Thursday, 2 September 2010

Psycho-babble - AKA I have pink urine & don't know how much I weigh...


This risks being a highly self indulgent post. You have been warned.

As I get a few days into a bad nutritional week I begin to dread getting on the scales again. I just don't want to confront the 'damage'. It might sometimes even delay my putting an end to a bad episode or binge.

However, in the end I dismiss the feeling and confront the scales. Sometimes the damage is less than expected and sometimes more but in either case I then focus fully and carefully monitor the changing figures each day thereafter. There's always then a high as water retention and 'food in transit' are banished providing a swift but arguably false weight loss, followed by a more challenging period when the scales become less predictable or even. Or, at least that's how I thought it went.

This time getting back on the waggon was harder. I was carrying three injuries so the usual response of immediately upping exercise levels wasn't such an obvious outlet and I probably feared the scales all the more because of it. Moreover, I felt a failure.

So, rather than dismissing this scale phobia as emotional weakness, as I normally might, I sought to rationalise both the feeling itself and seek to see if it was an indicator of a wider problem.

After several hours of subconscious mental rumination I came to the conclusion that the previous approach was far from proven. I stuck to the usual approach because I told myself it was successful and felt secure in a structured and consistent response, but whilst I could rightfully claim to be (about) 45lbs lighter than my heaviest I'm also (about) 20lbs over my eventual target. Moreover, the previous approach should have had me reaching my target after about 34 weeks but here I am around 295 weeks on from starting my (if you'll excuse the nauseating expression beloved of those in the colonies) 'weight loss journey'...

My immediate response to this realisation was that I needed to take a radically different approach. Ditch calorie counting completely and totally clean up my diet perhaps?

But that was missing the point. Calorie counting works for me. Cleaner eating makes it work better perhaps but the bottom line is that calorie counting itself has always worked. What has gone wrong is that I haven't been able to stick to it for truly sustained periods.

That brought me back to the scales. For about 3 years now I've weighed if not daily then certainly very frequently. When I've been in the groove in terms of diet and exercise its been daily and when I've slipped up I've consciously avoided the scales.

When I considered this I realised the figure on the scales might have been a hindrance as much as help - if the numbers were kind I was tempted to treat myself to a day off which sometimes became a week, and if the numbers were harsh it was easy to feel demoralised and turn to food.

If the scales ever truly demonstrated it was simply a very approximate reflection of my adherence or otherwise to staying within calorie limits but in doing so they provided a potentially damaging distraction from the fundamental: the weight loss process itself.

This was dangerous, seditious thought and my conservative mind (I'd like to stress the very, very small 'c' there) retorted: if a major reason for losing weight is to run faster than surely the numbers on the scales ARE important? And how can I judge if I'm being successful or not if I don't know where I started or where I am.

There's merit to both points but the fundamental aspect is the process: if I consume 7,000 calories a week less than I expend then I will lose around 2lb. Whether I stand on a set of scales every day, every week or not at all won't make any difference to that. Process & time equals result and as long as I lived consistently by that maxim I would lose weight and get faster.

Ergo, I decided I wouldn't weigh myself until the end of the month but I would log my consumption and exercise fully every day and trust that that would deliver results away from the distraction and damage of the scales.

As a result I haven't got a clue how much I weighed when I got back on the horse, how much damage had been done or what changes there may have been in the first three days back - and that really does feel kind of liberating.

Oh, and the pink urine? I bought a bottle of beetroot juice...


Alison said...

I saw the title and thought BEETROOT! :D

You know me, I love the psycho-babble. And I think a new approach is just about due. Given the empirical evidence against the last one.

Plus bonus points for getting the word seditious in there. The last time I read that was about 3 hours ago, but in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant..

Am looking forward to seeing whether this re-calibrates your thinking about food and exercise.

Running Rob said...

Interesting you should say that. I have been referred to as 'Kant' on several occassions but always in London and usually by angry young men who precede the name with "You northern...".

So far so good though.