Monday, July 11, 2005

Learning to listen to myself

Someone at work asked me today whether I'm on a diet. No, I've lost 46lb by accident, I should have replied. Can you help me find it so I can reattach it to my arse?

Actually, I did say no. Because I'm not. Sure, I'm watching what I eat, and I'm eating more healthily, but I don't consider it a diet. I think I've blogged this before, but I do honestly have a bit more to say this time, so stick with it.

It seems to me that a lot of diets are essentially negative. Don't eat certain things. Don't eat more than a certain amount of them. Don't do this, that or the other. Follow the rules and you'll be thin. I don't like that way of thinking.

I have no forbidden foods, and no strict rules. All I try to do is to look at my options and choose something that's more healthy than what I would have otherwise chosen. Not necessarily the healthiest thing available, but something better. And I don't focus on the food itself, but on more than that.

One thing that frequently surprises me and that illustrates this is in relation to alcohol. I've always been a heavy drinker really. I've had periods where I've given up or cut down. But when I drink I really go for it. And I used to drink often too. At home, alone, over the weekend. After work. At lunchtime with friends. A bottle of wine here and there soon adds up. But I've stopped.

Of course I still drink occasionally, but that's the important word. Occasionally. And the other important words are "in moderation". But more important than that is my reasoning. It's not alcohol is bad. Don't drink it. Alcohol will make you fat. Alcohol already has made you fat.

It goes something like this. You could have a drink now. But you're meant to be going to the gym in the morning. You like going to the gym before work because it wakes you up. If you drink you'll have a bad night's sleep, and will be really tired in the morning. What's more you will struggle to get out of bed and might end up skipping the gym. You will be sleepy through the day and might even resort to a bacon sandwich on the way to work. Which you won't enjoy anyway due to the hangover that made you buy it in the first place. You'll wake up, you'll moan "I'll never drink again", and where will that have got you?

I focus on the positive, tangible things, on the way eating or drinking stuff will make me feel, rather than on any numbers on the labels or any rules in a book. Maybe I can't visualise 300 un-needed calories. But I can visualise feeling sluggish and tired. I've discovered that if I listen to my body it will tell me what to do. Is it really asking for chocolate, or am I resorting to chocolate because it's quick and easy when I could get myself something far healthier if I just make a bit more of an effort?

No-one could write that book or that plan for me. And it takes a certain amount of trial and error until I find something that makes me feel fantastic inside as well as much improved and thinner externally. But I do find it. And it's something that works for me. Something I don't need to think about and obsess about.

I can justify a slightly "naughty" day once in a while by listening to my body. Occasionally it tells me it wants a treat. Which is fine as long as it's not every day. So I learn to distinguish between the cravings that leave as quickly as they arrived, and the ones which hang around and which need to be satisfied. I don't have those too often, so when I do, it's OK. Why beat myself up about it?

I find that this way I don't crave things half as much as I expected to. They're allowed, but I don't want them. Maybe if I did I wouldn't be able to do this. Listening to a craving body and giving into it might not work. But listening to a body that's rejoycing in the taste and freshness of the food it's been given is a joy. I even find myself going to buy chocolate to give myself a treat and walking away with a salad because I decide I'd prefer it. That's not denial, and it's not a diet. It's free will.

What this leads me to is that there's no such thing as a goal weight. What I mean by that is that I'll leave it to my body. I'll feed it what it needs, and I'll exercise. And I'll let my weight settle at a weight it's happy with. No obsessing if it wants to be 10lb heavier than I want to be. And no ripping up my gym membership once I get to an arbitrary magic number. I don't want to change anything, and I don't want to see this as a journey with an end point. I have a figure in my head, but that's purely calculated by taking my highest weight and working out what I'd weigh if I lost 100lb. Nothing scientific, I don't even know if I can lose that much, but it seemed a nice round number to start aiming for.

But to be honest, if I stopped losing weight tomorrow I'd be happy as long as I never put it back on. I'm far healthier than I was this time last year. I'm borderline non-obese (my BMI's edged down to 31ish, and my waist measurement is pretty much the number they say indicates the start of obesity), and I'm fit. I also have an understanding of myself that I can use to keep myself that way for the rest of my life.

1 Comments:

Blogger Portuguese Washwoman said...

This post is wise and wonderful. It sounds like you've hit the magic that works for you and that's just tremendous!

4:35 PM  

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