Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Week 15 Day 107: change, sabotage and control

Things have gone a bit askew in the last couple of weeks. For various reasons I'm back in the world of food - temporarily - and I'm really struggling. It's like everything I learned on LL, everything that made me feel in control, has disappeared in a puff of smoke. I'm slap-bang in the middle of old, bad habits and I'm closing my eyes to it - blocking my ears, going la la la, but every day is a new study in low-level, back-of-the-mind terror and shame, and to be honest I'm sick of it.

So how did it all start? Well, I got ill. I had a migraine that lasted 5 days and didn't respond to any migraine medication or any of my getting-rid-of-migraine tricks. It was utterly miserable. I was in bed all week, in constant pain - often severe - and I think I even forgot to have my packs on some days. Before this, I should mention, I was doing pretty well on LLL (although my water consumptions was a bit low still) despite my adventures in bread and cheese from the last blog post.

Now I've been referred to a specialist in January, and in the meantime my GP asked me to come off LLL for Christmas - then restart in January to see if either approach made a difference, and to keep a headache diary. I talked to my LLC and she said that this was absolutely the right thing to do, and to keep a food log, with these columns:

  1. TIME

And you know what I've done? Neither. No headache diary, no food diary.

It's partly because I felt guilty. I had been toying with (okay, I'd already decided) to go off-diet for a few certain days over Christmas anyway which - when I think about it - is actually an okay decision, but I guess I was feeling guilty about it and then convinced myself that I'd subconsciously engineered this situation so my GP would recommend stopping LL for a while, even though I doubt the diet's got anything to do with my migraines (I had fewer migraines in the first 6 weeks of LL). Although in retrospect I couldn't have. Even I don't dislike myself enough to bring about a 5 day migraine.

And - you see - retrospect! That's something you don't have when you mentally plug your ears and go la la la.

Also, I felt guilty because my LLC told me this:

"Remember that one of the key things that helps when managing your weight is to plan/be organised around what you will be eating/drinking.  However I know you will be fine as you are prepared to think about what you are doing!'

I felt guilty because by the time she told myself I already had gone wrong. It started off well enough - I feared, then thrilled in the novelty of participating in the weekly shop, loading up my trolley with stuff to make nice healthy but tasty protein and veg-rich meals for myself. But you know what offices are like at Christmas - chocolate and Krispy Kremes everywhere. I'd have "just one" here and there, but because my stomach's now so small that would keep me filled up all day, and my lovingly and thoughtfully prepared salad would go to waste in the office fridge. And the next day my opinion of myself would have dropped several notches - and with it my resolve - and I might have more than "just one" - even looking at my salads would make me feel guilty.

I mean, I haven't eaten terribly: I think I've eaten what everyone eats around this time of year: caution flies to the wind and you have a mince pie for breakfast, and pick at things you've baked, skipped meals entirely, eaten more than your fair share of biscuits etc. So I haven't binged in the physical sense: but the mental one, which is worse I think. I've been walking around feeling bloated and heartburny and guilty, and terrified every time I get dressed because I'm convinced I've put the 35lbs back on overnight. And it seems so wrong - so wrong - that my size 10s still fit.

Originally, I was thinking about coming off the diet for these days over Christmas:
  1. My team Christmas drinks
  2. A Christmas drinks/dinner with old friends
  3. Another Christmas party with friends
  4. Christmas Eve to Boxing Day
  5. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day
And I thought I'm really going to enjoy these meals or drinks - they'll be treats - so I'll take small bites, chew slowly, really savour the flavour. Originally I thought I'd stay on foodpacks throughout, only "cheating" for these specific meals or drinks: I would come out of ketosis, but at least I'd still have my routine and my calorie count would stay relatively low. Even when my GP asked me to come off LL for a bit, I thought I'd at least eat healthily for the most part, then "cheat" for these special meals or drinks.

But I haven't. I've been cheating throughout. Which makes me depressed because these meals/drinks are no longer special, and they're tainted with guilt. Plus I've not been savouring anything - I've been wolfing it down because I'm scared and guilty and don't want to think about it.

However. I have been to all my Christmas parties and managed to have fun despite the guilt, and the immediate feeling of uncomfortable bloating afterwards. I went to a cocktail party in a SIZE 10 COCKTAIL DRESS half-convinced that I'd be laughed out of the building, but all I got were compliments (I spent the entire night telling everyone how uncomfortable my shoes were; I wasn't comfortable with being attractive, but that's another set of neuroses for another time) and lots and lots of male interest. It was most curious.

So now here we are in Christmas week. Today I'm off to my mother's - I might take some soups with me in case she tries to fatten me up. Tomorrow I have my LLL pop-in: I am PETRIFIED of being weighed, and petrified of feeling like a loser. I think I've put on at least 4lbs so far but I suspect most of that is glycogen, and just the weight of food. But I am going because I want to pick up my packs, and restart either LL or LLL in early January. My journey isn't over - I always told myself that this short break was a bit of an "experiment" with the safety net of restarting LL at the other end. I think I'm just sad and disappointed because the experiment failed somewhat.

But there's still time to salvage it. I'd like to say the novelty of food has worn off, but I doubt it has. However I know that eating that biscuit, or this bit of chocolate, on a day when I'm not planning to, really doesn't make me feel any better. I have a fridge full of healthy tasty food and days and days in which to eat it.

I'm not sure how successful I'm going to be, but I do know that the way I'm going is making me miserable, which is the opposite of the effect I wanted to achieve over Christmas.

Friday, 4 December 2009

Week 13: Day 89 ***FOOD TALK***

Today I ate.

I really want to write "I was naughty" or "I cheated" here, but I wasn't and I didn't. I'm not a victim or a child, and I wasn't "disobeying" anyone when I did it. I ate. Normal food. At lunchtime.

I went to lunch with some of my colleagues and I was playing with the idea of having some food. To be completely honest I was also playing with the idea of sticking to the plan - not out of guilt, but because I wasn't sure what I wanted.

When we got to the pub I ended up ordering a Ploughman's - I figured if I wanted to break the diet I could, and if not I could just have the cold meats and salad. In the end I had a couple of pieces of bread, some ham and some blue cheese.

I can honestly say it was through a desire to push the boundaries, to see what would happen, to experiment. Well, it was mostly experimentation - some of it was, well, not peer pressure exactly - no one was trying to force me to do anything - but I suppose part of me wanted to appear "normal" in front of my colleagues. I've been in abstinence for so long - and I'm new - that I do feel a little bit like a freak.

That said, a lot of it was experimentation. I mean, what would happen if I ate some cheese and bread? Would it be AMAZING? Would I explode? Would I put on immediately the 2.5 stone I'd just lost? And - more importantly - could I find my way back to the plan?

Since I've started LLL a week ago everything has gone up the creek a bit. My water consumption has gone way down (I attribute this mainly to the novelty of being able to drink milk in my coffee - something that's actually caused a tummy upset through - hopefully temporary - mild lactose intolerance), one day I forgot to have a pack and one day I forgot to have a meal! At my second LLL meeting yesterday it turned out I'd lost a pound, which I was actually happy with as I wasn't expecting to lose at all.

Anyway, so I had the bread and cheese. And it was nice. It was good quality bread and good quality cheese, and it was nice to eat those things again. But was it AMAZING? No. Actually, I don't know. I ate too fast to really notice. And I think I ate too fast because I wasn't sure of my motivations for eating, so I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. And did I explode? No. I wasn't even ill, despite my apparent lactose intolerance.

And was it worth it? Well, no and yes.

No because I was so concerned about eating that I didn't take the time to appreciate the taste. The whole way through abstinence I thought that when I finally eat again, I will enjoy it - I will taste every morsel that goes into my mouth. I will roll it over my tastebuds savouring the texture, the heat, the sweet and sour and salt of it.

But I didn't do that. And if you're not going to do that - for whatever reason - it's not worth eating something that's going to do you more harm than good. If you're going to eat a cake, make sure it's a cake you really like, and that you enjoy every moment of eating it. Otherwise what's the point?
Yes because I realised that:

Food is just food. It fills you up. It tastes nice or it doesn't taste nice. That's kind of it. Food isn't love, or comfort, or anything. It's just food. And it's not worth damaging yourself over.

And did I come back to the plan? Yes. I did wobble a couple of times. I normally have a third pack at work, but I was stuffed after lunch (unsurprisingly) so I didn't manage it. On the way home I started to get hungry (but LL-hungry, not proper-hungry) but thought about not having another pack because I'd eaten at lunchtime - not to keep my calories down but, I guess, to punish myself for having eaten.

But then I decided that punishing myself - especially with food, or with witholding food - was a thing of the past for me.

Then, when I got home my boyfriend decided to have cheese on toast for dinner and I asked him if he'd make me one, too. I was thinking "well, I ate for lunch so I may as well eat for dinner and restart LLLing tomorrow..."

But then I thought about it, and asked myself why I wanted to do this. It was 50% naughtiness and 50% of that general oh-it's-cold-and-it's-dark-and-it's-Friday feeling. Which, I realised with perfect clarity, wasn't a good enough reason to eat something that wasn't totally good for me. 

I guess I realised it was an emotional decision - and I realised this in the moment, not in a learned "LL" way (if that makes sense). It felt natural to question this; I mean, if I make a drastic emotional decision while in the throes of pre-menstrual hormonal weirdness ("Well she's not my friend anymore, she looked at me funny!") I never allow myself to act on them - purely because they're based on emotion and not reason and evidence.

So why would I eat some cheese on toast when I was trying to do something good for myself, and the cheese on toast might sabotage that?

I thought that with absolute clarity, and it made total sense. So in the end I had a big cup of tea, some fizzy water and flavouring, a food pack (chili con carne flavour! Actually very edible although it looked awful - but it was lovely to have something hot and savoury that wasn't soup) and a peanut bar and I honestly feel totally fulfilled.

If I'd had the cheese on toast I'd probably have wolfed it down like my lunch then sat around trying to feel content but actually disappointed in myself, and angry with myself because I broke my diet then didn't have the grace to feel happy about it. I know that sounds weird. It also sounds exhausting, and I can't believe I've put myself through this cycle of eating the wrong thing for the wrong reasons, then beating myself up over various aspects of it, for so many years!

So essentially I'm glad I ate today, because it showed me how I really feel about food, and that I can come back from it. Going down that slippery slope is totally dependent on my decisions, and I have the power to make the right decisions for me.

I still plan to eat over Christmas - but those are going to be events - those are going to be situations where I sit down and savour what I'm eating and drinking. The whole idea around eating over the holiday is that I enjoy all aspects of it - even the food - and not to do it because I want to feel like "a normal".

And then I'll come back to the plan. It doesn't have to be a massive deal.

I don't know if I knocked myself out of ketosis or not - I don't feel hungry (just having sucrose-coated tablets unwittingly during abstinence caused me to be constantly ravenous) but even if I am out of ketosis I should get back into it in a few days. I can handle it - I've done it before.

It's funny - at my LLL meeting yesterday I was feeling a bit cross because everyone there seems to cheat habitually. All the ladies were talking about how much wine they'd drunk at the weekend, etc., and after having been abstinent for 3 months it really riled me. But here I was, today, eating. I suppose a lot of it was fuelled by the ladies' eating, and seeing whether I would become this "part-time dieter" too if I did it.

But here's the thing. I don't intend to do this diet again. I don't even think of it as a diet so much as a programme to reset my thinking and behaviours around eating. We were all asked to set some end of January goals during the meeting. Here are mine:

1. Walk back to the further station after work 3 times a week.

2. Plan my daily meals a week in advance, and prioritise and give myself enough time the day before each meal to make them.

3. Learn 6 new heallthy and tasty recipes (and a couple of not so healthy ones).

4. Lose 7lbs.

The last one was a bit of an afterthought! I'm really just thinking about how I can improve myself, my self-trust, my independence from food and from others, and from feeling like a victim and a failure. It's almost as though, with all the lessons I'm learning, losing weight is only a by-product. Which, I suppose, is how it should be.

And it's interesting because I can see what I'm doing: LLL has been such a massive change that my inner saboteur has had a field day. She's helped me to "stop noticing" that I'm not drinking enough water. She's told me not to worry when I've had milk and had a stomach ache immediately afterwards. She let me be organised for the first couple of days, but towards the end of the week she kept me busy so I didn't prepare the lunches I'd planned etc., and it all got a bit random and vague and disorganised.

Making my goals, meeting these cheaty women, questioning how successful they're going to be AND doing my own little experiment has helped me to refocus. I only want to lose 7lbs or so. I may actually put on weight over Christmas.

But it made me aware of the dangers of complacency and how, if I'm not careful, my inner saboteur would like nothing better than to undo all the hard work I've completed.

And a final note to anyone on LL or LLL who's thinking about eating normal food: I'm not going to tell you not to. But remember, during your diet you'll have built up carbs and sweets and normal food up in your mind until they're these towering, glorious, mouthwatering treats. But what you'll probably find is that it's just food. It's just bread. It's just cheese. It's just cake.

It's just food. And it's not so fucking delicious that it's worth you breaking your promise to yourself.

Just keep that in mind.

Sunday, 29 November 2009


Well, today I have been roaming around feeling vaguely angry with myself all day for not doing my writing exercises or undertaking The Great Straightening of the Hair (my hair is so thick that this gives me arm-ache and tends to take about an hour), or just - you know, being organised - so let's just have a look at what I have done:

1. I posted honestly on the Minimins forum
I told them about LLL, I told them about wanting to eat over Christmas, I told them about my struggles with this and the motivation for it, and you know what? No one has jumped down my throat yet. In fact everyone has been really nice and supportive, and I'm still welcome to post on the thread despite moving to LLL. Someone may of course start warning me against cheating, which is their right and which I may actually need, but we shall see. But I've got loads of compliments as well, and the general consensus is that I'm making the right decision for myself. Which is lovely. I don't really know why I came clean; I guess we've been in it so far together and these ladies have been SO inspirational. They deserved to know the truth and as far as I know, no one on the boards has gone running for the biscuit tin as a result.

2. I put away all my too-big clothes
Despite the Miracle of the Size 10 Skinny Jeans, I'm still not brave enough to go abseiling into the attic to find my size 10 clothes, but I decided to take the first step and weed out all the clothes that were hopelessly too big from my wardrobe. There's quite a lot as it happens; depressing amounts of trousers that just seem like tents now (I tried the wash-your-jeans-at-60deg-and-they'll-shrink-a-size and it didn't work. Sigh. Aren't most jeans pre-shrunk now anyway?), and tops that I could swim in, plus a few I struggled with - I could probably wear them without looking like I was in my big sister's clothes, but they were just so depressing - that cheap type of thing that's not really your style but will do for now until you're slimmer, except you never are, and you're constantly reminded of this every time you take it out to put it on... Anyway, I got rid of those. No more making do! No more Mrs Nice Bea! Grr! Actually I've put them in a bin bag and stuck them in the attic. I'll probably end up taking them to the charity shop, but I don't want to keep them around. LLL is such a change from LL that I sort of feel like I'm not on the diet anymore (hopefully this is just temporary) and what with the "planned lapses" etc I'm worried that having bigger clothes around could provide a sort of evil safety net. I don't want size 14s or 16s to ever, ever be an option again.

3. I paid all my bills online!
This is a big thing. I was being really good with money and then the weight thing sort of spiralled and I found myself having a "don't look" approach to my bank account. Now I mainly avoid it because the chunk LL takes out of my pay packet is enough to give me a heart attack, but what with all the internal drama and misery of the last couple of weeks I *have* found myself straying and buying lots of trinkets I don't need. I think it's my back-up abuse when I'm not eating. Hm. But today I steeled myself, checked my account, paid my bills and.... well, it's not really that bad. It's not great - I would have a lot more money IF I STOPPED BUYING THINGS, but it's definitely salvageable. And I have enough moolah for Christmas, although some people may be getting potato prints or paper chains for Christmas. Which is no bad thing - I always buy way too extravagant gifts. Money is not love, just like food. Anyway, I didn't realise what a mental burden this had been until, after I'd paid everything, I went skipping round the house singing! So pay your bills! It'll make you happy, apparently.

4. I had my meal
Today it was a fried egg with smoked salmon, mushrooms, tomato and spinach. I wigged out at the cooking part again and had to enlist the boyfriend. Then I got all flustered again so I didn't really eat it until it was cold. I didn't wolf it down this time, I tried to stop and savour the flavour but I need to work a harder at it. I really think now that it is because I'm just so freaked out about it that I want to get it over with as quickly as possible!

5. I had a looooong shower and exfoliated with my favourite product.
Which was nice.

6. I made Christmas cake!
Bloody hell, what a process. Hot kitchen, all the bowls that we own all over the countertops full of raisins and flour and whatnot. I am not the world's most confident baker, but I wanted to make something Christmassy, and I wanted to bake, so I decided on Christmas cake! My mother's not making it this year (and I don't actually like it - but I love the smells) so I took on the job. Again, I was all flustered and got it all a bit wrong; the sugar and eggs and butter sort of curdled a bit, and I already had about ten tons of ingredients weighed out behind me, so I was panicking. It all seemed to work out in the end though; it's baking now, filling the house with lovely smells. If it turns out not to be poisonous I might take it to work as a Christmas present. Can't wait to whack on the marzipan next week! The worst part was zesting a lemon (even the merest hint of lemon on LL and LLL can whack you out of ketosis, it is VERBOTEN) - you know how it gets into your hands. I must have scrubbed them eight times already - I keep thinking I can taste lemon on my lips but it must be my imagination because the twain didn't meet. I'm thinking of making Lebkuchen - those little German iced gingerbread cakes - and sending them to my best friends as Christmas presents, too.

7. I got my clothes ready for the week
This sounds very sad and anal, but I always mean to do this at the weekend, but then I find I just don't want to think about the week and I end up at 6.30 on a Monday morning stomping round the house turning all the lights on, trying to find a sock, and I'm often late (well, later than I'd like) for work.

8. I got my meal ready for tomorrow
My colleagues are DYING to see me eat "proper food" so I'm taking my meal in for lunch tomorrow. Last night I rubbed some basil and a teeny tiny spray of 1 Cal Olive Oil on two chicken breasts and refrigerated them, and today I grilled them. One's gone back in the fridge; the other I shredded and added to a salad (spinach leaves, rocket, watercress, carrots and spring onions with a bit of lemongrass, ginger and garlic powder) with some sort up Parma ham. The amount of protein you have to have on LLL is insane; I'm still not entirely sure I'm doing it right (this morning my scales said I'd PUT ON a pound!) so I'll see how I go. Either way I will eat my lunch SLOOOWWWWWLLLLLYYYY. Even if it turns out that I have an audience.

9. I found a recipe for gingerbread syrup for lattes
And it's a recipe I can de-fattinise by replacing the sugar with Splenda! You can make it and whack it in the fridge for ages, so if I do go over to the dark side at Christmas, at least I won't do it at a full-fat rate... plus I can hang onto it for when I've completed RTM. No more will I have to rely on Starbucks for my gingerbread lattes! I can have them at home (we have an espresso machine)! You have NO IDEA how exciting this is for me. And also I DON'T WANT ONE RIGHT NOW. Which is equally exciting in a different way.

10. I bought a size 10 party dress
IT'S OKAY, IT WAS IN THE SALE. But it's a dress (I've not liked dresses since putting on weight; I've worn exactly TWO in the last 5 years), and a PARTY dress (I've never in my adult life worn one; I always think I'll feel like I'm on Strictly or something). But I also have been saying no to quite a few parties while on LL. I've gone to a lot - but I've also stayed away from a lot. But there's a party in a couple of weeks I'd like to go to, and I'd like to go to it in this size 10 party dress. I'm still convinced that it'll be like squeezing an elephant into a condom - not because I'm planning to eat and therefore won't be a size 10 - but because I'm still attributing the Miracle of the Size 10 Skinny Jeans to some sort of fault or anomaly. I will report back re this.

So I've done quite a lot really. And writing? Well, what's this then?!

Until next time....

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Week 12 Day 83: eating again and the weirdness of it all


On Thursday night, while I was sitting at LL HQ waiting for my first ever LLL meeting to start, I was flipping through the little book you get when on LLL. Obviously, as there's a meal involved, what and how you eat is a bit more complicated than the full abstinence programme. There's a whole list of allowed proteins, vegetables, fats and oils, dairy and condiments, and vegetables. I read the list (so much of this, point zero seven of this, beans but not baked beans, this but not that, that but not that) and my mind spun.

Helpfully they also have recipes to start you off. One of them was for mushrooms, scrambled eggs(!!!) and bacon(!!!!). At this point I hadn't had my final pack and I immediately performed a mental inventory of the fridge. Now, I have become deacquainted with our fridge of late - given that I could have precisely nothing in it - but I was pretty sure we had eggs, bacon and mushrooms. I was so excited!

Of course the meeting was a late one so I got home at about 10, when thoughts of bacon and eggs are the furthest from even my little food-obsessed mind. So I made do with a milky coffee.

I was far more excited about this. The lack of milky coffees has been my largest burden while on abstinence - I have discovered a tolerance for black coffee, and I do love my banana lattes (I'm drinking one right now), but as far as I'm concerned milky coffees are Where it's At. The only time I've come close to wobbling in abstinence was when I almost ordered a gingerbread latte at Starbucks rather than a black Americano.

[NB: But kids, it's not worth it. It was a struggle in the moment but in 10 minutes I'd forgotten all about my gingerbread latte lust. That's the thing about abstinence and cravings: if you're in ketosis your hunger is blunted, so if you're tempted just mentally time-travel ten, fifteen minutes into the future. No matter how bad your craving is right now, you might be sweating and salivating and thinking you'll die if you don't have that thing, but just a few minutes from now you'll be thinking about something else, I guarantee it.]

Anyway, so I made a milky coffee (I even did the 'milky coffee' dance while the kettle boiled and my boyfriend called me a loser) in my favourite spotty mug, and took it through to the living room to drink while eating my peanut bar.

And it was....

Weird. Firstly the milk tasted off - it was a fresh thing of skimmed milk; I only drink skimmed anyway. I had my boyfriend go into the kitchen and check, but the milk smelled okay. It just tasted.... weird for the first few sips. And very filling! I usually go through about five or six mugs a day - now I was wondering how I managed it, and pondered how strange it was that it felt so filling when the LL shakes are so much thicker. But I started enjoying it towards the end - the flavours were very intense in my mouth - I could taste everything individually; the coffee, the milk, the sweeteners. Again I wondered at this because I can't taste the individual components of my banana latte.


The next day I had my meal for dinner. Egg, bacon and mushrooms as I had planned. And god, I've never been so nervous about making bacon and eggs in my life. My stomach flipped over, my hands were shaking. Actually, I didn't get up off the sofa until about 5 minutes before I was supposed to eat: I'd forgotten it wouldn't just involve the kettle and my hand blender. Finally I managed to cobble together the ingredients on my plate: garlic grilled mushrooms, grilled bacon and a poached egg. It just looked like so much - I mean, three rashers of bacon! Three rashers of bacon came to the weight specified in the book, but I couldn't believe I'd be able to swallow it down.

Shakingly I took my first bite. Tiny tiny tiny. And it was like something had exploded in my mouth: the bacon tasted so strong - again I thought something might be up (we had frozen the bacon) and got my boyfriend to taste it - he confirmed that's how bacon was supposed to taste. It was just so intense! So... meaty and, um, baconny. It was almost too much. The egg and mushrooms were less intense, but still very eggy and mushroomy. It was like someone had just turned UP the flavour! I ate really slowly; the meal filled a tea plate and I took about 30 minutes.

Afterwards I felt incredibly full. I'd been drinking milky coffees (well, as milky as my 300ml milk allowance stretched to) all day, and my stomach had sent me to the toilet a few times more often than usual. Before I began LL I had all the symptoms of IBS, but they cleared up within a couple of weeks of starting the programme. I couldn't figure out if it was just because - perhaps - I had been eating more than my digestive system could deal with properly - or whether it was a food intolerance. I definitely don't have any food allergies, but I wondered if it was a wheat intolerance. I figured it couldn't be milk, because there's loads of milk in the packs. But now I'm wondering. I hope not because, hello?! MILKY COFFEES. But this is me tending to panic before I have all the facts. It could just be that my stomach's not used to eating, you know, FOOD, so I'll give it a couple of weeks.

Today I had my meal for lunch: flaked hot smoked mackerel on a salad of carrots, spinach, rocket and watercress and tomato. And it's LOADS! To meet the protein requirement it's ONE AND HALF THINGIES OF MACKEREL! I put it all in a big salad bowl and it almost filled the bowl. Again, the flavours were so intense - I can completely still taste the fish in my mouth as though I've just eaten it.

But I'm sorry to say I wolfed it down. I'm not sure why - maybe because I wanted to eat it while it was hot, because I was nervous (it is SO ODD to eat: I really feel like I'm doing something wrong and someone's going to catch me!), but mostly probably because of habit. I shall be watching this in future. No one is going to kill me if I eat slowly.

Today also I went to Sainsburys and ACTUALLY BOUGHT STUFF! Tins of tuna, fresh smoked salmon, Parma ham, cold roast turkey, marinated tofu, Quorn mince (both for the freezer) and about a ton of vegetables. Very exciting. On Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I'm out in the evenings so I'll need to take my meal for lunch - I'm trying to plan it all in advance so I don't get caught out.

I'm going to grill the chicken breasts with some basil, then dice them and stick them in a salad with some Parma ham and artichoke hearts. The same with the turkey. The smoked salmon I'll have tomorrow with a spinach omelette, and I'll make a tofu stir-fry thing on Friday.

And I think it is this - this planning (and not reluctant planning, either) that proves to me that I'm not just doing this as an emotional stepping-stone to cheatingland. The boyfriend bought some brownie things at the supermarket and it would have been easier than ever to reach across and have one "because I'm eating food anyway", "it's not that massive a cheat" etc. but it honestly didn't occur to me. I mean, it occurred to me in the way that "I wonder what would happen if I jumped" occurs to you for a millisecond when you're on top of tall buildings, but not in any meaningful way.

I mean, I know I plan to eat over Christmas, but on the days that I'm not eating I plan to stay on the programme 100%. And I know I probably won't lose weight over that period. And that I may have to go through all the getting into ketosis woe and misery and unwellness again. But the thing is, it's worth it. I'm being flexible in order to give myself a nice time over Christmas, and continue losing in the new year.

I may have to take a packed lunch to work on Monday, actually, as my colleagues have threatened to gather round my desk because they can't believe I'll be actually EATING FOOD.

Week 12 Day 83: My first LLL meeting

So, as you know, I did a lot ofworrying about and deliberating over what to do with Christmas coming up.

Actually, I'm quite proud: my normal tendency would be to worry and worry at it, the same bit of it, coming back and back to it in a vaguely obsessive/compulsive way. Don't get me wrong, I did a bit of this - but then I wrote out my thoughts and feelings in emails to my best friend, who's very good at picking apart the why of things - and the particular why I was worried about was the this-is-just-an-excuse-to-eat why - and to my friend who completed LLL, as you saw below.

And after I sent the emails, I tried to let it go. Think about something else (work, specifically, as that's where I was). This was a mixed success, but it wasn't a failure, so I'm okay with it. Bit of practice, that's all I need. Let's hope I don't have to make too many big life-changing decisions like this too close together.

Anyway. Considering that all this thinky stuff went on over some days, actually joining LLL was a very quick process: I called my LLC, I went to my pop-in and stayed for the LLL meeting, got my book, chose my 21 foodpacks (21 foodpacks! Not 28! And it's £45 per week rather than £67!), and then I was a fully paid-up member of the club!

I was really nervous about meeting the others in my group - cheaty and all as the remaining women in my abstinence group were (oh, did I mention THEY ALL CHEATED?! They were lovely, unutterably lovely and gorgeous women, who kindly gave me lifts home and stuff, but they blithely admitted to me - not our LLC - that they cheated relatively regularly. One woman always put broccoli in her soup. I mean for god's sake, if you're going to cheat, have a cake or something. Have some fucking respect for the process. They all cheated for their individual reasons: one woman had laryngitis and took throat sweets so I've sort of let her off, but still. I was the only one in my group who was completely abstinent, and I lost the least. It sort of demotivated me and made me lose trust - not in the programme - but certainly of baring my heart and soul in group).

Anyway, as deeply flawed as they all were (and obviously I am pure as the driven snow myself), I knew them. And now I had to get to know another group of people who had been together since September...

But it was okay. I was sitting there tensely twisting my crossed legs around each other (which I suppose shows you how much weight I've lost) and feeling shy, but it was okay. One other lady was new, moving to LLL from abstinence (which is now apparently called Lighter Life Total, which sounds like a Spanish imported product to me, but anyway), and two of them were about twenty minutes late and got a bollocking from the LLL, and so we all bonded a little by staring at the floor in horror.

Then we talked about how we look after our bodies. "Oh crap," I thought, because I barely look after mine at all. We had to imagine that someone else was moving into our body for a week, and that we had to leave them instructions. Here are mine:
  1. Give it some coffee every morning before you leave the house or you'll miss your stop.*
  2. Shower daily.*
  3. Use all the hair products provided to avoid frizz.*
  4. Try to let it sleep for 8 hours a night.
  5. If the head hurts, put it to bed.
  6. Do the physio's stretching exercises daily.
  7. A long bath once a week would be nice.
  8. Do not put it in high heels or it will fall over.*
  9. Keep it hydrated.*
  10. Apply body lotion daily to avoid wrinkles.
  11. Walk it to work in the morning, and walk it back afterwards, despite its protestations.
  12. It is fond of its jumpers, soft leggings and Ugg boots, so wear those when at home.*
The asterisks are for the next question our LLC asked - how many of these do we actually do ourselves?

Well, I throw my body in the shower, I moisturise and de-fuzz it and straighten its hair most days, to make sure it's acceptable to the outside world. I suppose I do just enough so that I can keep a job, and so that people in the street don't back away from me in horror, and that my friends don't ask me gently if I've heard of moustache waxing for ladies.

But I don't actually do that much to care for myself. And that was our LLC's third question: how do you care for yourself? Other people's responses were very sensible: I allow myself to sit down and watch rubbish on TV; I meditate; I take the dogs for a walk; I have a spa day, etc.

I don't take care of myself. I take anti-care of myself.

I don't really pay attention when it's tired or has a headache or anything (or, poignantly, when it says "But I don't WANT it to be Pizza Night!"). The only things I really do are buy FAR TOO MANY CLOTHES TOO OFTEN, and feed it treats. The number of times I've gone ahead and held Secret Pizza Night even when my body has been craving a nice salad or, more accurately, a big mug of tea, some toast and an incredibly early night.

I know that when I get a migraine I should go straight to bed. Medicine, lights off, lie still until the throbbing slows and you fall asleep. I know that if I do this I'll feel at least marginally better when I wake up. So why do I so often find myself rubbing my head, feeling nauseous and just awful, IN FRONT OF THE TELEVISION?

Also, whenever I have a massage I get a migraine. Every single time. I love massages - when I've been stressed I've thought "I know, I'll book a massage". So I do, and I really enjoy it, but a lot of it really hurts and I worry that I'll get a migraine afterwards.

My physiotherapist explained to me gently that it was because when I'm tense the joints in my back sieze up, and the muscles around them go into spasm to protect them. So when a masseuse eases out all the knots in my muscles, there's nothing left to protect the joint, and that causes the migraine. I nodded wisely at this and then had lots of spa days.

Recently I saw another physio and he said "There's no reason why you can't ever have a massage - let's just sort your back out first. Have you been doing your exercises?"

No. I hadn't.

"Have you been getting headaches and migraines?"

Yes, loads. But I hadn't been doing my exercises. Or going to the physio that often. Even though I know that if I do the exercises, I'll have fewer headaches and migraines. I just don't know why I don't do it: there always seems to be something more interesting to do. It just doesn't seem important.

Another thing I realised during the meeting: before I lived in London - when I was a skinny minnie - I used to do two things:

  1. Pizza night (not SECRET pizza night, please note) - one night a month I'd get myself a pepperoni pizza, DVD and tub of ice cream and just have a quiet evening. I could never finish the pizza or the ice cream, but it was nice.
  2. Once a week I'd put on my favourite pyjamas, make a pint of tea (and maybe a hot water bottle) and take myself to bed with a favourite book ridiculously early. Like 6pm or something. I loved it - particularly if it was raining out. I'd look forward to it all day, and it was a private treat. I'd probably read for a couple of hours then drift off about 8pm, and I'm sure I felt really rested for the rest of the week.
I don't do those things any more. Pizza Night has morphed into the self-punishing routine that is Secret Pizza Night, and I haven't even considered the early night thing for years. I suppose I moved to London and thought it was an unsophisticated way to relax; I should probably be unwinding with a Martini and some retail therapy or something. And I moved in with my BF and I guess I didn't want him to think I was weird.

Maybe it's time to readdress that. I mean, a very early night is possibly less weird than the sadomasochism of a painful massage that gives you a migraine.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Week 12 Day 82: a new beginning - LighterLife Lite. Difficult questions and honest answers

I am sorry I haven't posted here in a while. I've been asking myself some difficult questions and coming up with very honest answers that I was afraid would make me a target for criticism. But it is my blog, and it is my life, so I'm just going to get on with it.

Firstly I should tell you that  I'm now 10lbs from my goal weight and have switched to Lighter Life Lite (LLL). This is the slightly less intensive programme where you have three foodpacks a day and one no-carbohydrate meal.

After much deliberation, nail-chewing and pacing (more on which later), I went along to my first LLL meeting last night and officially started today. After almost 3 months of full abstinence and absolutely no cheating, I'm a little afraid of my meal, which I will be having for dinner.

NB: I do plan to post about LLL and how it's all going on here - including recipes - so if you're in abstinence and you don't think you can handle food talk, I do apologise, but you should probably turn back now.

Secondly, despite my great terror of doing so, I bought some size 10 skinny jeans. I had that awful “oh these aren’t going to go over my ANKLES” moment when I tried them on, but I am sitting here wearing them AND THEY ARE A BIT BAGGY. Confounding all my expectations.

So. The thing I've been thinking about, and have been too scared to say anything about for fear of retribution is.... (drumroll) .... CHRISTMAS. Christmas and its attending social get-togethers and so on. Because I KNOW I'm going to eat (and drink).

This is the part where you call me a bunch of names ("weak"; "saboteur"; "cheater"; "quitter", etc.) and leave, slamming the door on your way out.

And I know it's insane. I've survived this far without cheating once - and I've been to restaurants, parties, been on short breaks and taken part in birthday celebrations. In fact it was my mother's birthday recently and I spent the day with her; on the way there I bought lots of food she liked: blue cheese, Parma ham; pasta salad; roast peppers and artichoke hearts and Mozzarella; little cakey things and nice wine (incidentally these are things I'm rather partial to as well), and I didn't even have a NIBBLE.

So why am I planning on ruining all my hard work by eating over Christmas?

That's exactly what my lovely wise post-LL friend said when I confided in her. This is the exchange:


FRIEND: > Being totally devil's advocate about it, part of me wants to say that you've done so amazingly well - not cheated at all?? bloody hell! - then why not just stick with it and forget what time of the year it is.  It's only one year and what you're going for is so worthwhile.
ME: > Well, you see, this is the thing. My faulty conscience and my overactive guilt gland think I SHOULD salute my three months of abstinence, tattoo “FOOD IS NUTRITION NOT LOVE” on the inside of my eyelids, straighten my back, lift my chin and stomp virtuously through Christmas with my focus firmly set on that bright Nazi future of February 2010.
Christmas is really important to me. More so, possibly, than my holiday to America in February: you cut me, I bleed eggnog. Obviously a large part of it is roast turkey, (skinny) gingerbread lattes, the excuse to eat (say) chocolate cherry liqueurs for breakfast, and so on. But that’s all part and parcel of the taking part, the enjoying, the kicking back. 
I know I can, in theory, take part, kick back and belong while staying abstinent – because I've already done it for over two months.
But I will be MISERABLE if I do this over Christmas; I knew this from the beginning: when I started in September I hadn’t anticipated (and wouldn’t ever have countenanced) doing LL over Christmas – BECAUSE it’s such a big deal for me - hence the increasing wobblies the closer we get to December. And - perhaps this is actually the LL psychology working here – I deserve to NOT be miserable.
I'm in a new job and I WANT to go to my new team’s Christmas lunchy thing – and eat, like everyone else. I WANT to have Christmas lunch and eat at my almost-in-laws’. I WANT to go to a couple of parties and have silly cocktails! And I WANT to make florentines and Lebkuchen and be able to eat a couple!  A stronger person might be able to do this wielding their soup pack and fizzy water and have as brilliant a time as everyone else, but I’m not that person. I feel isolated and freakish, and very sad for my tastebuds.
Essentially, I think that abstaining through Christmas might actually WEAKEN my resolve and self-belief, because I’d be so chuffing miserable and TRYING to be brave. I think it would be punishing myself.
FRIEND: > If you do come off it, but still with a goal to achieve, how does that affect your holiday in February?
ME: > Obviously there’s the danger that I’ll do Christmas, then keeping putting off restarting LL until February then they have to haul me on the plane to the US using some sort of winch. 
I have a big problem with self-trust. My entire possible undertaking of this thing would involve me saying to myself “Self, you abstained AND lived for three months. And I am committing to trusting you to start again in January”, then honouring that commitment. In a weird way I think it might help me, ahem, “grow” (sorry). And it does mean:
1. I've been breaking my back to lose the extra weight by Christmas. But, given that I'm losing an average of 3.2.lbs a week, that's unlikely to happen. But this way I’ll have 2 months, rather than 3 weeks, to lose the extra 10lbs (if indeed I need to), making a big saving on a the crazymaking.
2. I won’t feel deprived because I’ll have done the Christmas thing and anyway EVERYONE diets in January.
3. I’ll be motivated because I’ll want to be skinny-skinny in time for my holiday.
4. My bezzie mate will also be dieting for the holiday – and I see her the most out of all my friends, so that’ll be motivating.
FRIEND: > It does sound as if you're ready to go on to RTM though - as long as you can say to yourself 'well, if this is the extent of the loss, then I am happy. This is the weight I want to be and I'm proud of myself and I'm happy about where I am right now'. 
ME: > I’m not sure I’m quite THERE yet. I mean, apparently I am a size 10. My brain definitely hasn’t caught up yet, I think I still look lumpy in my undies, and I am 10lbs above where I want to be. I am not “holiday skinny” yet. But I kind of feel “Christmas skinny” if that makes sense.
FRIEND: > I don't think you're going to go mental with it over Christmas, because you have put so much work into it and you're not going to throw that effort away. 
ME: > Well, this is part of it you see. I don’t THINK I will either – I’m scared I might – but I’m trying to learn to trust myself on this, based on the evidence of the last 3 months. The thing is, I KNOW I will cheat on Christmas Day, and I may be tempted/actually cheat on other days over the season, too. So will I do this randomly, emotionally, and feel like crap about it? Or will I do it in a planned, accepting, adult “okay, it’s Christmas, let’s pick it up on the other side” way? And is one of these options masquerading as the other?
And that's what I've been debating with myself about:
  1. Is my plan to cheat just a self-sabotage tactic? Or am I actually looking after myself?
  2. If I do cheat, will I do it randomly, emotionally, and feel like crap about it? Or will I do it in a planned, accepting, adult way?
All I can do is go by how I'm feeling. For the last couple of weeks I've been VERY demotivated at the thought of not partaking at all in Christmas. I've been stepping on the scales each morning, WILLING my body to shed the 10lbs before the season kicked in.
And now? Now I'm hopeful and optimistic. I feel like I've made a decision that's true to me - not one that's going to spoil everything, and I have my head back in the game.
After all this thinking I went to see my LLC yesterday and told her very honestly what was going on in my head. The first thing she said was, "If you eat conventional food, is the world going to end?" She also said that as my LLC she couldn't endorse cheating. She said that she would have continued in abstinence through Christmas but that everyone is different. 
And the weird thing is - if it was my birthday or something coming up, I would have stayed in abstinence with only a twinge of deprivation. But it's Christmas, and if I don't eat I won't feel part of it.
My LLC said that if I hadn't been completely abstinent and so good at learning from the programme so far, she would have come down on me like a ton of bricks, but she could see that I was trying to handle a tricky situation, and that I knew what the consequences were (have to get back into ketosis; weight loss compromised for that week), and that I was making an adult, unemotional decision.
So the plan is this: do LLL for a couple of weeks, see how that goes - I may lose the 10lbs then (although I doubt it) at which point I can go into the LLL version of Route to Management. I'm going to go off-diet for maybe 2 or 3 days over Christmas, then continue either LLL or RTM.
Of course now I've made this decision I'm not even sure I will cheat. I may go to the restaurant or party or whatever and find food that fits into the LLL plan, at which point I'll decide whether or not to have a glass of wine. But I will, FOR THE MOST PART, be on LLL. 
I'm not going to mention it on the Minimins boards, because many people (and probably rightly) will tell me off, and I don't want to upset (or tempt) anyone who's staying abstinent through the holiday. And god forbid that this is the effect this news will have on you.

But I still think it's a healthy decision. For me, not necessarily anyone else. Of course I'd be totally miserable if I went completely off the reservation and started chowing down on everything over Christmas. But I don't think I will. And I think I just recognise that I deserve not to feel horrible over my favourite holiday of the year, and I'm taking steps to minimise any potential fallout.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Week 9 Day 68

Today hasn't gone so well. Well, it hasn't gone brilliantly. But it's interesting because I think I've caught myself in the middle of a self-sabotage. I haven't got to the part where I'd normally sabotage myself with food yet, but it's interesting to see what's going on right now.

Basically, I was poorly yesterday. On Wednesday night I came down with a massive migraine while at the cinema, which was a bit galling. And then I suffered through the Tube ride home - really, it was horrible. My head pounding and the feeling of a vice on my skull, and the increasing feeling that I was going to throw up, and feeling faint, and my home stop soooooooooo far away.

I got home, took some migraine medicine, threw up and then took to my bed at something like 9pm. I was pretty upset about throwing up, too - I hadn't done that yet on LL - and I'm ingesting few calories as it is!

On Thursday I took the day off sick, and then tried to get up and be productive (why?!), only to feel even worse and eventually retire to bed again and more migraine medication. I slept for a really long time, and began to feel human again after that. I didn't drink as much water on that day (mainly because I was asleep, and also filling my stomach made me feel very queasy again and I didn't want to vomit again), but I managed to have all my packs somehow.

Today I took as leave. It was planned in advance, and I had hoped to use the day to catch up on my writing for NaNoWriMo (I'm quite behind).

And this is where it gets interesting. Because I'd planned to use the day for writing, I really tried to make it work. Despite the fact that I'm still not feeling that well. My head is still sensitive and my stomach's still not doing exactly what it's supposed to.

But despite this I plonked myself in my study and just told myself to write, write, write, getting more and more frustrated when I couldn't produce many words.

Eventually I "let" myself have a break (not a real break, you understand - I was still working on other stuff, I just did it in front of the TV.

Then I took myself upstairs again to write. And I've produced very little. So I went onto the NaNoWriMo forums to see if I could glean any wisdom and one thread caught my eye. It was entitled "Are you having fun?"

Was I having fun?

Most certainly not. I was still feeling under the weather and tired, and was driving myself to achieve something very strictly, without any reason to feel motivated.

Because I'd planned to do this, I wasn't letting myself get out of it. I'd just got myself into a very negative mental state ("You MUST do this otherwise you will have FAILED!"), forgetting that:

1. I wouldn't treat anyone else like this, certainly not if they were just recovering from a horrid migraine. I'd give them cups of tea and make them lie down and read their favourite books, watch something that made them laugh. I'd encourage NAPPING. I wouldn't lock them in a room and make them perform.

2. NaNoWriMo is a hobby. It's meant to be fun. Obviously it's hard to write 2000 words a day, but the idea is that you live in your story and have fun telling it. My internal critic has just been going "Oh god that's SHIT, what are you thinking?" every time I try to write. No wonder I haven't enjoyed it.

Now, as I said, I haven't got to the food abuse part yet, but enough of this sort of thing and the "victim" side of me will rebel and eat something bad/do something terribly unwholesome/rebel by fucking up a different part of my life, just for some release.

So I'm not sure what to do now. Whether to call it a day and lie down with a book, or try and find the "fun" in writing. I suspect I'll need to take the former option. It's a strange pickle to be in - you can see what you're doing is wrong, but you don't know how to change it. Yet.