I’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:
Is it possible for me to go through life never straying from my low-carb eating
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?
Well 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.
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