Monday 24 October 2016

I'm learning not to try and be perfect

Published 01/06/2015 | 02:30

I've always though that hermits have it easy. Of course they are all spiritual and calm. Who wouldn't be? If I was sitting on my batty half way up a mountain with no one annoying me, I'd be totally Zen. But try maintaining your Tao out here in the real world with kids and people and the rest of it. That is the true challenge.

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Dieting is a bit like that. It's easy to maintain your principles when you are hermetically sealed off from the world, as I tend to be anyway up to this time of year. It's a form of work-related hibernation. And it is easy to be good. Life is simple.

But then, around this of the year, I start waking up and smelling the coffee. I start to re-engage with the world. And it's tricky. Rules are easily kept when you are living a very simple, routine-driven, isolated existence. But I have been gradually coming down from the mountain. The past week I've been off the diet more than on it. There was the guts of three days visiting family which was challenging. On Saturday, for example, lunch was my fifth meal or collation of the day. There were lots of buns involved. There was drink involved too. Then on Tuesday night I had a meal out. There were a few drinks involved too.

Now you could look at that and think, "Oh my god, I totally fell off the wagon. It's all fallen apart. I have failed." But to think like that would just open the flood gates and you'd basically go bananas on the eating. But we all know that the rollercoaster of striving to be perfect and then letting all hell break loose when you fail in that perfection, is not helpful.

So what I learnt this past week was to be realistic, and to decide in advance when I am going to break the rules, thus avoiding feeling that the situation had spiralled out of control. I am just making choices. Deciding in advance to break the rules also means you don't get into a blame-and-shame spiral. It allows you to enjoy your breakouts.

So, instead of trying to stay perfect in impossible situations, I told myself that I would be breaking the rules, that I would enjoy it, but that I would keep some semblance of sense about it and apply what I have learnt over the past couple of months.

So, for example, I ate out a bit but generally avoided stuffing myself with carbs. I didn't generally bother with dessert, because dessert doesn't really do it for me anyway; I preferred to use my calories on nice savoury food. I drank sensibly enough and where possible I drank prosecco or white wine. I had one beer at one stage because I felt like it, but I didn't get into having a feed of pints. I didn't bother with bread generally either because I am gradually going off it. It was about picking my battles, and choosing how I wanted to focus my blowouts.

And crucially, I didn't get on a roll. When the cheat days were over I got back into my heathy routine the next day. Donal O Se says that people who stay slim for life tend to follow this strategy. If they have a "bad" day, they compensate for it straight away with a good day, rather than letting the eating snowball.

I think all of this is good practice for putting in place a sustainable 5:2 style situation after the diet is over. Basically I reckon I will eat healthily during the week and then enjoy myself a bit more at the weekend. I will enjoy my blowouts and I won't feel guilty about them because I will plan them and therefore they will not feel like a loss of control. Whether this will help me when I head to Turkey tomorrow, who knows? I intend to enjoy myself on holidays but I will not be eating until I feel full and mildly sick, as I would normally do on holidays. My aim this past week was to maintain my weight, which I did. That is a great result considering I had four days of breakout. I now stand at 12s 7lb, which was roughly the target I had in mind. It represents a loss of 17 pounds over the past seven weeks without huge effort. The food has been generally lovely, I have not gone hungry and I have augmented the diet with snacks as I have gone along. So there has been no element of starvation. My plan now is to do my final week of the Taylor Made Diet when I come home from holidays and hopefully that will counteract any weight gained on holiday. If I can finish up on 12 and a half stone I will be more than happy. Famous last words!

Sunday Independent

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