Airbag

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Here’s a thing: yesterday evening, I went to the chip shop, as both kids requested a takeaway. I’d already eaten my calorie limit for the day, and sat waiting whilst the smell of frying potato made me salivate. Chips are a major weakness, always have been. This I attribute to one of the earliest memories I possess: the small of frying onions from a burger van, back in the days before that item was a staple on British high streets. Long before McDonalds even arrived in the UK; on the seafront of the town which is now our home, my parents used to drive here and reminisce of their courtship. I came home with the meals, stuck them on plates, and didn’t eat anything at all.

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Yesterday was a tough Gym session: lots of HIIT, not many steps, and to make up the shortfall I walked around the block a couple of times. Today, the fatigue in my entire body is more noticeable than it has been for weeks, and I know that if I go throw myself at anything high impact it will make things worse. Today is a day for a walk: to the supermarket to buy high protein items with absolutely no sugar in them at all, and to start working on building muscle mass and provide true, lasting strength. Now it is becoming obvious just how much my body relies on empty carbs to function, I need to go and rethink a lot of my principles from scratch.

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I suck at willpower. It is my absolute biggest failing, by a long way. I also bounce from one state to another quite fast, or at least I did, and I am beginning to grasp that hormones have been to blame for a great deal more than just lower backache and upset stomachs. As I walk away from decades of being a fucking monster for three days a month, often longer, comes the relief of being able to dictate and control exactly how I am, without being at the beck and call of a body that often felt as if it didn’t belong to me at all. In fact, with the introduction of regular exercise and a diet that appears to help and not hinder mental progress, things are most definitely looking up.

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I predict a lot of fish and vegetables over the Summer months, and very little potato or bread, even though I will miss my sandwiches so very much. If 11st 5lbs is doable by August 1st on this level of input, I can re-introduce the stuff I love as treats without fear. The first part of this process however has to be getting to the point where I know what is and isn’t doable, and right now this plan is the right path to tread.

Time to suck it up and get moving.

Sweet Talking Woman

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My weight’s been doing odd things over the last few weeks: it is obvious my body’s adjusting to life without a gallbladder a lot better than could have been the case, however. I’ve gone from not keeping anything inside me for very long to my body returning to some semblance of what was normal before the operation. However, on what I thought was a pretty decent low fat and sugar diet before surgery there’s been a slow but noticeable creep up of weight. It isn’t muscle mass either, my lovely set of biometric scales at the Gym indicates this. So yesterday, on PT’s advice, I started scanning and recording what I’m eating using My Fitness Pal and realised exactly where my problem lies.

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Breakfast is already putting me on the back foot. Sure, that might be sub 300 calories, but when my sugar intake is marked at 45g maximum in a day? There I am, having thrown nearly half of it away in one hit. That’s fine however, because breakfast is awesome right now and is probably my favourite meal of the day because of the pomegranate. The problem then comes with what I shove in the rest of the day. What was my favourite protein bar up until I read the labels yesterday delivers more sugar than my 33g chocolate bar snack of choice. It really doesn’t matter how much healthy shit you chuck at me, if I’m getting more sugar as well, there’s something wrong somewhere.

This has meant a reconsideration of what counts for ‘snacks’ in the household.

These two are good staples in my cupboard and I won’t end up out of sugars by lunchtime. I’ll go investigate other brands too, but for now the lovely American protein bars aren’t being restocked. When I closed my food log last night, I found myself thinking that if writing life can be managed more effectively, why can’t the same be true for my eating habits?

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How hard would it be to make yesterday happen another 34 times, exactly? I’ve logged onto My Fitness Pal for 435 fucking days and I’m still struggling with weight, mostly because I won’t log consistently, instead cheating quietly and forgetting the transgressions overnight. No, the biggest problem I have with weight loss is myself. Because I’m exercising there’s this misguided belief that it’s okay, because not being sedentary matters more. Except, in the end, it doesn’t. Making changes requires just that, CHANGE. Stop pretending you’re somehow virtuous because of all the miles, and make the real evolution your body believes it can’t cope with but needs to overcome. Provide reliable energy, long term, and keep your body in a fit state to last the next fifty years.

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Forming habits works for me. It is a solid means of moving forward. The same thing, day after day, and I finally remember that this is part of a larger plan. Now I’ve got large parts of my life sorted using this mantra, let us see if it cannot be applied to the business of sensible eating. 34 days from now is, quite usefully, August 1st. This seems like a nice date to aim for, as it is smack bang in the middle of the Summer Holidays for kids and then gives the rest of that month to consolidate and regroup. So, that’s the plan. My target weight was 11 stone 3 pounds at the start of the year. Let’s aim there, and make it happen.

After all, what’s the worst that can happen?

Who’s Laughing Now

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It is 1983. I am a HUGE Dr Who fan. I persuade my parents to drive me to Longleat for the ‘Twenty Years of a Timelord’ Event and this, frankly, is the moment when being a fan stops being a trivial pursuit and morphs into a full-life obsession. When Who got its much championed reboot, I watched religiously. After David Tennant arrived, I became aware however of a subtle shift in affiliation. In fact, the Christmas Day episode of 2005 was a bit of a watershed. Don’t get me wrong, I love the direction that’s been taken in the last 12 years. There is so much good to be seen and found across Nine, Ten, Eleven. It is only with Peter Capaldi’s arrival that I’ve felt a real disconnect. I’ve not watched any of the last season, choosing instead to keep up with the incoming regeneration via the Guardian’s excellent catchups on Sunday… and I know why. This is the same fundamental shift that has taken place with Bond in the last couple of years, and has nothing at all with either franchise.

All the change is within me.

Dr Who is a man. He’s been that way for decades and despite the sexual revolution that has occurred around him, that canon now establishes that John Simm can regenerate into Michelle Gomez? Nope, not gonna happen. I have as much chance of a female 007 in my lifetime as I do getting a Woman to become 13, and right now those odds are pretty fucking long. It is particularly irksome watching the Marvel and DC Universe embrace the diversity with open arms, but (of course) even that is a version of reality that’s not 100% true. It has taken this long for a female superhero to get a movie all to herself. There’s still a phenomenal amount of prejudice and stigma around what constitutes equal pay or fair treatment not simply of women, but anyone of colour other than white, or anybody with sexuality that can’t be measures in a binary fashion.

Television is the place where, across the decades, stigma has been challenged and broken. A black President in 24 was reality long before that reality ever happened. For every event that tries to paint anything other than a white man as wrong, there are countless examples of how diversity matters more than the need to maintain the artistic canon of books, TV shows or cinematic outings. Yet still, bastions of CIS masculinity remain. A decade ago I had no idea of what that term meant. Now I am better educated it becomes amusing (and at times disturbing) to watch how that definition is thrown about by different groups to justify the current state of society.

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Ah, yes, ‘normal people’ look at people like me who suggest that Dr Who could be a woman and immediately assume I’m broken, deranged and irredeemable. Heaven forbid that, after 50 plus years it might be great to stretch the dramatic reach of the character and give it to an actress or a person of colour. Nah, ‘normal’ is what we need to make sure that bad stuff stops happening and that everybody lives in harmony under God. Yeah, I get it. Nobody wants to be the person who rocks the boat, yet for a decade it has been everything else allowable and encouraged, right up to the point where we have (sorry, had) an openly gay companion. Sexual diversity is fine, but you can’t give a woman the top billing because, you know, ALWAYS A BLOKE IN CHARGE. If the upcoming regeneration brings another white actor into the TARDIS I’m outta here. An almost 45 year love affair is done and dusted.

It was great while it lasted, but it is time to move on.

Yesterday

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I live in Gym kit currently for one reason alone: if I have it on, there’s more chance of making it to exercise than not. Except yesterday I put on the clothes and then grasped I’d be better off not pushing myself physically. It was a day to clear the decks, throw out the rubbish that has been clogging my desk. Things got put away, or recycled, and we entered the Money Where Mouth Is portion of developmental proceedings. As an exercise in self control and diligence, it was remarkably successful. I don’t remember the last time I was this organised, and it has helped considerably in motivating brain to start this week the way I mean to go on.

Now, the trick has to be sticking to that plan: the Moleskine is full, not simply with written work. I gave up on bullet journaling sometime in April, but the weekly planner has now become indispensable. Exercise goals, writing subjects, forward planning is all inside, and the settling of this routine becomes more comforting with every new week. I actually started doing that on Friday, knowing what needs to be done for the Internet of Words before it all kicks off on Saturday. Thus far I am quietly confident, and hopefully once there’s some content up to entice people, I’ll grab some more Patreons. That reminds me, must sort out a Google Form for the rewards requests. Excuse me whilst I make a note of that.

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This week is another two lots of PT with a hard third session shoved in the middle. If six hours sleep is gonna be the norm again thanks to night sweats and the neighbour (who has a 5am start and is not quiet) then I may not make it to Friday without a nap inserted somewhere, or at least one ridiculously early night. The week will at least be cooler and a bit wet, which suits me fine: I really hope this is the last of the hormonal junk I have to deal with. It is bad enough in the heat without my body taking a temperature rise on an almost predictable four hour cycle. There is however the real chance this is the next 18 months to two years of my life panning out and if so, it might be a plan to just stop moaning and work through it. If I were famous I could write a book about it or maybe do stand up, but as I’m not? Time to stick the kettle on and accept the inevitable.

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I’ve been eaten a lot by insects in this last couple of weeks too, which means my legs look horrible, and as I scratch in my sleep I felt today was not the one for shorts. I’ve resurrected one of my favourite pairs of leggings, and this reminds me I should have a clear out of clothing (again) as a lot of stuff is now close to being worn out, due simply to repeated use. My running shoes went that way last weekend, 25 miles of cycling the last straw, and looking at the soles the wear on the tread is a reminder that yes, I do take this all very seriously indeed, as should be the case. That will be the second pair I’ve worn out this year, and knowing that fact I’ve ordered the replacement pair this morning on sale, saving cash in advance. Ah, the joys of Internet shopping.

… and today's legs 👍

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The Warcraft blog’s got material already scheduled for the entire week. I’m not sure yet what is going to happen here, but I promise to try and make it worth your while reading.

Saturday

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I was awake at 1am, waiting for Mr Alt to return from a cross-country fit, and it was not nearly as tough as I’d thought. Once upon a time nocturnal was a default, but now it is far happier on everybody that I sleep early and often. Yesterday was an extra PT session, using vouchers I had left over from the surgery downtime. It was weights, heavier than I have ever lifted before, plus more work on my trunk, which is the part of me that requires the most attention. The difference today is already noticeable. As soon as I’m done here it’ll be a sandwich and then off for an afternoon walk/run. I really don’t want to lose momentum.

This week has gone beyond well, far exceeding expectations. I’m already planning articles for next week, quite apart from the Internet of Words stuff that is scheduled. There’s even a space left to look at a novel starting on Monday, and I don’t remember the last time there was a desire to do that. It is primarily because everything is back in my own hands, no issues with health (either physical or mental.) Knowing full well how life works, it is time to make this weekend really count. Relaxation is all well and good but, as I discovered last weekend, you can balance both downtime and effort. Like everything else, it just takes practice.

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That means less words, and more action. Time to get shit done.

Run for Home

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Once upon a time, exercise scared me. I’d find reasons not to do it: my knees were bad, I took forever to recover, I couldn’t because I was bleeding. Looking back on the litany of excuses, there is now an understanding of the true root cause. I was afraid. I would get out of breath so easily, people would stare at me, there was no real self-confidence anywhere to allow movement past the issues. However, in the last 14 months, all that has changed. It began with a phenomenal amount of just walking, alone, without focus on anything except myself. Inside that bubble, a lot of disparate thoughts finally began to make sense.

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I understand now the set of circumstances that led to confidence evaporating. Some of it is my fault alone to shoulder, but others have their share of blame to take. Now all of that is settled, comes the process of understanding that if you work for long enough, pain can be managed and overcome. Exercise is its own reward, over time: without it, I’d not have been given the warning signs over my gallbladder until possibly it was too late. However, the overriding positive from making myself do something every day is now beginning to manifest. If you do intensive sessions in the gym or on the road, rest days are indeed vital. However, my body doesn’t work like that. I have one (reasonably) intense PT session for an hour a week, which is now supplemented by two more (of the same duration) where I focus on weight training. For all the other days, there is asthmatic cardio.

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I can’t run continuously (as yet) and the most I’ve ever managed is a kilometre on the treadmill, for timing purposes. What happens right now is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) which is bursts of exercise where I push myself to breathlessness, followed by periods of recovery whilst still moving. This builds stamina, strength and allows my body to learn how to breathe properly, which is almost as important as the effort itself. It also allows me to work out if the things I am eating are being effectively converted into fuel or not, which has been quite the adventure after gallbladder removal. Before where I would have relied on quick carbohydrates for an energy burst, more and more it is about packing in more complex carbs before I workout, and supplementing protein rich foods afterwards to ensure muscles build and strengthen.

The biggest change of all has been the sweet cravings: yeah, they still exist, but the frequency and urgency of them has diminished significantly. Whereas before I’d get a need to snack early afternoon, after surgery and with daily exercise, this has simply evaporated. More significantly, the urge to buy ‘rubbish’ has yet to materialise, though I will admit the desire for bread and butter pudding is quite strong right now. That means, this weekend, I’ll attempt to make a version with granary bread and not white, with ingredients I put in and aren’t supplemented by pointless additives and preservatives. At least that way I know exactly what is going into my body.

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Staying on the exercise wagon becomes easier with each day I do something: even if it is only 30 minutes of continuous exercise to get my heart rate up, the key is to make such effort habit-forming and then realise you don’t want to live without it. After that…? Well, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t really enjoy Wednesday’s ‘Pull’ day of weights: after a month off, I’m almost at the same benchmarks I left behind in May. I feel stronger in arms and trunk than has ever been the case before. Most significant of all however is how I feel afterwards: confident, happy and relaxed. Exercise makes me happy, not simply from the release of endorphins. I am stronger. This alone is worth any amount of effort and discomfort.

My body is a lumpy mess right now: mosquito bites, bruises from cycling, rolls of loose skin and fat that remains stubbornly immoveable. Once upon a time I would have cared about this but now, simply, it doesn’t matter. I have to move through this stage of being uncomfortable in my skin to get to the real goal. Physical appearance is irrelevant, all that matters are the repetitions and the goal, still tantalisingly out of reach but far closer than was ever the case last year. Then I wasn’t thinking about the bigger picture, just a weight goal which would somehow make everything better. Now there’s an understanding that exercise doesn’t work like that. You don’t get to the finish line and BANG its all perfect, far from it. To truly understand the real value of fitness, it has to be lived and understood, one day at a time.

This is a journey I am only just beginning.