Friday, 6 May 2011

Narcissus, corsets and the New Deal

Greek mythology, Victorian ladies' undergarments and FDR's social and economic reforms?

No. Perhaps in keeping with the Narcissitic spirit that the title suggests its actually all about me, as with another day without running I've been pondering those hoary old chestnuts of weight loss and body image. As a result I have a seedy confession to make.

For most of the past year my weight has gently drifted between 11.5 stones and 12.5 stones and I confess that when my weight gets below 12st I begin to get fascinated with my own reflection. I know, I know. It seems at best rather sad and at worst rather disturbing for a 41 year old man to do this let alone admit his dirty secret to the world, but there it is.

My personal favourite is when I change into a fitted running top and 3/4 length running tights (they probably have a 'proper' name but its those ones that finish just below the knee). There's few men that could carry them off but I think I can. Another year or two or a couple of pounds would doubtless change that but at the moment, and if below 12st, I like what I see: I look slim, no hint of a belly or of love handles, thin enough to look like a distance runner but still looking powerful enough to have strong sprint finish. (Bear in mind this is my slightly fantastical self image when losing weight - not necessarily reality or what others may see).

The other element I really enjoy in my self and others is the 'corset' created around the middle when the muscles are reasonably good and there's little body fat or roundness of the belly. I don't mean a six pack but the appearance of a slim but 'meaningful' midriff. Again, below 12st I see that in myself.

Conversely, when I'm ahead of 12st (ish) I see a fatter face, a touch of love handles, a rounder belly and so on and I really don't like what I see. In the pictures on this blog I was, as I am now, 5/6lb over 12st and I feel I look 'big'. It may well be that I exaggerate to myself the effects of any change in weight, up or down, but for the most part I believe the changes I see are real and that I'm at a weight where a small change either way is noticeable.

Needless to say that when I see a less athletic or slim me its mildly depressing and contributes to the cycle of bingeing on the sweet stuff, which I mentioned this week and got some absolutely excellent feedback on. (Thanks).

It was after I got dressed this morning (and found the suit trousers and shirt felt a little tighter and I'd moved a notch on the belt) that I gave some more thought as to what I could do get my food intake back on an even keel, and consequently feel the reward of hours of lycra clad self love (not a euphemism) in front of a full length mirror.

When training regularly and with 'maintenance' calories I know that I have no problems. Its when training is disrupted or where I'm trying to lose weight quickly that I struggle. Unfortunately I often set weight loss targets that require me to lose quickly and that's a far tougher task; particularly at times like these when I haven't run for a few days.

I've tried a number of new approaches in the past and keen readers might recall tales of clean eating, small regular meals, not weighing and so on. Most of these have had some short term success but none have proved to be the complete solution.

As you may be able to tell from my tone, I'm feeling fairly calm and philosophical about the whole thing. That's good in itself but its a result of the new approach I'm going to try.

I know I won't get anywhere near my target of hitting 11st by early June now, the realisation of which was in itself a trigger for more bingeing, so I'm going to ditch the timescales part of the target. What's more I'm also going to ditch the mechanic for trying to hit the target as quickly as possible: the daily 1000 kcals deficit. So, I still want to hit 11st but I'm not going to beat myself up over the timescales. Instant pressure release.

That said, I'm going to continue to calorie count, but I've set my allowance to a maintenance one. My aim though, will be to finish anywhere between 1000 kcals under and maintenance each day. This is the New Deal.

Rationale behind this is that on non training days (or hungry days) its really tough to stay at 1000 under and once I've failed to do that (and feel like a failure) the temptation is really strong to think 'fuck it' and have a blow out. I'll now have another 1000 to play with which should give lots of room for manoeuvre on such days and success and failure will no longer be one calorie apart. It will also give me more freedom to eat a little more/less as I feel.

If this works according to plan the rate of loss wont be as quick as a rigid 1000 deficit a day would achieve but it should be a steady sustainable loss.

How does that sound?

Also, anyone else a delusional narcissist? Love a body part? Or love and loathe their reflection as their body changes?

Or is it just me...


~Jessica~ said...

Rob, you are most definitely not alone.

I know it's from a 'girlie' perspective so it's probably not the same (and to add insult to injury I call those running cut-offs 'capris') but I have exactly the same issues with regard to weight and body image, interestingly in the same 14lb range that you do. I'm right at the top of that range now and loathing it as I'm sure you've gathered. I have a thigh problem (when they touch I just want to curl up and die) and also a midriff issue whereby the old (ironically named in my case) love handles start to appear.

Halfway down that range I tend to claw back some self-esteem, see some strength and definition and perhaps manage to get from the changing rooms to the pool at less of a sprint and more of a saunter.

At the bottom of the range I feel strong, confident and, yep, borderline narcissistic. I wear crop tops and shorts and stride meanderingly along the poolside in my swimming costume (because unless I weigh 2oz I will not be wearing a bikini. No seree).

But the problem is the further away from that ideal I get the more depressed I am and the more insurmountable the task seems. Ergo, my eating gets worse and not better.

I think taking the pressure off is a great move for you: you psyche yourself out a lot with racing and with food, and sometimes sabotage yourself with the resultant pressure, anxiety and perfectionism.

Good luck and you'll be flexing those pecs again in no time (though in your pics I'm sorry but I see no hint of ab-flabbage. So there)

Maria said...

You are most certainly not alone in your thinking. If I go towards the higher end then I start to imagine things (eg my trousers feeling tighter and stuff)- normally in the middle of the week I convince myself I have put on weight, (I don't weigh until the weekend) and then I get to the weekend and find I have stayed the same. I think for you getting rid of the time seems like a good thing. ANd yeah, I call those capris too :)

TOTKat said...

That sounds very much like a realistic and achievable plan. I've done similar (though as a girl, it's a 500kcal deficit which is a bit tight, but seems to work) and the lack of strictness just makes it easier when you're already in or very close to your "ideal" BMI range and it's hard to lose weight further.

From your posts over time it does seem that you get that thing where the strict boundaries cause you to rebel and get too stressed about it all. It'd be great to see fewer self-flagellation reports and more self-love, progress in a little weight loss is the bonus :o)

Alison said...

I agree with what Kate has to say. In my experience taking the pressure of a time goal away and giving yourself more wiggle room should really help with the bingeing. I really don't think trying to stick to a particular number of calories a day is very practical for most people -- some days you're hungrier than others, and you need to be able to allow for that. Including a certain degree of "emotional" hunger too. We all eat for a little comfort sometimes, and being able to accommodate that in your planning sounds like it will help with this all or nothing thinking that you succumb too.

As for checking myself out in the mirror, I definitely do this with weight training. I've become fascinated over time as I've seen new muscles appear. If I'm feeling bloated, a bit pudgey, or even just ill though (like now), then I completely lose all interest. I just don't want to see it...

Rose said...

Rob, I could have written half of that myself!!!! Especially the bits about 'oh well, gone slightly over might as well blow it now!'

I think your new approach sounds much more sustainable and I will be very interested to hear how you get on with it.


(oh and I love to look at some bits of me in the mirror when I'm below 10st - i especially love the way my thighs go flat on the side!