On Self-Care

I’m thinking of becoming one of those fancy lifestyle gurus, with a blog that tells you, the ignorant reader, how much better your life would be if only you did as I told you.

I think my whole life has been building toward this point.

Why am I suddenly so confident? Easy! I have changed my diet, changed my daily habits, and I have successfully lost a small amount of weight! Multiple times! Follow my can’t-fail plan and you too could have my limited, barely measurable success!

First, get a dog that wakes up at 5 am. When June went through this phase, I had a whole new part of the day that was suddenly available to me.

Then, make sure you live in a world where the news is so bad that reading the internet from 5 am to 8 am stops feeling like fun. I believe they call this “doomscrolling” now and it is very bad for your mental health.

Then, lose interest in anything else that used to be interesting to you – writing, photography, movies, books. Only then, my minion, will you be ready to start a half-arsed exercise routine while all civilized people are still asleep.

This guy knows what I’m talking about.

if we want something to happen in our lives we have to structure our reality in a way that creates the most natural flow. Our actions and ways of thinking will always follow the path of least resistance. If we try to rely on willpower alone, we aren’t likely to get very far.

As with so much in life, when it comes to exercise, there are benefits to setting a low bar. I take much solace from fitness advice such as this:

basically all movement counts.” And anything — any movement at all — the expert says, “is better than nothing.”

I make it my habit to move occasionally now. This is my exercise regime: not being comatose.

I read something online and I swear I just spent 30 minutes trying to find it again…but it’s gone. So, just to be clear: this is not my idea. But it’s a really good idea. And it’s helping me. So I want to share it with you.

The idea is counterintuitive. It says, if you’re trying to give something up, then don’t run away from it. Don’t try to block it off from your imagination. Run toward it.

At least in your mind. Don’t sprint to Dunkin’ just yet.

Think through the whole thing. How the experience would feel. Honestly. And then decide if you really want it. I can see how, with this one, people’s mileage really will vary.

But, for me, it works. I imagine the cake I want…the bag of candies…the pile of cookies. Sure, the image is intoxicating. I can smell the sugar. I think of a cinnamon bun and I want to be in my favorite bakery right now. With a mask, obviously.

But then I think it through. First, after the first three bites, is anything really worth breaking your healthy habit for? Does it remain something you really want to eat? After a couple of bites of cake, I feel over-full, my mouth a sticky, sugary mess. I don’t enjoy it as much as I enjoy thinking about it.

The smell of cake is better than anything but the first bite of cake.

So maybe I should let myself have a bite of things I’m mostly trying to avoid. I don’t know if my will power could deal with that. And that would leave a whole lot of cake uneaten.

It works also with spending money – I imagine having the thing I’m obsessing with on Amazon or the Apple store. Does it change my life? Do I actually read/listen to/use that thing more than a few times? Honestly?

I’ve stopped drinking because, for me, drinking was never that enjoyable. It was sociable. It was easier to grab a beer when everyone else did, rather than ask for a Coke or a coffee.

But I thought it through. The consequences of drinking alcohol. And I decided that, for me, there was no point in doing something potentially harmful that I didn’t actually enjoy.

But I still drink coffee. Because, for me, this has value. We all get to make that choice. I don’t want to go to bed not being able to look forward to my first coffee the next morning.

I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking – but I love cake. When I imagine cake/booze/shopping/fighting in underground naked fight clubs, it’s uniformly awesome.

And, madam, I sympathize.

I feel this way about butter shortbread biscuits. The good ones. The ones with tartan on the packaging. When I think through eating a plate-full of those, only positive feelings fill my soul.

And sure, eating a shortbread finger every now and again would be fine. But as many as I prefer to? That would be a problem for my ultimate goal: to lose weight, to be fitter and, ultimately, to live forever (and, so far so good on that last one…).

And that’s what, currently, saves me from losing my self-esteem in a packet of Walkers Shortbread. If I eat one of those, then that’s part of my exercise routine that I’ve wasted. Remember: all I’m doing is really reducing my sugar-junk-food habit. I still eat the occasional pizza, the occasional barbecue, the not-so-occasional bowl of pasta. Adding sugar back into my diet could be the tipping point that stops the scales from moving slowly to the left and instead pushing them further to the right.

I have until the end of the year to show my doctor that I can be a grown up and manage my own life. The opportunity to maybe, finally, get a positive reaction from that man feels better than any food tastes. Except pizza, barbecue and, yes, Walkers Shortbread.

3 thoughts on “On Self-Care

  1. Fastest way to fail at quitting something or forcing yourself to do something is to quit or force everything all at once.

    Half the challenge is in it not being an effort, chore or something you struggle with and crave / pine and find it hard going. You find a nice middle ground and realise “You know what? Not that bad actually…”

    If your general aim is to just cut out the crap and have a healthier diet and if you want to get a bit more active with the long term ideal being to maybe shift a few pounds too then really, you can go a lot easier on yourself than you might actually think.

    Firstly I agree absolutely that you could and should have a little of what you love now and then even if it’s crap. Provided it’s only a little bit of crap and now and then – it’s fine.

    You can get more exercise without having to invest in all the Lycra, sweatbands, daft gear and be one of those people I see almost about to die but still trying to jog and meet their target.

    Walking a mile just a literal stroll will get your heart rate up, blood pumping and you can gradually build up a bit more speed, take a slightly longer route and pass all these joggers half dead and crawling on the pavement whilst you go.

    As with your love for cake, there’s nothing wrong letting yourself have that first mouthful of cake. You realise already that when you crave it, you’re only really craving that first bit cos it gets “Blergh” sickly after so decide that’s what you’re gonna have. That’s all you want anyway.

    My daughter’s friend Emma makes the best butter shortbread on Earth and is forever dropping off sandwich bags of them or scones, cakes and biscuits Hannah said the reason she’s forever baking is to help her stop eating so much and get her weight down a little bit. Whilst she’s baking stuff she doesn’t crave it the same way.

    I’m like that every Christmas or if I make a full roast dinner for family and have been in the kitchen for hours. By the time it’s ready I can’t be arsed and never really feel hungry so just stick a side plate and have that.

    When I’ve had dogs that need to be retrained or helped with an obsessive compulsive behaviour, I find very often if they’re allowed a little of what they’ve been restricted and banned from getting near, it stops the obsession and overwhelming urge to spend their life trying to get it. Making that thing completely off limits and never allowed near is what starts the obsession and compulsion half the time.

    Like your first bite of a cake, what drives them to obsess over it is the end goal of just getting at it. Not eating it or playing with it just that “AHA! I GOT IT!!”

    So I guess what I’m saying is, a little of what you love is a good thing so enjoy that first bite of cake. Take yourself off for a leisurely stroll just around a certain area – don’t measure its’ length, distance or time yourself just go out and half a wander.

    And under no circumstances should you be worried or aim to please the doctor who sounds a bit an arsehole if he’s yet to be positive about anything.

    Take him a slice of your cake next visit and see if that if that brightens up his sour ass face.



      1. You should – honestly! 😀

        Would love to be able to bake. I can cook – but even those “Just add eggs and water” fairy cake packets you get for kids are above and beyond my skill level.

        I just wait for the surprise visit – always in a clear sandwich bag with bright post it note “Thought you might like these xxxx”

        I spot the bright green or pink from a distance and know the bakery elf has been.

        Take care and go easy on yourself xx


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