W4.D1 – Beer o’clock!

Crapola day for food. I went skiing (woop!) and then ate unhealthy food at the lodge, followed by a decent number of beers in the evening. My weight spiked as a result. The conflict between indulging in booze and enjoying my social life rages on. I’m finding it a fascinating problem because it never was a problem before – my social life wasn’t active enough to support this problem. In hindsight the evening was great fun and definitely worth the deviation from a healthy routine. We had a cracking group of people friends enjoying each other’s company, laughing and just being happy together. Perhaps one of the most fun nights I’ve had here.

I managed to study briefly in the evening. Enough to keep my streak going, but I could have done more. I submitted my assignment and was happy with both the effort I put in and the quality of my work (and the strength of my knowledge). This is the first assignment for this module so it’ll be a gauge of how the tutor reacts to my writing (My tutor in the other module I’m taking marks my work ~10-15% higher than the tutor on a previous module, although perhaps I’m getting smarter/better at essay writing).

Oh, and I skiied… so it was a pretty awesome day.

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.




Another good day of studying. I got up early for some more rugby, then café-hopped and finished writing my essay. It feels really good to get it out of the way and I’ll spend the next two days snowboarding (and studying in the evening!) as a reward.

Interesting –  I didn’t consider snowboarding a reward at the time, it’s more of a retrospective thing. It was never a “I’m going to work hard so that I can go snowboarding”, rather it’s more like “I’m going to feel good about snowboarding because I worked hard“. The reward is the feeling and not the activity itself. Hmn!

Food was fairly good today. I ate out, but didn’t overindulge.


A solid day. In the morning I watched some rugby, in the afternoon I spent time writing an essay on selective attention, then in the evening I chilled out with some movies.

Food wasn’t great, particularly in the evening when I paired movies and snacks together. I also had a cheeky glass of wine.

No exercise and no skiing.


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.


A good day for study!! About 3.5hrs of work.

Food was pretty good too. The scale shows me up a couple of pounds from Monday, which is pretty weird as my diet’s been good. Not sure what’s going on there but I’m going to keep things going and hope it settles back down.

No skiing today but that’s ok. No new snow which means the conditions are still poor.

Overall a pretty decent kinda day 🙂

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.


A good food day, although I had 2 beers in the evening, which I regret today (the day after).

I did some writing in the morning which was nice. In the afternoon I had two calls with Zen Change Labs members. One was a weekly check-in call with our support group and the other was with Yvonne to go through her Gainstorming process. We focused on my study struggles and I’ve got a few new angles/ideas to try out.

Skiing is on pause for the moment. I’ve got a minor muscle strain that I want to heal up and the conditions are not great. I don’t think I’m going to ride until we get some fresh snow. It feels nice actually to give myself the “time off” to fully focus on the studying/writing.

Weigh-in #102: No booze, no problem!

Peak: 256.6lb
Previous: 253.4lb
Current: 251.0lb
Loss this week: 2.4lb
Total Loss: 5.4lb

Oh yea. A nice 2.4lb loss this week. It was a week of “mostly good food” with a few slips here and there, particularly over the weekend, but overall I felt there was more good than bad in my diet.

A big success was my alcohol intake. I refrained from drinking for 6 out of 7 days. What’s particularly pleasing is that I was in a pub or restaurant on 5 occasions, sitting with others who were drinking. So I was still able to socialise without getting tempted with a drink. I told my friends this is was something I wanted to do this week and almost everyone was supportive. There was one dissenting member of the pack, and if I had to pick one person beforehand it would have been him. Every time we were in the bar he’d try and goad me into having a drink. I don’t think it bothered me too much, although the one night I did drink, he was involved. I had fun that night and don’t have any problems with having a few beers, it was one night out of seven and I had fun.

On the days where I ate some “less optimal” food (I want a word that isn’t “bad” to describe bad foods I ate) there were a few things going on: –

  1. On Friday I was rushed and ate pizza because I was hungry and needed to grab something on the go.
    (Need to make healthy choices when eating out)

  2. Also on Friday I had some friends over for a movie night. I played the host, serving up some less than healthy food and snacks.
    (Peer pressure in social situations)
  3. On Saturday I went to the cinema and had popcorn, soda and some chocolate.
    (Food associated/paired with an activity)
  4. On Tuesday/Wednesday I ate a couple of peanut butter & banana bagels.
    (I bought bad food, then I ate it)

These are all familiar situations for me. None are all that worrying given that I lost weight this week. I think it’s enough just to be aware of what’s going on.

My focus this week is to maintain the alcohol restriction and to make healthier choices when I eat out. I also want to cut out the chocolate/sweets as they are a no-brainer bad food. Nothing about them is good for my body… except they taste so goooood!