of the night in my jet-black heart) but maybe I’ll at least find the previously inescapable heat somewhat more tolerable as I continue to shed this weight. One reason I’ve always given about why winter is so much better, is because it’s a lot easier to find ways to wrap up and escape the cold; whereas escaping the heat of summer is a lot harder. (You can only take so many items of clothing off in public before the police come along to arrest you for public indecency.) So if one of the side-effect of losing weight is that I don’t feel as suffocatingly hot during the summer months, that’s not all bad. Especially if I then get to wrap up in multiple layers of really cosy other stuff during the winter. I may even have to invest in a pair of slippers to wear around the house (I’m so rock ‘n roll, lol). But as with all things this weight-loss process continues to throw at me, I’m just going to have to learn to roll with it and take the rough with the smooth.
“Gossip girls they always seem to Talk the talk about you Gossip girls they always seem to Talk the talk but never say the truth…”
Last night me and the other half did something we hadn’t done few a few months – we went out and had dinner in a restaurant. It was actually a Christmas present from his mother because we’d mentioned wanting to try it out sometime and she remembered hearing us talk about it. (It was especially convenient because it’s on the road where we live, so it was a 5 minute walk there and back, max.) I’d been a little worried that there might not be much on the menu that I could have and remain on-plan, but a quick check online showed that they were doing a Christmas menu in which most of the meals were meat based with plenty of vegetables, and they included a note at the bottom of the page which said that anyone with any special dietary requirements should just ask a member of staff who will be more than happy to accommodate. Awesome.
I can’t remember what all the different items on the menu were, but I eventually settled on the “Roast Sirloin” with vegetables, but no potatoes or gravy. (I almost went with the “Venison Medallions”, but I’m pretty sure that they were finished in the pan with some mixture of wine & berries in a jus – and I haven’t started to include those things into my diet yet). For my starter I opted for the “Duck Confit Rillette” – but instead of having the “Toasted Sourdough & Orange, Juniper & Brandy Jam” accompaniments with it, I had mine on a bed of salad leaves. (The desserts all sounded great but I didn’t have any.)
And you know what? The food was lovely, the service was wonderfully helpful and choosing not to eat off-plan, wasn’t actually that big of a deal! (I actually feel kinda silly even referring to it as a NSV) When I told our server that I couldn’t eat anything with sugars / grains, she completely understood, went out of her way to make sure that on the ticket for the kitchen, it stipulated what I couldn’t have – very clearly – and the chef made sure to compensate for the items I wasn’t eating by adding extra meat to my plate (and the meat really was cooked exactly the way I like it too, so this was very much appreciated). Nobody made me feel like a pariah, I wasn’t given a measly, half-empty plate that had simply removed the unwanted items and left it at that; the food was lovely, we both had a nice evening and we left the server a big tip before we left, to thank her for being so attentive.
I’m not sure why, but I thought it was going to be a much more difficult situation than it turned out to be. I thought I might have to keep explaining myself to various members of staff; or that getting food the way I wanted it might be too complicated. I also wondered how I’d feel with everyone else around me eating all the potatoes, sauces, desserts etc, but none of it ended up bothering me whatsoever. Maybe it’s because I’ve still been preparing and making regular meals with carbohydrates in them for my other half, throughout my time eating low-carb; or maybe it’s because the food was just really lovely, well cooked and was able to shine on its own without any of the extras I had declined.
But either way, there really wasn’t much temptation for me to eat off-plan. I might have eyed the “Chocolate Yule Log” on the menu, with a hint of wistfulness, but even as the other half enjoyed his “Pear Belle Hélène” I simply sat back in my chair, sipped my black coffee and relaxed after my own 2 courses. To hear people say that it’s too difficult to stay on-plan when out at a restaurant, or that they shouldn’t be expected to “deny” themselves “treats” on special occasions, just makes me laugh. If people want to find an excuse to eat sugar then they will; their weakness is their business. But I decided a month or so ago that I wasn’t going to use the Christmas festivities as an excuse to go off-plan when I still have so far to go and so much to achieve. And last night showed me just how easy it was to keep to that decision, thus racking up another mini-NSV.
When I think about how I’d be feeling right now if I’d just decided to give into old habits and eaten ALL the carbs last night…well, I’d be a real bad tempered, headachy grump, whose sugar-cravings were back up to maximum levels of annoyance, as I tried desperately to assuage them by chowing down on fistfuls of ham, loads of cheese and a gallon of Pepsi Max to try and fool myself into believing that I’d consumed something sugary. I’d be bad company for the other half, I’d feel like shit and the symptoms of withdrawal would be overshadowing any of the positive experiences I’d had from eating out in the first place. Totally not worth it. But I didn’t and it feels pretty damn good.
Some people have remarked (in places that aren’t quite as private as they like to believe, lol) that I’m headed for an inevitable crash, as I keep on being so strict with myself. Conversations murmured in the allegedly sacred corners of DMs & PMs, genuinely believe that by not having “cheat days” or “days off”, I’m definitely setting myself up to fail, because that level of commitment is apparently completely unsustainable. Well, for those people I have a few things to say:
That you “care” so much about me and what I do, is hilarious. I know I’m far more interesting than the majority of people you find discussing their weight-loss methods online, but let’s be honest: this says more about how you feel about yourself and your own inability to stay on-plan, than it does about me. I know you want me to fail, but again, that’s just so you can feel better about yourself too isn’t it? Yeah, schadenfreude is a terrible thing to have, Karen.
Unlike many people, it was my health that ultimately spurred me on to do something about my weight, not vanity or how much I disliked how my body looked. Health problems can be very motivating (if you’re not a complete moron, who’d rather stick their head in the sand and just have another cake) and they motivate me to not just do well, but to do the best I can, every single day. And to those who say “but this is supposed to be a WOE for life…there HAS to be SOME allowance for days-off or else, what kind of a life is that?” I say, stop making excuses. Yes, this is supposed to be something I can do for the rest of my life and yes I will inevitably have days in the future when I do choose to eat a load of carbs. But I have no idea what could happen to me today, tomorrow or at any point in my life. What if I have an accident next week? A stroke? A heart attack? How would I be supposed to continue to put all my efforts into losing the extra weight, when I had other health issues to deal with too?
Y’all love saying “life happens” or “life gets in the way” but I don’t think you really realise what that actually means. If you think that shit is always going to happen – so you might as well eat crap and fail to lose any weight – then whatever; you do you, boo. But don’t expect anyone else to truly care whenever you do your next annual “Back again” or “Ready to make a fresh start” post in the new year…because sooner or later people realise that you’re nothing more than the boy / girl who cried wolf.
The reality is that yes, life DOES happen whilst you’re busy making plans. Things WILL come out of left-field and try to derail you, at various points in your life. But that is exactly why you SHOULD be making more of an effort RIGHT NOW, whilst you’re still able to do so, by using every good, healthy day you have to eat better, make the right choices and reduce that excess weight, whilst you’re still in a position to do so. None of us have any idea what will happen next week / fortnight / month. So why waste all these days right now (where you DO have control over what you eat) when god only knows what could happen in the future to take that decision and agency away from you? How are you doing to feel when 6 months down the line, you’ve still not bothered to make any real effort to lose the extra weight and then you end up breaking a leg and have to spend weeks in hospital, having surgery, recovering with physiotherapy and basically losing your independence? Are you suddenly going to be focusing all your efforts on losing weight THEN, when you weren’t able to do so back when you didn’t have any extra injuries or health problems to deal with?
Like shite, you will. The time to take action is NOW. Stop making excuses about how “festive treats are just too tempting”, or how you shouldn’t be expected to stay on-plan when everyone else is eating your mum’s delicious Christmas spread. It’s just food, for fuck’s sake. It really shouldn’t be the focal point of your life – and if it is, then you really need to get yourself a hobby, because spending your life vacillating between gormandising without restraint, or pining for the foods you’ve decided you can’t eat, is a depressing way to live. Get a life. Seriously. And actually do your best to live it as healthily as possible, for as long as possible. By all means have Christmas off, have Thanksgiving off, have your birthday off – it’s your body, your life – but just remember that every day you choose to eat off-plan, is another 24hr opportunity to improve your health, utterly wasted.
THAT is why I work so hard at staying on-plan and don’t allow myself to get caught up in the never-ending cycle of “cheat days”, “days off” and the resulting 3-5 day periods of adjustment as I have to work hard to get back into ketosis. It’s not because I’m trying to appear saint-like in my approach to losing weight & improving my health, it’s because I know just how quickly and easily “life happens” so I’m going to make the most of every day I have, and work hard while I’m still able to. Because if 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that we should all be prepared for the worst. Don’t be one of those people who suddenly find themselves in a crisis situation, wishing they’d made more of a prior effort to be in the best physical condition possible. Do it now, while you still can.
And finally, don’t ever think that the things you say about me in “private”, won’t ever get back to me. You’d be amazed at just how many people are willing to spill the tea AND provide me with the receipts. So yeah, be careful what you share online and with whom you’re sharing it. You never know who’s at the end of that username!#WelcomeToTheInternet
But yeah, eating out was a total breeze, the food was lovely and nobody died. I made the choice to stay on-plan and it turned out not to be at all difficult. I enjoyed my evening with the other half (who very much enjoyed all his food too) and I woke up today without so much as shred of concern as to how I might otherwise have derailed my progress, and I’m still happily in ketosis. Tonight I’m going to have some steak (because ya girl really can’t get enough red meat) with asparagus & mushrooms, but right now I think I’ll make myself a coffee with some cream and check in with my favourite YT channels.
It’s only 6 days until Christmas Day, when me and the other half will be spending 2 days at my parents house and I’m super excited to be seeing my little brother again (for the first time in a year) as well as getting to meet his girlfriend for the first time too. I spoke to my mum a couple of days ago to let her know what my eating habits now comprise (so as not to leave it until last minute when she’s already laying a plate of food in front of me) and she completely understands my need to eat this way. There will be plenty of other people there on both Christmas and Boxing Day, who will all be more than happy to eat all the goodies she’ll have rustled up; so none of it will go to waste. And I’ll be more than happy to stuff myself with an assortment of meats, vegetables and cheeses and nuts throughout the days. Food might be a cultural staple which we use to gather around, but there really is no need to indulge in food that isn’t going to do you any favours health-wise, just so you can get together with friends and family.
Naturally, everyone will make their own choices about how they’re going to eat over the festive period and I’ve already made my choice. Just be sure that when you’re making your choices, you know what the corollary of those decisions will actually be. Don’t just make excuses for your choices. Own them and enjoy them.
And you want to call your mother and say “Mother, I can never come home again ‘Cause I seem to have left an important part of my brain somewhere Somewhere in a field in Hampshire.”
I have never been one of those people who can just “be”. I’ve never been able to meditate, or just empty my mind, and I cannot just sit and do nothing for extended periods of time. Sitting is fine, but unless I’m occupying my mind with something, I get incredibly bored, very easily. Now I don’t bore easily – yes that might sound like an immediate contradiction, but bear with me – because I always have something I can be doing, reading, watching, learning about…even if I can’t get up and about to go anywhere. I’m incredibly good at keeping myself occupied and even as a child I could often be found just sat reading as I devoured everything I could get my proto-bibliophile little hands on. So yeah, I never struggle to find things to occupy myself with, but I simply cannot just sit and do nothing.
My mind races all the time, jumping from one project to another as soon as I’ve finished, constantly making notes about the next 100 things to research or the next 10 books I “have” to buy. I read 2-3 different books at any one time, watch university lectures from around the world in order to learn more about…well…everything, and I have to check out/aggregate numerous news sources every day, to find out what the “bullshit du jour” is. (I’ve had it suggested on multiple occasions that I might have undiagnosed ADHD or even Asperger’s, because of the way my brain is always looking to keep itself stimulated, in a very logical, fact-oriented way. I have no idea if that’s true and I’ve never been tested for it, because what we be the point? I’m hardly suffering as a result of it and I certainly don’t require any more medication to add to my already vast prescription.)
But I know that whatever it is that causes me to be perpetually in need of stimulation is probably something that ties into my issues with sugar addiction, or food in general. When I think about what it was that really made me overconsume so many carbs, I’m perfectly ready to admit that it was an addiction. However, I also think that one of the reasons I did eat so much, was because of the experience of having different flavours in my mouth. Being so cued into stimulation at every level, I believe that food was also a way of doing something that felt interesting at the time. I love really sour things, spicy things, herbs, regional cuisines, different textures, different temperatures and of course…all things sweet. Food it seems, has been as much about the fun way flavours hit my taste receptors as it was a response to craving another hit of sugar. Addiction being the multi-layered disorder that it is, can have more than one contributory factor. Maybe I’ve been addicted to the sensory experiences involved in eating, almost as much a I’ve been addicted to the actual sugars involved? I mean, they’re probably two sides of the same coin, but it makes perfect sense when I think about it.
The weird thing is, throughout my life I’ve tried just about everything a person can become addicted to. And I don’t just mean “tried it once, didn’t inhale (I did not have sexual relations with that woman)”, lol. No, I’ve imbibed, indulged and partaken in just about every substance out there on the streets…and have done so on many, many, occasions. During my 20’s I was a complete party animal. I believed that you should work hard and then reward yourself by partying equally as hard on your time off. And I really went for it. I could list the things I’ve done, but it’s quicker and easier to just list the stuff I’ve never done. I’ve never done crystal meth (c’mon we all have to have SOME standards!), I’ve never done PCP and I’ve never used that weird khat stuff that people from Africa like to chew (that shit makes your teeth really gross and TBH you get far more bang for your buck with regular speed). Oh and I’ve never injected anything. But other than that, if it could be snorted, swallowed, smoked or absorbed through a ‘tab’, I’ve done it. A lot of it.
And I’m not saying any of that to try and make myself sound wildly interesting (trust me, most people who are completely off their face on drugs aren’t even interesting to other people currently off their face on drugs) I’m just trying to reveal a pattern in my past behaviours that I believe still exist within me today, despite me being far too old to party anymore. (I don’t even drink alcohol!). The reason I took so many drugs was partly curiosity, but mostly just because I loved the way in which different substances stimulated my mind and body in so many different ways. Up, down, sideways (thanks, Ketamine!) or completely tripping my tits off…whatever it was that I wanted to feel, I knew I could get just by ordering up whatever substance I wanted at that specific moment in time.
And I LOVED taking drugs. I’m not ashamed of that fact…I had so much fun with them and got to experience so many different sensations and levels of excitement / euphoria / relaxation / fascination / introspection, every weekend. I mixed them up, experimented with combining acid & ecstasy, ketamine & ecstasy, ketamine & heroin…all kinds of mad combinations. And looking back, yeah, I probably was pushing my luck and sailing a little too close to the wind with some of my more extreme weekends. At one point I got the nickname “munch” because when it came to taking ecstasy tablets (and this was many years ago when ecstasy tablets actually had a decent amount of MDMA in them) I would start of with just 1, then double drop a couple an hour later, then triple drop later still and by the end of the session had probably forked out about £150 for 20 pills and subsequently “munched” my way through them (and I use the term “munched” there in inverted commas, because ain’t no one in their right mind gonna chance a whitey by chewing one of those bad boys up in their mouth….bleugh!)
But you know what? No matter how many drugs I took or how often, I never became addicted to any of them. Maybe it was because I only ever did them on weekends because of the weekday work ethic. Maybe it’s because I was doing so many different things all the time, that I never became actually addicted to any one recreational drug in particular. I don’t know. But it’s the same with alcohol. When I was younger (15+) I would drink enormous amounts on the weekend. Binge drinking. But it never became something that I got addicted to. I never felt the urge to drink on weekdays, or drink alone. It was something I was able to walk away from as easily as I did the drug-fuelled party life. I did it while it was fun and then when I’d had enough, I just stopped. Inevitably, my reasons for giving up those crazy days of drug-taking were just the usual mundane reasons: 1/ the comedowns get a lot harder to get over (like hangovers) the older you get and 2/ I ended up working a job that required me to work a lot of overtime on the weekends, so it just wasn’t feasible anymore.
Do I miss it? Kind of. But not enough to want to go back to it. I’m now content with getting my stimulation from a vast array of intellectual pursuits….along with getting to enjoy the company of my other half. But it was all the talk of sugar-addiction recently that just got me to thinking about addiction in general and whether or not I’ve got what you’d call an “addictive personality”. And I don’t think that I do. As I’ve just explained, I’ve put myself in the path of potential substance addiction, just by the sheer amount of things that I’ve taken over the years. Why does one person become a disease ridden crack-whore, when the next person merely dabbles and walks away completely unscathed? What makes person ‘A’ become an intravenous smack addict, when person ‘B’ just finds it something they can enjoy here and there and not become dependent upon?
And the only reason I can think of, as to why I might have never gotten addicted to any drugs I’ve ever used…yet still somehow became a sugar-addict, is because everyone knows about the dangers of drug addiction. I grew up bombarded with the “Just Say No” campaigns of the 80s/90s (not that they stopped this curious little miscreant from wanting to find out for herself what these drug things were all about, lol) and there was no shortage of films or television shows that charted the terrible demise of some wretched junkie. The potential dangers of drugs were embedded in our consciousness from a very early age. So even though I was having fun taking everything from A-Z, I think there still must have been some part of my subconscious keeping an eye on me and stopping me from stepping over the threshold from user to addict.
But sugar? It’s in pretty much every kind of processed food on the planet. And grain based carbohydrates have been touted as “good” and “healthful” for as long as I can remember. Sure, we were warned that if we didn’t clean our teeth properly then the sugar would give us cavities; but no one was going around thinking:
“I really ought to be careful dabbling in these Mars Bars and cans of Coca Cola…I don’t want to get addicted and have to go turn tricks on the streets of crime to pay for my dirty, candy habit.”
There just hasn’t been the intensive campaigning out there in schools, youth groups, churches an from within the police, telling us to “Just Say No… To Sugar”. It’s really only in the past 15 years that we’ve seen the notion of carbs being the problem with triggering metabolic disorders (Gary Taubes has really done wonders for getting this message out there to the general public, but Dr Atkins had been waxing lyrical about the low-carb diets for years, before he very sadly passed away. Taubes just really refocused energy and attention on a low-carb WOE, and continues to publish books on the subject to this day) but not many of us grew up in the knowledge that carrots & sweetcorn, or cornflakes and crusty bread could be more problems than they’re worth.
I just say all this because I think our sugar-addictions crept us on us when we weren’t necessarily clued up about the effect carbs were having us. I’m not trying to pass the buck here…none of us got fat behind our own back; but it definitely helps to make sense of how I never became addicted to the various classes of “controlled substances” consumed over the years, but I definitely became addicted to sugar from an early age. And when it’s injected into everything from dressings, to freshly baked 100% chicken breasts in the supermarket, which have also been “fortified” with HFCS…well, what chance did we really stand? *GAH*!
I never wanted to admit that I was a ‘sugar addict’ (I mean, it sounds pretty fucking lame, right?) but going through those first 3 days of withdrawal taught me what it meant to feel infuriatingly dependent on a substance for pleasure, satiety and sanity. I’ve committed those 72hrs to memory, because I, in no way ever, want to have to go back to that place, admit to a relapse and put myself through the sugar withdrawal process again. That shit sucked.
But when I also think back to the withdrawal process and how amazing I felt afterwards, I was a little surprised to see how easy it was to just get on with my new low-carb WOE. Maybe I’m just lucky because I’m not a particularly addictive personality. Hence why I also never became a recreational drug addict, no matter how many substances I used. Do I have an especially good brain that doesn’t “catch” onto addictions all that easily? Am I just mentally stronger and better able to discipline myself, or is it a genetic predisposition to avoiding addiction?
Well, in full disclosure, I’ve actually been surrounded by addicts at various points in my life. My dad (now passed) was an alcoholic, my older half-brother was a heroin addict for over a decade, my step-brother was a heroin & crack addict, one ex-boyfriend was a paranoid schizophrenic heroin addict, another boyfriend was a gambling addict and a couple of friends ended up with one of them in jail and the other dying in the apartment downstairs after a heroin/cocaine speedball overdose. One would think me more likely to develop addictions myself with all those associations & relationships, but I think if anything those people all acted more as real-life examples of what not to end up like. I’ve had front row seats to the very real fuck-ups and failures of all those individuals. There was simply no way I was going to end up going to let myself end up like them.
But nobody was skulking around with a diagnosis of sugar-addiction, for me to use as an example of what not to do. Even if many of them were as addicted to the sweet stuff as me, it simply wasn’t a thing that anyone had really heard of or talked about, 25 years ago; at least it wasn’t in my social circle and I wasn’t clued into any nutritional concepts surrounding it online for a long time in the future. So yes, I WAS a sugar addict, but I wasn’t aware of it…ergo I wasn’t in a position to do much about it. Sure I was fat, but I’m really glad I never joined WW with all their low-fat/high-carb, sugary “points system” foods that would’ve merely been allowing me to stoke those inner fires with MORE unnecessary carbohydrates.
But today is a different story. I have that information, that knowledge, that power. And it has allowed me to re-evaluate my life choices, my diet, and all the behaviours I’ve needed to change in order to get a handle on it. My mind is focused, my goals are set in stone and I have multiple tools at my disposal to assist me in getting to where I really want to be. Some might think that it’s a lot harder to deal with a sugar addiction, when we live in a world that constantly surrounds us with sweet stuff, sugar fortified foods and no way of simply abstaining from all food, forever. We still need to eat and the temptations are all around us.
But I think it’s the opposite. Once you decide “oh I just don’t eat that stuff anymore” and don’t go down the slippery-slope of “just one cheat day won’t hurt!” then it’s a very simple WOE to follow. No complicated systems of sins/points/rewards, no wrecking one’s metabolism by massively restricting calories, no going hungry and no negotiating with oneself any time you’re presented with the opportunity to binge on something, telling yourself that you can make up for it with better behaviour, tomorrow. Just stick to the plan and work it – until it stops working for you. Then you can look at alterations, tinkering, eliminations, rethinking goal weight in relation to muscle mass etc…but don’t worry about any of that in the short term.
Sugar addiction is a real thing, but it also comes with a very simple solution. It just takes the individual to want to make the decision to “get clean” and stay that way. I’m not saying it’s going to be easy…some days will suck more than others. But it’s up to each of us, and us alone, whether we want to continue behaving like junkies, or get our shit together and work toward a happier, healthier future.
Because I’ve seen what that kind of addicted lifestyle has done to way too many people.
“Wonder how we got so far Do you remember who you are? Wanted just to make you proud” ~ ‘A Wonderful Surprise’, The Downtown Fiction
Things are starting to feel really, really…real! I don’t know how else to describe it, but it’s as if I’ve only just become truly aware of what all this effort to lose weight, actually means. For the first time since I switched over to the low-carb WOE, weight loss has become something tangible that I can not only notice, but notice the benefits of. And that’s frickin awesome!
I started out on this path with a very basic goal: to lose 100lb, improve my health, decrease the impact that fibromyalgia & arthritis had on my mobility and head off the possibility of becoming bed-bound at worst, or house-bound at best. I’m obviously not on par weight-wise with the people you see on ‘My 600lb Life’, but I began this change to my way of eating at double the weight I should be, for someone of my Oompa Loompa stature – 5ft – and I have 2 conditions which will get progressively worse, the older I get. So I had no choice but to face up to the fact that it was my own fault, for not doing something about my weight, if my massively fat arse ended up preventing me from living a full and happy, healthy life.
And things have been plodding along exactly the way I’ve both wanted and expected them to, with me currently about 1/3 of the way along my goal to lose 100lb. I’m losing sensibly and sustainably, not too quickly (after the first month of rapid loss, it’s settled down into an average of 2lb a week, with some weeks only showing as me maintaining, which is just the body’s way of taking stock and giving itself time to recalibrate and readjust to the recent fat-loss.) I knew that if I simply stuck to the plan, the flab would shift and my health would improve, massively. But “knowing” that fact and really “understanding” what it means, are two different things altogether.
Rather than being some far-off goal that I have yet to see myself making any inroads into, I’m now getting to see and feel the results of my efforts thus far. That has catapulted the entire concept of ‘losing weight & feeling great‘ from the abstract, into the here & now – and it’s both brilliant and bewildering. Take today for instance. I’ve been waiting on a delivery from Amazon for about a week now and most days the other half goes and checks the post, which is down on the ground floor of our apartment building. We’re on the second floor, which means having to go down 2 long and 2 short flights of stairs, then back up again any time we have to check the post. Nothing major, but when you’re at least 100lbs overweight and have arthritic joints that often hurt just getting out of bed, it can be a real struggle to get up and down every day.
Today though, the other half was having a lie-in and I really wanted to see if my new journal had arrived, so I grabbed my hoodie, threw it over my nightie and dashed out of the apartment and down the stairs to see if I was in luck. Turned out I wasn’t (le sigh) so, not wanting to be caught out in the hallway, fresh out of bed, looking like some hobo harridan, I ran back up the stairs as fast as I could, desperate to avoid running into any of my neighbours.
Hang on. Roll that sentence back again would you? What did I just say I did?
“I ran back up the stairs as fast as I could…”
Yep, I ran. As in ‘the past tense of run’. As in ‘moved my fat arse at a hitherto unseen pace, up 4 flights of stairs, without being pursued by a wolf’. I ran. I did it without thinking and wasn’t remotely sore or out of breath when I got back into my apartment. That might not sound like much to some, but this time 2 months ago, I would have had to walk slowly up the stairs, getting breathless by the 3rd flight and then had to deal with cramping calf muscles for the next hour or so at least. Today though? I leapt out the front door, raced down stairs and ran back up again, without so much as thinking about it. No breathlessness, no soreness, nothing.
Is that what it feels like to be normal? Because I’m not gonna lie, I’m pretty buzzed about it. But it got me to thinking: what other benefits of this weight-loss thing am I going to see and feel and experience, as the number on the scale goes down? What other things could I dare to hope to experience in time?
A common theme present in some of the books I’ve been reading recently, involves using a mixture of long AND short-term mini-goals in combination with your main goal, to help maintain your motivation through regular ‘hits’ of positive reinforcement. When you have a rather large goal to tackle and you know it’s going to take a long time to get there, it can be difficult to stay focused through willpower alone. So setting yourself a handful of other mini-goals – things you’d like to achieve or see happen as a result of striving for your main goal – can help keep you fired-up and dedicated, through the long, hard (sometimes boring) slog towards success.
Despite already knowing this, I still haven’t gotten around to coming up with my own list of mini-goals that I’d like to achieve along the way. I’ve just been so focused on shifting 100lb to feel better, that I’ve neglected to incorporate any other targets or non-scale victories into my approach. And I really ought to, because even my willpower is finite (and I’ve got hella impressive staying-power!) so creating a handful of motivation-boosting mini-goals to help keep me happy and dedicated, is something I’m going to have a think on.
Today’s wonderful little surprise after running up and down the stairs, really hit home the benefits of getting regular little hits of positive reinforcement on the way towards my main goal. So I’m setting myself some homework this week: I am going to come up with a list of at least 20 things I want to see, experience or achieve along the way to losing 100lb. They can be big or small, profound or silly, sacred or profane. But they need to be a/ something I genuinely want to achieve and b/ something I can realistically attain (so no getting to model for the Victoria’s Secret Spring Collection…not this year anyway, lol!)
Now I just need that cute new journal to arrive so I can start it afresh with my little list of mini-goals, ready to be checked off along the way.
This song will always make me giggle. Well, not this latest version by Lana Del Rey, but the original song that featured in Disney’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Now I’ve never been a Disney kind of girl – when most little girls my age were envisioning themselves as princesses, I was watching ‘R’ rated horror movies and reading books on serial killers, lol.
Fast forward to about 10 years ago and I was playing Trivial Pursuit with the other half. We’d only been together a couple of years but he knew me well enough to know I didn’t go in for any of that saccharine fairy-tale stuff. I’d made it to the final question having collected all the different coloured cheeses and so himself got to draw a card and pick the question he thought I’d have the hardest time answering. ‘Science & Nature’ and ‘Literature’ were always my strongest categories and whilst I’m not a huge sport fan, the ‘Sport’ question on the card he’d drawn looked like one he thought I’d definitely know the answer to. So he opted for ‘Entertainment’ – admittedly one of my weaker areas of knowledge. So, assuming he’s got me beat, he smiles confidently and asks me the following question:
“In what animated movie is the song ‘Once Upon A Dream’ featured in?”
and without a second’s thought I blurted out, laughing:
“Ha! Sleeping Beauty! I Win!”
Now at this point the other half is just looking at me like he doesn’t know me at all. This was a few years before the live action film ‘Malificent’ starring Angelina Jolie had brought the ‘Sleeping Beauty’ story and soundtrack back into the public’s consciousness so it wasn’t the sort of thing that I would have been expected to know…in his mind anyway.
“How the hell do YOU know THAT??! You HATE that Disney shit!”
At which point I proceeded to sing the entire song, word for word, from memory. Cue him looking very confused.
“Don’t tell me you actually LIKE that crap?”
Which of course left me in a fit of giggles as the man I loved sat wondering whether he really knew the woman in his life at all. So I explained:
“No, I absolutely hate Disney. Always have done. But my little sister was a HUGE fan. She had all the videos and would watch them every single day when we were growing up. Thanks to her, I know all the words to every song in that goddamn film, along with the soundtrack to ‘Lady And The Tramp’, ‘Cinderella’, ‘The Little Mermaid’, Snow White and a bunch of other stupid animated crap.”
He looked real relieved there for a moment…until he realised I’d won the game – we take our general knowledge competitiveness REALLY seriously in our household, lol. We’re pretty evenly matched and constantly try to beat each other at every opportunity. We’ve since played Trivial pursuit many times and are currently tied at something like 8-8. We’ve both had some “totally-pulled-that-one-out-of-the-furthest-reaches-of-our-minds” winning answers, but I’ll never forget that look on his face when I sang the whole of ‘Once Upon A Dream’ to him, that one day ten years ago. When I say:
“Underestimate me…that’ll be fun!”
I really do mean it, lol. And that is the story of how I kicked my other half’s ass at Trivial Pursuit, thanks to my little sister’s obsession with Disney films!
That was just a little humorous aside that I remembered when looking for a song to include with this blog post. I thought I’d include it because it always brings a smile to my face, but it does also tie into the theme of what I want to talk about today. Namely, dreams. Or rather, the specific kinds of dreams I’ve been having lately.
Anyone who has tried to lose weight themselves, or who has had to eliminate a specific food from their diet – for whatever reason – will know exactly what it is I’m talking about here, because I know it’s incredibly common. They are of course, the dreams in which we find ourselves eating a food that’s not on our plan/we’re not supposed to eat for medical reasons and at some point, either in the dream itself, or immediately upon waking, start to freak out because we believe we’ve actually consumed that food for real.
I had two of those dreams this week. One a couple of days ago where I was eating strawberry jam directly out of those little plastic tubs you get in a hotel breakfast (I mean, personally I’d normally have opted for raspberry or cherry, not strawberry, but, okay…whatever ‘dream-me’; you do you, lol) and the second one just before I woke up today, in which I was presented with an entire dessert cart whilst working nights in a hotel, and got seriously wired into some maHOOsive slices of chocolate cake! I was still in the dream when it occurred to me that I’m not supposed to be eating this stuff!
“Oh god no! What am I doing?!”
I remember looking down at the remnants of cake in my hands and just feeling so incredibly guilty. I felt ashamed. Like a failure who had just been too weak to stop myself from caving into my raging cravings.
“Why did I just do that? What the fuck is wrong with me?”
It felt so incredibly real right there standing in this dream scenario, in a location I’d actually worked at over 15 years ago, the taste of chocolate madly apparent in my mouth. And then I woke up. It wasn’t exactly a ‘woke up in a cold sweat’ moment, but it was pretty close. It took me a good couple of minutes to realise that I wasn’t in a hotel, I was at home in my own bed. There was no dessert trolley. I hadn’t just eaten a ton of carbohydrates. The cake was a lie!
But those feelings of guilt are still lingering, weirdly, on the periphery of my consciousness as I sit and type this post out now. Let me just reiterate that I have not eaten a single thing that isn’t on my plan, ever since I switched over to a low-carb WOE. I’ve had the odd craving for chocolate cake (the one thing that I really seem to still be missing now and again) but I haven’t touched a single bite. I’ve got those recipes to try out for a Keto-friendly version, but I’ve been trying to stay away from even those as I work at retraining my thought processes and eating habits. I might have to dig one out and give it go sometime in the future though – if only to keep me sane during my dreams!
It just goes to show though, how powerful an addiction to sugar can be. My brain obviously has a lot of memories of my having produced a lot of dopamine and serotonin via my habit of consuming vast amounts of sugar with abandon. Even now 11 weeks into having completely eliminated it from my diet, its hold on me is still there. I’m incredibly diligent when it comes to sticking to my plan. I rarely even eat an entire protein bar in one sitting. I’ve mostly relegated those to a couple of bites when taking medication and they now sit around the house without me being tempted to eat them all at once. I’m quite proud of my ability to not give into any temptation around me, so it’s almost hilarious that I find myself freaking out in my dreams over some imagined pig-out session!
Is it my brain’s way of trying to tell me that it still really wants some sugary, cakey carbs? Or is it something else? As always, I had a good sit and think on this before I opened up my lap-top. Why are these dreams presenting themselves right now? Is it just about the sugar-addiction, which will never truly leave me? I’m not entirely convinced. Whilst I’m sure that might have a small part to play in my brain doing anything it can to remind me of just how good a chocolate gateau tastes, the fact that I already started to feel guilty in the dream itself, makes me think that it’s more to do with something else I’ve blogged about before:
Yes, it’s our old friend, the frikers. I’m still experiencing some self-doubt when it comes to my ability to do this, aren’t I? I still, for all my willpower and concerted efforts to do my best, worry – possibly at some subconscious level – that I might fuck up at some point and give in at a moment of weakness. And that really pisses me off. I don’t like not having 100% faith in my ability to do something. It’s so…not…me!
But maybe, just maybe, these dreams are my brain’s way of trying to tell myself that I just need to be careful; be aware of my lingering addiction to sugar and never forget that I am just one slip up away from going off plan and falling out of ketosis. Perhaps this is my in-built defence system doing everything it can to stop me from getting too comfortable; too complacent. These dreams could actually be doing me a really big favour. Because I’m only human. I might feel very happy and comfortable with my lo-carb WOE – and right now I have no desire to veer off-plan into some ‘carbage’ – but I have no idea what tomorrow may bring, or how I’m going to feel this time next week, next month or the month after.
Getting too comfortable can lead to us getting complacent; which is when things like ‘carb-creep‘ and the ‘one bite won’t hurt’ rationalisations start to affect our progress. I can’t allow myself to slip into any bad habits that will undermine my efforts thus far – I got a lot riding on this! I need to be able to get myself to a healthy weight, maintain it and then work on making myself stronger and more flexible, if I’m to have a better quality of life going forward. If I don’t then I’ll likely end up a prisoner in my own home and my body.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance, so if having the odd dream helps to keep my mind focused on the task at hand, then I’m happy to have them rock up and put the ‘frikers’ on me from time to time. Better that the cake be a lie than an actual cheat, right?
“We all been playing those mind games forever Some kinda druid dude lifting the veil Doing the mind guerrilla Some call it magic – the search for the grail.”
I love playing ‘mind games’ with myself. I know that probably sounds a bit messed up, but it’s something I’ve done for as long as I can remember and I credit it with playing a large part in my being able to both think critically and develop a strong sense of self. I think everyone probably does it to some extent; but in many cases it probably starts to get quite uncomfortable for some, as the testing, questions and self-reflection start to reveal certain truths that not everyone is ready to learn about themselves.
Do you ever try to figure out the true motivation that lies behind your actions? Do you question your behaviour or responses to certain stimuli, then try to find a way to get the better of your own brain and change the way you react in the moment? That’s part of what I mean when I talk about playing ‘mind games’ with myself. It’s interrogating myself on a conscious level and reprogramming my brain to then respond automatically on a subconscious level at a later date. It also involves using linguistic cues to trick the brain into thinking about something in a different way. It’s hard to explain in the abstract, so I’ll give you an example of how I’ve recently been playing these little ‘mind games’ with myself, in order to help me stop smoking.
Giving something up – something that you’re addicted to – is difficult because it often has both a physiological AND psychological hold on you at the same time. Nicotine leaves your system after about 72 hours (and cotinine – something your body makes after nicotine enters it – takes 1-10 days) so the physiological cravings will be with your for about 3 days after quitting smoking. Once you’ve gone about 4 or 5 days without smoking a cigarette, you’re technically out of physiological withdrawal / dependence. What’s left is a psychologically addicted brain that needs to retrain itself to no longer continue with the smoking habit (it takes at least 3 months for the brain chemistry to return to normal after last using nicotine) but getting yourself through those first 72 hours is generally the hardest part. Your body is going through the physiological withdrawal as well as experiencing the psychological stress of knowing that you cannot have another cigarette –ever!
Ever? I mean, that sounds like a helluva long time, right? And if you’ve ever tried to tell yourself that you cannot have something, you’ll know that your brain immediately decides that it really, REALLY wants said thing and starts to spend every waking moment trying to get you to give it that thing. So the minute you tell yourself:
“that’s it, no more smoking, this is it, never again…”
your brain goes into overdrive trying to get you to give it ‘just one more’ damn cigarette. You start to get antsy, you become hyper-aware of even the slightest, little annoyances and your temper starts to fray. All things that you know will be relieved by a hit of nicotine…but you’re not allowed any.
And so many people simply cave in at this point, you can hardly even class them as having made a genuine attempt. So how do you actually manage to get yourself through those first 3 days, without giving in to your cravings? Well, the way that I decided to go about it was…by not actually giving up. Yes you read that correctly, I managed to give up smoking, by not actually giving up. Bear with me, it does actually make sense, just let me explain.
When I was first thinking about quitting smoking, I tried to think of what was going to make it really hard (aside from the physiological withdrawal) and I immediately realised that it was the very act of being told I couldn’t do something, that would make me really want to do it (yeah, I’m a real dick like that sometimes, lol). So I had a little think about what it felt like to normally go a little longer between cigarettes and tried to use that as a template for future thought processes. Normally, I wouldn’t smoke for a couple of hours after getting up and then I might have a cigarette every hour or so. If I couldn’t smoke because I was busy doing something else, it’s not like I would suddenly become overwhelmed by thoughts of cigarettes and how best to get my next fix. Because by knowing that I could have another cigarette once I’d finished doing whatever it was I was doing, there was no panic. No desperate longing for a never-ever.
So it made sense to try and replicate that psychological process when trying to give up smoking for good. Rather than finish the last packet of smokes and leave myself without any at the moment the cravings kicked in, I decided to put a single cigarette in the ashtray and leave it where I could see it at all times. It needed to be on the periphery of my vision, so that I was always sending a message to my brain that there was a cigarette within my arm’s reach, any time I wanted it. Then I just proceeded to go about reading, writing, watching YouTube or whatever, all the time knowing I could smoke that cigarette at any time. Whenever the urge to smoke would start to rise up, I’d briefly interrogate that urge, ask myself if I really, REALLY needed to smoke the cigarette at that exact moment, or if I could just give it 5-10 minutes and see if I still really wanted it. And me being the weirdo that I am, I actually liked the idea of taking myself on with these ‘mini-challenges’ to se if I could go another 10 minutes without smoking…because it wasn’t like I was never going to be able to have another cigarette ever, right?
So I just kept on putting off having that cigarette and it’s still sitting in that ashtray, ready for when I decide that I really want it. It’s been 15 days now and I still haven’t smoked it. Not because I quit and not because I’m not allowed it (because remember, I can smoke that cigarette whenever I really feel the need to) but because I’ve just been repeatedly putting off smoking it, any time the urge has struck me. Of course, some of those decisions to delay smoking that cigarette have been a bit harder than others, but whenever the cravings have gotten particularly gnarly, I’ve just had a little chat with myself, emphasized how I only needed to wait out another 10 minutes and I could have it, and then allowed myself to feel particularly smug and proud for having made it through the 10 minutes in question.
And so far, it’s been working a charm! I won’t say I’ve quit smoking altogether…rather I’ve just put off having that cigarette for 15 days. The part of me which loves to get super competitive is really excited to see just how many days I can successfully “put off” having that cigarette (because that’s just another element of the little ‘mind-game’ I’m playing with myself) but the most important thing to remember in all this, in order to make this strategy work, is that there is absolutely nothing stopping me from smoking that cigarette at any point in all this. It’s right there, whenever I want it, ready to spark up.
But right now I don’t want it. I have some books to transfer onto my Kindle, a load of washing that needs to be done and a face-mask I really want to apply. So I’m just going to put off smoking it for now and see how I feel in another 10 minutes or so.
Because it’s not like I’m never gonna have a cigarette ever again.
The changes I’ve been making to my eating habits have become noticeable to my other half:
“Babe, you can really see you’ve lost weight now.”
I didn’t really know what to say. I wasn’t prepared for it. We were stood at a bus-stop and I’d just turned sideways to stop the rain getting in my eyes when he said it. And I should have been ecstatic, right? The hard work I’d been putting in had finally started to become noticeable on the outside. Good news huh?
Well…um…yeah…I guess…only…I dunno…it just sort of made this whole thing seem very real, all of a sudden. Does that make sense? I mean, of course, I knew that if I did what I was supposed to do and ate according to the plan, I would naturally lose weight. But I’m not entirely sure I was prepared mentally to actually see the results as they started to appear. So of course, me being the stroppy little madam I am, I just waved his comments away with a dismissive:
“No you can’t. Don’t be silly. It’s too soon for anyone to notice anything. You’re just imagining it because you actually know what I’ve been doing. Nobody else would be able to tell.”
And of course he’s as bull-headed as I am and won’t just give in when he thinks he’s in the right (we’re very well matched in that respect, lol):
“No, I can see it…it’s really noticeable. You’re stomach is a lot flatter. You’ve lost quite a bit of weight. Of course I’m going to be able to tell!”
Urgh…I just wanted him to totally drop the issue. I wasn’t prepared for the sudden “noticing” and subsequent conversation around me having lost weight. And definitely not at the bus-stop where I couldn’t just dip out of the room and go find something ‘super important’ to have to focus on in the kitchen. I had to stay right where I was, out there in the fresh air, with nowhere to hide and no way of escaping his “noticing”.
“For fuck’s sake babe. You’re doing great. You’ve worked hard and the results are really noticeable. You should be proud of yourself. I’m proud of you. Just get used to it and shut up complaining.”
(Did I mention how he has a real ‘way’ with words?) I knew he was right, of course – not that I was about to let HIM know that, heh heh – but it didn’t make the whole thing feel any less…weird? Yeah weird is definitely the word. This isn’t something I’m used to hearing; from anyone. Because I’ve never done this before. I’ve pretty much been big ever since I was little and just gotten progressively bigger as the years have gone by. I’ve been told I’m cute, ugly, fat, pretty, serious looking, kooky…all kinds of things throughout my life. But I’ve never gotten smaller and had someone actually notice that I’m shrinking. It just caught me off guard I guess, hearing someone tell me to my face that I looked smaller. I simply have no experience in responding to such remarks. For once, I had no “script” ready to fall back on.
Which sounds ridiculous really. I mean this a guy I’ve loved and lived with for over a decade. He’s seen me at my best, my worst, my most dolled up and my most slovenly. He. Has. Seen. It. All. And of course he’s going to notice when there are physiological changes happening right in front of him. In fact, he’s going to notice far more than anyone else, because I wear mostly nighties when I’m indoors. I change into them as soon as I get in the house. And I go to sleep with his arm around my waist pretty much every night, so he’s obviously going to be up close and personal enough to feel when the thing he’s holding onto gets a little smaller.
So why did it bother me so much that he said something? What did it trigger in me, to make me have a mini freak-out like that? I’ve sat and thought about it and I think it has something to do with my no longer being able to just happily watch the scale go down and not have to address anyone’s probing questions as to why and how I’ve suddenly gotten a bit smaller. Because once I get smaller and smaller over time, it WILL become noticeable to a lot of people. Which of course will mean the inevitable slew of questions about what “diet” I’m on and what made me decide to do it.
And when I dug a little deeper into why that bothered me so much, it brought me to a couple of somewhat uncomfortable untruths that I had to confront: 1/ I don’t want people to know that I’m doing this intentionally, because once they do, I will feel more worried about failing and them finding out that I’ve failed, and 2/ admitting to them that I’m intentionally changing something about myself, is me admitting that I haven’t been 100% happy with myself. And all of that leaves me vulnerable to the scrutiny of others, who wouldn’t previously have thought to scrutinise or view me that way.
Which is a very strange new way of feeling about myself in relation to other people. I’m generally pretty impervious to the judgement of others – that’ll be the old arrogant streak again – but one thing I don’t like to be seen as, is weak. I don’t show weakness to others because I don’t find it to be a particularly admirable quality in myself – or others. And I don’t as a rule feel weak in the presence of others, because…well…that’s just how I was raised. But as I’ve said before, this is unchartered territory for me. I’m still feeling and finding my way along this path and for once I’m unable to go about life, completely forearmed and forewarned.
I may have been as prepared as I could be before embarking upon this mission, but I am thoroughly unprepared for what it might look like to actually reach my destination. And yeah, that destination is still a long way off, but there are plenty of other little stops along my journey; milestones that will creep up on me soon enough. I have to be ready to meet them all and get used to being a little bit different at every one. A new person every time that scale goes down some more. It’s exciting and scary all at the same time.
So I’d better put my big-girl pants on and get ready to meet the new version of me. Because she’s coming.