Tag Archives: weight loss

Quitting drinking & Dieting

24 Jun

Regular readers of this blog will know that weight is a big issue for me. I talk about it here and here and here and countless other places.

In summary, my story is this: I grew up slim and active, with a normal relationship with food. Like any teenager might when they start to have freedom of choice over their own food choices, I put on a stone or so’s weight when I was 16-19. I was still not overweight, but I started to feel conscious of my body. I wanted to do something about it, and fortuitously, when I was at the start of university, I discovered running and loved it. My body changed quickly and dramatically (oh to be 20 again eh?), I looked slim, healthy and lost weight whilst eating the foods I loved (namely, a bit of daily chocolate). 

As I left university and I felt unsure of my place in the world and got trapped in a toxic relationship, I slowly got more and more obsessive with my food, and thinner and thinner. It was never my intention to be skeletal, but that’s where I got to. I was terrified of food, obsessively restricted whilst maintaining high running mileage and generally didn’t look after myself. My skin was terrible, my hair thin and those around me were very worried. 

For some time, I could fit in 2 bottles of wine a week into this regime whilst still maintaining a very very low weight. This was when my drinking started to be destructive, but because of the relatively low volume of alcohol I (thought) I was consuming, I didn’t see it as a problem. I was thin and drinking, what’s not to like?!

My weight gain and journey back to a normal, healthy weight came when I started really hitting the bottle. I went from very thin to a very sensible weight in the space of 12 months. Everyone around me was thrilled. I looked better, my hair thickened up and I started to have a ‘presence’ about me again, as one person described it. When I was too thin I looked and acted like a shadow. Drinking brought me a vitality that I hadn’t had for years, until, of course, it turned on me. When I look in the mirror on a ‘fat’ day I see all that new weight as a direct result of my drinking. This isn’t a healthy way to look at my strong, marathon-running body, but it’s what I perceive. I want to kick the booze weight and get back to the old me who ran for sanity, ate for pleasure and savoured food, never abusing it.

I’ve focused a lot on my recovery and the importance of letting nothing get in the way of staying sober. Dieting in the first few months of recovery was an absolute no no, and as I hit 100 days, I started to look at my diet again, trying to cut down on sugar and take a more holistic approach to fuelling my body. 

This has worked to an extent, but the reality remains I am unhappy with my shape. I’ve been tracking my food intake on My Fitness Pal for months and I can see the good new habits I’ve made, but also that there’s lots of room for improvement. I’m not getting where I want to be through moments of ‘fuck it’ and self sabotage. One bad day or chocolate binge can mess up my entire week, because I’m aiming for a small calorie deficit each day, so I don’t go too dramatic on the restriction and lose weight healthily. 

I can see SO many parallels between the stages of quitting drinking and this desire to lose weight. I am OBSESSING over losing fat and being unhappy in my body shape and yet not getting results because I’m not committing fully. Like with drinking, the longer I mess around in this space where I’m thinking a lot but not taking action, the longer I’ll end up wasting precious time and energy getting nowhere.

Like with drinking, I feel like somehow my relationship with food has irreparably changed and that I need to go through a concerted period of effort taking my diet one day at a time to get to where I really want to be. As I type these words I’m conflicted, because I know how unhealthy my restrictive relationship with food once was, but I also know that intuitive eating isn’t working for me because I use food to change the way I feel in the way I did with booze. 

I just got hit with a wave of embarrassment writing that, worried how you readers will perceive me. Worried how those sober bloggers I’ve met in real life will read this. What a strange thing, to have a blog which I set up with the very purpose of being 100% honest about all my struggles to aid my recovery, and to have the urge to self-censor. 

These are my feelings and I need to explore them, not push them away or pretend I don’t feel the way I do. 

In the same way I had to commit fully to quitting alcohol, I feel I need a concerted effort on the dieting front. If I put in the work, I will get results, but I just can’t seem to stay on that path. 

The irony is, I don’t actually have very much weight to lose at all, somewhere between 10 and 16lbs would see me looking really fit and healthy, but I feel like I have some sort of mountain to climb. But the more I stand at the bottom looking up at the mountain, the more time I waste in getting to the top.

I got to a point with stopping drinking where I knew that if I didn’t just dig deep and do the bloody thing, I’d be unhappy forever (what drama! but it felt true). I’ve put almost 12 months of solid work into getting sober with lots of slip ups but guess what? It was all worth it. I’m the happiest I’ve been in years. The most emotionally stable. I’m achieving things I never thought possible. 

So can I find it in me to do the same with focusing on my diet? I don’t know. It panics me, somehow, to think of dieting. When I think of any sort of regime I remember those years of crazy restriction and how terrible I felt then. But that perception is false. I know from the amount of exercise I do that to get a steady, healthy weight loss, I’d need to be taking in between 1,700-1,800 calories a day. That is ALOT of food if you choose wisely. So why can’t I do it? Or why does my brain tell me I can’t when actually, that’s a really achievable goal if I break it down into small parts. 

I think that in truth, if I don’t make a change I’ll continue to be unhappy with my weight and keep running in circles around square 1. But I’m also conscious that I could be focusing on this area of discontent to mask other problems. With alcohol, I know that I just didn’t want to feel so many things. Now, approaching 6 months sober I’m not scared of my feelings anymore and truthfully, I’m happy. As I write, I think that this might be totally about weight for once, and wanting to be the best (slim) version of me, rather than feeling generally shitty and pinpointing weight as the issue.

I know that if I reach my goal weight, life won’t magically get better, but that was also true of getting sober. And am I glad I put the work into getting sober? HELL YES.

So today I’m reflecting, forming a plan and will keep you updated on my journey. I’d really appreciate any thoughts on this topic: does this all sound sensible? Or am I being mad? 

Answers on a postcard please 🙂 

Taking up Space

9 Jun

Image

I’m still struggling a lot at the moment. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, but it’s there and real and uncomfortable. I’m walking down a very well trodden and familiar path.

When I’m unhappy, my discontent at my body starts up, and my relationship with food turns funny again. I want to eat for comfort, but start despising my figure, which fuels the desire to eat. Fucked up and irrational, yes. But it almost exactly mirrors the weird relationship with drinking I had. Drinking makes me miserable, and I want to quit drinking and I’m putting all my energy into not drinking, so I’ll have drink to take away the pain. Madness. 

I’ve had some sugar slip ups, but I’m trying to keep on fuelling my body in positive ways, which is hard when I either want to starve myself or eat everything IN THE WORLD. 

I’ve blogged many times about my relationship with my body and food, and at the moment, how I perceive myself can do a full 180 degree swing in the matter of moments. Yesterday I went from working out in front of a mirror at the gym and being amazed at how explosive and powerful my box jumps onto a really high platform were, to hating the chunk of my thighs. I can vacillate from one overwhelming feeling to another in seconds. 

I often stay at a friend’s house where cruelly, one entire wall of the bathroom is a mirror. What I see on any given day as I prepare to shower entirely depends on my state of mind. Increasingly, I see a figure that’s simultaneously toned and soft, that is slender but has a womanly curve to it. I think ‘yes, this is how a woman should be’, thankful I’m no longer the bag of bones I once was. On a bad day, I look in horror at my shape, the boldness of my round bum, thinking: ‘it wasn’t like this until I started doing so many hill sprints, I’ll have to cut those out.’

I look at myself and see failure, flaws and feel entirely helpless. All my self esteem is sucked away in a momentary glance. I wait for the steam of the shower to erase what I see. 

I’m so sick of the way my mind constantly undermines me. When it wants to be, it can be a happy, sparkly place full of rainbows and unicorns. I get REALLY happy frequently, like jump-in-the-air-and-do-a-little-heel- click happy and would consider myself a pretty positive person, but when the gloom comes, it’s a bloody battle. 

I was catching up on the clever and wonderful After Alcohol’s blog this morning and this post really spoke to me. The fear of suddenly losing control and blowing up to ‘DIE OF FAT.’ The post is wonderful and mirrors so many of my feelings, but what hit the nail on the head  for me was a comment Primrose made:

those extra ten pounds have been a false focus for me for much of my adult life. if I had spent as much time thinking about my relationships with others or my career or even learning a language I would be Professor of the Liberal Arts at the University of Florence right now. so much wasted effort.

Lord, that’s it. That’s what’s been bothering me. I am pissed off at how my brain works, how much TIME and EFFORT I’ve put into thinking about food and alcohol. About losing weight and giving up drinking. The endless and dissatisfying circle. You know the myth of Sisyphus? The bloke who was eternally condemned to push a rock up a hill and then have it crash down upon him? That’s what my battle with my mind feels like. What a waste of time and energy. Although the struggles with alcohol have got easier, they’re still constantly there. I’ve thought quite a few times about jacking it all in and just having a bloody drink, which is the kind of self defeating thought which got me here in the first place.

The space these thoughts and feelings take up is huge. Thankfully, I’m mostly too busy to let them in at the moment, but it feels like they’re lying dormant, ready to get me whenever I have some spare headspace. I spend hours on sobriety & fitness/dieting, reading about it, listening to podcasts about it and thinking about it. I want some space in my brain to think about other things. When I can help others, this spiral is more under control, so I’m trying to focus my energies on that. 

I’m having a day off today and need to try and make positive use of it. I’m exhausted, but resting makes me anxious and dissatisfied, so I’ll try to spring into action and feel like I’ve achieved something today. 

Fat Loss

28 Apr

So, weight loss has always been a big part of why I wanted to quit drinking. It’s simply not possible to drink like I was and shift the pounds. But, as I blogged last week when I hit 100 days, losing weight in early sobriety isn’t a given. In fact, weight gain is a distinct possibility. 

As I shared last week, much to my surprise, I found when stopping drinking that weight loss is REALLY insignificant in the big picture. I’m sober, I have much better self esteem and my life is slowly changing in a million imperceptible and important ways. 

I say all of this, but of course I am about to tell you how I am going about losing weight and how much time and effort is going into it. Why so contradictory?

More than my size being an issue, I definitely feel my eating was out of control during early sobriety in a way that it never has been before. Nothing was restricted. I ate what I needed to stay sober and sane, and some days that meant ALOT of sugar. There were times, to be honest, where I binged with the out of control feeling I had during my bulimic episodes, but without the volume of food or making myself sick, thank goodness. 

Sugar became addictive for me and unlike a former me who would have a tiny taste of chocolate and then stop, when I started, I didn’t want to stop and it was an EFFORT not to crack open a second bar. Sound familiar?

I felt at times that I was just transferring the addiction to alcohol, but didn’t over analyse and just gave myself time. I knew I had to get the diet thing on lock down, but I needed to wait until I was truly ready to do it. To go cold turkey on sugar. 

Well, as I was approaching Day 100, I decided I did feel ready. I enlisted a nutritionist friend to do me a plan designed for slow, safe fat loss. As someone who has had serious issues around restriction in the past, I needed to be 100% sure what I was embarking on was safe. I also train a lot to keep myself sane, so I knew that would buy me some extra calories, without having the constant fatigue and low level hunger that comes with marathon training. 

I’ve just completed my first 7 days on the plan and I feel FANTASTIC. The diet basically consists of shit loads of good food. It’s low carb, with carbs taken mainly after training sessions to make sure the glycogen stores are replenished. I was very very wary of low carb (does anyone else hear that word and think a) NOOOOOOOOOO and b) Atkins! Yuck?!) but its working brilliantly. My energy levels are steady, my hunger levels are negligible and I’m having zero cravings for sugary stuff.

A typical day’s eating on a workout day looks like this:

  • Interval Training session (fasted, upon waking) 
  • Protein Pancakes (made with oats and banana for carbs)
  • Snack
  • Protein based meal with veg (e.g salmon and broccoli, chicken stir fry)
  • Snack
  • Protein based dinner v similar to lunch. 

On a non exercise day, it would be similar, but without the carby breakfast. 

On paper this looks BLOODY BORING but the recipes my nutritionist has given me are fantastic. I’m enjoying feeling more in control of my food intake by making time to cook and eat good food, and it’s forming part of my self care routine. I’m in a position at the moment where work is quiet and I have the opportunity to form good habits, which I’m seizing before I get crazily busy as is going to happen in a few weeks’ time. 

I’ve lost 4lbs in a week just cutting out sugar and following this plan and although I know a lot of it is water its great to see the scales going in the right direction. But here’s the best thing- SOMETHING INSIDE MUST HAVE CHANGED. This is the first time in years I have not used alcohol or food (eating it or denying myself it) to alter my emotional state. This is big stuff. I have spent a whole 7 days feeling my feelings without blocking them out, stuffing them down or starving them. That’s huge. I hadn’t even realised this until I started writing this post. It’s probably one of the biggest leaps in sobriety yet. 

I went to my first wedding sober last week and I did it on my healthy meal plan, prepping for the evening with my protein rich meal rather than taking the edge off an alcohol craving with chocolate. This must be progress right?!

I still feel shitty about sobriety sometimes, in the past 24 hours alone I’ve been really up and down about it. But I suppose what getting a grip on my eating has shown me is that deep within me in a place I can’t quite locate yet, change is afoot. I’m not sure what or where or how, but its happening. If I drink now, I’ll be back at square one and won’t find out where I’m headed in this crazy journey of my relationship with myself.

100 Days without alcohol

24 Apr

Today I’m celebrating 100 days without alcohol. I can’t quite believe I’ve got here, to be honest. I had so many aborted attempts, so many times of giving up, giving in and resetting to Day 1 I never thought I’d dig in and do it. But I have. And here’s what I’ve learnt:

Never Give Up- no matter how many Day 1s I had, I knew I wanted to give myself the chance to experience life alcohol free. It’s worth every moment of the struggle. It’s bloody hard, some days, but if I’d thrown in the towel I’d just be having to start over again. I want to keep up this sober momentum at all costs.  

I felt the benefits almost immediately– Within 2 weeks of being alcohol free, I was feeling SO much better physically. I was sleeping like a baby, I felt generally happier and I had bags of energy. 

My hair, skin and nails started shining within a month– I just LOOKED so much better within the first 4-5 weeks. People would tell me how great my skin looked, and having always suffered with rosecea, I was thrilled when it finally died down. One of the most frequent search terms that leads people to my blog is, hilariously, about losing a puffy face when you stop drinking. Well if you’re here looking to stop face puffiness, PUT DOWN THE WINE. My face slimming down has made me look like I’ve lost half a stone. I’m quite slim, but my chipmunk swollen face was making me feel really fat. All it took was removing the alcohol. 

Weight loss needs to go out of the window for the first 3 months– this is the bit no-one wants to hear. When I first started this blog, I was all about the weight loss. I knew the sole reason I’d put on weight from previously being super-skinny was drinking and bingeing when drunk, so I thought if I removed the wine and trained for 2 marathons whilst doing it, those pounds would drop off. Not true. I’ve actually gained a few pounds. This is due to an increased sugar intake, and needing to actually start eating dinner in the evening rather than skipping it in favour of wine. Having previously suffered from an eating disorder, I can honestly say my eating is the healthiest and most balanced its ever been. My body is strong from all the marathon training. I’m not 100% happy with how I look, as I know changing up my diet and training will shift some of the extra fat I’m carrying, but that will come in time. I cannot express how difficult it was for me to wrap my head round not losing weight but now I’m in a slightly more stable place with my sobriety, it’s the next thing I’m going to address. I’d rather be sober than skinny. 

Put your sobriety before everything else– Before losing weight, before socialising, hell, before your job if needs be. I got signed off work for a week or so in my first few weeks of early sobriety and it was the best gift I could have given myself. I had the chance to take time for myself, get into a sober routine and not run myself ragged by trying to work AND be sober AND marathon train. I’ve adjusted my social life- I still go to most parties and nights out, but I’ve got better at hearing the warning signals in my own head. If I’m in danger of drinking, I just leave. Out the door, sharpish. I’m so much happier with my social life because I choose how long I want to stay at an event, rather than hanging around just to drink or drinking my way through a boring night.

Find a sober ritual- In very early sobriety, I started doing two things before I went to bed. Lighting a ridiculously overpriced but gorgeous scented candle and writing a gratitude list. I found these two simple things so incredibly soothing as I gave myself time to dwell on the gift of a sober day. There’s nothing lovelier than that moment you’re truly happy to be sober and thanks to this ritual, I have that moment nightly. 

Treat yourself, but not as a direct reward for being sober– Bear with me on this one, this is just my experience and view, but I think it’s an important one to share. A lot of the sober blogging world quite rightly focuses on treats and thinking as you have one ‘this is my reward for being sober.’ I buy into this, great, treat yourself definitely. BUT what I struggled with was the idea that this was instead of treating myself with wine. Thinking ‘this is my treat for getting sober’ made me think ‘well wine would be a more fun treat.’ Classic wolfie voice madness.

When I shifted the notion of treats ever so slightly over to self care, it was transformative for me. Really, they’re exactly the same thing, saying ‘I value myself and I’m going to give myself this pleasurable experience because I deserve pleasure in my life’, but that very subtle shift in thinking for me. It’s helped me break the association of wine = pleasure and think about how the small pleasures I enjoy daily wouldn’t exist if I was pouring wine into my system. 

3 months is at once a lifetime and no time at all- in some senses, 100 days has DRAGGED. I feel like I’ve been sober forever. Battling often, being ecstatic frequently. But I’ve got so so far to go. For me, reaching this target is nice, but in all honesty, I have to learn to live this way forever. I’ve tried moderation, I’ve tried drinking again after a period of abstinence and I’ve found myself right back at where I started. I’ve lost all my sober zen the very second I pick up a drink. What I have is too precious to give up.

It’s hard work– being a grown up and dealing with emotions is HARD. Who knew?! I need to keep working away to learn new ways to cope. As readers of this blog know, I struggle ALOT with being sober, with not jacking it all in. But I’ve stuck with it and I’m feeling a million times better than I did on day 1.

A thought is just a thought– I’ve fantasised about drinking a million times in the past 100 days. I blog here about ‘being close’ to taking a drink. But on reflection, that’s not strictly true. I’ve never actually seriously made any move towards taking a drink. I haven’t had to walk away from a bar where I was about to order or put down a bottle of wine in the supermarket. On the surface, I feel like it’s a constant struggle to stay sober but actually, deep down something has clicked and I know that I’m not in REAL danger. Of course I have to be vigilant. Of course that urge will always be there, but I now know that a thought is not an action, and I keep those niggling ideas that a drink would be just fabulous right now locked up in the confines of my chattering brain.

Try anything once– I thought that AA wasn’t for me. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I can honestly say it’s been the single biggest factor in getting me sober. I’d been blogging for around a year, tried the 100 Day Challenge innumerable times and never been sober for more than 40 days. The moment I walked into my first AA meeting I knew I was in the right place. This was not a feeling I expected to have. AA has become my anchor. No matter how antsy I get, how quickly my mind is running towards a dark place, if I get myself to a meeting I experience the same relief I got from picking up a drink. As a constant relief-seeker, I feel like I’ve struck gold. I go to around 3 meetings a week, more if I need it, and it’s amazing. I feel a real sense of community, joy, laughter and the wealth of experience in those rooms is incredible. Of course some days people share and I want to walk straight out of there, thinking YOU ARE A PROPER ALCOHOLIC I AM NOT, but mostly, I love it. 

Alcoholic is just a word- I believe I am an alcoholic. I couldn’t have said this a few months ago. Because of the stigma surrounding the word, it’s become a dirty thing to say. The friends I’ve told about being in AA have been so shocked at the notion I identify as an alcoholic. But what makes me one, in my eyes is the following: I get caught in a cycle of drinking much more than I want to, once alcohol enters my veins I need more, my drinking increased to dangerous levels, drinking was seriously affecting my mental and physical health yet I could not stop, I maintained a lovely looking life on the outside, knowing alcohol was eroding my inside and the only thing that has got me sober is identifying 100% as an alcoholic. I really like the idea of having an allergy to alcohol. It’s not a moral failure, having a drinking problem, as I once thought. It’s just a socially inconvenient truth I need to get my head round. 

Emotional sobriety is the most important thing for me to learn- I didn’t understand, before AA, why I drank. I didn’t understand that the characteristics I’ve battled with my whole life (being over sensitive, over achieving, people pleasing to name just a few) are at the heart of the addictive personality. Before I started seriously drinking 2 years ago, I had other terrible coping behaviours to get me out of my own head. Starving myself. Running obsessively until my legs could no longer support my weight. Now, I’ve got a set of tools to learn how to cope with being me. In all honesty, if tomorrow I was suddenly granted the gift of moderation and could drink normally, I’d still go to AA. What I learn there is basically How to Be a Human Being. 

Just get through the day– The key to my sobriety so far has been bargaining with myself that I won’t drink today. It’s age old stuff, the ‘one day at a time’ notion, Belle’s ‘Not Today’ idea, but it works. If I can get myself through one tough day, I’m much more likely to get through the next. I never wake up in the morning feeling worse than I went to bed, and I always wake up feeling a million times better. So grateful for being sober. 

So here I am. What next? More of the same, I think. I can see battles ahead, as the initial excitement of getting sober subsides, but I also see great moments of sunshine and light and I cannot wait to see what’s round the corner. 

 

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