After a tough couple of weeks, and then hitting rock-bottom in terms of fatigue in the middle of last week, I went back to the drawing board and started fixing things, starting with SLEEP. After a couple of weird and hectic weeks, I was getting so stressed out with everything and overwhelmed by the enormity of the things I’ve been trying to change and achieve, and just reached a point where I knew I couldn’t go on that way. I knew I was going to have to tackle this sooner or later. So for the past week I have been prioritising sleep and making it a big immovable rock in my schedule. Whatever happens during the day, whatever upsets there are or whatever I’d like to get done, I try to ensure that I get to bed or at least in its close vicinity around 9 hours before I need to get up in the morning. That might seem like a lot but it takes a while to wind down and even if I’m not asleep, I’m getting some rest, chilling out, and my chances of getting 8 hours’ actual sleep are much higher! I did have four or five nights’ glorious sleep in a row and though it didn’t solve everything right away, I did notice I was able to think more clearly and make better decisions. I had to bite the bullet and take a hit to what I could get done after work in the evenings, but on balance, I think I get more done because I’m using my awake time more productively, and I wake up earlier at the weekends. After waking up at 5, a morning workout, full day of work and commuting, it hardly makes sense to be trying to do my best work in the hours that are left.
I’ve also switched to decaff, not because it was stopping me sleeping but because I was just feeling so stressed and tense, and I was surviving from cup to cup and really dependent on it to get through the day, with nothing left at the end. It’s a vicious cycle that one, it starts off harmlessly enough with one cup in the morning, but it’s easy to get off-track. I’ve found a really tasty decaff ground blend so I can still enjoy a pot of coffee at the weekends, but I feel SO. MUCH. BETTER. from the combination of this and improved sleep habits – just a lot calmer and more rational.
So that’s two things. I did get a bit off-track with food over the long weekend, but don’t seem to have done too much damage, and thankfully I’ve stuck with my exercise as planned, no matter how stressed and tired I was. I think it would have been pretty grim to fall off that wagon with just three to four weeks to go before the watershed.
When it comes to food, I have had to take a step back and reassess. Things have not been right with my attitude since back in week 2, and I’ve been fighting myself and clinging to food way more than I would have liked. I realise that part of this is the transition I’m making from “diet” to long-term habits; I’ve made good progress but there’s no way around making these changes permanent if I want to see permanent change in myself – and that’s the big hurdle that we all face, accepting that the old ways and the things we used to depend on to survive are gone for good. I don’t know why I wasn’t expecting that kind of struggle to come and to be as destructive as it has been. I have made progress and I’ve been kind of hanging on from one meal to the next by the skin of my teeth but I’m still there, and I think maybe I’m past the worst of it now. I found my old pack of CBT stuff (there is so much in there I never got around to doing the first time) and have been doing a bit of that each weekend, which gives me something constructive to focus on each week. I am back to that old nugget of the binging cycle hinging on the amount of time you spend thinking about food and the severity of your rules and restrictions on it. I need to take steps towards relaxing my focus and learning how to make good decisions in the moment, and to find other ways of identifying myself than as a fat person whose fat is a constant reminder of the failure they are. I need to find other things to build my identity and self-esteem on.
This morning when I was weighing in (bear in mind here that my scales are wild and variable at the moment) the scales switched into Stone:lbs mode rather than just pounds. I hopped on and the number I saw was 14 stone 3lb. I don’t know how accurate that is (I don’t FEEL yet like I’ve lost that much) but – hell – when have I ever been 14 stone anything on or near any kind of scale under any circumstances?! The lowest I’ve been in my adult life was around 15½ and anything under 15 has always seemed totally unreachable. I know roughly that my weight went with my age until around the time I left uni, so that means I may not have been this weight since I was 14, that’s EIGHTEEN years ago. That’s more than half my life and I can’t even remember how it felt to be 14. Yet another sign of how this process is taking me back through time and making me deconstruct everything I’ve been and assumed myself to be during those years.
I had another massive realisation at the weekend about me and studying. When I was younger (and already obese) studying seemed to be my only way out, I could be good at something and get recognition without having to be active, do sports, or interact with people. I could get good grades and if I worked hard I could force myself to learn most things, while staying safely hidden away. But you know what goes hand in hand with studying? Eating. The endless snacks while poring over books. The sweets shared with friends over revision. The inevitable slap-up-meal out after major exam results came back positive. Not to mention that I was motivating myself through difficult topics and things I had no interest in with treats to made it easier. It occurred to me that ALL THE OTHER THINGS I love to do now are incompatible with eating – you can’t eat and sing (in fact I can’t even sing or breathe well on a full stomach), you can’t play guitar or piano with sticky foody fingers, ditto for papercraft and sewing and all the rest of it. The more I embrace those hobbies, the less of a problem I have with food, because the opportunities to eat are fewer and the incentive to not eat much greater.
And THEN I thought about my studies in the past and – really – in terms of transferrable results I haven’t even been that successful. I haven’t retained hardly any of what I’ve learned. I haven’t been able to convert the incredible opportunities of my education into a career trajectory you might expect. I haven’t been able to use my languages in a professional setting. The only language I’ve picked up solidly (at the time) was Japanese and that was largely because I was there, learning it through face-to-face experiences with other people. And THAT made me think – maybe studying was never my forte? Maybe hiding away was never what suited me? Maybe I actually thrive on interactions with other people and that’s the arena in which I can excel, based on human relationships and trading on my personality rather than my knowledge. Maybe that’s the key to my success and I have just been trying to force myself into the wrong kind of things because I felt my appearance ruled me out or being confident and enjoying interacting and being seen by other people, from the outside.
So basically, MAYBE I am not the person I have always thought I was, and I need totally different things from what I’ve been giving myself. Swallow that, if you can. This is why I feel that this year is tearing down my whole life from the inside – not my external life, my marriage, my household, my job and my friends, but my internal life, unleashing who I am from my own misunderstandings about myself. No wonder this process has felt so difficult – it’s completely unknown and terrifying! But now that I’m here it’s clear that I must change and move forward into what these possibilities could be.