On how hard it is to lose weight

Losing weight is hard. Does this sound obvious to you? Because it doesn’t to me. To me, all I see are success stories of people who can lose 5, 10, 15, 30 pounds at what seems to be the blink of the eye.

We cheer on others for being able to shed pounds, and that’s great!  But is it me, or is the “hard work” part not emphasized enough? ‘Cause, you know… I like to know what I’m getting myself into. But I’m a cynic and most people (myself included) need positive reinforcements. If we feel it can’t be done, why bother? I guess this is why the internet is full of success stories. No one wants to hear how you failed. No one wants to hear that you ate that chocolate bar when you should have been hitting the gym. That is not the stuff of dreams. But I’m here to tell you that failure DOES happen. Repeatedly. I often reach for the chocolate bar (actually, it’s more of a wine glass, but you get me). Two steps forward, one step back. And I’m not writing this in the hope of having people “cheer me on”. Whilst I recognise it is a sweet gesture, my (very small) inner cynic takes a step back and says ‘ick’. I’m more interested in pointing out the reasons it is difficult, and what obstacles need to be overcome to get there.  Seriously, I cannot be the only one struggling, and as I think of some of these, I get angry. Very angry. You might pick up on this.

This is not a criticism or a commentary on healthy body image. I’m not saying people SHOULD be losing weight, I am merely pointing out that for those of us that WANT to in a healthy, consistent way, possibly with the help of a nutritionist, it is TOUGH.

#1 – Lack of self awareness: *holds hand up* I am a self-confessed advocate of self-awareness. I try to keep abreast of my actions, and notice what I’m doing. (And what others are doing. Not proud of this. More on it later.) Sometimes for change to happen, you need to look into the past. The key question here is: why have you put on weight? This is followed by other, more action-oriented questions: Why have you kept it on? What has prevented you from achieving your goal? What are you going to do about it? For some, the answer is easy: I‘ve had children, and I”m struggling to lose the baby weight. I have a thyroid problem. I’m too busy at work, and need to be at my desk all day. For me, I’ve been trying to lose weight for years. Not that I’ve been humongous, but I’ve never been slender either. I’d like to see what that feels like. This is the first year that I’ve acknowledged that I am an emotional eater. And I have been in therapy for years. Seriously. It took me four years to notice. I’ve also noticed what makes me put on weight – boredom. When I am dissatisfied with my life and not stimulated, I end up sitting on my ass unable to find motivation. Sitting on your ass and loving food do not a happy weight loss plan make. And what makes me struggle to lose it? Lack of discipline. Which I will elaborate on below. Bottom line: Know thyself, and you will be able to act.

#2 – Not knowing your limitations: I had already put on weight when I decided to quit smoking on October 30th, 2013. I thought to myself: “You know what? You’ve already put on weight. If you’re going to start leading a more healthly lifestyle, you may as well quit smoking now so that you don’t balloon up again once you lose the weight. And you know what else? Your lungs are going to get stronger. MUCH stronger. SUPER strong. I bet you’ll be running! A marathon! Next year!” Um, right. As if. If I run on the treadmill for two minutes continuously, I think that is worthy of fanfare. And I’ve been working out properly (with cardio and weights and shit) for two months. It’s taking AGES for my lungs to improve. But they ARE improving. So my limitation isn’t really that I was once a smoker that couldn’t run. My limitation is that I have VERY LITTLE PATIENCE. I”m shocked it’s taken me this long to see an improvement. I”m glad I’m seeing it because at one point, I felt disheartened, like I have many times in the past, and ready to throw in the towel. I feel as though the weight should just FALL off, and my concept of space and time would become abstract and I would be at the Berlin marathon finish line tomorrow (I don’t know why Berlin). But alas, I see that that is not going to happen, at least not anytime soon. Losing weight isn’t a sprint. It’s a marathon. How ironic.

#3 – Lack of food awareness: So. Yesterday my mind was blown. Look at this photo. What do you see?

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At a quick glance, you see bliss, curves, indulgence, chocolate, raspberries, some statistics, and 3% fat. Now if you are trying to keep fat content low, a good rule of thumb is: fat% + sugar% < 10%. Another quick look, and you think oh, 9% sugars, hmm that’s high I guess, because with the 3% fat that adds up to 12% of bad stuff, but if I’m only 2% off my 10% limit, that’s not too bad right? Let’s munch one of these bad boys and get healthy!

Now take a closer look:

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Do you see it? Underneath the statistics?  Look closely. It doesn’t say this snack has 3% fat per serving. It says it has 3% fat of an adult’s guidline daily amount. *sound of mind exploding* So if it says 2g is 3% of an adult’s daily amount, than what we really learn by reading this label is that an adult’s daily guideline amount of fat should be 67g. Fan-fucking-tastic.

The ACTUAL fat content can be seen on the side bar.

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Total fat is 14%!* Add to that the carbs which sugars… which of course is not given out as a percentage so you need to work it out ([40/77 *100 = 52%] pro-rata to 27% = 14% out of 100g) and you’ve got 28% of crap that you’re adding to your diet for no good reason. My nutritionist pointed this out to me to show me how disillusioned I am about what I eat and what I consider healthy. Had you asked me about this one week ago, I would have taken pride in knowing how to understand sugar content courtesy of Sarah Wilson, who also advocates reading labels and warns about the perils of eating sugar, but I would have totally disregarded fat. I have officially been schooled. If you want to debunk some more food myths, check this out. The point is, what we think we know about food has been carefully constructed by marketing experts. And if knowledge is power, surely it can be channeled towards healthier eating habits. A girl can hope.

#4 – Being over 30: I didn’t actually know this, but Google kindly informed me that our body fat increases by 30% incrementally after the age of 30.

#5 – Lack of focus: What did I do with my – oh look at that puppy! Distractions are becoming increasingly prominent in this technologically evolved world of ours, and it’s not suprising. However, did you know our willpower is limited? This means you can only achieve one goal at a time (MAXIMUM: two), without depleting your willpower completely. I have very little willpower because now that I’m having a career break, my ONLY goal is to have a healthy lifestyle, which means eating better and exercising. And it is trying, let me tell you. The minute I decide to start writing, or start meditating, or get distracted/start setting ANY OTHER GOAL, something gives. I start nail-biting. Or eating. And I cannot concentrate or prioritise on what is most important to me at this moment: losing weight. I have NO IDEA how women with children, or people with jobs, or both, every lose any weight. They deserve $millions in prizes for their amazing amazing accomplishment.

#6 – Lack of time: Going back to the kids thing. Lady, you don’t have time to be concerned about this, unless you can afford to get round-the-clock help, and even then, bloody hell it is tough. Be kind to yourself, and be patient.  The right opportunity will present itself. And to people that are glued to their desk jobs, it’s ok. Sometimes work has a higher value than your health. This happened to me. I needed to quit my job to have the time to really focus on my lifestyle. I realize I’m in a privileged position, but my point is don’t let your priority for work last forever, especially if you need to make lifestyle changes.

#7 – Stress: My philosophy is that everyone needs a vice. Mine is drinking (it used to also be smoking). And, like many others, sometimes I will have a drink to kill the pain. But drinking and overeating become a massive problem when that is the only outlet you have for your stress. Learning to manage your stress is very important. Everything in moderation, even moreso when you are trying to lose weight. Also, did you know when you are stressed, fat gathers round your belly? Research has shown that there is a strong connection between the gut and our moods.

#8  – Lack of support: I can’t believe how much I have to defend my choice to eat more healthily. Yes, defend. I have people around me who I feel are trying to sabotage my every move. They’re the ones who say “you don’t need to lose weight, you are just fine the way you are, as long as you eat healthily“** Really? I had no idea. Thanks alot. Meanwhile they are pushing food around on their plates and struggling with their own body issues. Or they say they don’t “trust” your diet because it is too extreme and how dare you have a mid-afternoon snack of 8 almonds, is your nutritionist trying to kill you? Just continue eating healthily** and you’ll be fine. Oh… healthily, you say? You mean I should trust you to dictate what I eat because you see my actual choices and changes in eating habits as a direct THREAT to your very life over the recommendations of a trusted, qualified professional? Is THAT what you are saying? Rage. It is exhausting to have to defend myself everytime I eat. I know no man is an island, and I have to recognise that their feeling threatened has actually very little do with me. At the same time, it doesn’t help, so I have to keep a distance. Which wreaks havoc on my social life, and it means that I can’t go out as much as I used to.

#9 – Too much support: I’m sensitive, ok? You don’t need to go on and on regarding what a great choice I’ve made to lose weight, and that I look SO much better now than I did before, and that I will look really so much better soon, hopefully. First of all, fuck you. I’m going to eat something and gain weight just to piss you off (yes, psychoanalysts would have a field day with this reaction, but my anger is real). Second, lay the fuck off. This is my body. It is how I exist in the world. And, whether you like it or not, it deserves respect and love. I”m not sure everyone sees this as an obstacle to weight loss, maybe its my own personal configuration that finds rage in too much support.

#10 – Magazines: this is my kryptonite, because I love love love fashion, and I love feeling stylish and looking good. Unfortunately, the things I like aren’t suited for my body shape at the moment, which is disappointing, and hurts my wallet. Why? Because to “fill the void” of the thing I actually want, an Alexander Wang skirt that only goes up to a size 8, I end up buying other stuff in the hopes that they transform my body.*** Maybe this is a personality flaw – I don’t think I’ll stop shopping if I lose weight, quite the opposite. But I do think I will be looking for “fillers” less. (ironically, this same rationale applies to snacks. For example, when I want chocolate, in order to avoid eating it, I find one of those graphs that state ‘substitute x [chocolate] with y [nuts]‘, so I end up having a ton of nuts, which lack the sweetness of chocolate, so I add fruit and honey, which lack the X-factor of chocolate, so I end up eating chocolate AS WELL. Catch-22. Do you see how the calories add up? I would have been better off just eating the damn chocolate!)

#11 – Love of food: I am definitely a foodie. I equate loving food to loving life. I want to taste everything. Alot. I think the cure to this is not to change what I eat, but how I eat. Mindfulness helps slow the process down and can even increase the pleasure, but when you love food and you’re in a new restaurant and you wnat to try everything, oh, and you’re hungry, well, one thing leads to another and you end up polishing off that plate of sweet potato and prosciutto ravioli in gorgonzola sauce, in addition to the huge ball of mozzarella you had before and the breadsticks and the bottle of wine you’ve shared with your friend. Eating slowly is so difficult, but I want to know that I can continue to eat what I like in the future, even if it is in smaller portions and at a slower pace.

#12 – Change is hard: I’m not working at the moment, and this is my only real goal, and IT IS HARD. When it comes to eating habits (or any habits) change is hard. Possibly because it means changing your identity – I don’t want to let go of being a “food lover” as described above, because not loving food has negative connotations for me about happiness and life – but also because changing your thinking is hard too. There is a little statistic circling the internet saying that we have around 60,000 thoughts per day, and 90% of those are repeated daily. Do you understand what that means? If that statistic is true, it becomes notoriously difficult to change your thinking, and therefore your habits. I couldn’t find evidence of the 90% statistic, but you can read more about the structure and consequences of repetitive thinking here if you like.

#13 – Greek culture: I dare you to say no to a Greek offering a treat. They will go full metal guilt trip on you. Here in Greece, people love to celebrate, usually with food. It’s ironic the number of pastry shops we have given the image-conscious nature of the nation. I secretly believe this is why we have name days. Just so we have one more reason to celebrate. It is a fantastic part of our culture, but it clearly has a dark side. Back at the office, I would have people GENUINELY get upset and moody with me because I didn’t eat a cookie their wife made, or take a pastry to celebrate a birthday, or refused to eat pizza to celebrate the manager’s anniversary. You just can’t say no to food in Greece, it is deeply offending. The only person who ever got away with it was this girl, a former colleague, who would just tell people she didn’t eat sugar. She did have to defend her choice a little bit, but most of the time, people were so completely dumbfounded, they didn’t know what to say. No sugar? She must be crazy. So she got away with it. I envied her grace under pressure. Fortunately, I no longer work in an office here, but it is an uphill battle to say no, let me tell you. Something about offering food and feeling loved, if I had to guess.

#14 – Hating sweat: this one isn’t so much about food but more about exercise, which I find go hand-in-hand. I hate sweating. It feels disgusting to me. But I know it needs to happen so I can lose weight. So I try to trick myself into liking it. Like, when I’m running and supersweaty, I tell my brain to tell my head how much I enjoy the feeling. It’s a type of reverse aversion therapy. I’m not sure it’s working, but its not NOT working. I’m still exercising and sweating.

#15 – Thinking about your body: It happened about two years ago. I saw a photo of myself at 18, and I thought, wow. I look GREAT. I can’t believe how much time I spent worrying about my weight, and being mean to myself, when I could have been having fun!  Stop thinking about your body so much. Stop with the self-criticism and the putting yourself down. You are on the right track and you are doing fine as you are right now. I often give myself these instructions, especially since seeing that photo. Now almost every past photo of me, I think I look great. I don’t want to spend so much time concerned with my body when I could be going out and having a fantastic time. I don’t want ot regret wasting time again. It’s a great reminder to let go and enjoy life. After all, it’s finite. Whats the point of losing weight if you’re not going to enjoy yourself?

So this is why I am struggling to lose weight. Is there anything else I haven’t thought of? How about you? Have you struggled to lose weight? What did you do about it?

 

* How fucking clever are marketeers?

**Incidentally, healthily to them means in a way that reassures them that how they eat is fine, which is to say, not at all. Something they vehemently deny.

***When I say transform my body, I mean getting rid of percentages of body fat that simply needs to go. No matter my size, I will be curvy. I will have boobs. This makes me happy. I just wish the clothes I liked fit me the way I know they should.

 

On the heat this summer

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(via French words)

*Open rant* What is up with this weather! Seriously! The humidity makes me want to tear my skin off. I can’t breath. It even followed me to Italy. I miss winter. *Close rant*

Sometimes a girl just needs to rant.

Ps. For you writers out there, what should you read next? This website is so awesome. I’ve been looking for a good thriller since Gone Girl and it seems like I’ve been blessed with an answer. Also, who do you write like?

On mobile research findings – iExpat

Disclaimer: I am neither a seasoned nor qualified researcher, just a student working on a psychology project. These results are not based on vetted research, just my own musings and reflections, which probably require further empirical support and evidence.

I just want to present some results of a project I just finished working on. The paper I wrote discusses the findings of a qualitative research study conducted via interviews with two non-Greek, native English, adult male participants living in Greece. It uses a phenomenological perspective (guided by the experiential question: What is this like for you?) to understand how they experience their iPhones. I sought to understand how we are embodied to our mobile devices, and I expected that expats would indicate stronger feelings of embodiment. I expected wrong. We are indeed a “global village”, and living in the same town as your loved ones makes you feel no more or less close to them. Apparently. I’m not sure that I can make that statement given I’ve only had two young participants with young families right here.

Other than that, here are my results and observations:

  • Three themes emerged: Connection, Finding Value, and Awareness
  • Connection: Paricipants spoke of communication as a way of connecting, but they also likened their attachment to their iPhones to addictions, with the desire to detach but the inability to do so. They also brought up feelings of separation – togetherness, either towards or away from others as a result of their iPhone use.
  • Finding Value: Participants understood that the iPhone offered some value to their life, but in different ways. They spoke of productivity and being more efficient, but they also spoke of the value of visuals, and how they found pleasure primarily in the visual aspect of their devices, moreso than communication in a traditional sense via telephone, which was a source of stress.
  • Awareness: Both participants discussed feelings of awareness frequently throughout the interview. What was interesting about this is that neither participant was aware of how much they used their phones until we started discussing it. Both experienced respective ‘a-ha’ moments.
  • This made me think that the word ” iPhone” is a misnomer, both participants (and probably most people) use it as a source of communication OTHER than the telephone.
  • Random #1: People don’t speak in full sentences.
  • Random #2: I like interviewing people.

I’m not surprised at these results, however, I was expecting themes regarding the design of the iPhone and branding to be somewhat more prevalent than they actually were. I’m interested in finding out more about how visuals are valued in a technological context, and I’m pleased that through this exercise, I have been able to narrow my interest in psychology to something more specific: perception.

PS. Did you know that adults, like children, tend to think vision is more informative than it actually is?

 

On building relationships

They say you are most like the five people closest to you.

I had the recent realization that I’m probably not as good at relationships as I think I am. My friendships have tended to have a shelf life of 2-3 years, and I always attributed that to the fact that I’ve grown and changed and therefore out with the old and in with the new. I’m Starting to think now that that may not be true and if I can’t respect my old friends than the new ones I make aren’t really true either.

I start to dislike people the minute I see their flaws. This is a terrible character trait but I don’t know how to overcome it as I become fixed on only the things that annoy me. I’m overwhelmed with anger and when I’m angry I find it impossible to be kind.

What do I expect from people? My expectations aren’t met yet my inner critic finds ways to passive aggressively deal with what it perceives to be the flaws of others. It’s so fucking annoying when people don’t see or can’t see or won’t see their own flaws. Is this a pride issue? Am I projecting my own inability to see my flaws? Am I am idiot for self searching whilst others are happy in their ignorance? This is what makes me think I have the wrong friends. (Yes, yes, I also have an opportunity for growth. Whatever.)

Rant notwithstanding, this is me not accepting. I find it so hard to accept that you can’t change others. Mainly because I get pissed off.

I think I’ve gotten better at picking friends. Friends that fight for the friendship rather than let it go. But I also think I’m a bit more willing to listen now as well. I guess it’s good to be aware of this. Maybe now these close friendships will last.

Or maybe I need to reshuffle my existing five.

Is life all about shuffling? How do couples do it? How do married people do it?

On not knowing what I’m doing + faking it

I left my job in December 2013, and since that time, I’ve been living the good life, with combined cushioning from a generous payout and the support of my parents. I left not knowing what I wanted to do next. I had no plan per se.I don’t have any worries aside from my finances. I’m not married or in a relationship, I don’t have children, and I don’t have to pay a mortgage. The only thing I do have is some credit card debt, and two adorable creatures, my dog Victor and my cat Lucky, that bring joy into my home.

To be honest, I thought I would be not stressed, but bored, without having my routine 9-to-5. Well, I have to say that boredom is but a distant dream as everyday I have something to do, at a pace I enjoy, be it going to the gym and working out, meeting up with a friend or my mom for lunch, hitting the beach, or working on some coursework. Even writing here on a regular basis is something that I’m starting to build on. So despite a lack of boredom and a full-time appreciation of my life, there is this niggling feeling that I have no idea what I’m doing and I’m going to have to start generating some income soon.

This stresses me out so much –  I do not want to go back to banking. I tell this to everyone I know and it may come back to bite me in the ass. I left that job thinking it was a good way out. I spent January to May voraciously job-hunting in London but when summer arrived in Athens, I thought it was too good an opportunity to miss – when will I ever have this much free time to enjoy the sea and sun in Greece?

So people ask me up-front what I’m doing and I’ve started being honest. I say I have no idea. I tell them about how much I love psychology, how much value there is in taking care in your emotional, physical, and mental self – I espouse the virtues of exercise, well-being, and meditation. I talk about how much I enjoy the online world and the value of good user experience – what that means for us, how it makes our lives easier. Then I think about what matters to me – film/TV, education, knowledge, mental health, the arts, the power of the written word – how much I value sharing experiences. And then I talk about how it would be a shame to waste all of my financial experience as using it means I would find a better paying job. I say this is the crux of the matter. I love money and I’m not financially independant, so no matter what, I do have to start working again eventually, either making enough money to support my current lifestyle, or with something less and living within my means. And then I end by saying “I have no idea what I’m doing.

The first time I said all this to someone (a high-ranking project finance director at an international investment bank) I was expecting the conversation to end with a disapproving look, and an “um… ok.” I was expecting to be judged. Instead, she turned around and said “Oh my god, me neither!” I was stunned!

But you seem so focused, so serious, so successful about what you do, so commited! I would have no idea!

Of course! I’m not even good at maths, and what I really love is yoga and well-being! But you know what they say – fake it ’til you make it!

Several people have tried to drill this idea into me, and I’m starting to think they are right. And when I think of it like that, I don’t actually need to fake it that much – my interests and background are real. So what I need to fake is my confidence* about what I’m doing. It’s all about attitude. I don’t know exactly what I want to do next, but I know the general direction, and it involves technology, psychology, and maybe (maybe) some financial analysis.

In the meantime, I am blessed to be able to pursue side projects (like stress management training), and start caring for my own happiness, like eating better, exercising, and regularly meditating.

I wish it could all happen now, at once, with minimum effort from me. But that’s for another post, for another time.

*when I say confidence, I don’t think I mean so much in my skills and experience, but in my “alternative”-ness.

What about you? Do you fake it?

On fun + movies

via Cinematic Corner:

Favorite movie? Moulin Rouge

Favorite actor? Christian Bale

Favorite actress? Meryl Streep

Movie that makes you really happy? Heartbreakers, Miss Congeniality, Sister Act

Movie that makes you sad? The Hours

Favorite love story in a movie? 100% Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in You’ve Got Mail

Favorite science fiction movie? 12 Monkeys

The most surprising plot twist or ending? Gone Girl (not out yet)

Movie that you’ve seen countless times? Mulan, Dumbo, Titanic, The Addams Family, Mermaids

Movie with the best soundtrack? Vanilla Sky, Never Been Kissed, Drive

Character who you can relate to the most? Dwight Schrute

Movie that you wish more people would’ve seen? Across the Universe, The Place Beyond the Pines, Pay it Forward, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day

The most hilarious movie you’ve ever seen? I Heart Huckabees, Superbad

Your favorite horror movie? El Orfanato

Your favorite director? Baz Luhrmann

Your favorite quote from any movie? Do I make you proud?

Your favorite character from any movie? Rob Lowe in Behind the Candelabra, Amy Adams in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Jessica Chastain in The Help, Joan Cusack in Shameless, Javier Bardem in Skyfall

A movie that is a guilty pleasure? Pitch Perfect

Your least favorite movie? Cookie’s Fortune, any Matrix after the first one

Favorite TV Show? Game of Thrones, True Detective, Friends, Breaking Bad, Sex & the City, Ally McBeal, Orange is the New Black, Mad Men, Nurse Jackie, Shameless, Modern Family

Favorite band? Queen, Bon Jovi, Coldplay

Favorite song? Karma Chameleon

Favorite flower? Sunflower

Favorite season? Autumn

Favorite color? Blue

Who is your favorite late night talk show host? Conan and Jimmy Fallon

A television show that you hate? Community

Something that everyone else loves but you hate? Mockumentaries, with the exception of Modern Family

Something that a lot of people find funny but you hate it? Farting, burping, toilet humour in general

The thing that you hate most! Wilful ignorance