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Despite the breath-taking whirl that has been the first term back after the summer holidays – with the 11+ test, the suspense, the results, the school visits, the extra dance coaching sessions in preparation for exams, the launch of a new choir at my school etc etc – things have been remarkably calm in this household.
The daughter had ceased to slam doors; the son suddenly paused his descent into teenager-dom (for how long, we don’t know… but we’ll take it); I have been undertaking my role as taxi-mum with surprising tranquillity; even the cats seem to purr and sleep more than usual.
However, something has gone badly awry in my battle against the flab.
Yesterday, I spent the whole day grazing on absolute crap – taunting and baiting the prissy little voice in my head that was yelping with indignation every time I stuffed crisps, cake and cheese in my mouth… and ended the day feeling bloated, lethargic and black with self-loathing.
At that point I felt like grabbing myself by the scruff of the neck, and screaming into my own face with frustration and fury, “What on EARTH is wrong with you??! Are you ACTUALLY INSANE??”
I am middle-aged. No getting away from that, and I don’t even mind. But what I find crazy is that I have been struggling with self-image and self-control for over three decades. THREE. DECADES. And there have only been very brief moments during that time when I have been happy with the way I look, or when my body has been the weight I think it should be. That’s a long time to be messing around in that despicable cycle of self-assessment, hope, self-sabotage and despair.
Now, be very clear. This is not a blog about what size people should be. Everyone is walking their own path. But I have always had a clear picture in my head of who I should be – what the best version of myself would look like – in fact, never mind LOOK like – I think I mean ‘what being the best ME should feel like.’
And it’s not even rocket science. It’s just science. Eat a bit less. Choose wholesome food over empty calories. Exercise and stay active.
How hard can that be?
Well, obviously very bloody hard. Three-decades-worth-of-failure hard.
Interestingly, I am more successful and focused when I am angry. For several years now, I have poured my energy, resentment, rage and sense of injustice into my training – into fighting for my right to concentrate on me. There have been many reasons I have been angry lately and, due to my previous tendency to bottle emotions up until Armageddon ensues, there was plenty of fuel to help me through my weakness. Some of that fuel was hate. Hate for everything that held me back in life; hate for the obstructions and tragedies that kept blocking my journey; and even hate for people who should have loved me but made me feel worthless instead.
The good news is that I’ve made a lot of personal progress and worked through most of those negative issues. But the bad news? I’ve looked inside, and there’s nothing left – I don’t know how to generate the energy I need to work on myself… and I feel lost.
At this rate, I’m going to get old and die without ever having reached my potential or enjoyed being the person I think I could be.
I have two choices now:
1 – Stop believing that there’s a better version of me. Stop trying. Let it all slide. Accept that I’m a weak, greedy slob and stop fighting it.
2 – Get some discipline. Accept that I have to love myself to look after myself. Accept responsibility for myself. Concentrate on ACTION, not analysis.
The truth is, I could spend all night writing about this – analysing my history, and my motives – and still may never get to the bottom of why I do this to myself. My mistake is to try to understand it. I have to stop thinking, and just DO.
I don’t NEED to know what’s going on in my head – in fact, I really ought to climb out of there. I spend so much time wandering about aimlessly in the dusty attic of my mind, sifting through piles of crap, trying to attribute false importance to boxes of junk and looking for answers. All this pondering, this introverted scrutiny, the self-absorbed diagnosis… they achieve nothing.
Action is the key word. Switch off brain, eat well, train well – it’s all perfectly possible. It doesn’t need psychoanalysis or explanation. It really is that simple.
When I start to overthink – when I start auditing what I’m allowed to eat, what I can’t eat, whether I can keep this up for a sustained period, or visualise myself saying no to crisps and cheese and chips for ever – it’s like glancing down when halfway up a steep ladder. The dizzying view freezes me to the spot; it reminds me of all my fears and of all the potential disasters that could befall me. The paralysis convinces me to backtrack; to scuttle down the ladder to a place where I felt ‘safe’ – even though it’s not where I wanted to be.
All this time, I believed that I could THINK my way to a better future and, clearly, I can’t. Weight loss, fitness and strength does not rely on inner peace and mental tranquillity. If it does, then I’m buggered, because THAT is the epitome of the Swimming Costume Conundrum, no?
I can’t wear a swimming costume until I lose some weight…but I can’t lose any weight until I’ve been swimming.
Because, rightly or wrongly, there’s no inner peace for me until I have a clear view of my feet, unobstructed by a muffin top.
So, I shall henceforth embark on Phase 1 of a new approach called, “Stop bloody thinking about it, and just get on with it.”
No doubt I will report back and bore you with more self-flagellation in a couple of months, OR bore you with smug reports of success. I hope, for my own sake, that it will be the latter.
*Who knows if Bruce Lee actually said these words. Anyway, can't go far wrong with a pithy quote, accompanied by a picture of a martial arty Asian guy.