Sunday, 3 March 2013

Hibernating, Germinating

I have been thinking a lot over the past few weeks, or perhaps months, really. I have had so many evenings where I have just wanted time to think, and barely found any. I have so many thoughts swirling around, which are half formed, and I need time to ruminate on them, develop them, pin them down. Then I realised that for me, sometimes the best way to think is to write, and so here I am.

When I first met Carl, way back when we were 19, he told me he was a social smoker only, just at parties or the pub. It emerged soon after that if that was the case, he was a very social person! It really upset me, and he tried to give up. He tried and he tried. Relapsed several times. And then, he did it. And he has been smoke free, save the very, very occasional New Year's cigarette, or a very, very occasional cigar at a wedding. When he did give up, it wasn't easy, but the reason he succeeded was because something had clicked, something had changed. He was ready and he wasn't doing it for me or anyone else, just for him.

If anybody can ever figure out what it is that makes the click happen, what it is that tips the scales, that person will be rich indeed. It is more than will power or want power, it is more than knowing what is the right thing to do - it is somehow making that leap into doing and being.

I like to think that everything happens to us for a reason, even if we don't understand it at the time. So maybe, the times I have tried to become healthier and fitter before, and quietly fell off the wagon have been for a reason. Maybe the lessons are so big sometimes, you can't learn them all in one go. Maybe you have to learn a bit at a time. Maybe it isn't meant to be easy, all the time. Maybe it is only by failing and getting up that you really learn. I hope so.

Since I first set up this blog, maybe to look at me, nothing has changed. But in three years I have read a lot, seen a lot, done a lot. Joined Weightwatchers a couple of times. Lost some weight, put it back on again. Had a very, very dark period where I was terribly unhappy and ate horribly badly, a cup-a-soup a day and little more. Further back in time, before I set up this blog, in the run up to my wedding, I did Slimming World with my Mother-In-Law-To-Be. It was so complicated I was often in tears just trying to understand it. I flirted with low-carbing. One New Year, it was the leek diet from French Women Don't Get Fat. I have joined the local council-run gym. I have been a member of the lovely Virgin gym. I have salsa-sized to Rosemary Conley dvds and swam my way through one of the most stressful periods of my life.

All that and nothing has changed, to look at. But I am trying to see all of that as hibernating and germinating. Over the weeks and weeks of winter, the flower beds in the park have just been the same brown earth, occasionally dusted with frost or snow. And yet, this weekend, the earth is pricked with the gold of the first crocuses. Snowdrops have thrust their delicate little heads through the icy ground. For so long it has looked like nothing was changing, but under the ground, a lot was going on.

And so it has been with me. I have been reading so much recently that has been inspiring me. But it has been almost a tidal wave, and I have so many different thoughts to process and pin down, to sift through and try to put together into something I can use. Because that's the thing. I don't think there is one plan out there that is right for me, one path, one set of rules. I really think there is a lot of good information and a lot of good ideas, and somehow, I have to find what works for me, and put together my own plan. I have to find my own way.
There will be more posts like this, I think. Kind of streams of consciousness, me trying to write it out on the page and get my thoughts in order. And then, hopefully, I can start to make it happen.

So, things that have worked for me, things that haven't; things that I want to try, things that I don't. Slimming World was just too complicated. Red day? Green day? I HATED that they had things called 'syns'. Too close to 'sin'. I HATE 'good food' 'bad food' 'I've been naughty/bad' 'I've been good'. Horrible thinking. Dangerous, too. Weightwatchers I have a kind of love-hate relationship with. I have lost weight with it several times but never really managed to adopt it as a way of life forever. I think the essentials of it are good, the planning ahead, the portion control, the regular weigh-ins. I find myself buying the magazine even when I am not following the plan, so clearly something in it calls to me. But I don't like the huge amount of branded products they sell. One of the big things I am sure about is that food should be food, and the more you make it low-fat, 'lite', etc, the more chemicals and so on that has to be put into it. Their ready-meals may be convenient, but I fear they can make you lazy. Real food, fresh food, cooked simply. Food that is in season. That is how I want to try and live and eat.

I do want to lose some weight, but I also want to be healthy, so no Atkins for me. I have low-carbed before and it was effective short-term, but surely I should have been alarmed by the list of supplements you had to buy at the beginning, to keep healthy? No Dukan or anything that is overly complicated. Things that are good for me, instead. After all, I could lose weight by eating nothing but 3 Mars Bars a day and nothing else- but it would hardly be healthy.

And then there is of course, that eternal question - what is healthy? In the eighties fat was bad, fibre was good. In the nineties there was the Zone and cabbage soup. Protein has been our saviour, carbs our enemy. Butter was out, margarine was in. But then we realised margarine wasn't really so good for us after all. You can eat according to your blood type, food combine, count calories, points, starve for two days then eat 'normally' for five. Diet pills come and go and you can replace your meals with a shake or a bar or a powder, should you want to.

My hope is that deep down inside we, by which I mean me know what to do. It is just a case of somehow finding the way from knowing to doing and being. I read an article by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recently, in which he said

..."I'm not a serial dieter, or any kind of dieter, but I am interested in what we eat, how we eat, and how it affects our health. Sometimes I think, with mounting impatience, that it's all so bloody obvious. Michael Pollen has it pretty much right in his book In Defence of Food: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants."

He has pinned down exactly how I feel. It is all so bloody obvious. And yet somehow, paradoxically, because it is so obvious, it makes it hard. If someone told us that if we ate two fruits from a particular kind of tree exactly two hours before every meal, and we would lose weight, we would be clamouring to buy them. But the advice you hear time and time again, because there is no mystery, no magic, no famous actress spokesperson, it is too easy to ignore.

Future posts will be shorter, I promise. Selfish as it sounds, this particular post is for me more than anyone else. I am just trying to pour all my thoughts out onto the page, so I can make sense of them. Bare with me, please.

I think I need a separate post, a fresh sheet of paper, as it were, to decide on my what I want to achieve. Much of what I wrote three years ago stands. A more scrumptious me, a healthier me. Although it sounds counter-intuitive, what I need to focus on here is the how.

I want to eat seasonally. Other people have written reams on this, more eloquently than I ever can. It just makes sense. Strawberries in December? No thanks! The first blood oranges of the season, arriving just in time for the dull days of winter when we need a citrus hit and all the vitamin C we can get? Yes please! Think River Cottage. I want to eat real food cooked from scratch as far as possible. No sugar and chemical laden lite yogurt or the like. Nigel Slater and his 'quick cook' series are my inspiration here. Portion control sounds deathly dull, but Nigella writes beautifully about it, and hopefully it will become second nature before long. Hypnotherapy is not something that I think will magically make everything happen, but harnessing the power of your mind has to be a good thing. I have a really good hypnotherapy track I listened to that really encourages you to think about the hows and whys of your life. I think I need to find a way to incorporate listening to it into my daily round. Exercise is such a curious thing. Can't stand the thought of it. Hate being red in the face and sweaty, ugh, ugh, ugh. But love the way I feel after aqua-aerobics or burlesque. Those endorphins are amazing! I think perhaps I need to find a way to do it more often, to get hooked on those things!

Reading through that list and breaking it down, I am basically saying I am going to eat real food, in season, not too much. Thinking positively about it. Exercise. Hardly ground breaking. But if I can go from thinking and knowing I need to do those things to doing those things, then hopefully, it will be life changing for me.

Ok, I think that is enough for now, for tonight. I feel like I have got started. I have been thinking about this post, returning to this blog, for a long time now. It feels good to have stopped thinking about it, and actually haven written it. Now I just have to keep on keeping on.