Tag Archives: healthy choices

Lessons learned (till next time…)

This post may get added to,  as I identify (or, more likely, am reminded yet AGAIN!) what works and what doesn’t in keeping myself grounded and stable.

  • Alcohol and chocolate seem like a very good idea at the time when I’m in emotional pain, but they’re not. They give a very short spell of relief, then insomnia, an upset stomach and regret.
  • Sometimes taking my to-do list and saying that I’ll spend 15 minutes on the first item can get me moving.
  • Related to this, my “alternating” strategy of doing something – anything – then reading or watching TV can get me mechanically through times when I really can’t initiate ot find any energy.
  • Yesterday I went to bed in the afternoon because I really couldn’t get myself moving at all – nothing would settle me. I didn’t go to sleep, but spent some time reflecting on “Solitude” (see previous 2 posts), and it helped – new insights.
  • Compulsive checking of email and Facebook doesn’t make more people get in touch: it provokes feelings of disappointment and isolation.
  • Getting out and walking, even (especially?) in the teeth of a gale helps
  • Feeding my mind helps – reading or watching a stimulating TV documentary
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Alone as a neutral space

Yesterday I had a busy, noisy day in London. Some alcohol-fuelled students on the train got it off to a nerve-jangling start, and I found the crowds and noise difficult all day. So this morning, sitting in bed, aware of the silence around me, I could welcome it. And that gave me a different perspective on being alone – it’s a neutral space, that I can populate in different ways.

I’ve just written in my journal: “projecting inner wounds onto a neutral space”. I mean the labelling of being alone as rejected, invisible, unloved etc etc. Making it  a place of hurt and pain. There is choice in this.  This morning there was a sense of needing to embrace the silence and aloneness – that’s what transforms it into solitude, which is the healthy place to be with it.

Maybe I have more choice in this than I like to accept. There’s a perverse pleasure sometimes in the melancholy, in the “lonely”, “unwanted” labels. They confirm old scripts. But maybe I can choose to make it time to change those scripts…

I’m using a collection of quotes on solitude, and yesterday’s was:

I had already found that it was not good to be alone, and so made companionship with what there was around me, sometimes with the universe and sometimes with my own insignificant self, but my books were always my friends , let fail all else.

Joshua Slocum, Sailing alone around the world.

At first it was the bit about the books that struck me, as it chimed with my thoughts earlier this week about reading rather than surfing social media when I’m feeling lonely or bored. But as the day went on I found myself reflecting on the first part. Choice again. Am I Iago’s “I am myself alone” – or am I part of the whole, even if I go through the world in solitude? As I walked to the station, I was listing things that I’m a part of, belong to: my family; my local community; my city; my county; my country – and so on, radiating outwards. I’m part, if a loose part, of some friendship circles. Of the organisations I belong to. Of the online forums I  subscribe to. Of the groups of people who have shared interests, even if we’re not working together on them. Of those who have similar political and ethical vews. And so on. Most of the time, that doesn’t mean I’m communicating with the people in these different groups, but there’s a sharing, something in common. Perhaps having a consciousness of all those links, basically seeing myself as connected rather than as isolated in that bubble, would help change my outlook and diminish the pain?

Online mainline

 I’ve noticed for quite a while how much time I spend aimlessly online when I’m feeling unmotivated or lonely, and I’ve been particuarly aware of it recently – in front of the laptop, clicking between email, Facebook, newspaper, email, Facebook, Pinterest, Facebook….and each time there are no new posts there must be, whether I realise it or not, a small jolt of disappointment.

And when I’ve been out, or when I finish a task, I automatically go and check online.

I wonder how it would be if the automatic action was to pick up a book – which it probably would have been in the days before online. How much more I’d be reading! And no doubt that would be better for my state of mind than the endless online disappointments.

I’ve made various efforts to limit my online time, but always drift back to the endless checking. The idea of just going online after meals worked well: I’m going to try it again, and also make sure that my book is always within reach.

Changing habits is perhaps easier if the bad one can be replaced with a good one…

Food, glorious (and problematic) food

I wrote in previous posts about my issues with food and weight, and here’s an update. I’ve gone back to the pattern that works for me: when I’m not socialising I eat 3 meals a day, with not much alcohol and as little refined carbohydrate and sugar as possible. If I’m too hungry in between meals I have fruit. I probably average about 1000-1200 calories, though I don’t count. When I’m out or eating with friends I enjoy myself – I still try to make reasonably healthy choices but won’t deprive myself – if I want chips, I have them! The rule on pudding is to have one if it’s something I really fancy, but not if there’s nothing that really appeals strongly. At the cinema to see an opera relay  last night, for example, I enjoyed a glass of red wine before the film and then a luscious tiramisu ice cream in the intermission. Those treats make it much easier to persevere with healthy choices day to day.

I’m also aiming to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, taking a wide view of what counts as exercise. Sometimes I go to the gym, sometimes I may have an errand to do that’s a 15 minute walk away, some days I’ll be cleaning the house or gardening.

As to what I eat. I’m not a scientist, my only study of nutrition has been via popular books and TV programmes. So the conclusions I’ve come to are completely personal ones. I do believe that we all have bodies that work slightly differently, and what suits one won’t work for someone else. So several friends have had a lot of success with the 5:2 diet, but fasting makes me irritable and confused, and so hungry that it overwhelms everything else. Others have cut out carbs, but my IBS reacts very badly to that.

It’s every cliché – in the end, I do best eating moderate amounts of a wide variety of real food. I think the rule “Don’t eat anything that your grandmother wouldn’t recognise as food” is an excellent one, as it cuts  out all the processed and artitficial “foods” that the food industry inflicts on us.

I eat real bread from a small bakery, not mass-produced bread -that definitely helps my digestion. I can’t drink cow’s milk or soya milk any more, but cheese is OK, so I have that for calcium, and don’t worry too much about the fat. I’ve been upping my protein a bit, especially at breakfast time, as I think that keeps my blood sugar steadier, so may start the day with egg, ham, houmous – whatever is around – or muesli with stewed fruit instead of milk and nuts for protein. Lunch will be a piece of bread, oatcakes or crispbread with some protein and salad and my main meal in the evening varies considerably, from meat and veg to pasta (wholewheat) to bean stew to quiche…. Again, lots of variety, as if I’m trying to eat less, I’ll struggle if I get bored.

I’m not counting calories as if I tell myself  that I’m “on a diet” I can get very obsessive and think of little else, which is tedious and probably makes it more likely that I’ll succumb to poor choices, because I’m thinking about food so much. The aim is to keep it very simple so that I don’t have to think about it more than necessary. Like most women, years of messing about with diets mean that I’ve got a pretty good idea of portion sizes and calorific content without having to do any elaborate counting

I’ve also given myself a long timeframe: I’m going to the US in May 2015 and would like to be well within the healthy range for my height by then, which means that 2lb weight loss per month is sufficient. I know that I need to make permanent changes to how I eat, and a quick-fix diet doesn’t change well-entrenched habits. It’s difficult, because I want to see quick results and it’s hard to be patient when nothing seems to be changing – I have to pick up a 2lb bag of sugar to remind me how significant that amount really is!

A huge challenge for me is emotional eating, the main cause of my becoming overweight. In the past couple of weeks I’ve been trying to stand back and observe those times when I’m desperate for sweet food or alcohol. It’s confirmed what I’d already spotted: when I’m feeling empty, deprived, inadequate, lonely, I try to literally fill myself up. A huge step forward was managing to say no to a sweet comforter and instead to focus on enjoying a cup of tea and an apple and then some time with a book.

I also suspect that in the winter SAD plays its part. My most successful dieting has always been between March and September, then everything slides. All this winter my cravings for cake, biscuits and similar were so strong that I couldn’t imagine how I was going to stop eating them. Now, as the days lengthen and I’m more energetic, it doesn’t seem to be such a problem. I think I may have to get a full daylight spectrum lamp for next winter and see if it makes a difference.

But this is just me. None of this might work for someone else: it has to be personal observation and decisions as to what’s realistic and possible, what are the non-negotiables (no way would I stop eating chocolate or good bread!), what fits with lifestyle, personality and  metabolism.

It feels risky to post this because I might fail to reach my target, but I’m hoping that I can continue to practice the awareness that  every time I eat, I’m making choices, sometimes good, sometimes knowingly not so good, and to move away from mindless eating for reasons other than nutrition and enjoyment.