Once upon a time, I’d come back from a Gym session and have a chocolate bar. After all, I’d worked bloody hard, my body was burning calories at an accelerated rate and honestly, what was the worst that could happen? Yesterday morning, between leg raises with my PT, came a fairly major revelation. Now I’m watching exactly what I eat, that there’s a 40g a limit day on my sugar intake, such frippery is off the menu. However, it doesn’t matter right now. Every day I came back from the Gym in the previous week, I didn’t reward myself at all.
It is no longer necessary to do so.
What has changed? Me, mostly: once upon a time, I would have needed the self-encouragement. Yesterday I giggled through a session because I was enjoying it so much. Looking at myself in the full length mirrors, I don’t recognise the person staring back. She has inescapable abs, arm definition and a waist down to almost 32 inches. The smallest I’ve ever been is 28 inches, which would mean (if it wasn’t for the massive change to the upper half of my body) I could get back in my wedding dress. I really believe that’s doable now, whereas in the first week post operation was a fear I’d not be back to full strength for months. Now the routine is established, suddenly, there does not need to be food as incentive, or anyone to tell me how good or otherwise I look.
I just do this because it is fun.
Then comes the thought: why did I not grasp this sooner? How did it take so long, with months of writing about working out, to finally grasp that I was the problem all along? If I believe the whole ‘things happen for a reason’ line that a lot of my friends love to throw up at moments such as this, it was probably the surgery that realigned a vital set of connections. Eating well and exercising hard are only really going to work if you want that to happen enough. To get the two to combine successfully requires something else: mental acquiescence. The rewards aren’t about ignoring what I’ve learnt because somehow there’s a need feel as if you’re in control. That goes without saying: the chocolate wasn’t doing anything useful, in fact became detrimental in the short term.
My problem was excuses. Sure, I could put the hours in, but that last step never wanted to happen… because I couldn’t finally give up what was felt was deserved. You work, you should get something for it, right? Well, I am: fitter, healthier and happier, if I could only look past the comfort of sugar, that extra cuppa or the sneaky beer when I’d run out of calories to drink it. That final piece in my puzzle, effectively, was understanding that I no longer can be incentivised by carrots on stick, or indeed any variant of ‘if you work hard you can eat that.‘ The incentives aren’t necessary. I just wanna do the work until I’m at the target weight.
Except, I’m not living like a frugal fool right now. There was Nandos on Friday, and I had pizza for dinner today. Understanding finally what calories look like, how to read a food label and it to stick in my head, to see food as not just fuel or reassurance but just a series of numbers right now is exactly what was needed. There will be a day, not long from now, where I will enjoy a lovely slice of cake and a cuppa. However, it won’t be as a reward for hard work. That will be because I’ve not simply made the calories to cover it, but it won’t send my weight back up, because it has become part of a new way of eating, thinking and acting around food. Finally, I released myself from comfort eating. Now, all that is needed is to learn to enjoy the experience of food all over again.
That is a whole new project for another day.