Still Here – Still Fat :-)

Yup – I’m still here, and I’m still fat.  Fatter actually, if truth be told, which probably isn’t much of a surprise to anyone who has read much of the sort tale told on these pages.  I’m still quite happy though, so don’t worry about me :-).

It’s been nearly a year since I last wrote in here, and I’m not sure whether this is the start of another period of regular activity, or just a ‘see you in a year or so’ type of thing.  I guess we’ll find out in the next few weeks.

Anyway, let me describe where I’ve been in my shrinking journey in the last year.  Going backwards is probably the simplest description.  I’m currently weighing in between about 18st 13 and about 19st 12, which is the heaviest that I’ve ever been.  I don’t feel particularly healthy, and my breathing when I’m at the heavy end of that scale is really not good,  So all good then 😉

I’ve drawn some conclusions over recent months that are driving my thought processes at the moment.  First of all, I’ve come to the conclusion that all of my previous attempts at dieting, whether successful or not in the short term, have all had negative effects in the longer term.  I’m just getting fatter.  Secondly, while being fat makes me unhappy, failing at dieting makes me unhappier still.  I’d rather be fat and relatively happy than yo-yoing and genuinely unhappy.  To be serious for a moment, my weight might kill me at some point, but I’d honestly rather have five or ten years of being relatively happy than twenty or more years of being this unhappy.  Putting all that together, and it says that I’m giving up dieting.

That may mean that I’m giving up shrinking altogether, though I don’t think that it has to.  I’ve seen a number of videos and articles that have suggested some reasoning behind the ever-increasing weight of the serial dieter.  The standard explanation says ‘lazy glutton stops being a lazy glutton for a while and loses weight, then goes back to being a lazy glutton and puts it all back on again and more’.  That explanation leads to a very unhappy shrinker, who will end up feeling really, really bad about themselves, and that will help too perpetuate the cycle.

The revised picture I’m trying to work out at the moment, goes something like this – ‘Fat bloke loses weight.  Fat bloke’s body acts as if he’s just lived through a famine, and sets out to regain that weight, no matter how long it takes.  It also adds some more on, to help minimise the chance that it would happen again.  It works at a hormonal level, and fat bloke has no more control over it than he does over whether he breathes or not.  Fat bloke’s body doesn’t know what he should weigh, but it does know what he did weigh, and that becomes the target of the entire body if the weight drops.’

On the one hand, that’s liberating.  It says that ‘it’s not my fault’ loud and clear, and the guilt that I live with every single day because I can’t seem to control this, could possibly begin to lift.  On the other hand, that’s terrifying, because that suggests that there really is nothing that I can do about it.  And I’m not ready to throw in the towel just yet.

So at this stage I’m focusing on a few things.  I’m trying to be mindful of my eating, being conscious of what I’m eating, how it tastes, and trying to genuinely enjoy my food.  I’m trying to eat what I want, and cut out any sense of denial from my approach – that ends in tears every time.  And I’m relaxing about the time that it might take.  While there’s a big bit of me that really, really wants me to lose a lot of weight quickly, I’m challenging that with the part of me that says making the changes that I need to make will take time.  A lot of time.  And that’s ok.

I’ll write more soon, but for now, just accept that I’m trying to approach this differently.

The Shrinking Man

He’s Lost Control

The Shrinking Man - One man's Quest to make less of himselfI’m not sure whether to laugh or cry, but as I can’t stand how my face looks when I blub, I think I’ll settle for some mild giggling.

Having blogged recently about how this shrinking lark was all about control,  I think I can safely say that I have more than enough evidence to back that up, because at this point in time, I’ve totally lost control.  I’m back in a world where I’m not in control of what I’m eating, and I’m hating it.

For the first couple of months of this year, I was totally in control of my eating.  For the next couple of months, I was flitting between being totally in control and a little out of control.  For the last few weeks, I’ve flipped totally over to the dark side, and I’m now completely out of control.

The positive thing about this has been that the catalyst in all the different stages has been my consumption of carbs.  When my consumption of carbs has been very low, I’m totally in control.  When my consumption of carbs has been erratic, I’ve lost control for periods, and then regained it once my carb consumption settles down again.  When my consumption of carbs has been high, I lose control altogether.

So far so predictable I guess.

This is the stage where in previous shrinking attempts, it all falls apart.  I revert back to my traditional out of control eating habits, all the weight that I’ve lost goes back on, along with a little more for good measure.  My mood settles into one of acceptance, and I drift along for a year or two before I get cross enough to start it all over again.

So I guess there are two key questions that I have to try to address:

  1. Is it possible for me to go through life never straying from my low-carb eating
  2. Is it possible to step away from low-carb eating occasionally without it ending up with me losing control completely

I’ve used the smoking analogy before, and I’m still trying to work out whether this is the same or not.  I spent years convincing myself that I could give up smoking, but then have a cigarette and remain a non-smoker.  That was rubbish, one cigarette was all it took to get me hooked again, but it took me years to accept it and finally stop for good.  Is my eating like that?  Do I have to accept that I can NEVER eat high-carb food again?  Will a single piece of high-carb food always lead me to this place?  An out of control fat-bloke feeling sorry for himself?

And if that’s true, can I honestly ever see myself actually being able to do that?

Honest answer to both questions is I don’t know.

I hate this.

The Shrinking Man

It’s all about control

The Shrinking Man - regaining control over my eatingHi all,

Time for an update, as I’m having interesting times 🙂

I’m still hovering between about 17.5 and 18 stone, which is obviously too heavy, but I’m surprised to find that I feel a huge amount better at 17.5 stone than I do at 18.  That seven pounds makes an enormous difference to how I feel mentally and physically, and how confident and relaxed I feel generally.

I’m not sure how much of an exact science this is, but once I hit about 17st 12, my breathing become a little more laboured during the day, and much more so at night.  I can’t really describe it much better than this, but I those few extra pounds make me feel much more than a few pounds heavier.  My clothes are tighter, and I just feel heavier.

Now to a person of more ‘traditional’ weight, that might seem obvious – a few pounds is a lot of weight, and seven of them is loads, but when you’re a lot bigger, the differences are often harder to spot.  They have been for me anyway.  I’m happy to be noticing some of the more subtle differences, so I’m not complaining about it, I’m just interested in it I guess.

I’ve been dipping in and out of low-carb eating over the last few weeks, and I’m learning a lot about how my body reacts to certain things.  I’ve always believed that it had to be an all or nothing decision – I was either eating low-carb or I wasn’t, and if I slipped off the wagon even once, that would be it, and I’d lose control.  In the past, I’ve certainly found that to be the case – once I dipped back into the high-carb world, that’s been it, and I’ve lost the control that I’d been enjoying.

I might be being rather naive here, and I may look back on this in months to come and establish that this was the point that I lost control altogether, but I don’t believe that it has to be that way.  I think that a better understanding of what’s happening when I eat certain foods gives me the power to exercise a whole lot more control than I feel I’ve been able to in the past.

If I’ve been eating low-carb and I step outside it even once, it has a number of effects on me.  First of all, I’ll put on about 3-4 pounds overnight.  That seems to be a clear pattern, and I did read something a while ago that explained what caused that, but I can’t remember what it was, so for now, we’ll just have to consider that it’s the Sugar Fairies moving in.  Secondly, I will crave other high-carb foods almost immediately, but I won’t notice that I’m craving them at first.  If I notice that I’m craving, and don’t give in, then within a couple of days of low-carb eating, the 3-4 pounds will drop off and I’ll be back to normal.  If I don’t notice that I’m craving, and I eat more high-carb foods, then before I know it, I’m back into the familiar craving-led cycle where I’ve lost all control of what I’m eating.

Let me just pull that apart a bit, because I’m not sure it makes sense when I say it out loud, even though it feels totally sensible to me.  If I notice that I’m craving high-carb foods, then I have decisions to make about what I eat.  Those decisions aren’t easy to make, but they’re consciously made.  If I don’t notice that I’m craving high-carb foods, then those decisions are made for me.  If I don’t notice that I’m craving high-carb foods, then eating them is as natural and automatic as breathing.  I just feel compelled to do it, but it’s not a conscious compulsion.  Does that make any sense to you?

Anyway, at some point, I realise that I’ve lost control, and I become conscious of the cravings.  By this point, it’s much more difficult to resist them, but there’s a really important point that makes it easier to work with.  If I resist the cravings to eat high-carb foods, then those cravings begin to subside within hours, and disappear within a day or two.  If I give in, then they embed themselves back into my life and they remain in control of what I’m eating.

So what does all that mean?  Let me sum it up as best as I can.  It means that while it’s a whole lot better and easier for me if I remain in a low-carb world, as the cravings that have previously dominated my life are kept at bay, stepping outside for a while isn’t the end of the world.  I’m starting to understand how my body and mind react to changes in my eating, and that means I don’t need to be surprised by it.  I can prepare myself for it, and regain control before it has a chance to bed itself in.

That’ll do for now – happy shrinking.

The Shrinking Man.

Doesn’t Time Fly etc. April 19th 2015

The Shrinking Man - 19th April 2015Well it’s been a while – how’s the wife etc?  I’ve had an interesting few months since I last posted here, so I thought it was probably about time that I posted here – I know how you worry.

So where should I start?  How about this – I currently weigh somewhere around 17.5 stone, which is about a stone and a half lighter than I was at the end of 2014.  Not earth-shattering in any way, and still much too heavy to be healthy and happy, but progress of sorts.  I actually dropped that weight off at the end of January and have drifted between about 17st 4lb and 17st 12lb ever since then.

I’m back in a low-carb world, and am generally enjoying it.  I’ve done low-carb eating before, and am always amazed by how good it makes me feel – I also end up wondering why I don’t eat this way all the time.  There are good reasons for that though, which I’ll talk about another time perhaps.

When I cut my carb intake down significantly, the cravings that I usually experience each and every day disappear completely.  I can’t begin to describe what that feels like.  Actually I probably can, so I’m going to give it a try 🙂  Imagine that you have a parrot sitting on your shoulder, that continually whispers in your ear, encouraging you to eat.  Wherever you are, and whatever you’re doing, the parrot is there, reminding you quietly that you should be eating.  Watching telly?  ‘Go to the fridge and get some food’.  Driving the car?  ‘Stop at the garage and get some food’.  Concentrating at work?  ‘Go to the canteen and get some food’.  You get the picture?

Weirdly, I was never actually aware of the parrot until I first tried low carb eating.  I’d lived with the parrot for so long, that I didn’t know he was there – he whispers ever so quietly you see.  He was as much a part of me as the shoulder that he sat on.  It was only when he disappeared that I realised he’d ever existed.

So when I cut back on carbs significantly, I genuinely don’t think about food.  I have to remind myself to eat at times, as it’s just not on my mind, and that makes it much easier to lose weight.

I have no idea whether everyone has a parrot, but I’d bet significant amounts of cash that most overweight people do.  Anyway, I can’t ever really know about them, but I can say for sure that I have a parrot.  When I feed him carbs, he encourages me to eat more carbs.  He does it very, very subtly, and unless I’m really listening hard, I can’t hear him consciously.  But my subconscious mind hears him perfectly, and eat I do.

The trouble is that eating very low-carb isn’t something that I find very easy to sustain.  All of the foods that I would consider to be my favourites are laden with carbs, and that makes it a significant sacrifice to cut them all out.  No more crisps, wine gums, midget gems (oh those midget gems 😉 ), biscuits, pizza and so on?

So what happens is that I’ll just have a little bit of something that I fancy – a pack of crisps at the weekend, or a couple of biscuits late at night – that’s not exactly going to kill me is it?  And that’s where this starts to get interesting, because that’s where the parrot starts whispering again.  BUT I CAN’T HEAR HIM!

I’ve been experimenting with what it feels like when the parrot starts again, and I’m learning lots.  I can tell you that it doesn’t last for long, unless you do what it says.  If you give in, then before you know it you’re back in the crazy world of out of control eating.  If you eat something carb-free or low-carb as soon as you notice he’s back, then it tends to shut the parrot up, but he will keep coming back for a few days until you’ve got the stuff out of your system.

There’s a whole lot more to write about this, but that’ll do for now – I’m tired and want to sleep.  The parrot wants crisps too, but he’s getting nothing tonight.

More soon.

The Shrinking Man

Objectives and Things to do

goals1I mentioned yesterday that I’d drawn up some objectives and things to do to meet them, but didn’t have time to get them up here.  Actually I was struggling with the limitations of the WordPress app, but I’ve found a better app to use now, so sharing can begin again.

My objectives at this point in time are:

  • To feel happy with myself
  • To improve my health
  • To reduce my risks of developing type II diabetes
  • To be able to wear nicer clothes
  • To reduce my weight
  • To improve my breathing
  • To look sexier
  • To improve my confidence
  • To have my daughter feel proud of me
  • To have my wife feel proud of me
  • To have my mum worry less about my health
  • To help me look more professional
  • To make clothes shopping fun
  • To feel lighter
  • To feel sexier
A few ideas to help me on the way to the above:

  • Drink more water
  • Eat more healthy meats
  • Eat more cheese
  • Eat more olives
  • Walk more
  • Cycle more
  • Dance more
  • Sing more
  • Eat more fruit
  • Eat more vegetables
  • Read more books
  • Go to the cinema more
  • Swim more
  • Relax more
  • Stretch more
  • Meditate more
  • Eat more slowly
  • Be more present
  • Sleep more
  • Be proud more
  • Be happier more
Some very specific things in there, with quite a few more general things, but enough to be going on with for now.
More as I think of it.

The Shrinking Man.

And so it begins again :-)

incredible_shrinking_manIt’s not quite new year yet, but I’m starting early. I’ve been under the weather for a few days – ropey throat – but am using the time to think a little on next shrinking steps.

Current weight is 18st 11.5lbs which is clearly very heavy. It’s heavy enough for it to affect my breathing, and to generally have me feeling unhealthy, and it isn’t sustainable.

All I’m going to say for now is that I’ve just signed up and paid for a 14 month contract at my local gym, and I’ve put together a list of things that I’m going to do to make some changes.

Happy Christmas etc.

The Shrinking Man

Get The NEED – Get It!

The Shrinking ManHi all

It’s always been difficult to write on here when I’m not shrinking.  It feels a little ludicrous to be writing about it when I’m blatantly not doing it, which is why you’ll see a fairly disjointed history if you look back over time.  When all is well, I struggle to contain myself before the regular Sunday update, whereas when I’m not doing well, I’m too ashamed to write.

Shame holds a powerful place in the shrinking world.  I feel ashamed that I’m fat again, and ashamed of what other people might think of me because of that.  I know I won’t be top of their list of things to think about on a daily basis, but I also presume that friends, family and casual acquaintances will see a grown man incapable of controlling what he eats and feel a degree of disgust.

It genuinely is true – I am incapable of controlling what I eat.  That’s both a horrible, horrible thing to admit to oneself, but also something that relieves some of the pressure of this.  It’s true that I can control this for months at a time, but absolutely true that I can’t control it on an ongoing basis.

There’s a temptation to use that acknowledgment as an excuse to give up.  To sit back and embrace the fatness within me, and just accept that this is who I am.  Let the diabetes, heart problems and other health issues that are waiting round the corner for me, let them have their way and let destiny take over.

I still don’t think that all is lost though.  I think that lack of control is fed by what I feed myself, and that for reasons that I’m not sure I can properly explain, some of what I eat drives the rest of what I eat.

I have no idea if this is common, or if I’m just a little odd in this way, but I still don’t think of myself as fat.  It’s still a surprise when I see myself in photos and get to see what everybody else sees.  I know I’m a big guy, but I still don’t really believe just how big – I have no idea if that’s a good thing or not.  Or relevant in any way – you’re getting a real dump of my troubled mind right now – sorry.

The bottom line for me is that my lack of control is making me desperately unhappy.  On a daily basis I struggle to do what should be easy, and over any significant period of time, I lose that battle.  I’m an 18.5 stone man, and that tears me apart.  I don’t want to be a fat man.  I really, really don’t.

Grant WilliamsI don’t think that as a society, or even as a species, we understand what’s happening to people like me.  I know I’m not alone.  This is a growing problem and despite massive awareness campaigns, obesity is getting worse pretty much across the globe.  Something isn’t working.

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the things that we’re proposing as the solution to obesity, may well be the cause of obesity.  The shift towards low-fat foods, the massive increase in processed foods and the corresponding influx of sugar into our diets might just be the thing that’s driving this.  I doubt that I’m likely to crack the cause of this worldwide problem, but I’m determined to find out what makes me like this.

I’ve been experimenting a little over recent weeks, trying to understand what my reactions are to the foods that I eat, and trying to understand whether there are links between what I eat and what I then want to eat.  It’s early days, but I’d suggest that so far, I can say that there are three categories of foods.

  • There are foods that fill me up and satisfy me
  • There are foods that make me want to eat more
  • There are foods that make me NEED to eat more

This isn’t the most scientific approach of course, and it’s over a very short space of time, but there are genuine differences between what I eat and how I feel.

  • Real, unprocessed food fills me up and satisfies me.  I’m talking about meat, eggs, cheese and some fruit and vegetables (e.g. apples, salad vegetables)
  • Some food fills me up but makes me want to eat more – not necessarily of it, but other processed foods.  I’m talking about processed meats, some fruits and vegetables (grapes, potatoes)
  • Some food doesn’t fill me up at all and makes me NEED to eat more.  Here I’m talking about biscuits, crisps, chips.

That NEED that I’ve mentioned there – it genuinely is a NEED and I could no more avoid it than I could stop breathing.  But it’s triggered by other things that I eat.  It’s not there all the time.  If I eat real unprocessed foods, then I don’t get the same compulsion to eat.  I still have the desire to eat stuff, but that’s a habit thing, and is very different to the NEED.  The habit is something that isn’t easy to deal with but I can deal with it.  The NEED is different.

careyAnyway, right now I’m sitting back and studying what happens to me.  I’m not beating myself up if I eat stuff that isn’t great for me – I’m studying what it does to me, both in the moment and afterwards.  As it stands right now, I’m eating mainly the first category on Monday – Thursday and eating pretty much what I like on Friday – Sunday.  No real logic behind it, just taking some of the pressure off of me.  I’m actually dropping weight off while I’m eating better, but then putting it back on during the days when I’m not.

Today is a ‘eating what I like’ day and I’ll give you a very brief glimpse into my day.  I had bacon, eggs and fried bread for a late breakfast.  I was full, and had no desire to eat anything else.  Mid afternoon, I had some processed meats and cheese – I was relatively full, but wanted to eat more.  I had a bag of crisps.  Almost as soon as I’d had the crisps I NEEDED to eat something sweet.  NEEDED.  I don’t expect the thin blokes amongst you to understand that, but I NEEDED it.  I had six biscuits that I wolfed down in seconds.  No pleasure, just guilt, shame and calories.  For dinner I had a fish pie with peas and sweetcorn.  It filled me up and I had no desire to eat more.  I had some cheesecake for pudding.  I was tempted to eat more after that, though I wasn’t hungry at all, but avoided it.

So what does that tell me?  It tells me that there might just be reasons why I can’t control what I eat, and that those reasons might be connected to what I eat.  It’s not about the calories in a bag of crisps.  It’s about the calories that eating a bag of crisps makes me NEED to eat afterwards.

Early days, but interesting times.

Have a good week.

The Shrinking Man.

And so it goes on ;-)

careyWell once again, I’m officially fat.  I’ve just returned from holiday and tipped the scales at 19st.  19st!!!!

That’s really rather fat.  I’m feeling wheezy and out of shape and that’s not good.  I’m too old to not be getting to grips with this stuff – I won’t get away with it for ever.

So the eternal cycle goes a bit like this:

  • I get fat
  • I hate myself
  • I eat more
  • I get fatter
  • I lose weight
  • I hate myself
  • I eat more
  • I get fatter
  • Repeat till fade

It’s a very difficult circle to try to square – the hatred I feel for myself when I”m fat that drives me to lose weight doesn’t seem to disappear when I’ve lost weight, and that hatred makes me eat more and I get fat again.

Hatred may be too strong a word really – I don’t find myself detesting myself on an hourly basis, though I am aware that I am more critical of myself than I would ever be of another person.

That suggests that the real quest needs to be to learn to love myself.  When what you see in the mirror never fails to shock, disturb and horrify you, that’s a difficult thing to do.  I need to learn to love myself so that I lose weight because I love myself rather than because I hate myself.  That seems to make some sort of sense anyway.

I’m not kidding about mirror-shock.  I look at my face every morning and that I’m never surprised by.  I actually quite like it to be honest, though I can see the chins and jowls for what they are.  But whenever I see myself in a full length mirror or a photo, I never cease to be amazed by the fat bloke looking back at me.  I’m not sure what sort of denial I’ve got going on there, but it’s very strong.

Anyway, I know I eat badly.  Or well, depending on your point of view.  I drink too much fizzy crap and not enough water.  I eat when I’m not hungry and I eat to excess, and I eat a lot of processed crap.  I eat loads of sweets.  I eat a fair bit of chocolate.  I eat loads of crisps.  And I’m very fat!  Who’d have thought it?

I think if you were to sum up my attitude to food over the whole of my adult life, it’s been to cross my fingers and hope that one day, I’ll be able to eat as much as I want of whatever I want and lose loads of weight.  That’s probably not going to happen.

I’ve got a headache and I’m going to bed.

Thoroughly fed up.

The Shrinking Man

Sunday – my day of reflection

The Shrinking ManHi 🙂

Here in the shrinking world, life is really quite busy at the moment.  I mentioned last week that I’ve recently started a new work project, and that is taking care of my life between the hours of about 7:00 – 19:00 on weekdays.  I’ve got a number of things going on at the moment in my personal life, including a couple of bands that I play in, a radio show that I write and present.

While the overall workload goes up and down from day to day, it’s fair to say that at the moment, I’m occupied a fair amount of the time.  That’s quite important when shrinking, as it becomes really easy not to think about food if your mind is focussed on deadlines or other stuff that you just have to be done.

Weekends are hopefully a bit different, at least some of the time.  While the bands, the radio show and other stuff gets in the way a little, it’s less intrusive than it tends to be during the week, and the consequence of that is that I end up with more thinking time.  Time when my mind can wander towards food and just what I really ought to be eating at this very moment in time.  Which is where the problems often start.

Let me introduce a key question that I have in my mind at the moment.  Does cutting out processed, carb-loaded food switch off cravings for processed, carb-loaded food, or have I just been too busy to pay attention to them during the week?

A few weeks ago I was firmly in the ‘cutting them out kills the cravings’ camp, and at the moment, I’m a little less certain, and that’s down to two main things.  First of all, during the last week, I’ve eaten scones for breakfast on a couple of occasions, and not noticed any craving difference from when I just ate berries and yoghurt.  Secondly, last Saturday I had berries and yoghurt for breakfast and still had cravings straight afterwards.  I think the answer to both of those things might be that there’s a time limit to the craving effect that crabs drive in me, and that it’s a cumulative effect the more carbs that I eat.  Let me delve a little deeper into this and see if it makes sense.

Let me start with last Saturday’s berries and yoghurt breakfast.  That’s a breakfast that’s relatively low in carbs, and also pretty low GI in the wider scheme of things.  That means that it shouldn’t be delivering any major blood sugar spikes that I’m informed by the sciencey people are probably the actual cause of cravings.  So why did I suffer cravings (for left over KFC if I remember correctly) having eaten that particular breakfast?  Well I’d suggest that it could be the cumulative effect of the previous evening’s carb marathon that was still in my system the next morning, so that even the ‘right’ sort of breakfast wasn’t going to overpower the cumulative effect of the carbs.  Just to reiterate, the day before, I’d eaten hot cross buns, crisps, a fair amount of KFC, biscuits and more.

That makes some sort of sense to me.  So what about the lack of cravings during the week?  How have I eaten scones for breakfast but not been subject to cravings during the day?  I’m guessing here, but perhaps I hadn’t eaten enough carbs to cause me significant problems, and that the busy work schedule meant that by the time I sat and thought about anything, they’d worn off.  Not the most scientific basis for a conclusion, but I’m just trying to make sense of it.

What I do now is that it’s Sunday, and that I’m surround by cravings once again.  I’ve followed a similar pattern to last week, in that Monday to Thursday I’ve eaten pretty well, and from Friday it all changes.  I had crisps and a cereal bar type thing with my lunch, a Chinese takeaway for my dinner and I snacked a bit afterwards.  Less than last weekend, but still there.  There are some subtle differences though and I think they’re important.

I posted last week about the Craving Cycle and that I saw things a little differently as a result of that understanding.  That’s stayed with me this weekend.  I had some hot cross buns for my breakfast this morning, and almost before I’d finished them, my cravings were suggesting that I ought to be having something else.  I wasn’t satisfied by the breakfast in any way, it merely made me want to eat more, ably assisted by last night’s Doritos 😉  I know that in previous weeks, months and years, however hard I tried, I would give in to those cravings, because in the end, I wanted to get rid of the cravings.  The fundamental difference now is that I understand (finally) that giving in to the cravings doesn’t get rid of them.  Instead, it continues the cycle and causes the next cravings.

What is in my head right now is that if I don’t give in to the cravings, then they will go away.  I have no idea how long it will take today, but I don’t think it will be for too long.  There’s a certain calm that comes from understanding this a little better, and however unpleasant the cravings are (and for those of you who don’t have them, it really is an unpleasant experience) they’re not going to kill me.  It feels like I just understand it all a little better, and it brings perspective to something that I’ve struggled with for my entire adult life.

I feel like I’m getting a better awareness of how to approach this too.  There’s a cause and effect thing here and it’s one that I can use to help me overcome this.  If I eat some of the stuff that I know triggers my cravings, then I’m going to get cravings.  Knowing that, if I still want to eat that stuff, then that’s fine, but I’ll have to deal with the cravings that come with the territory.  If I give in to the cravings, then the cycle will continue for a while until I break it, and it will all have been down to whatever I ate in the first place that started it.  The next time I’m asking myself the question “do I really want to eat this?” then that experience should be part of the evidence for the prosecution.

Regular readers will know that it frustrates the hell out of me that I’ve not been able to beat this food thing.  Having stopped smoking and drinking without so much as a furrowed brow, the fact that I’ve not been able to stop myself overeating on a regular basis has always troubled me.  The truth is that I was able to stop smoking easily once I understood how the addiction cycle actually worked – essentially that the cause of the cravings for the next cigarette was the nicotine in the last one, and that it was nothing to do with me enjoying the cigarette.  That led directly to me stopping drinking too, as I was pretty clear that I drank for exactly the same reasons.  What I’ve been looking for is the same psychological switch that would let me understand the food problem in the same way.  On many, many occasions I’ve thought that I’d found it in the past, only to discover that to be untrue.  That makes me nervous about saying this, because I’ve been wrong so many times in the past, but the craving cycle would appear to me to be that switch.  For the first time, I think I truly ‘get’ it.

Only time will tell of course, and my promise to you is that I’ll share whatever happens with you.  May your shrinking week be interesting.

The Shrinking Man

PS – I lost a couple of pounds this week too – oddly that’s less important to me at the moment, but it’s still good news.


Current Weight – 17st 6lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 12lb
Current BMI – 34.0
Starting BMI – 35.7

The Craving Cycle

word-lockThree updates in a single day?  I don’t know whether to apologise or start charging.

I’d like to propose something here that seems to me to be quite sensible.  I’ve just had a sandwich, and am craving crisps with it.  I don’t think that’s a ‘normal’ state of affairs, as I’ve eaten sandwiches every day this week and not craved crisps with any of them.  That suggests to me that as a result of some of the stuff I’ve eaten over the past two or there days, my body’s reaction is to crave more of that stuff.  In simple terms, I think I’m craving crisps because my body wants more of the processed crap that I’ve fed it in the last couple of days – KFC, cheesecake, crisps, biscuits, chocolate and so on.

Now my traditional response here is to eat the crisps as a way of dealing with the craving.  Is that stupid?  I think it probably is anyway, but up until now I’ve allowed the cravings to win.  What I hadn’t considered before was that by giving in, I’m feeding the cravings and making them stronger.  Why hadn’t I considered that before? Because I’m a bit of an idiot at times I guess 🙂

What I’m trying to say here is that traditionally if I was craving crisps, I’d eat the crisps because it got rid of the cravings.  Even with all the cumulative downsides that came from eating the crisps, at least eating them dealt with the cravings and brought me peace.  What I’m saying now is that perhaps eating the crisps doesn’t deal with the cravings at all – perhaps eating the crisps causes them.  Just as a cigarette sets up the craving for the next one, so eating the sort of the processed foods that my body is craving sets up the craving for more later on.


That may be obvious to many of you, but that’s just flicked a light-switch on for me.  That puts everything into a very different perspective and challenges my inbuilt response to cravings, which is usually to just give in so they go away.  But they never have done.  They’ve always been there.  But when I stop eating that stuff, they disappear.

I need to think on this for a while, but that’s a fascinating development for me, and I’m really pleased you were here to share it.

Enjoy your week.

The Shrinking Man

Current Weight – 17st 8lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 10lb
Current BMI – 34.3
Starting BMI – 35.7

Coke, Caffeine and Sleep Disruption

Coca-Cola-LogoI promised an update earlier on regarding the diet coke situation, and this is it.

Just to set the scene for those of you who are new to my ramblings, I have spent the majority of the last 25-30 years drinking mainly sweetened (sugar or artificial) soft drinks of some sort or other.  Diet coke has been the mainstay of my life for at least the last 15 years, and I’ve recently broken what I can safely say was a dependency – read here for more on that.

At first I abstained completely, then I dipped back in occasionally, and I’ve now been dipping in and out for long enough to be able to draw some firm conclusions from it.

  1. First of all, if I drink a small bottle or glass of coke while I’m out (diet or regular) then I can function perfectly normally.  I don’t feel desperate cravings to buy another one, and it doesn’t seem to affect me in any other way.
  2. Secondly, If I buy a large bottle of coke for home (diet or regular) then I’ll really struggle not to finish the bottle in one go.
  3. Thirdly, if I have more than a glass/small bottle of it, my sleep is really disrupted.  I can get off to sleep ok, but I will wake again after a couple of hours (oddly enough at around 2am every time) with an actual buzzing in my head.  I’ll struggle to get back to sleep at all, and what sleep I do get will be disturbed.
  4. Having had more than a glass or small bottle of it on one day, the next day I will feel cravings for more

I’ve noticed similar cravings from other fizzy drinks recently, but without the sleep disruption, which I presume is down to the caffeine (I don’t drink coffee so this would be my only caffeine intake).

So what does all that mean?  It probably means I shouldn’t be drinking any of this sweetened crap, but if I do, then I need to carefully control my intake of it.  More than a glass in a day and my ability to control the amount I drink after that is weakened considerably, and if it’s coke, then I’ll struggle to sleep.

That’s all for now – more as I think it.

The Shrinking Man

Current Weight – 17st 8lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 10lb
Current BMI – 34.3
Starting BMI – 35.7

What an odd week

The Shrinking Man - Weight loss for menHi all

Just a quick update today – it’s been a rather odd week.

When we last spoke, I was unsure how to proceed.  I knew I couldn’t continue eating what I wanted without losing control and piling the pounds back on again.  I also knew I was finding it difficult to give Atkins the dedication it requires to be successful.

I wasn’t clear how to proceed, so decided that I would remove a lot of the processed carb stuff from my diet, but not get too uptight about it all.  I’ve just started a new work contract, so have been ridiculously busy which has helped.  I’ve also had very busy evenings, which again has made it easier to distract myself.

What that’s meant is that I’ve had a simple bowl of fruit (mainly berries) and full fat greek yoghurt for breakfast on most days.  For lunch I’ve had a brown baguette with ham, egg mayonnaise and salad.  For dinner I’ve had whatever my wife and daughter have been having, but with less or no potato/pasta/rice at all.  For the majority of the week I’ve drunk water all day, with at most one glass of diet cherryade or orangeade in the evening.  I’ve not snacked all week.

The weekend has been different.  On Friday I had a couple of hot cross buns for breakfast, and added a pack of crisps to my lunch.  We then got a KFC as a treat of sorts in the evening, including a bottle of diet coke.  I hadn’t felt any different during the day on Friday, but once it got to KFC time, I certainly ate more than I needed to.  I still left some, but felt unpleasantly stuffed afterwards.  Following the KFC, I snacked a bit during the evening – I ate crisps, biscuits and a few other bits.  Nothing too much (not for a fat bloke anyway) but the old cravings were definitely back.

Saturday followed a similar pattern – I had my fruit and yoghurt for breakfast, but very quickly was into the leftover chicken.  Crisps and biscuits during the day and homemade pizza for tea, with cheesecake for pudding.  Again an evening of snacking, including a bit more cheesecake, some chocolate and some biscuits.

Since I left work on Friday, I’ve not touched a drop of water.  Everything I’ve drunk has been some sort of diet drink – some diet coke, but mainly orangeade and cherryade.

It’s Sunday morning now, and I’m finding writing this really interesting, as I hadn’t really taken on board just how much I’d snacked since Friday.  What’s most interesting perhaps is what led to the change in behaviour.  I guess it could have been down to a few things:

  1. I can’t do that sort of sensible moderation for more than a few days at a time
  2. As soon as I stopped being busy, I had too much time to think and my demons took over
  3. The food that I ate from Friday breakfast time started a cycle of craving that made it inevitable that I was going to carry on eating too much
  4. The artificially sweetened drink that I’ve been drinking since Friday evening has triggered cravings of some sort that made it inevitable that I was going to carry on eating too much

Now I’m sure that there are elements of all of those going on.  I’ve got a lot of ingrained habits to break, so it’s probably sensible to expect a few lapses.  Suddenly having time to sit and do nothing probably also played a part – it really has been a crazily busy week.  But my money is on the main driver being a combination of the latter two.  Once I started eating the wrong stuff, and drinking the wrong stuff, I found it pretty much impossible to stop eating and drinking more of the wrong stuff, and all the familiar cravings were back.

Does that mean I never eat stuff like KFC again?  It would probably be a good idea, but rightly or wrongly at the moment, I still see that stuff as a treat, and I like treats.  What I think it means is that I’m going to have to accept that when I do eat stuff like that, that it’s going to lead to some cravings that I’ll struggle to control.  If I accept that and still want to eat it, then that’s an informed decision that I’ll have to accept the consequences of.  The same for the drinks – the cherryade and stuff that I’ve loved since childhood can’t be all I drink – if they are, then I’ll always struggle with my weight.  I think the coke is different altogether, and I’ll write more on that in another update later.

Anyway, the long and the short of it is this.  I’ve spent the week feeling pretty much in control of what I’ve been eating and drinking.  Then at the weekend, I’ve changed things around and have lost control of what I’ve been eating and drinking.

And I’ve lost three pounds.  Which is rather funny when all is said and done.

Have a great week.

The Shrinking Man

Current Weight 17st 8lb
Starting Weight – 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss – 10lb
Current BMI – 34.3
Starting BMI – 35.7

And so it goes on

incredibleshrinkingman2Morning 🙂

It’s been an interesting week or so here at Shrinking Towers.  I’ve been very relaxed about what I’ve been eating over the last week or so, as I’m unsure of just what my next approach should be.  I’ve not necessarily eaten to excess that often, but I’ve not restricted my food choices in any way – I’ve eaten whatever the rest of the family have been eaten, and I’ve eaten whatever I wanted.  Can you guess where that ended up?  It ended up with me last night, sitting on the sofa eating multiple bags of crisps, chocolates left over from Christmas and midget gems.

Just in case there had been any doubt in my mind about it, that’s a useful reminder of what happens when I stop controlling what I’m eating.  I eat uncontrollably.

What is also clear to me is that this is not how it has to be.  For the last month or so where I’ve been eating a generally low-carb diet, I haven’t wanted to snack out at the end of the day.  I’ve occasionally had the urge to eat something in the evenings, but when I have, I’ve eaten something that fills me up, and you know what?  I’ve felt full and that’s been enough.

Actually, scrub that.  I really don’t think that full has anything to do with it.  I’m pretty much always full.  My desire to eat in those situations isn’t connected to hunger.  Does that make any sense?  My desire to eat, which is at times uncontrollable, has no connection whatsoever to being hungry.  There’s rather important stuff in there isn’t there?  First of all, if the desire to eat isn’t driven by hunger, then eating isn’t going to get rid of the desire to eat.  Secondly, it begs a different question – what exactly is driving this desire to eat?

I don’t believe I’m necessarily an emotional eater, though I’m not completely convinced of that.  I’m coming round to the point of view that what I’m eating is driving my desire to eat.  When I eat sugar-packed processed foods, I get uncontrollable urges to eat.  I’ve read a number of articles and books that support that as a possibility, most of which centre on insulin as the culprit, so there are certainly people who’d agree with my clumsy diagnosis.

My mission in life is to get in control of this.  It annoys me – it really does – and I’m determined that somehow I’m going to master this thing.  My instinct is to dive back into Atkins, embrace it fully and relax into a world of low-carb heaven.  I’m resisting that at the moment for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I’ve found it difficult to do the Atkins thing with enough commitment recently.  Secondly, it feels like I’m giving control to the late Dr. Atkins rather than getting control myself, which just doesn’t feel right.

Having said that, I want to eat a lower-carb diet, and cut back on the processed stuff that’s in my diet.  I’d like to think that will do a couple of things – first of all, it will stop the cravings and allow me to be in control of what I eat, and secondly, it might just help me to lose a little weight.

So – just random thoughts really, but very key to what’s going on with me right now – I’m not in control of what I’m eating, and I want to be.  And I will be.  Christ knows when of course 😉

Have a good week.

The Shrinking Man

New Year, Same Quest

The Shrinking Man - One man's Quest to make less of himselfHi.  It’s been a while.

It’s three and a half years since I started this blog, a couple of years since I stopped updating it regularly and five months since I updated it at all.  I’m about the same weight as I was when I started the blog, having lost more than 60 pounds and put it all back on again.  It would be best to describe me as being pretty much the same, but perhaps a little more jaded.

On the one hand, I’ve proved to myself that I really can lose weight when I set my mind to it.  On the other hand, I’ve proved to myself that I don’t know how to stop myself putting it all back on again pretty damn quickly.  Certainly much quicker than I lost it anyway.

Anyway, I’m tempted to write a little more at the moment, so I’ll give it a try and see whether it helps or not.  When things aren’t going well in the shrinking stakes, it can be quite a negative thing to write about it, so I’m not sure whether I’m in the right place to write right now (try saying that when you’re drunk).

Let me sum up recent events.  I’ve recently dipped back into the world of Atkins for a bit, but struggled to do it ‘properly’ and then got cross when I didn’t lose vast amounts each week.  I’ve dipped in and out of artificial sweeteners altogether, cut out coke, brought coke back in, cut back on coke and generally tried to be aware of what’s going on when I eat.

Here’s some stuff that I’ve noticed recently.  This will probably sound really obvious to all of you out there in thin world, but I’ve noticed that there are some foods that fill me up and some foods that make we want to eat more of them.  That seems to be pretty significant, particularly as the foods that make me want to eat more of them are foods that I eat a lot of.  All the snacks that I like – crisps, jelly sweets, midget gems (oh those midget gems) cocktail sausages, cakes, biscuits and stuff like that – they all fail to satisfy me, and make me want to eat more of them.

It’s not just snacking either – with things more closely related to proper food such as chicken, I think there’s some interesting stuff going on there too.  If I eat a chicken breast, I find it satisfies my appetite.  If I eat chicken that is coated, breaded, or generally covered in processed crap of some kind, then it doesn’t satisfy my appetite and makes me want to eat more.  That’s not quite true actually, I do end up full from eating breaded chicken, but not till I’ve eaten too much and am already feeling really stuffed.

Let me go a little further with this and see if it makes sense.  If I put a plate of chicken breasts in front of me, then I would eat until I’d had enough, and then I’d stop.  If I put a plate of breaded chicken breasts in front of me, I’d eat more, and there’s a good chance that I’d clear the plate, no matter how much was on there.  Chicken breasts = satisfied appetite, feeling physically comfortable and mentally in control.  Breaded chicken breasts = overeating, feeling physically stuffed and mentally out of control.  Factor in all the self-loathing that goes with that and you’re halfway to describing my life around food.

Let me add in another element to that.  Some foods make me want to just eat more.  Yesterday I had a traditionally unhealthy lunch of mushrooms, bacon and fried eggs.  I felt full and satisfied.  A short while later I had some wine gums that I just happened to find around the house.  First of all, I wasn’t hungry, and I knew I wasn’t hungry.  I really wasn’t enjoying them either – I really, really had to work hard to finish them all, which of course I did.  What I found particularly interesting was that a short while later I wanted to eat crisps.  I’ve hardly eaten any wine gums or crisps for a few months, which made it easy to notice that there was a link between the two.  If I hadn’t eaten the wine gums (which I didn’t really want and didn’t enjoy) then I wouldn’t have wanted the crisps (which I didn’t really want and didn’t enjoy).

There’s something significant in here I think.  My holy grail has always been moderation.  I’ve always sought this perfect mix of healthy eating and treats, but I’ve never been able to moderate the treats.  Never.  Not for any period of time anyway.  It might just be that what I’m looking for is never going to work – the very fact that I eat some of the stuff that I tell myself I want makes it almost impossible for me not to eat more of it.

I’m definitely coming at this off of the back of my brief stint with Atkins – the foods that I struggle with are pretty much all carbohydrate-rich processed crap, which ties in very strongly with the Atkins philosophy.  What’s been quite interesting for me has been delving a little further into the low-carb world and seeing that there’s a lot of people talking about similar approaches.

So what does that mean for The Shrinking Man?  Good question.  I’d say it means this – there are some types of foods that are likely to work against me when I’m seeking to lose weight.  Foods that not only make me want to eat more of that food, but also make me want to eat more of other foods.  None of the things that do this to me are what I’d class as healthy anyway.  Are they even foods?  Does something that doesn’t fill you up qualify as a food?  That’s a point for another day I think.

Does this mean I never eat those foods?  In an ideal world yes – I’m not sure that’s all that viable in the long-run (says the man who’s stopped drinking and smoking without so much as a second thought) but it would be great.  For now though, what I’m determined to do is to go into anything with my eyes open.  If I choose to eat those foods, then I’ll do so knowing what the likely impact of that will be, and being aware of it as it happens.  (I can see a link to cigarettes in this too.  If I don’t have those foods, I don’t crave them.  If I don’t smoke, I don’t crave cigarettes – more on this later too.)

Anyway, it feels quite good to be back right now.  That was an interesting piece to write.

More soon.

The Shrinking Man

I’m Very Strange

careyHi all,

Just a quick update here to keep you in the loop around what’s happening here in Shrinking Land.

I’ve been coke-free now for more than a month.  That’s rather weird to be totally honest with you, but I’m pleased.  I’ve honestly not missed it since the first week of tough withdrawal symptoms, and while it would be really easy to have some and start the whole cycle off again, I’ve not felt any pressure to do that.

That’s the positive stuff.  The negative stuff is centred around the fact that I can now safely say that diet drinks haven’t been the sole cause of my general fatness.  I do believe that diet drinks have been a contributory factor, but I still have all the same cravings and urges that I’ve come to know and despise so much.  I think I can say with little doubt that those cravings and urges are caused by sweet stuff of all kinds.

I’ve been experimenting with a variety of different drinks, and can report that I’ve drunk too much sugary stuff, and I’ve put on weight again.  The drinks themselves have contributed there, but the cravings and urges that they lead to are probably the main culprit, but the common factor is the sweet drinks.

My liquid intake these days is a mix of stlll water, sparkling water, water mixed with fruit juice, water with Ribena and 7-up.  I can’t remember whether I mentioned this before, but 7-up has no artificial sweeteners in it, so that’s my ‘treat’ drink of choice.  Of course, being me, I don’t tend to have it as a treat, it can very easily become the main drink on any day.

I’m deliberately not worrying about the fact that I’m drinking too much sugary stuff, or that I’m putting on weight.  I’ve just removed Coke, Diet Coke and all forms of artificial sweetener from my diet in one hit, and I need to give myself a bit of a break.  That’s enough for now.

I’ve noticed a couple of really interesting things in the last couple of weeks:

  • I noticed that artificial sweeteners give me headaches.  I went out for a drink with some friends at the weekend and drank orange juice and lemonade, and lime and soda.  It wasn’t possible to confirm, but I believe that the lemonade will have had sweeteners in it, and that will also be true for the lime cordial.  The next day, I had the sort of headache that I used to get if I didn’t have coke for a few days.  It hurt like hell, but didn’t last.
  • I can challenge myself when I’m eating crap stuff.  An example from this very morning – I was in the kitchen and saw a big bag of crisps on the side.  That’s usually enough.  I ignored them, and got on with the day, and I quickly forgot all about them.  Until the next trip to the kitchen.  But I ignored them again, and this time put them in the cupboard so they were out of the way.  I’ve not thought about them since.  A while later, I went to the biscuit tin and grabbed four biscuits.  I ate two really quickly, and then had a brief chat with myself.  I wasn’t hungry, I was eating them too quickly to be enjoying them and I’d hate myself afterwards if I did eat the other two.  So I went and put them back in the tin!  That’s quite a step for me!

I’m really conscious at the moment that I don’t eat like most people.  I’ve never really ‘got’ just how different my eating patterns are to other people, well to the thin people anyway.  Little things.  I had a bag of wine gums in the car the other day, and picked a friend up.  I said help yourself to the wine gums, and he didn’t.  He didn’t want them.  I sat and ate them one after the other until they were pretty much gone.  But he didn’t want even one.  That’s weird.  Not to him obviously.  I presume it’s weird for him to see the fat bloke just stuffing his face that way.

All I’m going to do for now is to relax a bit, try to challenge myself while I’m eating stuff that I don’t really want or need, and start to bring more water into my diet.

Have a good week.

The Shrinking Man

Coke Schmoke

Grant WilliamsHi all

It’s now been more than three weeks since I last took so much as a sip of Coke/Diet Coke of any kind.  That’s rather cool 🙂  Odd as it feels now, I really didn’t think I’ve ever be able to cope without it.  In those three weeks, I’ve done my best to avoid all forms of artificial sweetener too, though I’ve been amazed at how difficult that is if you’re not really studying labels.

Just to give you an example of what I mean by that, I took a little time to study the labels in the fizzy drink aisle of my local Morrison’s last week.  It’s not too surprising to find that all of the “no added sugar” drinks include artificial sweeteners.  What I was really surprised by was finding that the majority of the regular non-diet drinks also contained artificial sweeteners.  of the entire aisle of drinks, there were only three fizzy drinks that were sweetener-free.  For the record that was Coke and a couple of the less-common Fanta drinks.

That means that every time you’re drinking lemonade, or just about any other fizzy drink, you’re drinking sweeteners.  That’s quite scary.

Anyway, let me tell you a little about what it’s been like for me.  I went totally cold Turkey at first and was only drinking water.  That felt good, but it was also a little boring at times, so after a few days I began to drink Fruit Juice mixed with water, which gave me a lot more options, and was a lot more pleasant.  I’ve also bought some fizzy stuff as a treat every now and again, but only ones that use sugar to sweeten them.

So let’s summarise that for a moment.  I’ve gone from a world where I drank almost nothing other than fizzy drinks with artificial sweeteners in them to drinking mainly water, but with occasional fruit juices mixed with sparkling water, along with occasional sugar-based drinks.  I’m sure that in time there’s an argument that says that some of those should be removed from my diet altogether, but for now, I’m really happy with what I’ve achieved so far.

It wasn’t pleasant at first, but I feel absolutely fine now, and I’m really proud of myself for getting through the initial withdrawal symptoms.  What’s been most interesting to me is that I’ve also learnt a lot about the impact that the stuff that I drink has on my general appetite and well-being.  I can best explain it like this:

  • Artificial sweeteners trigger off cravings in me to simply eat
  • Now I’ve stopped the artificial sweeteners, I no longer have the same cravings
  • Drinks with added sugar trigger off cravings too, but not as strongly
  • Fruit juices can trigger off cravings as well, but less so than drinks with added sugar
  • I’m not sure if it classifies as a formal addiction, but the withdrawal symptoms from sweeteners and caffeine are very unpleasant
  • It’s easier to control the sugar cravings than the sweetener cravings
  • If I’m not sure whether something has sweeteners in it, it’s best to avoid it
  • I’ve noticed that if I have some fruit juice, I’ll want to have another glass straight away.  That’s diminished if I mix the fruit juice with water, and if I use carbonated water, it tastes nicer too.
  • I’ve noticed that if I have a drink with added sugar, I’ll WANT to have another glass straight away, but that if I have a glass of water, then the WANT goes away
  • I’ve noticed that if I have the second glass of sugary drink, whether fruit juice or added sugar stuff, then I’ll want to eat.  Whether it’s sweet or savoury doesn’t matter at all – I just want to eat.

So what does that mean?  Well it’s early days right now, but let me have a stab at some sort of conclusion:

I’ve always considered that the stuff that I’ve been drinking for my entire adult life had at worst a neutral impact on my weight, and probably helped keep it off.  Put bluntly, I’ve always felt that if I wasn’t drinking diet drinks, I’d be even fatter.  I’m starting to believe that there’s a fundamental lie in there, and that in ways that haven’t been properly explained, sweeteners can actually contribute to weight-gain.  I was watching a UK TV programme last week called The Men Who Made Us Thin, which takes a four-part look at the diet industry.  The third part discusses the impact of sweeteners on the brain, and suggests that it can trigger the desire to eat.

As for weight, I’ve been a lot less fussed about it recently – I’m cutting out sweeteners for health reasons rather than weight ones, and oddly enough, I’m losing weight.  Not lots, but I’ve replaced the sweetener drinks with a mix of water and sugary drinks and I’ve lost a few pounds.  What’s most impressive is that I feel a lot more in control of what I’m eating.  I’m still having bad days and bad meals, but I’m starting to identify the patterns in what I consume that trigger them.

For now, that’s progress.

Have a good week.

The Shrinking Man


A coke free week

Hi all,

2090370915_a73f319b07I’m writing at the end of what has been the first coke/diet coke free week of my adult life.  I’m torn between feeling embarrassed and proud of that to be honest, but the pride is the one that’s fighting its way to the fore.  A week without caffeine.  A week without Aspartame/Nutrasweet.  It’s also been a week without any other form of artificial sweetener, so no Sucralose, Sachharine or anything else either.

I feel pretty good right now to be honest, but it’s been a week of withdrawal symptoms, some I was expecting, some I wasn’t, but I certainly wasn’t expecting to feel as bad as I did.  I also wasn’t expecting the cravings that I’ve had to be as strong as they were, and that’s really helped me solidify some stuff in my mind about what this stuff really does to me.

Let me step back to the start of the week – I was feeling angry and determined to take control.  I wasn’t sure what I wanted to take control of, but I was fed up with feeling helpless in the face of all of this, and was going to take control of something.  Diet coke seemed like as good a thing as any, but I wanted to go further and cut out all forms of diet drinks too – artificial sweeteners and caffeine were on the way out.

I was expecting the headaches.  They’ve pretty much gone now.  I wasn’t expecting the trapped wind and stomach pains.  That’s been quite interesting because I’ve had problems with those on and off for a while and hadn’t made the connection between them and me cutting back on Aspartame.  I’m now pretty comfortable that when I cut Aspartame out of my diet, my body responds by making me hurt.  It’s been really uncomfortable, and while it’s almost gone, it’s still there.  That’s quite disturbing.  I had pretty what I’d describe as mild flu symptoms to accompany the headaches and stomach pains too, which was nice – shivers, sweats, nausea – again pretty much gone now, but I had a difficult start to the week.  A few days later, I started to ache in all of my joints – particularly my elbows, which was a little odd.  That’s still there.

Now all of the above could be coincidence.  I’m no Doctor (I trust that doesn’t surprise you 🙂 ) so I don’t know that these symptoms were a reaction to me making significant changes to my diet, but I’d be willing to bet a significant amount of money that they were.

The cravings were very difficult to deal with, and made it pretty clear that there was something significant going on in relation to what I’d cut out – It felt as if I had a voice in my head, prompting me to drink some form of sweetened fizzy drink, and that then everything would be fine.  Everything.  I’d feel much better.  I wouldn’t hurt any more.  I’d be happy and everything would be back to normal.  Scary stuff.

Anyway, I’m pleased and proud to say that I’ve not listened to them, and at the moment at least, they’ve backed off.  It’s quite difficult to work out precisely which of the three things that I’ve stopped drinking is responsible for any of the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.  Caffeine, Aspartame and Sucralose are the three that I’d suggest are the culprits – I’ve ingested vast quantities of each of those daily for decades – Sucralose being the latecomer as I’ve sought out non-Aspartame drinks to replace diet coke with.

I went to a wedding on Friday, and decided to have a few glasses of lemonade to celebrate (I really know how to let my hair down).  I checked it was full-fat lemonade with no sweeteners in, and was assured that it was, and had three glasses of it throughout the day.  That was the first significant sugar I’d had throughout the week, and it really showed.  For starters, when I got home, I demolished a big bag of crisps that I simply hadn’t wanted to touch for the rest of the week.  Secondly, the next day, the cravings were back.  Not as strong as they’d been at the start of the week, but a definite difference that must be down to the sugar.

So let me summarise what I think I’ve learned this week.

  • First of all, the coke and other diet fizzy stuff that I’ve drunk for years aren’t good for me.  I’m going to avoid them from now on.
  • Secondly, I’ve learnt that when I’m not drinking that stuff, I don’t seem to want to stuff my face in quite the same way as I usually do
  • I’m not sure whether it’s sweeteners, sugar or what it is, but for now I’m going to say that it’s sweet stuff that really works against me.

I’ve lost four pounds this week – did I mention that?  Difficult to get too excited about it, having so much to lose again, but I’m going to hold that loss close to my heart, as a reminder that I’ve managed to cut out some really nasty things that have been a huge part of my life for decades, and still manage to lose weight.  That’s a good thing.

In the first part of the week, I drank water exclusively.  Later in the week I introduced some fruit juice, and over the last 24 hours, I’ve been experimenting with mixing fruit juice and sparkling water, while still trying to mainly drink just plain water.

I’m feeling good.

The Shrinking Man

Caffeine and Sweetener Withdrawal


This hurts.

It’s now the fourth day since I stopped drinking fizzy drinks of any kind, and have drunk nothing but water.  This has been the first time in my adult life that I’ve gone without some form of sugary or sweetenery fizzy drink for as much as a day.  That sounds so terrible doesn’t it?  How juvenile do I sound?  I’ve never drunk tea, and have no more than one or two cups of coffee a year when business protocol demands it, so I’ve always lived on sweetened drinks.  As a child and teenager it was usually fruit squashes, as an adult it’s been mainly fizzy stuff.  Coke was the main culprit at first (which probably goes a long way to explaining why my teeth are so poor) as diet coke used to give me headaches, but over time I got used to diet coke.  I rarely drink water, and that means that for my entire adult life, I’ve lived on sweetened drinks.

The impact of the sugary drinks is relatively clear – my teeth are poor and I’m fat.  But what’s the impact of the sweetenery drinks?  That’s harder to see, but I’m going to stick my neck out and have a guess.  I’d suggest that there’s a great chance that the impact of the sweetenery drinks starts with damaging my teeth by mucking up the ph balance.  I’d also suggest that there’s a strong chance that they’ve contributed to my weight problems too.  I’m reading more and more suggestions that the body’s reaction to sweeteners is very similar to its reaction to sugar – cravings for carbohydrates can be triggered by both.  There’s a whole load of scary stuff out there in internet land about just what the chemicals in artificial sweeteners can do to your body, though it’s difficult to know what to put your faith in.

It’s safe to say that I don’t believe that the artificial sweeteners do me any good (I’m still fat 🙂 ) and there’s a very good chance that they’re doing me significant amounts of harm.

So I’ve stopped them.  And it hurts.

In the four days since I’ve stopped them, I’ve experienced severe stomach aches, an upset stomach, almost consistent headaches, flu-like shivers, sweats, nausea and what can only be described as very depressed moods.  I’ve had major cravings to go and have something sweet and fizzy, with the very clear message that if I have the sweet and fizzy drink, then everything will be alright.  That sounds very much like addiction to me.

On a positive note, all of the above had made me feel pretty rough, and it’s been really easy to not overeat, so I’m certainly going to lose a bit of weight while I’m feeling this poor.  I hope these symptoms won’t last long, though a bit of web research suggests that I’m hitting up against both caffeine and sweetener withdrawal, which can cause problems for weeks or even months.

This really isn’t easy, but I think it’s important in two ways.  First of all it’s a significant step towards me regaining control over my life, and secondly I think that I’m going to benefit from getting this stuff out of my life and my body.

I’m going to track what happens with this, and keep you posted.

My head hurts.  My stomach hurts.

But I’m feeling proud.


The Shrinking Man

Anger and taking control

imagesI got angry on Saturday night.  Really angry.  Anger isn’t a normal response for me – frustration and deflation are familiar responses, but anger doesn’t come out all that much.  But I really was angry.  And that anger was directed at myself.

It was about 11:30pm, and I was sitting alone in my front room, watching the telly.  I’d eaten relatively well that day.  Actually, that’s a lie.  I hadn’t eaten well that day, but I hadn’t eaten awfully, at least until about 11:30pm.  Within the next thirty minutes, I’d eaten the remainder of that evenings Chinese takeaway, the remaining half of the large bag of crisps that I’d already started earlier in the evening, two-thirds of a pot of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food and three chocolate biscuits.

Now I’m aware that I’m a fat guy.  Honestly.  Even though I’m still surprised just how fat I look when I see photographs of me, I do know I’m fat.  But I don’t want to be fat.  So why am I acting like I want to be fat?  Am I fat guy who wants to shrink, or a fat guy who wants to stay fat?

Just to revisit that Saturday night, I need to clearly explain what was happening while I was eating that stuff.  First of all, I wasn’t hungry.  I’d been quite stuffed earlier in the evening after the Chinese takeaway, but hadn’t eaten anything after that.  Actually, scrub that – I’d had half a large bag of crisps, which is the equivalent of three normal bags of crisps.  But I wasn’t stuffed.  But I definitely wasn’t hungry.  And I knew I wasn’t hungry while I was eating all that stuff.  I was aware that I wasn’t hungry, and I was hating myself while I was eating it.  Now it’s really common for me to hate myself after I’ve eaten badly, but it’s not that common for me to be conscious enough to hate myself while I’m eating it.  I was eating way too quickly to taste the food, let alone enjoy it – I was wolfing it down really, but I was really having to force myself to eat it because I just wasn’t hungry.

Let’s sum that up – I knew I wasn’t hungry, it was physically hard to eat, I wasn’t enjoying it and I was hating myself for doing it, yet I still managed to consume, at a conservative guess, more than the recommended calorie intake for a man, in just half an hour.  All this at the end of the day where I’d already consumed more than the recommended calorie intake for a man.

I can’t explain it.  I really can’t.  But I’m angry.

I’ve spent what seems like my entire life watching from the sidelines while I harm myself, and that’s what’s made me angry.  I’ve always looked on while I’m doing this to myself, as if I’m helpless to control it, or to intervene in any way, and that stops here.  Well actually it stopped in the early hours of Sunday morning, but it stops.

I refuse to be a helpless observer in my own demise.  Point blank refuse.

I don’t have much of a plan here – I don’t want to start-up again on any diet plan or programme.  I want to be in control.

The first significant step that I’m going to take is this – I’m cutting out the caffeine and artificial sweeteners in my life.  I don’t drink tea or coffee, and have pretty much lived on fizzy drinks, either diet or regular, for my entire adult life.  I rarely drink water, even though I enjoy it when I do.  The first thing I drink in the morning is a diet drink of some sort, and the last thing I drink at night will be the same, along with pretty much every drink in between.  I have no idea what that’s been doing to me, but I’m pretty certain it’s not good, and it certainly hasn’t helped me lose weight.  So it’s going.

I’ve cut back on coke products before, and suffered from serious headaches, and have always gone back.  I’ve always replaced coke with lemonade or some other fizzy drinks, so I think I can say with some embarrassment, that I have never gone without sugary or sweetenery (my word – sorry) drinks for as much as a single day.  Not once in my adult life.

So for now, I’m angry, and I’m determined.  I will not be a helpless observer in my own demise.  I will take control.

And it starts with the drinks – bring on the water.

The Shrinking Man.

It’s Been A While

The Shrinking ManQuite a long while when all is said and done.  Not as long as the gap between posts would suggest, for reasons that I’ll explain in a minute, but it has been ages.  I have much to tell you, but I’ll start with the important bit.  I couldn’t begin to tell you how upset, sorry and to be completely honest, rather embarrassed I am to announce that I’m fat again.  A couple of minutes ago I weighed in at 17st 7lb.  That’s not as fat as I was when I started this, but it’s not far off of it, and let’s be honest, I know that I’m on the way back there and beyond unless I make changes.

A brief summary of what’s happened since the last update on here:

  • I decided to try and change the site from being a simple blog to more of a community site, as I believed that my success to date could help more people that way
  • I went backwards in my shrinking (there’s no connection between the switch to a community site and stopping shrinking – it just happened that way)
  • I very quickly found that writing about my struggle became uncomfortable and embarrassing rather than inspirational and supportive
  • I stopped writing
  • I kept growing
  • I didn’t renew the community site (it cost too much for a site that I wasn’t using)
  • I didn’t take a backup of the posts made since the move to the community site (though there weren’t many, there were some, including some by other people who joined up – to those people I’m very sorry but your contributions have been lost in the ether)
  • I switched back to the original blog.  Yesterday.
  • And now you’re here.  Hi 🙂

So what happens next?

Honestly I’m not sure.  I know that I used to find this blog very useful, and I know that other people going through a similar experience found it supportive too.  I need help again, so I’m hoping that I can find a way to use this site to help me.  That’s about as far as I’ve got at the moment.

Originally the concept behind The Shrinking Man was to document my journey from fat bloke to thin bloke.  Having gone from fat bloke to much thinner bloke and now back to fat bloke, I’m not sure if that concept still works, but I’ve got a feeling that it can.  Put simply, it may not be as simple a journey as I’d hoped, but perhaps that makes the concept of The Shrinking Man even more important.  This isn’t a simple journey from A to B.  Perhaps it’s more like a journey from A to Z.  I can see where I want to get to – that’s Z I suppose, but I can’t find the right roads, so I’m having to travel all over the place to get there.

So what happened then?  What made all my hard-won shrinking disappear?  Why did I get fat again?

I guess if I knew the full answer to that, then I wouldn’t be fat again, but as usual, I’m going to try to make some sense of it all.  The mechanics of it are simple – I got fat again because I stopped eating sensibly and exercising regularly.  So let’s ask a slightly different question:

Why did I stop eating sensibly and exercising regularly?

The generic answer is simple I think, and that is simply that I haven’t dealt with whatever it is inside of my head that makes me want to eat unhealthily and to not exercise.  I end up in a spiral where I know all the right things to do, and I have techniques that have proved themselves to be highly successful.  But I just can’t bring myself to do them.  Something stops me.  But what?

Let me list the likely candidates:

  • My relationship with food is just mucked up and has been since childhood.  I’m still trying to impress my mum by cleaning my plate and gain praise by eating lots in some weird juvenile throwback that is so ingrained that I struggle to overcome it
  • I have some sort of self-loathing thing going on that means that whatever my conscious mind decides that I want to achieve, my unconscious is basically saying “Sorry fat-boy – that isn’t happening.  You’re fat and you deserve nothing better, so you’re staying that way”
  • My unconscious mind is trying to keep me safe by fighting my conscious efforts to change
  • I just don’t have the willpower to see this through – I’m just not trying hard enough
  • There are elements within even my healthier diets that work against me and set me up to fail in the longer-term.

I think I could make strong arguments for all of the above being contributory factors except for the willpower one.  This isn’t about willpower – there are other forces at work here, and it’s my lack of understanding that’s stopping me rather than a lack of desire.

I need to think about how to use the blog going forwards – in reality, the struggles that I’m facing are probably more important to document than the pleasant weeks, so I’d like to see if I can get started with it properly again, but I’ll need to change the structure a bit.  The ‘Shrinking So Far’ block on the left of the screen doesn’t work, or at least elements of it don’t – the idea of average weekly loss over this time period is dead and buried at least.

The weird thing at the moment is that when I was down below 14st, I wasn’t happy.  I was thinking that I needed to get to 12 st something or other and that then I might be happy.  Whereas now I’d give my right arm to be dictating a blog post that announced by arrival into the 13st something club.  That’s my target now – I want to weigh 13st something and I’m going to get there, and I’m going to be bloody happy when I do get there.  And I’m going to work out how the hell I stay there too.

Have fun.

The Shrinking Man

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