Can’t Do

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On Friday evening, my husband suggested I watch a TED talk which has, quite literally, melted my brain.

What this talk does is explain how we lose weight.ย If you haven’t ever wondered where the fat goes when you get lighter, this talk is for you. Yes, you will get an exchange of fat for muscle, if your body has the ability to do so easily. However, most of your weight is exhaled.ย Yeah, just take a moment to grasp the amazing nature of that claim, and then watch this surfing Australian chemist BLOW YOUR MIND.ย Effectively it does not matter what else happens (within reason, of course) as long as you

a) eat less
b) exercise more and
c) KEEP BREATHING

The key is c) in this equation: the harder you work, the more you breathe, and (potentially) the more weight gets lost.ย Of course, this is hardly groundbreaking: however, what this explanation did for me was reinforce the basic point of exercise.

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I watch people at the gym pretending to do just that, far more often than should be the norm. By that, we’re talking about those who turn up, use equipment, but never push your heart-rate to a point where you have to breathe heavily.ย They don’t sweat, or indeed look as if there is any kind of removal from their comfort zones. This, by the strict definition of our science above, won’t let them lose weight. However, most of these people have no need to in the first place.ย These are the appearance exercisers: probably not eating enough to require major exertion, yet still aware their bodies need to be aired on a regular basis.

They look fit and healthy, but is this really true?

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I sweat like a pig when exercising, and always have. It is not pretty either, but what this does is make it aware to me whether the amount of effort expended is sufficient. As time has gone on, it takes increasing amounts of effort to reach the same point.ย However, on some days, you need very little.ย Those are the ones where I have breathing difficulties, or I’m less than 100% physically together. This scientific revelation means that every day has the potential for weight loss, if there’s the ability to grasp what body is capable of doing. Most significantly of all, steps have become completely irrelevant to my notion of exercise.

That will take some getting used to.

12k (which is my step goal) is achieved by a walk to and from the Gym, a couple of miles on the Octane machine and 30 minutes on the Treadmill. Except I could complete all of this and never really expend that much energy by doing so, and create the impression of exercise. Today therefore I made every step count,ย adding an incline to my workout, and almost fell off the treadmill. I can therefore attest that these 12,000 steps burnt a lot of calories, and that every subsequent time I go and exercise anywhere, that is what is going to happen.

Knowledge is a wonderful thing, but it is even better at that moment when you truly grasp the significance of what you have learnt, and then how to utilise that for yourself.

Rise

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Playtime is officially over.

Once breakfast (and written obligations for the AM) are dealt with, its off to the Gym (Push Day) and then back to knock off some backstage gubbins. Tomorrow is another bike ride. Monday’s a Bank Holiday here and so will involve getting my daughter’s school uniform sorted, and more stuff chucked out of the house: there’s a rapidly increasing pile of crap outside which shows that finally, everybody else is on the same page as I am in terms of regeneration and improvement.

Then, I have the task of trying to pull in more Patreons. I’d hoped to hit 30 by the end of August, which may yet still be doable. It involves selling myself quite hard, but I think that’s a task I’m up to, and so starting today there will be a series of posts on the Writing site to act as a sales pitch, in the hope I can get people involved. These will then be used as articles that form the content for promoted Twitter tweets starting in September. There’s a plan to everything, it is just extracting the digit to make it work.

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Leaves on trees are already starting the transformation from green to gold, red and yellow. This is the earliest Autumn I can recall for a while, but it is perhaps unsurprising on the back of what was a really warm winter. If I needed reminding of how much the Earth is changing, it will remind me on the walk to the Gym and back, in the forest tomorrow when we ride. I know I can’t change decades of systematic abuse by other people, but I can make sure I’m prepared with my family to cope with what may be to come. Once upon a time I would have shirked at responsibility, but not any more.

On the day my son’s GCSE results were published (A’s to C’s, he was unbelievably happy and that’s frankly all that matters) I was eating breakfast when I heard a cry from next door. Our elderly neighbour had fallen, and could not get up, and so the family mounted a rescue mission (via a lifted fence panel) to get her up and about. Last night her daughter knocked on our door to thank us for our thought and care, and to state she’ll be getting her mother to a doctor to check that everything is okay. Once upon a time I’d have not put two and two together and grasped there was a problem to begin with. I like being this aware, and long may that continue.

Here’s to a future full of positive action.

Ariel

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Whilst on holiday, we had breakfast in the ‘family pub/restaurant’ next to our budget hotel. The deal was very simple: ยฃX for each person, pick a table, then effectively all you can eat until mealtime was over. This concept is brilliant for large families, and clearly relies on at least some people paying for breakfast via their hotel stay and not taking it. However, this restaurant also allowed anyone not at the Hotel to eat as they wished, and that meant on Monday that there was total and utter chaos for the entire time we were there. An awful lot of people ‘played’ this system, as I watched from our spot next to the food.

I spied one young girl, from the large family who’d walked in and taken over two tables, manage to get four separate serving staff to provide her with the same combination of packet breakfasts and juice boxes, which were all then squirrelled away with efficiency. To the two who were generous and provided double I am impressed, because under those circumstances there is no obligation to offer anything extra at all. From the napkins full of patisserie to the mum telling everyone that they won’t eat again until dinner, everybody had a reason for making the most of what was on offer.

It gave considerable pause for thought.

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Nobody should go without a decent meal, ever. Feeding everyone is a contentious topic in this Western country of ours, and it shouldn’t be, but the fact remains that both adults and kids current go hungry in the UK thanks to the belief that money matters more than humanity.ย It’s why I’ve felt chastened since Monday, that I can’t change the world, and that I shudder at what other people left uneaten on plates, that portion control is something only a few seem to grasp or adhere to. It has made me determined to think harder about the actual problems the World faces going forward and not bury my head in the sand. Food is a basic right, and yet many people simply don’t consider it as anything other than a consumable.

How this plays out for me is simple: less waste, more thought on choices, less impulse buying. The local supermarket runs a Food bank scheme which I’m going to make sure I contribute to every month. No, I’m hardly going to change the world with my actions but if everybody stopped and thought about the food on their plate, things might. It is tough to change yourself, but this is as important as helping other people or considering positive action to help improve the World around you. It is no different than picking up rubbish or looking out for neighbours.

We should stop assuming that everything is somebody else’s problem and not ours.

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There is a lot to think about going forward, and a belief that if I am truly going to reinvent myself, learning to write better is only part of that equation. It is as much about becoming a more useful member of society than any measure of personal attainment.

The future should not be me, but us.

Hope for the Future

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I didn’t get my mentorship. It wasn’t a surprise. In good news, they sent the e-mail nice and early, so I didn’t have to stress about it all day. Not that I would have, of course, because I already know how this is going to pan out.


What mattered more this morning was bettering my own standard.

I woke up at 7am with a mission.

I’d written an essay for today’s Internet of Words site that, frankly, I was less than enamoured with, far too similar in tone and outlook to the one produced a week before. I realise now that what works best in my four week format is a general essay on the book, and then a more detailed assessment of a portion of the subject matter, but seen through a wider lens. I have tried since the weekend to get a handle on what that view would encapsulate, and yesterday morning it came to me: time travel. So this morning I’ve taken a day’s worth of notes and a week’s worth of general research and produced something new pretty much from scratch. I’ve yet to do my re-read but honestly, I already know it is 1000% better than what I started with.

Today therefore is a resounding success, because I didn’t just stick with what was good. I created something better.


don'fuckthisupdaniel

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Talking of creating something better… Bond 25 had better not be Diamonds are Forever or Die Another Day.

PLEASE DON’T FUCK THIS UP, SQUIRE.


Last night, the Real World crashed the party on Social media, and today lots of people will be REALLY cross. Be nice, and accommodate discussion. If your mental health won’t support remaining in public places, leaving’s perfectly fine. There’s plenty of us left to give the alt right, extremists and anyone else with stupidity running through their veins a run for their money. A smart person might even consider capitalising on current events.

I think I’d pay good money to see that happen.

Night Boat to Cairo

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It is almost August. How did that happen?

I am now down to my outstanding Patreon list fitting on a Post It note. This means that I’ll be up to date August 1st, when the process has to start again: however, I have adapted a very great deal in the last four weeks. It is a learning process that has thrown up more than a few surprises, and an understanding that, with thought and effort, anything really is possible. That is the biggest takeout: these tasks are no less relevant or significant thanย  anything else done before. The fact people now give me money to ‘work’ is just the way it always is in the early days of establishing a business. The difference here is that I’m just coming to the whole experience later than maybe would be normal. That’s great however because it allows an awful lot more experience to accompany me to the table.

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However what is most satisfying right now is the understanding that what is written doesn’t matter as much as what that allows other people to get from the experience. This appears to be the case with the growing use of Twitter Polls in my feed as a writing tool: I make no bones about using the service primarily as a basis to spark unprompted conversation. When opinion is not the reason why something happens, just facts reduced to a simple choice, it allows people the ability to discuss and explain their own feelings and experience. Currently, the Internet is mostly opinions clashing, points of view in dissonance. Sharing a common ground yet allowing diversity to thrive within is, in my mind at least, a far better way of promoting discussion.

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There’s also been communication in a manner I’ve not seen since I began this journey. People are spontaneously (and unprompted) suggesting new topics, and thanking me for the discourse. Normally, when I start a conversation on the Internet like this, it has ended in tears. However, I realise that a lot of that historical trauma was as much about how I dealt with the responses than anything else. Also, my ‘don’t tweet to anyone for the first hour of the day or until you are fully awake’ rule really is beginning to make a tangible difference in how contention pans out. It is the understanding that yeah, I have my part to play in all this, but only to a point. That whole ‘two people to argue’ thing is absolutely true. If someone ignores you, there’s normally a lesson to be learnt.

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However, the Internet doesn’t change. The dicksplashes remain, because their own Community ‘bubble’ allows that toxicity to continue unchallenged. Very few people are either willing or bothered to vilify such behaviour, because in most cases these people are normally functioning members of society. In fact, as long as the current President of the United States can utilise Twitter as a policy tool to push forward intentionally divisive and damaging administrative choices, nothing will change. Legions of white men will be encouraged to be utter morons and treat everybody else who disagrees with them like dirt, women to assert only the impression of independence guided by often fundamentally floored visual prompts which further act as restriction. If you don’t fit those two gender groups or their traditional notions of sexuality? You’re on your own.

So, how do you ever make progress?

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However many times I tell my daughter I love her regardless of what she wears, the spots on her face or the thickness of her thighs, it’s never 100% certain she understands or believes me. That’s the benchmark, in my mind: you do it one person at a time. Start with yourself, and then try and make other people understand what you’re trying to say. Make sure that, when you do, it is accompanied by an openness and honesty that allows you to be clear and concise. Effectively, it means opening yourself to ridicule and scorn, and for those of us who are sensitive to personal attack, that can be a tough ask. However, to survive in the Real World, that’s what it takes. If you decide to put yourself out there, the consequences are just this. You want to make a difference? You will get hurt. Then you have to decide if that’s worth the effort or not.

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If there is one consistent takeaway from all of this, it is that you can forgive others if you wish. However, there are situations and relationships where it is absolutely, positively the best thing for both parties that you never see each other again. Blocks are what they are, court orders and everything else exist because one day, you will encounter the person for whom reason, common sense and decency simply do not exist. There are all the shades in between, but just because your mate’s now great friends with their ex does not mean you are the same. Life works for everyone in a different way, and the trick it seems to me is how you manage to accommodate everything, rather than excluding all the stuff you hate.

I doubt I’ll ever work it out, either.

Walk on By

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I have been remiss on my step count of late. There are lots of reasons for this, most of which involve getting the Patreon off the ground. However, the Summer holiday is providing a head start in getting step numbers back up to the point where breaking my current record of 35k in a day might yet be doable. Today, for instance, involved dropping off the car, walking to the Gym then back, with 30 minutes of VERY brisk walking when I got there to help sort my legs out after yesterday’s PT. Then I strolled back, before doing to and from the supermarket with the youngest. It meant I could pretty much eat what I liked, and there should be more days like this and not less. It definitely helps that the weekend cold/virus thing is virtually gone, and that this morning wasn’t damp or wet. In fact, it must be said, I even enjoyed walking down the main road which is normally never that much fun during rush hour.

The plan tomorrow therefore is to walk to pick up the car, drop it off here, then walk to the Gym early, do a session of cardio and weights to be back as my daughter gets up. Then there will undoubtedly be a walk somewhere else in the afternoon (probably for bread) and I can try and use 18k as a starting point. If I can do that all week, it should set me up for the weekend’s real challenge.

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On Saturday, Central London is effectively closed to traffic, and for the entire day you can bike around it. The RideLondon Freecycle is the precursor to Sunday’s RideLondon main event, the 120 mile race around the 2012 Olympic circuit which Mr Alt’s taken part in since inception. This year myself and the youngest get to go and throw ourselves past some of the most iconic parts of London history and not worry about being mown down by a continental lorry driver. I have to admit I am rather looking forward to it, assuming that the weather holds. If it does, expect all the pictures, plus I suspect there will be Pokemon hunting to boot. It should make this week a bumper one for miles, and *crosses everything* perhaps my hyper efficient fat to muscle exchange of a body could take the weight down a bit in the process.

A girl can dream, after all.

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Exercise is bloody hard work. Believing that simply taking protein supplements is going to give you a body like The Rock’s is, like it or not, living a massive delusion. I have to admit, the implication that under 30’s would believe this feels pretty insulting, and without any kind of hard facts that prove the point, the bigger issue is teaching better nutritional awareness. Protein shakes have their benefits: my husband’s using them to very good effect currently as a way to maintain weight, in tandem with what is a stupidly healthy diet prior to another bike race on Sunday. They can be incredibly useful to kick-start weight loss too. The article that started all this talks about what an average body requires to stay healthy in terms of protein: no two bodies are alike, and if you don’t sit behind a desk every day the number of calories needed will vary.

Mostly, the press can only ever talk about health issues in general terms. Studies and reports increasingly are taken out of context to highlight particular issues, headlines created as clickbait. It is quite rare to be presented a whole truth in reporting: like it or not, that doesn’t make for very engaging content. History reminds us however that promising people better bodies using advertising is hardly anything new. This kind of ‘persuasion’ has been going on as long as newspapers have needed advertising: this isn’t about buying anyone into the idea of supplements or aids either, it is convincing the gullible that their physique is flawed. In the modern world, obsessed now with body image in all its various forms, that is probably more concerning that handing over money to companies for anything that could be considered largely pointless if you just amend your diet and exercise more.

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I was asked at the weekend why I’d started weight training by a total stranger. The answer is twofold: it has always been something I wanted to do, because I equate strength with physical fitness. Body image is largely irrelevant, but keeping asthma in check is far more important: I can have a direct and positive effect on managing an illness which, as a child, meant exercise was off the cards… except, now I find myself wondering what might have been different if my parents had encouraged that urge and not suppressed it. I’ll never know, of course, but now I’m in a position where breathing difficulties are the exception due to my own hard work. The sense of satisfaction and achievement that gives is beyond significant.

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The irony for me is that my stomach refuses to process either protein shakes or gels: I can swallow them but they’ll be straight back up in short order. If I want to lose weight and build muscle, it’s good old fashioned food groups: chicken, lean meat and white fish, flapjacks and nuts, or protein bars at a stretch. On days like this when the sugar craving is strong, that can be a hard ask, but my brain’s spent over a year grasping the undeniable truth that you really are what you eat. If protein shakes help people be healthy, honestly, what’s wrong with them? In 40 years, if Global Warming has its way, we could all be eating proteins in powder form anyway. There’s an assumption only one real way exists to be healthy, and that’s simply not true. Sure, you can eat cake and drink coffee but if that’s your life without exercise, it’s as bad in its own way as never eating a ‘healthy’ meal. The key here is not one thing or the other in excess, but balance.

The truth about health is never hard and fast. Reality, as always, depends on the individual deciding to make a change, and then sticking with it. There are many success stories, but for every miracle weight loss or transformation there are the many who can never make it past the scales or the next meal. Like so much else in life, change must be yours to instigate. If you want something enough, it will happen. For myself, I can attest that a healthier lifestyle has transformed my life at 50, but that is only part of a far larger and more complex set of circumstances. Knowing that, I’ll never discourage anyone wanting to start the journey, but it has to be on your own terms.

Decide what you want, and then make a plan to get there in the healthiest manner for you.