Getting back into the swing of things has been taking longer than expected. When the rest of the UK was squeezing into their just-bought spandex leggings and doing the obligatory Facebook check-in at the local gym, where was I? Well, you could find me eating Oreos for breakfast, watching Netflix for 10 hours at a time and throwing away vegetables to make room for more cheese in the fridge. I made a few feeble attempts to visit the gym but most workouts were cut short with various excuses, some of which genuine and others left a little to be desired. I was suffering from a cold, but also dealing with some stress in my personal life which meant I was eating for comfort. We had to spend a few days travelling, and normally I pride myself on seeking out the healthiest food options and spending a little extra to get fresh food on the go. This time I used it as an excuse to eat big bags of chocolate, several meals from McDonalds and lots of other junk. This all happened in the middle of January, and all of a sudden I realised I had missed the New Year momentum that normally keeps me motivated. It was the end of January and I was worse off physically and mentally than I had been in December.
Then the mind games started.
This is when I start to have internal conversations with myself about how things needed to change. The kind part of me is telling myself that it’s OK to eat emotionally, and that I can learn from this and move on. The panic-stricken part of me is screaming to start eating no more that 1000 kcals per day and to limit all carb intake, possibly even omit all sugars completely. The no-nonsense boss in me is telling me to shut up, get my ass to the gym every single day and stop thinking about food as anything other than fuel for workouts and daily life. I start thinking about how I looked and felt a year ago, and how I wasn’t even happy when I was almost 2 stone lighter… Oh what I would give to be even close to that weight again!
Hold on a minute. This isn’t right at all. Yes, I was thinner but I am only remembering the number on the scales. What my brain conveniently manages to forget is the fact that I was stuck in a cycle of eating mostly vegetables all week until I got a few pounds off, followed by a day of making myself sick with all the junk food I’d been craving. I have forgotten that when I didn’t eat at the usual time (every few hours) I got the shakes and had to eat urgently. I got extremely irritable but all I would allow myself was vegetables or a low-calorie cereal bar, curbing the shakes for only an hour or so until it happened all over again. I have forgotten that most nights I went to bed with a rumbling belly, dreaming of breakfast the next morning.
So I’ve been trying to fight my mind games. Instead of pushing myself to go to the gym with the usual idea of exercise as punishment, I’ve tried to remind myself that I do actually enjoy working out. Truthfully, I feel uncomfortable in my gym clothes after putting on some weight but I might as well be in there doing something about it than lying flat-out on the sofa eating Hob Nobs. I’ve been tricking myself into doing cardio by catching up on my latest audiobook or watching my favourite You Tubers for 20 minutes and it seems to work as a good distraction for that short amount of time. It’s particularly inspiring to watch fitness You Tubers but whatever floats your boat I guess.
I’ve also been tracking my calories on My Fitness Pal which I was unsure about at first, as it has encouraged bad habits in me before whereby I will save calories to eat chocolate instead of real food (I’m only human!) I settled on the “calories in vs. calories out” is the most reliable method for weight loss and is not to be scoffed at. I’m not sticking to a low-calorie plan (I’m working on around 1600 kcals at the moment) and if anything I am just using it as a way to judge portion sizes and focus on getting an equal balance of protein, carbs and fat with the aim to hit my protein goal consistently.
The most important part for me has been not feeling like a failure. I ate a flapjack yesterday, I am not a failure. I didn’t make the gym today, I am not a failure. I ate more calories today than yesterday, I am not a failure. To any regular person this probably looks like the most f****d up mantra ever, and I agree it’s not the most memorable quote. But to anyone with food issues and more importantly guilt relating to food, I hope you get me.