Best Laid Plans

“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:

Overwhelm.

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.

Stay realistic folks.

Blue

Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood

“I’m just a soul whose intentions are good
Oh Lord, please don’t let me be misunderstood”

Before I begin, can we all just take a moment out to appreciate what an absolute banger of a tune this is? I know I post a lot of songs on here (tunes with some relevance to the topic at hand) and I doubt anyone clicks on them most of the time. But this classic from the 60’s is only 2.30 minutes long and you should totally just take a little time out to pop in your headphones and get down to some good old vintage pop music.

Okay, so what is the title of this post (and the related music link) really about today? Well, it has to do with a comment I received in a message from someone – who shall remain nameless – wherein they accused me of being “overzealous with success”, in regards to my having adopted a low-carb WOE. Which really surprised me; not in the least because the individual in question purported to have read this entire blog. Yes, this chaotic record of all the ups and downs that I’ve encountered over the past couple of months, lol.

Success? I’ve literally only just gotten started? Where are they getting THAT from? Am I presenting myself as a success? Or are other people just perceiving me as such? I’m pretty sure it’s not the former, because I’m incredibly honest about every issue, obstacle and set-back I experience along the way. So that suggests it’s the latter and that comes down to how others allow themselves to perceive my journey, through whatever lenses they happen to view the world. Which is pretty disappointing really; I’m not gonna lie.

So I thought maybe I would take the time out today to chat a little bit about exactly how I do think, when it comes to my low-carb WOE and weight-loss progress…because I’d hate for people to misinterpret my position or misrepresent my opinions.

First of all, I am – and always will be – a work in progress. Anyone who thinks otherwise of themselves, is either naïve, arrogant or just unwilling to engage in some healthy introspection. I only started down this new path of eating low-carb at the end of August. But I did spend a good few months before that, researching both the low-carb WOE and the psychology behind weight-loss and behavioural changes in general. Forewarned is forearmed after all; and I’ve always been one of life’s planners & researchers.

One of the things that really stuck out when I was looking into how to best go about pursuing a sustainable weight-loss plan, was the fact that people who were successful in the long run, treated their approach more holistically; meaning that they looked into changing their way of thinking and overhauled many of their behaviours to help give them the best chance at achieving their goals. Those who just tried to lose ‘X’ amount of weight without thinking about it in terms of an overall lifestyle adjustment, seemed much more likely to give up when things started to go awry. They hadn’t put anything else in place to bolster their efforts and attempts, so they had nothing to stop them from just throwing in the towel.

I did not want that to happen to me. In fact, scratch that: I REFUSE to let that happen to me. I will NOT be the architect of my own downfall. So I made sure – way before I even stepped onto the scale to find out my starting weight – to spend a little bit of time working out the best strategy for success, based on the choices, habits and behaviours of those who had succeeded themselves. Because why wouldn’t I? Why would anyone embark upon a serious journey to improve themselves, without first understanding a/ why they really want to achieve said goal, b/ what could thwart their attempts at success, and c/ what they could do to give themselves the best chance at negotiating all the inevitable hurdles that they will encounter along the way and be successful in pursuit of their personal goal?

I mean, it just seems like basic common sense to me, right? But if my 40 years of experience in dealing with other people has taught me anything, it’s that common sense really isn’t as common as we’d like to think it is. Do I think I’m special for thinking the way I do and being so naturally inquisitive when it comes to trying to make changes to my eating and health? Well, I’d like to say no because it doesn’t feel like a particularly special way of thinking or behaving…but after looking at the never-ending tales of woe by those who DON’T approach their goals this way and inevitably end up failing…well…maybe I do fall into that category of people who conduct themselves in a “special” kind of way. And that’s not something that necessarily comes naturally to me or anyone else; it involves making a conscious effort to really want to have the odds of success go in our favour.

So of course, I’m by no means a success when it comes to having met or maintained my goal. I really am still just coming out of the starting blocks as I progress along the path to a much lighter body and better health. But I WILL give myself credit when it comes to having successfully put the effort into researching and planning the route to my goal, as well as the amount of time I’ve spent working on trying to make sure that I have the best chance of succeeding at it. I’ve really worked hard at getting to understand my strengths, weaknesses, triggers, motivations and all the potential psychological barriers to making this low-carb WOE a successful, permanent lifestyle change. So, I’ll happily take the credit for having put the effort in, before I even began my Atkins induction. Fuck false modesty; I have no problem with feeling good about having put in the hard work.

But all that planning, self-reflection and research doesn’t amount to “success”. It just means I’ve made an effort to prepare in an attempt to give myself the best chance at succeeding. You only have to read back over all my blog posts to see how many ups and downs I’ve encountered so far – AND I’VE ONLY BEEN AT THIS FOR 2 MONTHS, Y’ALL! Lol! 2 months is nothing. The first couple of months are supposed to be the easiest; the time when the weight comes off the quickest and our resolve is at its highest. So if things have been so chaotic, week-upon-week, during the time when things are at their easiest, then heaven only knows how crazy and calamitous the next 12 months are going to be!

Because things ARE going to get harder, that much is a given! I KNOW that there are going to be weeks when the scale isn’t moving and my clothes aren’t loosening any more and my fibromyalgia is making me feel as though my limbs are made of lead. That’s just how it goes when we try to lose weight. Having problems and hitting obstacles isn’t unusual or special, but how we choose to deal with those problems will make ALL the difference to whether or not we stay the path or veer off into the nearest chocolate gateau. So whilst I won’t be any different to anyone else who is attempting to lose weight, in that I too will find myself hitting plateaus, getting frustrated and wishing I could just click my fingers and get to goal…I WILL have the benefit of having spent time anticipating these moments and given myself various coping strategies, in order to help me stay the course.

Positive mental attitude, motivational quotes and recommitting to my goal every single day upon waking, are just some of the tools I use to remain dedicated and keep my willpower fully charged. I don’t care if some people find any of that cheesy or cliché; clichés are just overused statements that have at their core, a kernel of truth that many people relate to; something that resonates with them. If you’re too cool for all that, well you do you, boo. I’m 40 years old, folks. I gave up giving a shit about what it meant to be cool about 25 years ago. (Yeah, I was anti-cool, waaaay before it was cool to be anti-cool, so…like…get rekt, lol!) If hearing about personal responsibility, mental focus and staying motivated isn’t for you then this probably isn’t the blog for you; so quit reading it, stupid! I mean, I get it, I’m awesome and you simply cannot stay away, but don’t expect me to change the way I conduct myself, just because y’all don’t like it.

I’ve said it before, but I HAVE to make this work for me. My health and quality of life depends on it. I can’t just decide that losing weight is too hard, that I’m not seeing results fast enough or that I can just live my life out in some sad form of denial, pretending like obesity related illness and immobility are totally acceptable and not at all dysgenic or disabling. If I don’t lose weight and improve my health, I will likely end up completely housebound, if not bedbound. I’m by no means the heaviest person out there and I’m a far cry from the ridiculous creatures on ‘My 600lb Life’. But I have physiological issues that have already, and will continue to, effect my mobility, dexterity and basic motor skills. These health issues will get progressively worse if I don’t make the necessary changes to lose weight. So when I tell you that I AM going to succeed at this, I’m not being big-headed or arrogant. I’m making a factual statement about what needs to happen and how I intend to make that happen.

So by all means feel free to look down upon me as just another newbie to the low-carb WOE, who naively believes that everything is going to be sunshine and fucking rainbows. That ain’t me, bro. I am NOT your average first-timer or habitual dieter. I am not the kind of person who looks upon failure as an option, regardless of whatever the goal in question is. But when it comes down to my health and my quality of life, you can be damn sure that failure is even less of an option. Some people jump into weight-loss without having anything approaching a real plan as to how they’re going to go about reaching their goals. They have insubstantial, vain or vague goals of “looking hot” or “getting into THAT dress again” and whilst y’all should do whatever works for you, chances are you won’t have fully engaged in any of the psychological work needed to truly figure out your “why, what, when, where & how”…never mind any contingency plans for when the shit inevitably starts to hit the fan. Anyone with half a brain can lose weight. But staying motivated until you hit your goal weight, then maintaining that weight loss in the long term (despite all of life’s little struggles that WILL be sent to test you) takes more than just eating within your calorie count, carb allowance, or whatever other macro you focus on, under your plan of choice.

THAT level of success comes down to mental fortitude, consistent effort, making good choices and creating a mindset that is not only prepared to experience hardship, but that knows how to navigate through the really difficult moments. You will never be permanently inspired. Not naturally. so you need to work on finding out those things that DO inspire you and motivate you, so you have them ready to fall back on, when things get tough and you’re starting to get battle-fatigued. Have you even considered what other possibilities you should have on the back-burner, when what you’re currently doing, just isn’t working for you anymore? Have you even given any thought to the fact that you ARE going to hit obstacles along the way; that your weight-loss journey isn’t just going to be a simple step from A – B?

And the truth of the matter is that all too many people who claim to want to meet a weight-loss goal, simply haven’t given any of that stuff the slightest bit of thought. They find themselves “suddenly” just caving in to festive treats and then feel guilty afterwards…which is entirely unsurprising when they never took the time to sit down before they began to change their WOE and actually think about how they would approach these situations going forward. They will find excuse after excuse as to why they are eating whatever candies are on sale during every festive period, rather than work on trying to understand why they feel so compelled to periodically indulge in all that crap and find a better way to deal with it. And let’s face it: every single holiday celebration now has a selection of “treats” available for us all to indulge in, all year round. If you’re going to go off-plan every time there’s another holiday food you believe you have the right to indulge in, then you’re obviously still stuck in the mindset that has you believing that food is more important to you than your goals. And hey, you totally DO have that right to eat whatever you want, whenever you want to; it’s your body and you can do whatever the hell you want with it. But you really don’t have the right to sit and feel sorry for yourself, expecting others to sympathise with you when it was YOU who made the conscious decision to eat off plan.

I simply refuse for that to be MY story. I don’t consider myself a success at all right now…but you can take it as read, that I WILL be successful in losing the weight, improving my health and altering my behaviours and habits going forward, to ensure I don’t wind up backsliding. I don’t care if I have to tinker with every single macro, every type of food and every added ingredient. If I have to try out IF, OMAD, EF, keto, paleo, carnivore or whatever other WOE out there involves not filling one’s body with a huge number of carbohydrates…I WILL find a way to get myself to where I want to be. And I don’t think that’s arrogant or over-zealous. That’s confidence. Self-belief. Determination. Commitment.

So to anyone who reads this blog and misunderstands my focus and my passion, I ask you to think again and maybe go reread this post a couple of times, so you really get to understand what motivates me at a core level. Because the only person I have to impress in all this, is me. The only person I am in competition with, is the person I was yesterday. The main reason I write all these posts and fire up my motivation, is so that I have somewhere I can go to air my thoughts, clear my mind, let off steam, tell the truth and have a permanent record of everything I’ve done, in my attempt to get healthy. If someone else enjoys the anecdotes or is able to see the value in a lot of the things I say, then that is an added bonus. But I’m not doing any of this for anyone else. This is all about me and it’s for me.

Because I am the centre of the universe.

And so are you.

So act like it, while you still have time to do something about it.

Stay focused y’all,

Blue

Going The Distance

“Because he’s racing and pacing and plotting the course
He’s fighting and biting and riding on his horse
He’s going the distance”

This post today is dedicated to my buddy lowjax over on the lowcarber.org forums, whose consistent dedication to his own weight-loss goals inspire me to keep motivated with my own. The guy has been hit with random health-problems that came out of left-field and thwarted his attempts by forcing him to change up his eating habits again, after he’d been doing so well with keto. Many people would have just given up right there and then and relegated all of their hopes and dreams to the scrap heap. But not this guy. He’s gotten back on the horse, re-evaluated his WOE and gotten back on the horse, ready to attack his goals again.

And I LOVE that! That’s a person who isn’t taking shit lying down. He isn’t making excuses for himself, or playing the victim…he’s just getting down to the task at hand and getting the results…and that is SO motivating for someone like me to see. I know he hasn’t had it easy and even he knows that this isn’t going to be a quick-fix or an easy ride, but that’s why he’s such a positive influence on me (and why other people should also see him as such, take heed and follow his lead!)

Success is contagious. Successful people push other people to also be successful, which is why I really appreciate having people like that around. Failure is also contagious – especially the kind of failure that comes from those who won’t take responsibility for themselves and see the downfall of others as a way to offset their own guilt and apathy at not putting in any effort themselves. There is no place in my world for enablers and emotional vampires. They are beneath me. But give me a hard-working, goal-oriented role-model to look up to and I’m right there ready to let their success spur me on too.

Both lowjax and I are around the same weight and age. We’ve both had health problems that will be improved massively by our losing a fair bit of weight. I know men and women lose at different rates – and of course, no two people’s bodies are the same – but we have somewhat similar journeys ahead of us. So when he succeeds and starts to see results, that’s like a positive affirmation that I too can succeed and get results too. I’ve said it before, but I’m not the kind of person who really benefits from being patted on the head or having my hand-held through challenges. I like no-nonsense, direct action that delivers. So seeing someone else really get their head in the game and start to talk about the “hard conversations we need to have with ourselves”, is exactly the sort of motivating talk that resonates with me.

Because all of us need to be having those “hard conversations” with ourselves if we want to conquer our inner demons and work through our psychological barriers to success. We can have as many high ideas about implementing change, adopting better eating habits and achieving our goals as we wish, but unless our heads are properly in the game, we’ll never stay committed and those goals will forever remain unattainable pipe-dreams. I know I probably sound like a bit of a broken record when it comes to focus, motivation and goal oriented thinking. But that’s just how my brain functions: if I want to continue to be motivated, I need to continually make the effort to keep myself motivated. And yes, that sounds like some circular reasoning right there, but I’m aware that at some point the onus is entirely on me to make the magic happen. The buck starts and stops with me.

I’ve just started reading a book called: “Changing To Thrive: Using the Stages of Change to Overcome the Top Threats to Your Health and Happiness – James O. Prochaska & Janice M. Prochaska” It’s a recently revised version of a book the authors wrote over 20 years ago and based on something called ‘The Transtheoretical Model Of Health Behaviour Change’ which Prochaska devised along with C.C.Di Clemente. I won’t go into the full details right now (I mean, I haven’t even finished it yet) because I want to write a future blog post that better sums it up; but it involves figuring out what stage of change an individual is at, then using behavioural psychology to find ways of helping to propel the individual along the way until they reach a point where they are no longer a high risk for relapse.

It goes into the relationship between thought and action and I’m enjoying the way it tries to take hitherto unsuccessful individuals and find them a route to permanent change, through a reinforced alteration of behaviour and attitude. And attitude, as you all know, I have in spades! Lol. Today just seemed to be one of those days when the universe was sending out some kind of synergistic message to me, by having lowjax post about his recent moment of revelation regarding his own need to change, at the exact time that I was reading about that mental process in the aforementioned book. I’m not really a supernatural, spiritual person or one who goes in for the woo, but it certainly felt that the universe was trying to tell me something today, lol.

I’m just going to guess that it means our success is written in the stars!

And I’ll take that.

Blue