Food and that

I did something unusual the other day and ordered the paperback version of a book I already have on kindle. The book is the New Year Same You book by Julie Creffield I already mentioned a little while back. I know I keep going on about it but it is such a lovely antidote to all the diet crap that we seem to be bombarded with at this time of year. I ignore most of it but I can’t escape the adverts; new diets and exercise regimes, new ‘get your dream body in 4 weeks’ type of things are everywhere. Now I am in a pretty good place regarding body image etc at the minute but that’s because I am starting 2016 2.5 stone lighter than I started 2015 and I am about to do something with this slightly wibbly wobbly body of mine that just 12 months ago seemed utterly impossible. But even with all that positivity all this diet and getting slim stuff is still getting to me. I have to make a conscious effort to remind myself that I have done pretty well and that being fitter that I ever have been is far more important than getting in a size 12. Goodness, have I ever fitted in a size 12? Doubt it.

Anyway, the book. I ordered the paperback because I suddenly realised I was thinking about it alot and I wanted to go back to it and highlight and write little notes to myself and also work on some of the tasks Julie suggests and that is all just easier with an actual book. Just having the book won’t change anything at all. Doing stuff with it and engaging with the suggestions in it might well help me get to grips with some of the things I find difficult about this new ‘running feature enabled’ version of me. I’m waiting for the paperback to come but I was looking at the chapter about food again because of all the diet crap that’s around and because I had a not so nice conversation with someone about food recently.

I was asked about my weightloss and the other person simply would not accept that I had not been completely utterly disciplined about food and that my eating habits would change dramatically post marathon. Kath had a similar conversation with someone who refused to believe that she hadn’t been on a diet of some kind. I have done Slimming World in the past and it did work for me for a bit but there was just too much there that I diagreed with fundamentally (like diet/lite drinks to name just one). Julie’s focus on understanding our relationship with food and about making conscious food choices really resonated, as did the idea of disordered eating.

So here are my thoughts on food: I eat very little processed food. I like fruit and veggies  – all of them really apart from leeks. I don’t like leeks. I eat meat, possibly too much but where it comes from is important to me – local and most definitly free range – not necessarily organic – that’s a whole other story… Food miles are evil. I love eating stuff we’ve grown but I am also lazy and not that competent in garden or kitchen. We eat out a lot (see my lazy and competence point) and there are things I could cut out to be really ‘good’ (I don’t really like being ‘good’ though – just the idea of having to be a good girl makes me want to misbehave) but I don’t want to be miserable. I like chocolate, I like a beer and with that a packet of crisps and I like a glass of prosecco here and there. I like cheese and bread and crackers and sometimes only a cup of tea and a ginger nut biscuit will do. So shoot me.

How I eat has changed with running though but it is the running that came first. I didn’t change my eating to lose weight, I changed my eating, and not by much, because I listen to what my body wants. I rarely now eat something for the sake of it – I said rarely, not never. What I want to eat has changed. I crave broccoli, I adore salmon or tuna on quinoa and grains and you can’t beat avocado on toast… I can also eat a jar of peanut butter with a spoon in one sitting.

Reading the chapter about food in Julie’s book made me think about the messages and (mis)information we get fed (pun intended obviously) every day of our lives. No wonder most people are totally confused as to what we should and shouldn’t be eating! As for food labels – don’t get me started, they can make a mars bar look healthier than a piece of fruit. Even adverts I thought were quite funny, like the maltesers adverts about being naughty, assign moral value to food; we talk about ‘being good’ with food; good people have a salad, bad people have the burger and fries… but you can be pretty sure that neither of them will actually sit and enjoy the food. We eat on the run, while doing something else, at our desks (oh that’s me!), while watching TV. Julie’s chapter made me stop and think a bit. I tend to be quite arrogant about food. A bit ‘I know what I’m doing and I am fully aware of what choices I am making…’ But am I? I suspect not. We do food plan our weeks but we tend to just plan main meals. I think we would do well to plan breakfast and snacks etc too. And in the same way that we plan what to eat we should also plan the when and where much more. Julie’s chapter made me think about how to make more time for just enjoying food and the togetherness it could bring. We could cook together, we always enjoy it and yet so rarely do it. Why?

Anyway, one of the The Fat Girl’s Guide To Running running vests says ‘don’t judge just run’ and I really do think we need to take the don’t judge theme into the food arena too. Food and eating are loaded with moral baggage and guilt and pleasure and the complex relationships we have with it and we all need to figure it out for ourselves. So don’t judge, and don’t allow yourself to be judged but do think about what you are putting into your body and why. I do, and will continue to, reach for the biscuits when I feel a bit crap but I know that’s what I am doing and I choose to do it and I no longer ‘accidentally’ eat the whole packet. That has nothing to do with self control or discipline. I am not denying myself anything. I just have what I want as long as I am really sure that I want it.

Anyway, I am sure there will be more musings on specific aspects of Julie’s book but if you’re not quite where you want to be and all the diet stuff around at the minute is getting you down – or you are thinking of going on a diet, I really do think the book might help make sense of it all.

New Year, Same You – Review

A couple of days ago I finished reading New Year, Same You by Julie Creffield and I thought it was worth reviewing/ sharing my thoughts here! Now, I don’t do self-help type books really. Years ago I picked up the ‘You are What you Eat’ crap and that just made me feel miserable and then – as some of you will remember I picked up ‘Run Fat Bitch Run’ a while back and that didn’t go too well. Actually I am still angry about the existence of that book. So why did I pick up this one? Well I joined the Too Fat to Run Countdown to Christmas challenge – essentially a Facebook Group with daily challenges that are health and fitness related and fun. I thought it would be me something productive to do with my time while off work and give me a bit of something positive to focus on. It’s been great. Julie runs it and mentioned her new book. I read the blurb and thought that just maybe this is something a bit different, something more positive, something that I can identify with a bit more – and I was right.

Right from the intro I ‘got’ this book. I ‘get’ Julie’s story and I identify with lots of it. I found myself chuckling at her stories about keeping a journal and the benefits of writing or blogging to aid self-reflection. I was nodding enthusiastically at the idea that New Year’s resolutions don’t work. Of course they don’t. It is obvious if you think about it for a second. I liked the way Julie very clearly (and for some perhaps brutally) points out that if we keep giving ourselves permission to put things off, we will keep putting them off. Now I am the queen of ‘I’ll do it tomorrow’, ‘I’ll start again Monday’ and ‘Next term will be better’ and it hasn’t done me any favours at all, the change in thinking that Julie suggests is positive and powerful – but of course anything but easy – but maybe not as hard as I think – or maybe much much harder. We’ll see.

There was one section where Julie talks about yo-yo dieting where I was thinking – nah, I’m nothing like you. I’ve never been on a diet in my life – I just don’t do diets. I can’t do them. I know I don’t stick to them. If you tell me I can’t have something I want it, simple. But thinking about it, I am of course exactly like Julie and all the other millions of us who have complicated relationships with food. I agree that simply saying ‘move more and eat less’ isn’t the answer to most of our weight issues and not being told what to eat or not to eat was refreshing. There’s a section about food in the book but it’s not a section about what to eat. It’s far more honest than any diet book I’ve ever flicked through. Anyway, the book isn’t about losing weight so I don’t want to go on about the food stuff… I liked the fact that Julie acknowledges that our relationship with food is complicated and that a relatively simple thing, like starting to think of yourself as an athlete can change how we think about what we put in our bodies. I struggle with thinking of myself as an athlete. I’m a now size 16 (yay me!), nearly 37 year old woman who – as the blog title suggests – isn’t really a runner. BUT as someone who (doesn’t really) run(s) I have noticed changes in what I crave and what I want to eat. There is still and always will be a lot of chocolate and sausages and yorkshire puddings but I am now much more aware and eating a bar of chocolate or entire packet of biscuits without really noticing hasn’t happened in a very long time.

There’s a section early in the book which made me smile – I have always told my students to follow their dreams as long as they were big dreams; to hang on to those dreams and to work towards them every single day. I haven’t always followed my own advice there but that’s another story. Anyway, Julie doesn’t believe in SMART goals which is a relief because I always thought that was management speak bollocks too. Julie believes in STUPID goals. How brilliant is that. Everyone needs a really really stupid goal in life. It has to be Silly, Talked about on Facebook etc, Unrealistic, Posted late at night/after a glass of wine or two, Idiotic and an ‘in my Dreams’ kind of a thing. Well I did that with the marathon coming up – I’m now pondering my next STUPID goal. What could possibly be more idiotic and unrealistic and therefore more exciting than me running a marathon… We’ll see.

So the book is about being happier and healthier and an important chapter in the books is about how we often feel about ourselves. Whether we really actually love ourselves and how we perpetuate the over critical examination of women’s bodies all the time. I liked this. I find the ‘OMG have you seen how much weight she’s put on…’ and the ‘we’ll she’s let herself go…’ as irritating and unhelpful as the constant ‘oh look you’re fat and therefore must be stupid, lazy, undisciplined…’ or the ‘no wonder she can’t find a boyfriend’ or ‘well if she wasn’t so fat she wouldn’t be a lesbian would she, cos she’d get a bloke’ kind of rhetoric that is everywhere. I don’t look in the mirror often. I learned long ago that my looks are not a particularly useful asset to me. My brain is. However there have been times when I have looked at photos and cringed. Just recently my perception of what I see when I look in the mirror is changing and I think it is that change that Julie is getting at. I saw my reflection in a window the other day. I was super conscious of my backside after a longish run and about 100 squats the day before and before my brain could stop itself I’d thought ‘ now that’s a fabulous arse’. Then I laughed. The book helps to focus our minds on the things we really liked about ourselves and to accept the things we don’t like.

Essentially the book is about finding balance – balance between Food/Fitness/Fun and Recovery/Rest/Relaxation – so basically balance in life. Now that sounds easy but it isn’t because what we need in all of these areas changes all the time and means that we have to keep re-evaluating and reflecting on this – which brings me back to where I started – the keeping of a journal or blogging or whatever tool it is you use to help you make sense of life and just reflect on what you need for you. Task one of about 50 in the book is to buy a notebook to use as a journal – I did and I started scribbling immediately and maybe I am a step closer to my next STUPID goal. I might not do all the tasks but I will do some.

The book won’t take you long to read but it could make a difference to the rest of your life – sounds dramatic, sounds fanciful but for this book it might just be true. Even if you are, right at this moment, the happiest you have ever ever ever been, I bet there are still changes in your life you’d like to make to ensure that happiness is something permanent in your life. Well just do it. Get away from the ‘on diet – off diet’ or ‘on exercise regime – off exercise regime’ sort of thinking and focus on you, focus on now. Think about who you want to be and then decide to be that person NOW, not tomorrow, not on the 1st January, NOW. Set your STUPID goal and then do something every day to take you closer to it. Most importantly though – make friends with yourself. You’re the only you you’ve got and you’re awesome. Read the book, it’s helping me think more positively and it just might help you too.