The Shrinking Blog

Quick Update – Low-Carb Is Going OK


Just a quick update today – I’ve been back in the low-carb world for a few weeks now, so thought I’d take a few minutes to talk about how it’s all going.

Quick answer is it’s going ok.  I’m 9 pounds lighter than a few weeks ago, and I’m generally feeling ok about it.

Longer answer – it’s going ok, despite some ups and downs along the way.  I’m not following any specific formula or method, though as I’ve spent lots of time doing it in the past, I guess I have the Atkins approach at the back of my mind.  Seen in that light, I’m not adhering to a strict induction pattern, which has some positives and negatives connected to it.

If I were to be stricter about restricting my carbs, I’d be losing weight quicker than I am.  (I actually weigh slightly more than I did about ten days ago, though that’s as much due to a single low weigh-in than it is to anything else.) Instead I’ve been having fruit salads after dinner on a number of days, and where I’ve eaten out, that’s not been restricted to the berry-type stuff that Atkins would recommend for later stages.

The positives are that I feel less restricted, and I feel relatively comfortable that even if I do veer from the path for a day or two, then all I’ve got to do is get back on it and start again from there.  Having said that, there’s a double-edged sword in that too – one of the most wonderful things about low-carb eating is the lack of cravings.  It’s something that always surprises me, because I don’t tend to notice just how present the cravings were until they go.  Actually that’s not quite right – it’s not when they’re gone that you notice – it’s when they return, and all it takes for them to come back is a single bit of the ‘wrong stuff’.  More on that in a bit.

Things I’m pleased about this week – first of all, I’ve had a few days in a hotel, with the associated reduction in control over my food choices, and increased temptation that comes from being away.  I didn’t get too stressy about it all, and I didn’t throw caution to the wind and ‘give in’.  Instead I took what looked to be the best choices from what was available, and enjoyed it.  End result was a couple of pounds off after three days of hotel eating, which was a pleasant surprise.

Secondly, I’ve found it pretty easy to not overeat.  When I’m full, I’m stopping, and right now it feels pretty easy to spot the full signals, and equally easy to leave food on the plate.  In the long term, that’s more important to maintaining a healthy weight than anything else, so I’m pleased with that.

Thirdly, we took a family meal out to TGI Fridays’ to celebrate TSM Junior’s exam results.  The menu isn’t ideal there, but again, I chose what looked to be the best thing available.  This time though, there was a significant difference – all the food seemed to have been drenched in sickly-sweet Jack Daniels sauce.  Not a lot I could do there, so I ate it, but almost instantly I started to get the familiar cravings for other sickly sweet stuff.  It really is that quick.  What I’m pleased about is that I didn’t react to it, didn’t have the dessert that was calling to me and didn’t descend into an uncontrolled sweet binge when I got home.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly in terms of successes, I’ve got a lot of ‘life stuff’ going on right now, which would make it really easy to drop any attempt at control for a while.  While the voices are there pretty continuously, calling on me to give in and eat stuff, I’ve not succumbed, and I’m pleased about that.

Main learning point for the week – caffeine and me really do not get on.  If I have more than one diet coke, then I will get awful caffeine withdrawal headaches the next day, unless I drink gallons of the stuff.  I’ve switched to caffeine-free (I know – abstinence is better, but shh – I’ve got a lot on my plate right now) generally, and am restricting myself to a single ‘normal’ diet coke on the occasions where I’ve got no caffeine-free available.

That’ll do for now.

The Shrinking Man

The Shrinking Blog

The Great Egyptian River – It’s all about Denial

I’ve mentioned before that I find my ability to control my eating more than a little frustrating.  Having stopped smoking and drinking successfully many years ago, I’ve never been able to understand why I find this so hard to control.

I think the way I’ve always rationalised it is that with smoking and drinking, I wasn’t looking to control, I was looking to abstain altogether, and that’s something quiet different.  If stopping eating altogether was an option, then I think I could probably do it, but sadly it’s not really viable.  And that means continuous moderation.  And that’s my nemesis.

I say continuous moderation, because I think it’s the continuous element that’s the problem.  I can be remarkably in control of my eating for days, weeks, months and even years at a time, but at some point, I lose that control, and all of my previous ‘good’ work is undone.  It’s also usually undone in significantly less time than it took to do the ‘good’ work in the first place.

I am questioning the very idea of being ‘good’ and the denial that inevitably involves.  I’ve read that the brain is very good at overcoming denial – it goes out of it’s way to help address any suggestion that you’re not getting what you want.  That suggests that as hard as I might work to deny myself the things that I believe I want, my own subconscious is working overtime to address what it perceives to be a shortfall between what I’m getting and what I want.

There’s an underlying theme here, which is essentially me trying to look at this in a different way.  I’m trying to look at it in a way that makes me loathe myself a little less, partly because it’s not much fun, but primarily because the self-loathing seems to join forces against me anyway.  It’s a self-perpetuating cycle of me trying, failing, hating, trying, failing and hating some more.  The shame that I feel is incessant and strong, and much as I’d love it to spur me on to take control, it seems to simply push me further down.

I’m conscious that I’m rambling here, but as nobody is listening, that kind of feels ok :-).

To pull this together in some way, dieting doesn’t work.  In fact it’s stronger than that.  Dieting makes you fat.  Well it makes me fat anyway.  My attempts to lose weight have exacerbated rather than helped over many years, and the sad fat bloke sitting here is the end result of that.  I’m not a bad person.  I’m really not.  I’m not some lazy, slovenly, gluttonous slob.  I’m just a little fucked up.  And I’m not alone.  I have to keep remembering that.   I’m in good company.  It’s not – just – me.

Every bit of advice I come across seems to be coming from a place where the intentions are good, but the knowledge is poor.  If, as I mooted in my previous post, this is been controlled at a hormonal level, then nothing I have ever read about how to control my weight and my eating could ever work.  Nothing.

That’s depressing, terrifying and makes me really, really angry.

Where my hope lies right now is that there are other hormonal processes that I can tap in to that might sit even below the ones that seek to regain the weight I lose.  The most basic physical processes must be based on something akin to ‘eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full’.  If that sits underneath everything, even the ‘must regain weight to get back to where I was before I lost it, and add a little bit more just in case while you’re at it’ then that might be something that I can use to do this.

It’s important that I learn to love myself just as I am.  I’m not a bad person.  I’m more than just my weight.  I do many things in my life, and am good at many things.  I cannot let my challenges with my weight continue to cloud every other part of my life.  If am to be fat, then at least be happy and fat.  Maybe becoming happy with my fatness might even open up new pathways to becoming thinner.  Maybe stopping trying to shrink is the best way to actually start it.

Who knows?  Certainly not me, and if I’m understanding the weight problems across the world right now, then nor does anyone else.

For now, I’ll settle with one sentence from above.

I am more than just my weight.

The Shrinking Man.

The Shrinking Blog

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

The Shrinking Blog

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.

The Shrinking Blog

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

The Shrinking Blog

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

The Shrinking Blog

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.