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Thursday, August 25, 2011

He who fails to plan, is planning to fail . . .

and, I would argue, that same applies to she's. By the way, aparently that title of this post is a quote by Churchill.

So I've been on this official Get Fit and Healthy Project for a month now, and it occurs to me that I have achieved very little.  In fact, I can't quite pin point my last chocolate or caffeine free day, if anything I'm beginning to feel that I'm firmly on a downward spiral.

However, I have been reading a couple of books lately, that are making me think that, rather than my standard Dr Phil "sometimes you've just got to white-knuckled it" strategy, a radical change of approach is in order. Which brings me to another quote by Churchill "Those who plan do better than those who do not plan even though they rarely stick to their plan". I think its because if you take the time to make a plan, you become more committed to the goal and you can measure your progress and refine your plan until it works. At least, that's what I'm telling myself.

Back to the books, the first one was lent to me by a friend who thought it might do me some good.  It's called The Creative Life: 7 Keys to your inner genius by Eric Butterworth.  Overall, I found the book a bit over the top in that new agey sort of way.  But there was one idea I quite liked.

The book is structured around the 7 days of creation (dare I say) myth from the Bible.  Day Four is "Let There Be Two Great Lights" refering to the creation of the sun and the moon.  Butterworth suggests that we think of the sun as representing Understanding (knowledge, ideas and the like), while the moon represents Will - not the "will of gritted teeth" (doesn't that expression just capture the concept perfectly) but a willingness to go with the flow.

The two concepts compliment and reflect each other. If you throughly understand something, but don't actually do anything, you get no where.  Conversely, if you set your mind to something and say "this time I will lose weight", you become emotional and stubborn and also get no where.

After reading this I realised that when I started this project it was all Will based - I will eat right, I will exercise everyday, etc, but there was no understanding of what was motivating my current eating and lack of exercise. In my defence, I think everyone does this.  Something triggers the motivation, (in my case the threat of losing a body part) and we say with anger and determination "I will do it this time!".  But we don't understand how we got to where we are, so how can we hope to get to where we want to go?

The second book is a not-so-old favourite The Places That Scare You by Pema Chodron, but I'll discuss that next time.

Monday, August 8, 2011

They're not weaknesses, they are development opportunities

Well, there was no spectacular crash this week, but the scales seem firmly of the view that spreading the same amount of "treats" out over the week is no better than eating them all at once (surprise, surprise).

Stuck fully to my diet Monday, Tuesday and Sunday.
Walked to work on Monday, and half-way on Tuesday.

Areas for Development
  1. Need to keep up the walking - walk at lunch time if I don't manage to walk to work
  2. Going to bed on time - although beginning to think my thyroid medication is working too well at the moment as the last few days I've had trouble staying awake 
  3. Avoid comfort eating - I've never really seen myself as a comfort eater, but this week I have been eating just because I've been feeling fed up (also think this is related to the thyroid medication)
  4. Need to become more discriminating about accepting food - for example, was on a plane on Thursday and accepted a biscuit, which I later found out contained 300 calories.  Regardless of the amount of calories, I shouldn't be eating biscuits (particularly as I am philosophically opposed to them - seriously, cakes & chocolate yes, but biscuits? I'm sorry, I just don't really understand the point of them)

Monday, August 1, 2011

There's no such thing as failure, there are only results

OK, I might as well just get the horror story out the way up front:

Scene: Family function - 1 year old birthday party / weekend away
Result: 12 "treats", 2,853 calories over the day, 190g carbs
and that was just the Saturday.

The extraordinary thing is, I did actually hold myself back - not necessarily a great deal, but I did actually turn food down, eg I didn't eat any potato chips, or any of the large cupcakes (as opposed to the small cupcakes of which I ate only one).  What this means is that in the past I would have eaten even more. 

On the Sunday, I tried to tell myself it wasn't a treat day, so no leftover cake for me.  I managed to get through morning tea by waiting ten minutes for a cup cake, by which time, I didn't feel like one anymore.  However, at lunch, I dived into the chocolate ripple cake like there was no tomorrow.

Coincidentally, I have been reading a book on influence (Influence: The Psychology of Persuastion by Robert B. Cialdini) which I think touches on part of the problem with these types of situations for dieters - we (humans) have an automatic emotional reaction to scarcity which makes you want the scarce item far more than you would if it was widely available and this reaction actually prevents you thinking rationally.  Note, the book doesn't talk about dieting, this is just my extrapolation given I read the chapter the day after I ate 2.4 times my usual calorie intake.

To counteract the emotional reaction to scarcity, the book recommends:
  • recognising the feeling as a standard reaction to a scarce item and a warning sign to proceed with caution
  • realising that it is your desire for the food that has changed not the food itself (the book discusses an experiment in which people, who were made to believe that a set of cookies were scarce, rated their desire to have the cookies as higher, but did not rate the taste any better than people who were just given the cookies without any suggestion that they were scarce)
  • considering what it is that you want from the item - I think part of the reason I have trouble resisting temptation at family functions is that food offers not just a pleasant taste, but a shared experience and rapport building, which can be useful when you can't remember the names of half the people there but feel that you should because you (only) see them a couple of times a year at similar family functions.


Stuck to my diet fully Monday, Tuesday and Thursday.
Said no to a free muffin on Friday
Actual did some exercise on Sunday

Areas for Development

... are many and varied.
Need to get the exercise happening
Did not get to bed on time other than on Saturday night (mainly as a result of three glasses of red wine)
Over did the treats on Wednesday, Friday, Saturday was out of control and Sunday (not a treat day).

Refinement of strategies going forward

  • lights out at 10:30pm no matter what (this week have come up with a wonderful array of excuses, all of which lead me to being up too late and not getting up the next morning, thereby having a flow-on effect of not getting my morning walk)
  • get up when the alarm goes off (I am not a morning person, but history has proven to me that this is the only strategy that works)
  • when going to a business lunch with a set menu, only eat half the desert (I know I don't have the willpower to eat no dessert, so this is a stepping stone to building up my willpower)
  • when going to a business lunch without a set menu, don't knowingly order a dish that comes with food I shouldn't eat (Friday I ordered duck with rice, thinking "well, I just won't eat the rice", however that was the sum total of the dish - duck and rice, I was starving, so I ate the rice)
  • develop a strategy for dealing with family functions - I'm thinking something along the lines of bring a dish with me, eg a fruit platter, and go in armed with alternative strategies for "working the room" other than "ooh, these cup cakes are nice".