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 ūüôā

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

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 РI 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 ūüôā ¬†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 ūüėČ ), 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

The Shrinking Blog

Sunday – my day of reflection

The Shrinking ManHi ūüôā

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 ūüėČ ¬†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 ‚Äď 18st 4lb
Overall Weight Loss ‚Äď 12lb
Current BMI ‚Äď 34.0
Starting BMI ‚Äď 35.7

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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 ūüôā ¬†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