2016.2

Previous: 266lb
Current: 263lb
Loss this week: 0lb
Total loss: 3lb

The number on the scale only tells part of the story. Friday night was particularly boozey complete with kebab at the end of the night. After a night like that I can expect a higher number on the scale for the next couple of days as my body deals with the carnage. At one point I was down to 259lb during the week.

It has been a stressful week though. I’ve been sick and turned to comfort food on monday/tuesday (pizza). Those days also had some bad snacking. Wednesday/thursday were much better, but then Friday came along and was a blow out. I felt like I need to celebrate the end of a tough week and part of meeting that feeling was with drinks and food.

At the time the comfort food may have felt good but it was a short-lived feeling. Perhaps sometimes we need to be ok with feeling “blah” and not trying to do anything about it? In my studying I’m reading about the relationship between positive and negative emotions. In positive psychology there has been a focus on eliminating negative and promoting positive, which is being challenged as the “negative” things can often be opportunities for growth and change (in an ultimately positive direction in terms of wellbeing and individual flourishing). This is slightly different, but wouldn’t it be nice to feel like crap and not try to self-medicate it away? Or at least turn to things that have a net-positive effect in the long-term.

This week I want to work on my “rice and beans” strategy again. I know that if I lock down 2/3 meals then I’m going to post a lost next week.

2016.0

I’m getting back into the habit of posting weekly reflection posts. I’d like to make some lifestyle changes (or tweaks!) in 2016 and I know this is a good way for me to get some honest feedback from myself. It’s particularly useful when I investigate the reasons why I’m not doing the things I want to do. And generally, the process of reflection helps me organise the thoughts in my mind and solidifies my internal narrative. I’ve also enjoyed re-reading some of my old posts and would like to capture “me in my words” at this point in time as well.

Weigh in #2016.0 – starting weight for the new year.

Previous: 266lb
Current: 266lb
Total loss: 0lb

The holiday period has been indulgent but not excessively so. I’m actually fairly pleased that the scale said 266lb this morning.

Next week

The first week back at work. What can I do this week that will help me get to where I want to be? I think standardising my diet was a part of my prior success, I ate a lot of the same meals. I guess taking it to the extreme if you only ate 1 dish every day for breakfast/lunch/dinner, there would be a bunch of “economies of habit”. For example you’d quickly become efficient at preparing that meal, you would remove a lot of decision-making from your daily routine, and I think you’d quickly adapt and get used to eating the same meal. Food shopping would be an easy affair and “what’s for dinner” wouldn’t even be a question that you’d ask. Imagine if you could only eat one dish due to some form of economic or physical restriction (I have a stereotyped picture of people in third-world countries eating rice and beans); If you couldn’t actually eat anything else other than your one dish, do you think you’d have any weight issues? Take out pleasure, choice and desire from the equation, and I think weight-loss is probably easy. This feeds into my “prison theory” – if you locked an obese person in a cage and fed them a controlled diet, giving them no choice in what they ate, then they would lose weight (losing weight isn’t a nutrition problem, it’s a psychological problem). This is kinda what happens with bariatric surgery as well, the stomach is reduced or bypassed so that food cannot be physically taken up.

So, standardising my diet? To an extent I’ve implemented this in my breakfast routine: I eat porridge almost every day. (Funnily enough I also actually had porridge for dinner last night.) I think I could also get on-board with doing this for lunch as well. I’d like to stop spending money on the staff canteen so if I could get into a good “bring my own rice and beans” lunch routine that would help me out financially as well. I found the following recipe and am about to give it a try.

This week is all about rice and beans :D.

Both Ends

This is a blog post I wrote 5 years ago. It describes a sexual encounter (cringe!), my first turns on a snowboard, what it was like to purchase my first set of boarding gear (and generally the new experience of buying clothes) and the joy of fitting into a theatre seat. At this point I had lost 183lb. (If you’re a reasonably new friend and didn’t know this about me, surprise!)
It’s humbling to read this back and remind myself what life was like back then and how differently I feel now. The things I said I wouldn’t take for granted… I now completely take for granted. It’s amazing to look back on how this young version of me was stepping out and discovering a whole new world. All the possibilities in front of him, all the novelty in his experiences (he is so cute!). I kinda want to be more like that guy again :-).
When I reflect on 2015 and plan for the new year, I’m going to do so from two ends. There will be goals that I work towards, just like normal, but I’m also going to work on bringing some of those goals closer to me. There is so much in all of our lives to grateful for, right now, without needing to change anything.

Weigh-in #105+6: Messy Two Weeks

Peak: 256.6lb
Previous: 248.4lb
Current: 248.0lb
Loss this week: 0.4lb
Total Loss: 8.6lb

Last week’s weigh-in was a fairly big gain if I remember right (something like 5lb). It was enough to want to hide it from the world and stick my head in the sand and I didn’t write a weigh-in post. There’s an irony in preaching a public disclosure of your weight in order to leverage social accountability and then not actually posting when it hurts the most to do so. It’s a good-uncomfortable feeling though. Embracing the discomfort has helped me turn things around and I’m happy to post a minor net-loss today.

My diet and routine has spiked between being really good and really bad over the last 14 days. It’s felt like a roller coaster for my mood too; I’ve been up and I’ve been down. I think part of this has been caused by “end of season blues”. All the friends I’ve made here are slowly leaving. The season is ending and people are moving on to new things, or moving back to old. I’m stressed with my study and stressed with with trying to figure out what’s next for me. There are lots of conflicting desires and trying to resolve them is making me feel drained; I haven’t fully internalised the idea that you can’t have everything, and my mind toils away trying to solve a problem that can’t be solved.

I’m now halfway through this 12-week block. My goal is a 25lb loss which means I’m 3.4lb behind where I should be for halfway. Still, I’m moving in the right direction. Given my current social environment and lifestyle I’m pretty happy it’s not worse! The next 6 weeks are arguably going to be more of challenge as I anticipate I’ll be on the road a lot. When I leave Nelson I’m going to have to consider some strategies for dealing with this. Off the top of my head I like the idea of treating this as a bit of a backcountry hike… albeit within an urban environment. I will have a limited ability to prepare food and the temptation will be to eat out a lot – bad for my wallet and my diet. I’m thinking about simple breakfasts, trail-mix “lunches”, and giving myself some flexibility with eating out in the evening. I guess a lot of this depends where I am though… which is another set of decisions I’ll have to make shortly.

 

 

Weigh-in #103: Good studying

Peak: 256.6lb
Previous: 251.0lb
Current: 250.4lb
Loss this week: 0.6lb
Total Loss: 6.2lb

Food has been disappointing on the whole. I ate out more than I should have and again, like last week, when I do that I tend not to eat as well as if I were at home. The other problem is the booze again. I went from drinking 1/7 last week, to 5/7 this week. I had no more than 2 beers or wines on any of those five days, but still… that’s like 400 calories/day of extra stuff that I could have done without. And the scary thing is I didn’t realise how often it was until reviewing this week; they were in my food log, but just not on my mind.

The focus this week then is on home-cooked food. I already know there will be days where this won’t happen. Thursday is “ribs night” at the pub and I enjoy this little ritual with my friends. I will be skiing this week and i


What a GREAT week for my studying. I can’t believe I’m on a 5-day streak :-). The shift happened after doing some thinking-out-loud with a fellow Zen Change Lab member (Yvonne @ Gainstorming). I think there have been two parts to it.

Firstly I’m now building “being a student” into my identity. I’m not someone who works and studies part time, or someone who is doing ski-season and studying on the side. I am now, first and foremost, a student.

Secondly I’ve reframed the short-term and long-term objectives. Long-term I want to become an expert in psychology; a grey-haired, elbow-patch wearing, superhero master of the mind! I have this projection of my future self. This awesome dude who went back to school in his 30s, became an expert in a new domain, switched career and took his life in a more meaningful direction, one where he uses his new knowledge to help people and make the world a better place. I really want to be that guy and that image is now driving me forward.

The short-term change is to focus on really understanding the topics I’m reading about. That sounds like it’s obvious and a standard part of “studying” and “learning” but I’ve found myself studying for assignments or exams… and not studying for the knowledge itself. I don’t really care about having the degree; it’ll make a nice line on the resumé and is a prerequisite to taking my knowledge further, but ultimately it’s all about me learning and knowing as much of this stuff as I possibly can, and not about a piece of paper. I would much rather know these topics properly and score an average grade, than score an excellent grade but have a flakey/patchy understanding.

 

 

W3.D4

More good study today! I’ve had two good days in a row and I feel much better about it than I did a week ago. My anxiety about it has decreased and I feel much more in control of what’s coming up ahead of me – it’s like I’ve shined a spotlight on everything and now have greater visibility .

Food today was not great. I ate out a couple of times and didn’t make the healthiest of choices. I also had 2 glasses of wine with dinner.

No skiing / exercise today either. I went for a walk along the lake which was really nice though.

Reframing My Study

I’m studying for an undergraduate psychology degree. This started as a part-time endeavour alongside my day job but I found it difficult. After a day of fairly intensive mental effort doing software programming I was rarely in a good mood to study. Since then I’ve quit my job and taken on a full-time study load, which will allow me to graduate in October 2015. The plan was to focus on the study and “get the degree out the way” quicker. Whilst I’m still hitting the deadlines and scoring good grades, I’m not happy with how my studying is going. I don’t feel like I’m learning the material properly and I don’t think I’m putting enough effort in.

In no particular order, some of the problems I’ve identified: –

  1. The studying, and perhaps the degree itself, feel like a chore.
  2. I have a lot of anxiety about not putting enough effort in.
  3. Why I’m doing the degree is not “clear”. I don’t have a well defined reason for doing the degree.
  4. I don’t identify myself as being a student.

Right now studying feels a bit like a pointless chore. It’s something I feel like I have to do, but I don’t really know why I’m doing it. It’s hard to motivate myself to spend 3hrs/day on something I don’t seem to value or appreciate; yet I feel bad about myself when I don’t put the effort in.

The identity issue is really important. If “being a student” (first and foremost) becomes part of my identity, then I think my attitude towards study changes. It’s no longer something that I’m trying to fit “into my life”, it becomes something more central to who I am. (Side note: perhaps this is similar to “being on a diet” vs. “being a healthy person” ?) If I am a student then it’s normal for me to spend big chunks of the day studying – that’s what a person like me does.

My ultimate end-goal is to become an expert in psychology. Someone who has the theoretical knowledge/academic background and understanding, who can and does apply this knowledge in the real world to have a positive effect on people’s lives. Right now this vision is not linked to my studying. I understand that doing my degree is a stepping-stone towards my goal but it still feels abstract and distant. The degree is something for me to get out of the way, an obstacle to clear before moving on to something more relevant, interesting or nearer to where I want to be. Perhaps I want the outcome but I don’t want to do the work. (Side note: Again, similarities with weigh-loss stuff… we want the slimmer bodies but don’t want to take the necessary steps to get there)

To fix these issues I’m going to become a student. I am a student. And what do students do? They study and they learn things. And they party lots. That’s my job; it’s who I am and what I do. It’s normal for me to spend X hours/day studying.

And why am I doing it? To learn. Sure, I want to get the degree, and yes it will help me get to the next step, but the goal isn’t a collection of certificates for the wall. I want to help people and I want to know as much as I can about how to do that. I want to master this domain.

At the moment my focus is on completing assignments and going through the motions. My focus is not on the learning, and that needs to change. I’m really motivated by the thought of learning more – I want to be smarter. So instead of my studying being a chore and something to get done and out of the way with no intrinsic value, I am reframing it as an opportunity to get smarter. I will measure myself on my understanding of the topics and not on my ability to complete an assignment. The primary goal is the knowledge and not the degree.

The Black Box

What would you do if you were guaranteed not to fail? About 4 years ago I wrote down the following answer: –

I’d invent a little black box that would magically help everyone realise their new-year’s resolutions.

Within the material constraints of our lives I believe we can do pretty much anything that we put our mind to. Perhaps the limiting factor is our mind (and time). It’s possible for almost everyone to learn how to play the piano or write a novel; it’s possible for all of us to be lean and toned. We can all be well read and cultured or whatever else we want to be. But for some reason most of us are unable to bring these dreams into reality.

I’m not naive enough to believe there’s a panacea for solving all our problems or that we’d even be happy if somehow we did, but I still want to try. My personal experience has shown me what each of us is capable of. I’ve learned the power of psychology first-hand. I love reading all around this area and I get excited talking to people about this stuff. It just feels right. It feels like a worthy pursuit.

I know that learning new things and becoming an expert in a topic drives me. If I think of myself as being the black box then I see myself as an expert in this domain. Someone who has both a grounding in the academic theory and research and someone who has successful experience in affecting people in the real world. This is starting to sound a lot like Positive Psychology.

Weigh-in #101: Terrible Week

Peak: 256.6lb
Previous: 253.6lb
Current: 253.4lb
Loss this week: 0.2lb
Total Loss: 3.2lb

The number on the scale is a flattering reflection of how things went. I drank alcohol and made poor food choices on 5 days out of 7. What the hell am I doing?! This was supposed to be the first week of tightening my diet and making some good changes. Instead it was boozey and loose. Terrible!

The main problem here is the socialising. I enjoy hanging out with these people and that’s often done with a beer in hand. This week then my big challenge is no alcohol. Funnily enough a buddy here is also feeling a little self-indulgent after the weekend and wants to join me for a week of zero boozing. That’s pretty cool – we’ll have some moral support for each other whilst still hanging out down the pub.

Hopefully cutting out the booze will help drop me into an energy deficit. Not only will I consume fewer calories, I’ll also benefit from making better food choices without the negative influence of drink or drugs. Jeez, I kinda feel like a mess at the moment that I wrote that last sentence.

Reflecting on the rest of my week the study practice was poor: 3/7 days is just not good enough. Whereas I’m confident I’ll address the food/booze issue, the studying feels like a much harder task. Whenever I consider doing some study my body seems to revolt and doing anything else is instantly more appealing. Right now I don’t have a solid strategy for dealing with this. Something that might work is writing a short “todo” list for the tasks that I want to complete on a given day. I did that this morning and it only has 3 things on it, each reasonably small and discrete, but already that feels much more doable than simply “sit down and study for 3hrs”. Part of the problem is not knowing exactly what work I should be doing, so a little bit of planning might go a long way.

I’m not focusing on fitness / physical activity at the moment, but I do want to either snowboard or run most days this week. Getting up and doing some physical activity simply makes me feel good about myself.

Recap of the plan for this upcoming week:-

  1. No alcohol.
  2. Figure out some more study strategies and try them out.
  3. Try and do something physical in the morning.

 

D5 – No study

Today sucked. There was no study, no running and no skiing. And no good excuses either. I felt really flat and wasn’t motivated at all. I had planned to study in the morning, go for a run before lunch, then watch a movie with friends. Only the movie part happened.

I’m disappointed in myself. I knew I should have studied. I sat in front of the books and willed myself to open them but instead turned to Netflix. I felt so guilty and ashamed; it’s that feeling you get when you know you’re doing a bad thing but you do it anyway. It was horrible.

Food was fairly good. We had leaving drinks for a fellow ski-bum who is moving on to South America. I drank too many beers but it was another social occasion that felt was valuable (in the sense that there was some good bonding that probably required a level of inebriation). I also scored +1 tick for mindful mornings and reflective evenings; although the mindful morning buzz didn’t really inspire me to take positive action.