Month: March 2013

Maybe I’m Not Making Myself Clear About the Scales

Maybe I’m Not Making Myself Clear About the Scales

In the last 48 hours, I’ve had no less than three – three – people tell me that they’ve been upset by the number on the scales at some point this week. Ladies: the hell. The hell? Are you kidding me? Seriously? This state of […]

The Girls on “Girls” Are Cooler Than Me, But I Still Love Lena Dunham

The Girls on “Girls” Are Cooler Than Me, But I Still Love Lena Dunham

I’m not sure if you’re aware, but I am not particularly cool. I’m giving it my best shot, with my cool job in a cool company, doing cool things for cool businesses – but alas, I am not, myself, one of the cool people. Here […]

Quit Planning, and Enjoy the Little Things

Quit Planning, and Enjoy the Little Things

I’ve always thought of myself of something of a planner. I love a good strategy, me. When I’m not blogging, I’m paid to do just that – plan stuff. Strategise things. Day-to-day, I’ve got to be super-organised, thinking ahead days, weeks, and months in advance.

And that’s fine by me, because, as I say, I think of myself as being pretty good at that sort of thing. Or rather, I did.

Recently, it’s occurred to me that most of the really good things that have happened to me have been kind of an accident.

For instance, I never, ever intended to lose ten stone and become a health blogger. I’m sure some people are hyper-motivated and hardcore enough to come up with a batshit crazy plan like that and follow it through to the end, but I don’t have that kind of faith in my own ability to get out of bed in the morning without stepping on a plug and immediately calling it all off, let alone do all that. It just kinda happened.

Same with my job. I kinda had it in my head I might like to try living in London some day, but I’d never really intended to actually do it – and the chain of events that found me working for this particular business, in this particularly awesome job (I’m regularly described to visitors as “the one that gets to do all the fun stuff”) was, in all honesty, a combination of chance and luck. Or a ‘fluke,’ depending on how well the people around me think I’m doing. Let’s hope not.

And I’d say that pretty much all the meaningful relationships I’ve ever had have come back to being in the right place, at the right time. Sorry to go all “Sliding Doors” here, but there are a lot of people I wouldn’t have in my life were it not for crossing paths seemingly at random – and yet, I wouldn’t be without ’em. Any of them.

So many things that have happened to me over the last few months have been the result of random occurrences and chance meetings – something that, a couple of years ago, I would never, ever have been open to. Y’see, I loved me a good long-term plan. I’ve had times in my life where I’ve wanted to do the whole settling down thing. And I’ve had times where I’ve been so fixated on getting into a particular career – which was, at the time, academia – that I’ve near enough given myself complete and utter burnout by stressing about it.

And I can safely say that I haven’t managed to complete very many of these long-term plans. In fact, if I were inclined to measure myself by my long-term plan success rate, I’d be pretty damn blue right now.

Fortunately, that’s not how I roll.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have goals in mind. Goals are a different thing. Having an idea of what you’d like to achieve can only be a good thing, because it gives you something to aim towards and focus on. I’ve said before that knowing what it is you really want, deep down, can give you all the motivation you need to make the magic happen – but the point at which this can start to unravel is when your goals get deadlined, and become plans. Then, a knockback, a delay, or an accident can seem like the end of the world – and a surefire route to stress and disaster. Bad times.

For instance: relationships. I’ve known couples who’ve followed the plan – the one that says that after so many years, you should be engaged, and so many years later you should be buying a house, and having kids, and so on. And that’s all well and good – but I’ve also known couples who’ve met, fallen head over heels and just gone with it, whether that means getting engaged after a number of months, or ten years. They’re just doing their own thing, and they’re blissfully happy and not tied down by ‘the plan.’

Careers, too: like I said, I nearly broke myself trying to get into academia. Now, I work in marketing. But I’m still doing the PhD for the love of the topic, rather than for the job – and that’s a great position to be in.

And diets: I don’t know how many times I’ve said that aiming to lose a certain number of pounds by a certain date seems like something of a fool’s errand. You can’t depend on the scales. You just can’t. What you can do is say you’d like to be healthier by a certain date. That’s a winner. You¬†can control that, and make it happen.

But the way to achieve these long-term goals is through day-to-day, iddy biddy changes that eventually amount to something, not in huge leaps. By switching fast food for healthy meals, and by walking instead of taking the bus, you can lose a huge amount of weight, and keep it off; but by going on a severely calorie restricted, carb-free, only-eat-beef-whilst-standing-on-your-head-and-juggling-a-cat crazy diet, you might lose ten pounds in time for that big event, but the odds are you’ll gain it right back the second you start to live a normal life again.

And this seems to be something of a pattern. I’ve noticed lately that the really successful people I meet don’t focus on huge, almost impossible plans – instead, they seem to have an annoying habit of doing lots of very small amazing things, every single day.

Focusing on those little things frees you from the burden of a long-term plan, and gives you the satisfaction of constantly ticking new things off your to-do list – which in turn, motivates you to go on to the next. It also gives you room to manoeuvre, so that you can have fun. Little awesome things can be shuffled around to make room for a big ol’ glass of wine and a slice of pizza should they be required. And they also give you that flexibility to change the plan, pack it all in and go live with sherpas in Tibet¬†should one of these amazing, crazy-ass accidents happen that pushes you in that direction.

I’m not really one for believing in fate – it’s just not really me. I do, however, believe that if you’re open to good things happening, and to rolling with the punches, things have a way of working out. Bou can’t do that, though, if you’re tied into a plan.

So be flexible. Be open. And enjoy the moment. Because it turns out that awesome things tend to pop up when you least expect them.

Horse Burgers and… Snarking?

Horse Burgers and… Snarking?

Okay, so I’ve been meaning to get to addressing this since it started emerging – it’s time for me to talk about horse meat. I know I’m late to the party, but sue me – I’ve been busy. And also, if I’m honest, I’m not […]

Fear and Loathing in Haagen Dasz

Fear and Loathing in Haagen Dasz

Since I (briefly) mentioned I was inclined to binge eat here, I’ve been inundated with questions about it – questions which it’s taking me a while to answer, because frankly, I’m not sure how. See, when I try to talk about things like my tendency […]

Escape Your Comfort Zone (Even If It Gives You Freshers’ Flu)

Escape Your Comfort Zone (Even If It Gives You Freshers’ Flu)

I just had something of a revelation. After a week of feeling like death warmed up, I’ve realised… I’ve got Freshers’ Flu.

You’ve gotta laugh at times like this. Here I am, with my grown-up job, in my grown-up flatshare, with my grown-up clothes and attitude and a healthy living blog… And I’ve essentially been living like a student.

A proper student, I mean. The part-time PhD doesn’t count.

Now, I haven’t been raving ’til 4am and heading for a drunken McDonalds in my pyjamas, and I haven’t been through any crazy hazing parties involving several bottles of White Lightning, something called the Jug of Death, and various incomprehensible drinking games. I also haven’t had to cope with freezing cold showers or spent any time hobbling across campus in daylight dressed as a crazy pirate hooker, but I also haven’t done any studying, so that seems a fair trade off.

But I have gained a couple of pounds, and contracted the worst cold known to man, as a result of many, many welcome drinks and “you should try this type of cuisine” dinners, combined with a very different-shaped day that means I’m snacking in place of breakfast and eating huge meals late in the day to compensate for my irregular eating patterns.

I’ve also been absolutely skint. London is hella expensive. My credit card is quite literally wearing out. I nearly didn’t get paid because I told my new workplace the wrong account number, because it had worn off my card. This is not good.

Essentially, I’ve been placed in exactly the same situation I was when I was a first-year student, with a very similar outcome thus far. I’ve found myself in a place where I don’t know anyone and I don’t know what I’m doing, wondering if I’d have been better off just staying at my parents’ house and following my dream of becoming a rock star… Or something like that. You get what I mean.

And after just a month, my skin looks like crap, my hair has developed enough static to create lightning for several weeks, my nails are thinner, and I’ve definitely gained about four pounds. Not quite the Freshman fifteen – but I get it. It’s the same deal.

Now, let’s be realistic. Four pounds, in the grand scheme of things, is nowt – especially as I hit the 140lbs lost mark during my first week here. It’s a net gain of three. I think I can afford that, and I’d kind of planned ahead for it.

After all, I’ve allowed myself this patch to get my bearings and figure out what’s what – even down to little things like working out who owns what equipment in the kitchen, when’s a good time to cook, where the hell I can buy my favourite foods at a price I can actually afford, and so on. And actually, if we’re totally honest here, it’s testament to the long-term changes thing that I can spend a month essentially bathing in saturated fats and alcohol and only gain as much as I’d usually fluctuate around my time of the month. Which it is. In that sense, I haven’t gained anything at all.

But you can see what I’m getting at. My Dad put it really well this weekend, when he said I’d essentially thrown everything in my life in the air and now I’m trying to work out where it’s all landed so I can pick it up again. Which is, to all intents and purposes, exactly what happens when you’re a student. What’s odd about this situation is that I’m actually kind of reassured by it. It means I’m still changing, and still learning.

I think feeling like you’ve got it all figured out is nice, up to a point – but the things that make you in this life are the ones that break you a little bit. And to add another horrible cliche, I’m kinda behind the idea that the stuff that’s hard is the stuff that’s really worth doing. I really, really hate that whole “comfort zone” thing, with the “where the magic happens” being outside of that. Like, really hate it. I see it, and a little bit of my soul aches. But unfortunately, it’s kind of true.

The thing about your comfort zone that the cliche doesn’t mention, though, is that it moves with you. This is both a good and a bad thing. For instance, I’d wager that you will almost always adapt faster than you expect to positive changes. You might spend a little time at first wondering what on earth you’re doing, and what kind of unholy stupid idea it was to change things from how they were. I think that for the first five minutes every time I get on a cross trainer. But after a little bit, you realise you’re relaxing a little. Soon enough, it’s all good. You’ve got it.

This is the good side.

However, it’s also easy to change a bit, adapt, and then stay put. That’s why we plateau, both in terms of weight loss and in a wider sense. You’ve got to stay focused on improving yourself and your life in a number of ways, both physically and – more importantly – mentally and emotionally.

But the path to success is never totally straightforward, nor is it smooth, easy, or without complications. So when change is the only constant, you have to keep adapting what you expect, but stay focused on what you want. It’s the whole reason I say repeatedly that it’s not, and never should be, just about weight loss. The scale is not the measure of you – and I say this as someone who’s lost almost half their body weight. Me and the scales are way too close as it is.

Instead, you should measure yourself by what you’ve achieved by staying on your toes, and constantly jumping out of your comfort zone. Whether that’s lifting a slightly heavier weight, walking to work, changing your job or throwing yourself headlong into a relationship; whether it’s trying sushi, quitting smoking, or simply learning to speak up – change is change.

And change is good, so long as you choose to see it that way. If, every time you decide to make a change thinking that long-term, it’ll improve you – no matter how much or how little – it’ll seem a lot easier to face. Even if it gives you freshers’ flu – which, incidentally, can be eased by Ryan Gosling and Swiss chocolate, in case you’re wondering.

I’ve always had an inkling of this, deep down, but the last few weeks have really brought it home to me. I’ve lived a lot more intensely over the last month, and I’ve felt every emotion from utter fear and despair to a sort of reckless what-the-hell-am-I-doing joy – but it’s a good thing. I’m living, it’s exciting – and now, as the dust settles and I know the big, scary things are under control, I can start to concentrate on picking up the stuff that really makes me happy and well.

In other words: pass the green tea, guys. I’m back.