THE OSTRICH

July 16, 2018

This may come as a shock to some of you (probably those who know me less well), but I have been known to be avoidant from time to time. I know what you’re thinking, everyone avoids tricky situations every now and then, and you’d be right. But not everyone is capable of switching off their Better Judgement at quite the rate that at I am, and embracing the inevitable doom with quite as much gusto. I’m a high achiever, what can I say?

Now, I have made many a bold claim on social media over the past six months, usually the result of a periodic freak-out, during what became a sustained period of incremental weight gain. I guess these would be classified as futile attempts to take the bull by the horns. Fed up with the negative noise flying around my brain and my dwindling confidence, I thought that committing to change on Instagram or even verbally would be enough.

Reader, it was not enough.

You see, when it comes to advice, I am excellent at ignoring my own instincts. People ask me all the time how I lost so much weight. “It’s about routine”, I bark smugly, “and it’s about encouraging yourself that you are capable”. “It’s about positive self-talk”, I’ll go on (they’ve lost interest now), “and about focusing on small achievable goals rather than your greater overall one”. “Most of all”, I’ll continue (they’ve probably left the room by now), “it’s about balance and moderation, and about catching yourself when your bad habits begin to gather pace, and staging a positive intervention”.

Great advice. Top notch you might say. The problem with advice though, is that there’s a catch; it only works if you follow it.

After promising myself almost nightly during my Thin Year that I would never let myself fall back into the trap of sustained weight accumulation, somehow, in what felt like an open and close of an eye, I put on some weight. First a little bit, then a little more, and now it totals 1.5 stone. This is not terrible, by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s not weight that I feel comfortable carrying, and my confidence has taken a noticeable dive, which is why I need to act.

I should add here, that the balance of my motivation to change is weighted in the following way: 25% is about how I look (or how I think I look) and 75% is about how I feel (this being the most important factor). I also want to add here that by no means do I want to feed into the Thin Equals Beautiful narrative. I learned long ago that beauty is almost nothing to do with how you look and almost everything to do with how you feel. And I don’t want my blog to become another voice on the internet that admonishes bodies that don’t fit the standard concept of “acceptable”. My advice in this respect has always been (and always will be): YOU DO YOU BABE. But I know what size feels right for me. I know what level of fitness is optimum for balancing my mental and physical health. I know the routines and habits that have a positive impact on my mood, and its those that I am going to reinstate. And if the net result is a decrease in my weight, then that is a bonus.

The goal of this blog since its inception has been to keep it real. So for those new to this journey, some context: I am not a naturally thin lady. I’m not one of those people who “forgets to eat” or who has spent their life chasing the latest body fads. My thighs have never been in danger of losing touch, and I’ve never met any of my abs. Until I started this blog I was not what you would consider athletic, in fact I went out of my way to avoid exercise. When I’m sad I don’t eat, when I’m stressed, I binge, and when given any opportunity, I will drink alcohol to excess. Sometimes (though less frequently these days), I wake up in the middle of the night with a racing heart rate and coated in sweat, thinking about what I’ve eaten that day and how out of control I feel. On occasion, these episodes culminate in acute panic and/or a text or call to my best friend. Mostly they make me feel tired, which feeds a cycle of overreating. Days like these can quickly accumulate into a pattern of unhealthy behaviour relating to food. The point is that I, like you, am a fallible human. I make mistakes, sometimes I even *gulp* FAIL. And during those times I am likely to withdraw into my little cave so that nobody notices my imperfections.

This is precisely what has happened over the past six months. Why? I have a list of excuses:

  1. I take medication to manage my obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), a condition that came to the fore after a particularly traumatic period last year, but from which I have mostly recovered. A major side-effect of taking these is weight gain. In my case, it negates my ability to exercise before work beyond my morning cycle, and exacerbates a tendency to overeat to combat fatigue.
  2. My job, like many of yours, is crazy, and is not compatible with routine or habit. Every day is different; a different office, different schedule, a different project, sometimes a different city or even country. This makes life interesting. But it also makes establishing any sort of routine around diet and exercise complex.
  3. A recent physical health issue left me unable to exercise for a month, and the resultant impact on my mood inspired me to find solace in chocolate. And crisps. And more chocolate.

…the list goes on.

The point is that everyone, at any given time, has a list of excuses. But despite being cognisant of all of these factors and their potential to derail my general level of health, I was unable to prevent myself from assuming my default position and burying my head in the sand. Yes, my friends, you guessed it, I’m an ostrich. I was arrogant enough to think that my neck had shrunk with my waist size, but alas, it had not. It is still sufficiently long to reach a depth low enough to obfuscate any well-meaning rational thoughts and ideas floating around in the universe. It’s a skill, but not one I’m proud of.

Now, I find that the best way to combat this avoidant behaviour is to make a plan. With the help of my Personal Cheerleader (my best friend), my Lighthouse (my therapist) and my Executive Life Adviser (my Mum), I have come up with a method to get myself back on track; I like to call it The Tortoise Project. Instead of focusing on the big picture, I am going to reassess my progress on the basis of every pound I lose. I am going to put together a structured routine that isn’t too restrictive (and is easy to follow), and I’m going to strive for slow and incremental progress. Forget sensationalist headlines, I’m all about the slow growth (or shrinkage in this case).

So I guess what I’m trying to say lads, is that I’m tired of being an ostrich; it ain’t no fun in the dark. As of now, my spirit animal is the tortoise. Sure, I won’t be able to run as fast, but I’ll still get to where I want to be, and with any luck, I’ll be much more likely to stay there.