FitFriday, FatFriday. 6 Things About Eating Disorders.

So, in the USA and UK it’s currently National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. In the spirit of that, rather than my usual ranting about body struggles, feeling fat/thin, laziness and food, here is my experience with disordered eating and 6 thoughts about eating disorders. Unlike similar posts I’ve done, I haven’t managed to keep this post very short, so this time I would really like you to go through it well and, if you or someone you know is affected by disordered eating or a clinical eating disorder, think about how these things affect you or them.

I don’t usually do trigger warnings, but if you’re still in the early stages of recovering from an eating disorder, either give this a miss or put on a brave face and be prepared to see words relating to eating disorders. There will be no images.

My story.

Like pretty much every human in the Western world, I have often had access to too much food. Like around 9/10 of us, I have had to actively control my food intake to look after my weight and health. Like 20-35% of dieters, I went from just exercising a little bit of control over what I ate into proper disordered eating. To this day I’m not sure whether at the time I was meeting the requirements for an early stage eating disorder or just a normal teenager eating in a disordered manner under the mistaken impression it was good for me. Currently I meet the criteria for ED mentality, even if I am keeping healthy.

I have been unhealthily underweight and overweight in my life. At a couple of points I have had visible ribs even when bent over, some visible spine and heavily protruding hipbones. Likewise, at 5’4″ I have weighed around 80kg and possibly up to 90kg when I was not weighing myself.

Both these situations came about from disordered eating and a pretty shoddy perception of my own body. Most people experience slight fluctuations in our perception of the world. For some of us it’s a little more extreme. Some days I will think I look big, or tall, or broad, or short, or skinny. But at the time I started eating in a disordered manner, even when I felt I looked skinny it wasn’t enough. Not only was I not seeing things properly, when I was seeing them properly I wanted to see more. I was absolutely fascinated with bones and leanness. I somehow knew that I was a little broader than the typical Mediterranean girls I lived around, but it entranced me to see how broad and large my ribs, hips, collarbones, etc were compared to theirs.

Ultimately, the only way to push back was to ignore it. When I say I don’t know how I got fat, I seriously don’t know. I know I ate too much. But I can’t remember much of it. Just looking in the mirror one day and saying “Hey, I’m actually fat now. Not just tubby or deluded. I’m actually fat.” I made sure to keep covered up. I didn’t like the way I looked but I didn’t want to undereat again.

I did eventually get my weight and health under control, but I do still deal with distortions close to BDD, confusion about my actual appearance some days and the odd cycle of wanting to overeat, to starve or to purge. Just because I resist these thoughts and drives doesn’t mean they’re not there. It just means I don’t really need help any more.

So, with that said, here are 6 things about eating disorders and disordered eating that you might not be aware of.

1: There’s An Eating Disorder, Then There’s Disordered Eating.

Eating disorders and disordered eating are two separate things, though often disordered eating will become an eating disorder and most people with eating disorders eat in a disordered manner. If that makes any sense.

Disordered eating is probably the norm in the West. Pathological dieting, overeating, binge eating, comfort eating… These are all disordered from the natural state. Sure, overeating one day and fasting the next is natural to your body and natural in the wild. And eating when you’re hungry and not eating when you’re full is also natural. But when we live in a state of permanent abundance with all sorts of unnatural foods around us, very few will eat naturally.

An eating disorder is something different. There’s an element of compulsion, of a mental state to it. At the extreme end, it can take five or six healthy nurses to force-feed a 40kg teenage girl because she’s that afraid of food. At the mild end you see people eating kilos of leafy salad to keep full, or rewarding themselves with candy and food. The line between a habit and pathology is very fine and we don’t really have much of an idea what a healthy human eats like because we aren’t living in a natural state. Giving in and eating what we want isn’t natural any more. Even trying to copy the diets of healthy hunter-gatherers can become pathological.

2: There Isn’t A Reason.

Everyone has their own reason. Some people get depressed and forget to eat, leading to a habit that becomes impossible to break. Some people fast to be thin. Some people binge eat to be huge. Some people binge and purge because they love food and love being thin. Some people don’t realize what size they are. Some people think they’re being healthy.

Mentally, there is no one reason for being a certain weight or for having an eating disorder. Not everyone is a delusional teen brainwashed by the media into seeing themselves as 400lbs when they look in the mirror.

3: It’s As Much Habit As Desire.

A desire to recover is the first step, but never enough.

Often, an eating disorder born of self-punishment, fear, mental health issues or confusion can persist even after the root cause is gone. The reason for this is, as far as I’ve experienced and seen, twofold.

Firstly, habits that form are very hard to break. When you eat something that makes you sick, next time you smell it you may feel sick. Likewise, someone who associates eating with purging may automatically feel the urge to purge or even do so when they eat. Someone who has got in the habit of turning down food may feel awkward accepting meals, or even forget to. Someone used to binging may not think twice at a buffet until they see the five plates in front of them. Even when you’re not thinking about it, your habits can creep back in.

Secondly, giving in or not giving in to the habits can cause a mental relapse. It can depend on the person, the day, anything. One moment you’re having dinner at your parents, the next you feel a bit sick and thoughts of inadequacy start rushing back. Or you’re just eating a little less to lose your Winter pouch and your depression kicks in hard.

So not everyone with an eating disorder wants to have it or is currently battling every aspect of it. Someone may want to recover and just be trying to get out of the habit of having an eating disorder.

4: BDD Is Probably More Common Than You Think.

Again, when most people picture BDD they tend to think of the skin-and-bones teenage girl looking in the mirror and seeing a 400lb version of herself. In reality, it’s more subtle and less specific than that.

The two sides to BDD are:

1: Excessive worry or shame about your appearance despite being seen as normal by others and

2: excessive preoccupation with improving your appearance, hiding your flaws and trying to look “as you should”.

So, obviously someone who is very underweight or overweight, disfigured or similar, whilst suffering poor confidence about their state isn’t healthy, wouldn’t qualify as having BDD. But these same people becoming obsessed with a trivial mark on their skin, or a particular piece of their fat or bones? Or someone who at a healthy weight thinks her arms look too fat, even though nobody else can see it? Or someone who is convinced they’d look better at a certain weight, maybe a weight they’ve never been at before? These people are likely to have BDD.

It more often manifests as obsession with little details about yourself rather than all round loathing your body. It’s more a visual distortion than schizophrenia. A sufferer isn’t looking in the mirror and thinking they’re 400lbs. More likely, they’re looking in the mirror and choosing to look at that tiny pocket of fat on their thigh than at their visible ribs. The ribs are fine. Or too thin, even. But they want to keep losing weight until that tiny bit of fat is gone.

Again, everyone’s experience will differ. But I’m sure how you can see that BDD is not actually as extreme or, probably, as uncommon as many people would like it to be.

5: Everyone Needs Help.

Here’s my bit of tough love. Ignore all the nonsense about skinny shaming or fat shaming. If someone is all skin and bones and scared of food, they need help. If someone eats 2000kcal a meal and then rushes to be sick, or exercise, or fast, or take a laxative to “compensate”, they need help. If someone is 400lbs with a goal weight of 800lbs, they need help. If someone is convinced they eat enough and are bony and malnourished, they need help. If someone is convinced they don’t eat and morbidly obese, they need help. If someone lives off lettuce and spinach thinking it’s a recipe for longevity, they need help.

You can’t recover from an eating disorder without realizing you have one. And sometimes, often in fact, people will not know. It isn’t kind to let someone starve or eat themselves to death because you don’t want to offend them. It’s cruel. I’m not saying you should approach anyone who’s over or underweight and tell them. Just that if you have a friend or relative who is eating in a disordered manner, obviously not healthy and not dealing with their size or diet, they are suffering. And they don’t need to be ignored or left to sort it out. They need a friendly nudge or twenty in the right direction.

6: Good Diet Education Helps.

Now, you can’t exactly play the part of diet counselor, therapist or nutritionist in anyone’s life. But being well educated about diet, health, energy, fitness, etc can help you and anyone around you. Firstly because you will understand whether someone’s habits are actually problematic or whether you’re making a rash judgement.

Secondly, because people with eating disorders often seek a sense of control and stability. That stability isn’t found in a disordered eating habit, but in actually understanding your body. How many calories it really needs, what sorts of foods make you energized and happy, what sort of foods make you lethargic, etc. Learning about healthy diet was something that helped me regain control over my eating and start eating to properly feed my body, rather than as a reward, for the sake of it or as a punishment.

And I haven’t any more of vital importance to say.

I’m happy to answer any questions or hear about your experiences in the comments.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

How To… declutter a room.

If you’re a housekeeper, you are familiar with clutter in a way that bachelors or kept people rarely are. That slow, creeping mess of things. You can’t remember who they belong to, who brought them in, why they are there, but there they are. Glasses on the bookshelf, a pile of papers on the table, an abandoned mug or a toy in the middle of the floor.

Generally you keep on top of it. Just put the glasses somewhere sensible, ask the paper-owner to sort the papers, put the mug in the sink or dishwasher and return the toy to the toybox or child’s bedroom. But sometimes rooms get out of hand. Very, very out of hand. Like an episode of Hoarders in the making. Usually this is an office, a spare room, a child’s bedroom or a shed, but sometimes it can happen to kitchens, living rooms, bathrooms and master bedrooms as well. No space is safe from clutter explosions.

So, when you next walk into a room that looks like it was hit by a hurricane, here’s what to do to straighten it out and try and prevent this happening again.

1: Clear a floor or furniture surface.

Just throw everything to one side, if you must. Give yourself an open space to work with.

2: Arrange clutter into piles.

One for books, one for laundry, one for toys, one for kitchen stuff…

3: Work by sections.

Once you have sorted a certain cluttered area, take everything and put it where it belongs. Then move onto the next area until the room is tidy.

4: Find a collection.

Basically, if there are many books, clothes, toys, CDs or anything in one corner, that’s a collection. It may not be intentional, but there are probably a lot more things to get rid of from collections than anywhere else.

5: Work through one collection at a time.

Don’t overburden yourself. Pick a collection or a piece of furniture and take everything off it.

6: Sort everything.

Create three piles: things to return to the furniture, things to donate and things to throw away. Don’t put anything aside for storage, that’s just more clutter. When you have finished, clean the furniture and the items you’re keeping before returning them.

7: Organize everything.

When you’re returning the items you’ll keep, think of how they will be best used and how they’ll look best. You want everything to look nice, but also to stay tidy. The things that will be used more often should be in easy reach, where the things you use rarely can be hidden.

8: Rearrange.

If everything doesn’t fit, go through and remove things. Assume you have to throw something away, what would it be? Take those things out and put them to one side. Maybe you can keep them, or maybe you will decide you don’t need them after all.

9: Move to the next collection.

Go around the room, working through each collection. Finally you should have a large pile for donations, a small pile of rubbish and a small pile of things you’re yet to make your mind up about.

10: Finish the room.

Whatever you have in your undecided pile, try and find a place for it. If you can’t, choose some items to donate and some to keep. Put the ones you’ll keep in a storage box.

You can also get a basket or item or furniture to keep them on or in, if you really want to use them.

Finally you’ll be left with a tidy room that is easy to use and unlikely to become a mess in the next two hours. Enjoy the tidiness until someone leaves a plate in the middle of the room for no apparent reason.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

Did you find this how-to useful? How do you go about decluttering your house? What are the biggest sources of clutter? How do you prevent mess?

WWW. Lentil Chicken and Protein Cookies.

This week’s recipes are lentil chicken and some protein cookies.

I made the lentil chicken firstly to test whether I can digest red lentils efficiently and secondly because both of us are eating lower carb meals and more stir-fries at the moment, so rice was out of the question and plain veg was getting a little dull. Lentils are a good middle ground.

I made the protein cookies because Jon’s been having a few sugary snacks on the job and he wanted to replace them with something more wholesome.

Lentil Chicken Stir-Fry.

stir fry

Actually made in a wok, though not essential.

wok

Ingredients:

-1 cup dried lentils

-1.5kg assorted veg (cabbage, carrots, onions, bean sprouts in any combination)

-the meat from 1/2 a chicken

-spring onions, some cucumber and sweet peppers for garnish

-1/2 a habanero chili

-2tbsp salt

-1tbsp pepper

-2tbsp onion powder

-olive oil

Utensils:

-chopping board and knife

-a large (1l) jar or pot

-a large wok or frying pan

Lentil prep:

1: Rinse in boiling water.

2: Soak in th jar for 24h.

Recipe:

1: Chop the chicken and all vegetables besides the spring onion and sweet pepper.

2: Coat the base of the wok with olive oil. Add the vegetables, chicken and lentils.

3: Sear the mix at a high temperature. Keep stirring.

4: Turn the temperature down and add the seasonings.

5: Cook until all combined.

6: Serve with diced sweet pepper, cucumber and spring onion.

Protein Cookies.

Ingredients:

-4 small bananas

-1 heaped tbsp peanut butter

-1 heaped tbsp almond butter

-2 eggs

-1.5 cups oats

Utensils:

-mixing bowl and fork

-greased or nonstick baking tray

Recipe:

1: Mash the bananas and eggs together.

2: Slowly combine the nut butters.

3: Once smooth, add the oats.

4: Pour out onto the tray as a single lump or as separate cookie pieces.

5: Bake at 150C for 20min.

10 No-Brainer Ways to Lose Weight

Everyone could do with a little diet advice now and then. As of writing this, I have gained a few kgs of fat due to stress and tiredness, well more due to the overeating that follows. And, being someone who is generally quite in tune with her body, when this is scheduled to publish in a couple of weeks, I should have lost them already.

But how do I do it? Well, a huge part of it is years of experience with diets, of reading and applying advice, of getting to know my body. But another part of it is that along the way I picked up some “cheat codes”. Now, before you go crazy, these are not effortless. You will feel hungry or tired, they will take time and you will not instantly drop from 100 to 45 kilos. But they are also very simple things you can do, without spending much or any money, wasting your time or overthinking, to help yourself lose weight. There are many reasons to choose a simple weightloss option over a complicated one. Each of these “cheats” is:

-Cheaper than pills, a specialist diet or a dietician.

-Safer than a crazy fad or supplement.

-Flexible enough for you to go slow and steady or weightloss crazy.

-Easy enough for you to track your progress and stop when you’re comfortable.

-Simple enough that you can just apply it and not worry about calculating points or weighing stuff.

-Useful enough that you can use it alongside another plan.

Basically, this advice could save you a lot of time and effort and money. And the worst that can happen is that you stay the same.

1. Eat less of exactly the same.

A new spin on an old favourite. Calorie counting certainly works, but it can also be a lot of bother. Especially if you just want to pick up a banana or have a biscuit at a friend’s house and out comes the calculator.

The other, darker side to it is the excuses. When you insist the banana was small, so it must have had around half the calories. Or that you walked a lot, so that must be enough calories for a treat.

Eating less is basically the same thing: cutting your calories. Except a little easier. You just eat whatever you would eat anyway, but less. No “cheat days”, no exceptions, no “treat myself”.

If your weight has been stable you may only want to cut back a little bit to lose weight. Basically, instead of two sandwiches for lunch, have one and a piece of fruit, or put about 2/3 the filing in.

If your weight is increasing, cut the food back to half and see what happens. Instead of two sandwiches for lunch, have one.

If you’re not losing weight or not losing it fast enough, make your portions smaller again until you find you are losing weight. If you are losing weight, but too quickly, add in something calorific as a snack. Maybe add a banana or a biscuit or something, just to slow the weightloss.

But, simply put, eat exactly what you were going to eat, just eat less. Eventually you’ll be eating little enough to lose weight.

2. Do heavy lifting.

Another way to lose weight is to gain muscle. Not just tone or strength: actual mass.

Your body burns energy just to stay alive. And muscle burns a lot more energy than fat, bone, skin or most other tissues. So the more muscle you have, the more energy you use up.

You only need to lift very heavy twice a week or so or do HIIT daily to start gaining muscle. If you aren’t gaining muscle, then lift something heavier. The idea is to lift something your body can only just manage, to encourage it to grow more muscle.

And remember to bias your diet towards proteins, but generally don’t increase your calories. If you just start growing muscle and keep your diet the same, your body will start working on the excess you’re already eating and the excess you’re wearing.

3. Keep active.

The other side of the coin to muscle gain is to just keep moving. We are far too sedentary nowadays. In our past we wouldn’t just sit around and then go running or lifting for the sake of it. We’d either have huge bursts of intense activity as we went hunting or ran from a predator or we’d be continually very slightly active as we built houses, made clothes, gathered fruit or dug trenches.

So, if you’re not going to imitate the hunters, try and imitate the gatherers. Make a point of getting up, walking around and doing bodyweight exercise and yoga whenever you can. Doing a phonecall? Walk around as you do it. Getting up and got five minutes? Do some pushups and situps. Collecting some shopping? Walk it. Changing after work? Do some yoga. Going on a family picnic? Run around with the children and pets.

Just do anything to be on your feet 90% of the time you can realistically be on your feet.

4. Eliminate junk food.

Trust me, it’s a lot easier when you try it. There are many reasons to cut out junk food for weightloss. Let’s look at the three big ones.

Firstly is that it isn’t really all that satisfying, calorie for calorie. A burger may have 500 calories, but you can eat it and still want another 500 calories in the form of medium chips and a medium drink. You may even want a pudding afterwards, or a snack before three hours have passed. So you broke into 1000 calories (which may be your daily limit, if that’s where you start to lose weight!) and you’re still hungry, basically. Compare that to a plain vegetable salad which you can have a kilo of for around 200 calories. To boot, it will keep you full for longer as it’s slow digesting and if you’re hungry two hours later, you still have plenty of room for more eating. I’m not saying you should live on leafy salads. What I am saying is that is it worth it to eat half to all your daily calorie requirement in one meal if you’re just going to be hungry in an hour?

Secondly junk food is often fast release energy. This contributes to problem one, but it also causes a problem of its own. Fast release sugars cause insulin spikes and drops. This insulin helps your body store fat, which means you’re actually eating something that is encouraging your body to store it. Not good.

Finally, junk food is very cheap for calories. A surefire way of reducing your dietary intake is buying something that is expensive for the calories. Junk food can give you 500 calories for £2. If you stick to your current budget but only buy things that cost, for example, £5 for 500 calories, you will be eating less. Spend more on low calorie things and you will have to eat fewer calories. Cruel, but sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind.

5. Reset your sugar.

As mentioned above, insulin spikes can encourage your body to store fat. Basically, insulin is the little guy running around pushing energy places. If you’re working out, insulin sees that the energy is needed and pushes it to the muscles. If you’re not, insulin sees the energy isn’t being used and puts it into your fat cells.

If your insulin is too high, it will tell you to store energy too quickly. When this happens your blood sugar drops too low, making you feel hungry again, because all your energy has been stored away. If your insulin doesn’t drop again, your body can find it hard to burn that stored energy. So this creates a cycle of hunger, insulin spikes, stored energy and more hunger, which obviously can lead to weight gain.

Therefore, having some control over your insulin can help you avoid those intense hunger pangs you feel when dieting and encourage your body to keep its blood sugar even and use its fat reserves for fuel.

The simplest way to reset your sugar is by using the Glycemic Index. You don’t need to learn the GI of all foods, these three tricks are all you need.

One is avoiding sweet tasting foods. As a general rule, the sweeter it tastes, the more simple sugars. Simple sugars cause the highest insulin spikes.

Two is combining carby foods like pasta, potatoes or apples with fatty or proteiny foods, like nuts, eggs or meat. This should make the sugar release much slower.

Three is not eating frequently. Every time you eat your blood sugar goes up. Every time your blood sugar goes up, your insulin goes up. Eating infrequently and avoiding snacks will give you better appetite control.

6. Choose carbs or fats.

Following the same vein of the last two “cheats”, you can do an either-or diet as well.

Basically, there are two components to the difficulty of losing weight. Your hunger and the calorie density of your food. Therefore, addressing one can often help you.

As explained in the section on controlling your sugar, if you keep blood sugar spikes low and infrequent, you can address your hunger. However, if you want to make this a major component of weight loss, you should combine very low carb with moderate to high fat. Low carbs means smaller, less frequent insulin spikes, which means you’re less likely to quickly store the fat you’re eating. Also, not only does lower insulin mean less hunger, but the slow digestion of fat can also contribute to satiety.

On the flip side, you can also try eating high carb and very low fat. This is best for those who can eat a lot of fat easily. Basically you’re letting your blood sugar spike, but instead of eating something fatty and dense in calories, you’re eating carbs, which have fewer calories to the gram.

Whether you choose high fat and low carb or high carb and low fat, try and avoid overt sources of the one you’re not eating much of and continue to avoid snacking for best results.

7. Eat more fibrous plants.

And while we’re talking about satiety, let’s have a look at the easiest way to feel full and satisfied without eating many calories.

As mentioned in the fast food section, a kilo of leafy salad without dressing is only around 200 calories. But it’s still a kilo of food sitting in your stomach, then in your intestine, slowly releasing that energy. With a little mustard-honey-vinegar dressing, it would taste amazing and still be very low in calories.

Roasted low calorie plants like courgettes or carrots and vegetable soups and stews are also good ways to feel fuller for longer. You could always eliminate all fatty or carby side dishes in favour of greens, make two of your daily meals all vegetables or do as I do and keep a plain salad in the fridge to use for meals or snacks. When I have the salad, I won’t snack on anything else and at least one daily meal will be salad. You need to make vegetables easy.

An added benefit of fibrous vegetables is that they feed your gut bacteria. It has been found that a fecal transplant from an obese person into a thin one can promote weight gain, so resetting your gut bacteria by feeding them lots of veggies could help you avoid gaining weight too easily.

8. Kill water retention.

A big reason for minor weight gain is actually fluid retention, not fat. Think about it logically. If you eat 3kg of food and water over a day and after, erm, eliminating the excess the next morning, you’re 5kg heavier, then that isn’t going to be fat. For starters, few foods are all used up by your body, so some waste will have come out. Second you used some of those calories just by existing. Third, nothing will make you gain 2kg of air. The only possible answer, if you weighed your food properly, is that the weight has come from something else you put in: water.

But it’s not like you can just not drink as much water. That’s not really healthy. But neither is inflating yourself full of water your body isn’t using. So what can we do to reduce water retention?

Two things in your diet make you hold onto more water than you need. One is sugar and the other is salt. Without consuming too much sugar or too much salt, drinking excess water would just result in eliminating excess water. So if you find you put on water weight suddenly and easily, you’re probably overdoing one or the other, if not both.

You can also try and get more sleep, take cold showers and reduce stress, all of which would encourage your body to drop retained water.

9. Eat more protein.

This is more if you have an absolutely crazy appetite. Protein is your best friend. It will trigger a hormonal response that makes you feel full, it has as few calories per gram as carbs and it won’t spike your insulin like carbs do. Thanks to all this, it takes fewer calories of protein to feel full and you’re more likely to actually use them than to store them.

Protein is also a building block for your body, so if you’re active protein calories could end up as muscle rather than being stored or wasted. Protein can also be harder for your body to store. If you need energy desperately, your body will turn protein to ketones. But if you need energy you are unlikely to store anything. Protein is hard for your body to store because it can’t just turn protein to fat or put proteins into your fat cells. Often an excess of protein will be eliminated through your urine rather than stored.

10. Fast.

Saving the best for last, there are countless reasons to fast when you’re on a diet.

Firstly, as noted on insulin, keeping your blood sugar low and steady can sometimes make you feel less hungry than eating a big meal does.

Secondly, the longer you go without food, the more your body shuts down your digestive system and starts burning fat. Once this switch has happened, you can go longer without feeling hungry.

Thirdly, the break your digestive system gets will help it reset, just not quite in the same way that eating greens does.

Fourthly, as long as you eat moderately after a fast, a meal missed is calories missed.

Fifthly, focusing on drinking water and avoiding food will allow you to lose a lot of water weight.

Sixthly, once your appetite has been reset from fasting, you could find yourself craving vitamin and mineral rich foods instead of highly calorific ones.

Seventhly, it’s natural to go without eating for a while. All animals do it all the time.

Eighthly, the longer your stomach is empty, the more of your body fat you burn.

I could keep going, but I’m sure you get the general idea.

So that’s my ten “cheats” to help you lose weight without worrying about going on a specific diet, counting calories or taking supplements. You could try them alongside your diet, on their own or all together, if you like.

TTFN and Happy Hunting.

How about you? How do you manage your weight? Does your diet interfere with other aspects of your life? Is it easy, cheap and simple? Are there any other basic diet tips you would give to someone trying to lose weight? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

The Importance of Sacrifice.

Lent started last Wednesday. Which means that for Christians a time of self-deprivation and religious reflection has barely begun. Pretty much every religion has a tradition of enforcing humility, fasting and the giving up of your leisures, to surrender your earthly possessions, your greed and your desire where they are affecting your spiritual growth.

But the purpose of such tradition can be lost on most of us. We’re pampered, coddled souls in a world that offers us nearly everything we demand. Not only that, but we’re sheltered from the sufferings of others and we hide from things that our ancestors and relatives in distant lands witness daily. We haven’t really known scarcity. We haven’t really known poverty. We haven’t really known death, disaster, loneliness. Even when you’ve gone a day without food, you’re moments away from a bite, a bit of kindness away from sustenance. The idea of going a week without food and with none anywhere in sight is gone. We don’t know true hunger or true deprivation. We just know mild forms of suffering, catch glimpses of it through a screen or over a sanitary barrier.

And as such we desperately need sacrifice. We can’t actually experience the mental state of scarcity this way. After all, you can easily just go and buy a chocolate bar during Lent or get yourself a flashy red car as a Buddhist. Nothing stops you. But at least it will help us reflect on how much we have and how little we need.

Because we really are overwhelmed. We’re obese, abusing medications, developing alcoholism and drug addiction, not managing to sustain relationships, giving children vaccines for STDs, shopping our way into debt, partying all night with our 500 facebook “friends” and still somehow bored, lonely and sad. But it isn’t, as some people assume, despite the abundance and freedom we have. It’s because of it. There is too much of everything, it comes too easily and it’s killing us. Like many animals, humans are meant to jump at every chance to eat, rest, have fun, reproduce and socialize. But we’re surrounded by these chances and we’re indulging them too much. These necessary acts we used to perform to keep us alive have become abundant indulgences that make us ill.

Not only have they become indulgences. Because we have almost no upper limit for these acts, they have also become booming industries, with vast numbers of brands and products competing for our attention and wealth. So we’re not just surrounded by food, drugs, media, shops, sex and events. We’re also surrounded by constant reminders of them, a constant pressure to consume.

So eventually, in our own little way, we cave in. We eat too much, take drugs (in one form or another), enjoy casual sexual stimulation, overspend and generally obey the media around us, wondering why we’re still not happy.

And we’re not happy because too much is never enough. I used to be obese. Between that and the preceding eating disorder, I have actually lost my appetite signals, have an overly flexible stomach and can eat almost continuously. When I was obese, however much I ate wasn’t ever enough. I needed more and, even as I was getting fatter, congratulated myself on my restraint. Even after losing weight, that feeling of permanent hunger was so hard to fight that I would indulge, guiltily nibbling at unhealthy foods to kill the cravings. But then I tried fasting. It was as part of a Paleo style diet and I figured that if my ancestors managed to fast for a day once in a while, so could I. The first twelve hours were tough. I was sure that the next day I would be famished. But I wasn’t. The following day I ate moderately and cleanly, not craving junk foods and not wanting massive portions. I felt genuinely satisfied on what would have previously been seen as “too little”. And, for the first time in years, I felt full. Too much was never enough, but sacrifice was plenty.

Likewise for everything. Living on a lower income than you actually have is more rewarding and enjoyable than keeping up with the Joneses. Drinking only on special events improves the taste and enjoyment of the alcohol and helps you drink less, sometimes you’ll even turn down a drink even when you’re “allowed” one. Working your way through lethargy leaves you feeling more rewarded and at ease by nightfall than sleeping or resting until noon does. Spending time in your own company leads you to better appreciate whose company is good and whose is bad. Too much is not enough, sacrifice is plenty.

So give up something, anything, everything. Maybe for Lent, maybe for a day, maybe for a year or forever. Reflect on the abundance around you, on the pleasure of indulging in a controlled manner, on the joy of prohibition and the freedom of sacrifice. Your body, mind and soul will thank you.

TTFN and Happy Hunting!

A Spring Cleaning Ditty.

These are the chores that are never complete: that have never been done since we began-

Iron the clothes, and wash all the plates, and clean every window, and empty the trash can.

At least it feels like it, doesn’t it? Anyway, something light-hearted to hum whilst we work!

Original by Rudyard Kipling.

TTFN and Happy Dusting!

recite-pf8diz

FitFriday XIX and FatFriday VI.

Fit.

Losing the weight. Balancing my diet when I have very little time to exercise is getting hard. But at least I’m not hungry or bored, so I must be doing OK.

Keeping very low carb and prioritizing greens, so I can be around 2-3kg heavier at the end of the day than at the beginning. Which is confusing, but at least my morning weight is on a steady descent.

Workouts more regular, but nowhere near as long or as regular as I’d like. When weightloss is steady at 1500kcal/day and under, I’m definitely underexercising.

Fat.

Not really indulging much. Had a bit of chocolate for a carb refeed, but I wasn’t feeling it so I didn’t actually enjoy it that much. The tastiest food at the moment in my crazy variety of cheeses (cambozola, cheddar, Edam, mascarpone, brie, Camembert  and some crumbly sour cheese), so, considering my lactose issues, I’m being careful but loving them.

Cola has been kicked and the naughtiest thing I’m eating is a stir-fry with greasy pork, bacon and mascarpone in the sauce. It’s inkeeping with the diet, but a real calorie-bomb so I’m going to bulk it with more veggies soon.

Next week I will get more workouts in, drink less coffee (hopefully), continue to eat lots of greens and limit carbs and see where I go from there.

Then again, maybe I’m just being harsh on myself at the moment. Better safe than sorry, I guess.

How did your week go, fitness-wise? What have you been eating that’s healthy, naughty and/or delicious? Have you been hitting all your workouts? Meeting your goals? Lets chat in the comments! 🙂

TTFN and Happy Hunting.