I find Tuesdays hard. Really hard. I love the school that I work in on a Tuesday but it means crawling for up to 90 minutes in stop/start traffic ALL THE WAY and in that one single journey I feel my resolve to eat well & hit the gym disappear mile by mile. This is then exacerbated by the fact that this particular school is notorious (to me anyway) for having a staff room packed full of cakes, biscuits, chocolates & pastries. Seriously – there is always a crazy amount of sugary beige food that cries out to me, upon which I enter into a dialogue that sounds a lot like this…
Beige Food: Amy?!
I look around to see who called me…
Beige Food: Amyyyyyyy?!
I spot beige food looking at me
Me: Shh Beige Food – Just shh.
Beige Food: Look me in the eye & tell me you don’t like my pastry star all glistening with sugar upon my brown christmassy mince filling in a buttery deep crust pie shell… you just tell me….
Me: You do look so beautiful & shiny… but… NO!
Beige Food: But Amy, my friend, you know how good I’m gonna taste – you know that I will taste soooooo good!
Beige Food: Just one? Why don’t you just have one of us? You don’t have to eat any more than that. Just one of us won’t ruin your diet…
I think about the valid point he makes… just one isn’t going to do any damage is it?
Beige Food: The thing is Amy…. I don’t know how to tell you this but, well, I may not be around next week – tomorrow even – there’s no saying when someone else will take the opportunity to have me that you passed up. And… well I may not see you again until next December!
Actual anxiety starts to grow… Shit! I might not get to eat another mince pie for eleven whole months!
This is why Tuesdays are hard. If it’s not a mince pie then I’ll be having the same conversation with a cupcake or a tub of Quality Streets.
About 18 months ago I was beginning my journey of learning to love myself. The outcome of this conversation would have resulted in me eating at least one of the mince pies & then? Well if you’re anything like me you would enter into the first stage of the 4 S’s:
- Scoff (the pie/chocolate/cake)
- Spiral (out of control & eat way more pies/chocolate/cakes than is socially acceptable)
- Self Loathe (because I am just so weak & pathetic that I can’t say no to Beige Food)
- Start again (on Monday, after using this as an excuse to adopt a ‘what’s the point’? mentality & continue to eat everything in sight for the rest of the week)
Why God?! Whyyyy?!
Ah! The million dollar question! Why do we enter in to this vicious cycle? And it really is vicious! All that self-hate, loathing, frustration & anger, peppered with binges on Ben & Jerry & Sauvignon Blanc.
We all have our own stories about our relationships with food & some of us who play this game of ‘I eat until I hurt & then I eat because I hurt’ will (possibly) have a deep rooted (& probably painful) wound from way, way back. Sometimes I think this needs to be addressed professionally (I will always be an advocate for psycho-therapeutic input no matter how ‘well’ you feel mentally) But often I think we can do ourselves a service by simply learning to love & value ourselves.
The moment I start realising my value is beyond the goal of a number on the scale, I start winning: one victory to me! Yey! The moment that I realise all is not undone when I have a slice of rich chocolate cake that I battled so hard in my head not to have – another victory to me! The day that I have one mince pie instead of two plus a handful of quality streets to stop me eating a third (the struggle is real) is another victory to me!
I may still ‘give in’ but my mindset is setting me up for victory and more wins because I’m learning to love myself. Nowadays I can just have one mince pie and walk away & more often than not I don’t have anything at all. Not to feel virtuous (although I do like feeling virtuous) but because the battle was won in my mind long before Beige Food started whispering to me.
On Tuesdays I now get practical. I know it’s going to be a challenging day for me so I put certain things in place to help me.
Today I gave myself a tasty breakfast of smashed avocado on rye bread with a poached egg and cherry tomatoes – so good! I set myself up well for the day. I packed a lunch that I was looking forward to so that I can remember that when Beige Food beckons. (I will often pack a slice of Madeline Shaw’s Banana & Cinnamon Loaf or some dates to give myself a sweet fix instead of the processed crap available). When I got to school, no joke, I checked out the battlefield of the staff room. Every Tuesday, I drop by the staff room and just suss out what’s been laid out so I know how to brace myself for when I get my coffee and have my lunch there later in the day. That way I’m less likely to get caught off-guard by all the glistening chocolate wrappers and sugar. At lunch, I try to sit (not always) so that the offerings are not in my eye-line – today I sat with my back to them (‘them’ being the pies).
I also negotiated with myself. I knew tonight I wanted to come home & eat something sweet, so I negotiated with myself that I wouldn’t have Beige Food at lunch time but I would enjoys some Reece’s Pieces that Father Christmas brought me with a latte when I got home. And that’s exactly what I did!
Grace! LOTS of GRACE!
I love the concept of Grace. (Typo amended – I initially wrote ‘grave’ – not an idea I love). If you look up the word grace it will give various definitions & synonyms but my 2 favourite are:
I love the idea of giving yourself forgiveness, mercy and leniency. Sometimes I err on the side of giving myself a bit too much leniency… but then I give myself a bit of grace for that too 😉
Most Tuesday evenings I go out to interval training with Simon at the running club. This was a great idea in the summer when the sun had lost it’s heat for the day, and we were running circles (literally) in the static air to blow off steam at the end of the day. That was when it was easy to get out the house. At the moment, when I don’t even know that the sun rises it’s so rare that I’m outside during the day, I find it SO hard to go to interval training. This is when I apply grace to myself. On the weeks that I go, I struggle to feel energised or motivated to push myself, so I celebrate the fact that I actually got out of the house and am running around a muddy field in arctic conditions. I win! It doesn’t matter how hard I push or don’t – I’m still winning because I made it there. On days like today, when I am just plain pooped, I decide to pack my gym kit in the car and burn some energy after work. And inevitably, on days like today, I have decided by 9.30am that I won’t be driving anywhere near the gym and will just make a beeline for my PJs. Which is what I did! And guess what?! I still win! Because my value is not recognised on Strava when I upload my Garmin or on the ‘calories burned’ section of the treadmill! And because it’s actually OK to have days (and even weeks) where you just… let… yourself….stop.
Give yourself plenty of grace. Celebrate your victories – even the ones that seem small.
Savour the Moment
At the weekend Simon & I had our first PT session since before Christmas and it was HARD! We weighed in to survey the damage of Christmas & New Year before we got to work . But what Nicky said that has stuck with me, is that she thought I should celebrate the fact that the last 6 months have seen me get to a place of consistency in my weight and my mindset around food and exercise and my overall health. She recognised that I am the sort of person who can really swing from one extreme to another – and this includes spiralling out of control with my eating. But, actually, my victory in the last little while has been my consistency – no big losses, no big biceps gained, but consistency. I’ve really savoured that thought the last few days and I’m adding it to my list of victories.
And this evening when I got home, I totally savoured my Reece’s Pieces and latte; shoving them down in handfuls so that rich peanut buttery yummy stuff stuck to the roof of my mouth – which is just how I like to eat them! Win!