And so, the 31st week concludes with Zai actually losing a kilogram*. That must mean I’ve cut out a kilogram of butter from my diet! Amazing! I don’t even remember buying that much from the supermarket!
Less-butter week has been mostly successful. I’ve managed to reduce the butter I eat on my toast each day and coped fairly well with that. However, fresh bread still suffers. Dryyyyyyy. It is heartening that I can make some reductions in the unhealthy food I eat. Coincidentally, I managed to reduce my intake of chocolatey/sugary foods this week, too – mostly by replacing sweet things with hot cocoa as a transitional stage. I even allowed myself a bowl of ice cream last night and found that it was beginning to taste too fatty and unhealthy. I love it when I don’t even want unhealthy food!
I am coming to realise that with many things in my life small positive changes are better than aiming for sweeping changes. In some cases, sweeping, absolute changes can be liberating and inspiring, but in most cases they are too difficult to maintain and ultimately lead to discouragement and a return to old ways. Small changes are so much easier to start and to maintain and therefore it is easier to feel successful and be encouraged by this to continue.
*I am monitoring my weight so that I can get it down to a healthier figure, but I also do not place too much emphasis on every bit of weight lost, because it can so easily go back the other way. What it does show is that I’ve managed to behave more healthily this week. I will focus on what I have done this week and try to continue and possibly build on that.
One thing weight-loss shows such as The Biggest Loser or Excess Baggage teach people is to be unafraid of pushing themselves. They get to a point where they would stop because they know – or think – that it will be too hard, uncomfortable or painful to go further. Then they learn to do it anyway, dispite the discomfort, and it becomes easier.
As a teacher, I can see the knowledge and skills students could have but I have to get them over that block, that fear of trying because something seems too hard, as if it would be too excruciating to make an effort. I know what they are capable of and I know the biggest thing that is making it hard for them to learn is their own reluctance – even the ones with genuine learning disabilities. I know that a little bit of trying will result in a little bit of learning and a little bit of learning will result in things getting easier.
But this is something I haven’t done for myself. I haven’t had a personal trainer urging me on, or a kindly teacher encouraging me. So, this week, I tried to do it for myself. I supported myself to have a go and to accept set backs and discomfort.
(Oh! If you’ve been reading my blog recently, you’ll know that I keep talking about failure, because that is something I’ve realised I’ve been scared of and am trying to come to terms with – and is my current topic. I call it failure because that is how it feels to me, whether it is a big, grand lack of success or a small embarassment. Even now that I’m trying to change my attitude towards failures, it has never occurred to me to think of them explicitly as set backs. A set back might be discouraging, it might be an obstacle, it might even get you down a little, but it implies that it has only temporarily pushed you back on your path. It does not imply that you have completely fallen off the path and the path has vanished and you will never be able to get anywhere on that path again. I should think of them as set backs.)
One of the biggest challenges for me this week was some recruitment I had to do from home for the research study I’ve been employed to assist with. I had to cold-call and cold-visit some health and youth/community centres to ask them to display a poster for our study. I hatehatehate that kind of thing. I hate talking on the phone, and I hate having to go anywhere and talk to people as a grown-up. There are so many ways that I can say the wrong thing or make a fool of myself and I dread it. (I realise this is odd for someone who has no trouble with public speaking, performing or teaching a class, but I think the difference is those require less social glibness. It’s well known that many actors are introverts like me.) Normally, I put these things off until it’s really too late to do them anymore, but I don’t really want to be that kind of person, it’s too stressful. So I approached this task with the attitude that it was allowable to fail (I wasn’t thinking in set-backs then!) and that I would accept things not going well because it would not be the end of the world and I didn’t have to take it heart.
Mostly, it worked. I still felt a little like a silly failure when I visited one place but it was closedand at another place where there were a lot of elderly immigrant men milling around the foyer chatting in other languages but nobody at the reception desk (because clearly these are things I was somehow responsibile for). My embarassment was discouraging and I wanted to just give up. This time, though, I didn’t allow my embarassment to rule me. I reminded myself that I was focusing on trying, and accepting if things went badly. My next four visits were successful.
I’ve noticed, though, that those weight-loss shows always emphasise enormous efforts and dramatic changes. They’re supposed to inspire people, but how many of us want to spend three hours a day running up sand dunes with tyres tied to us? Of course it would be wonderful for my health if I could devote an hour or more each day to a seriously intense workout. The problem is that I often get daunted by the prospect of a half-hour walk. Once again, I’m learning the value of moderation. It is more important to try a little bit than to expect a lot of myself and do nothing. Often, the little bit will naturally grow, but at the very least I will have done a little bit.
Finally, I noticed that the few times I did give into excuses not to do something this week left me feeling as if the whole week had been a failure. I hadn’t faced my fear every single time. I had to really catch myself and remind myself of the many, many other times this week I had tried, and to feel proud of those efforts and achievements rather than discouraged by a few set backs!