Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, or a highly compulsive personality, they are both extremely difficult to live with – difficult for the sufferer (especially if it comes with other conditions such as clinical depression and anxiety, as I know only too well!) and difficult for the family of the sufferer – everyone suffers!
The particular aspect to which I am going to refer in this blog is my obsession with food and eating. Everything I do, or decide to do, it can, and often does, become an obsession – I don’t know how to, or rather I’m not very good at, doing things ‘by half’. I don’t give things a whirl – I jump straight in, blinkers on and go at it as if in preparation for the Olympics – NEXT WEEK!
I was putting on weight – lots of it! I’m 51 years old now, 6ft 1in, not a particularly muscular build but I got up to about 97kg (213.4 lbs / over 15st 3lbs) – down a bit from that high, 92kg (202.4lbs / almost 14st 7lbs) 30 months ago, I decided enough was enough, that I had to stop tinkering, that the time had come to seriously lose weight.
No alcohol, not a biscuit, not a crumb of cake, not a sweet for two and a half years. Lots of water, no fizzy drinks, lots of fruit and veg (I’m a pescetarian – have been for about 18 years), mainly complex carbs, very little in the way of basic carbs.
I started running – from barely being able (mentally) to run more than a few hundred meters (tops, quarter of a mile!), I got that up to 30-odd km per week, 20-odd miles per week.
I now run 1 x 10km and 2 x 8km per week – over 16 miles per week.
I was, at the beginning of the diet regime, consuming, max, 800 calories per day, even when it was a running day and I was burning 700 calories on the run! I kept that up for the best part of a year. I ignored the obvious dangers of such drastic under-eating until I really couldn’t function, mentally or physically, any more. I upped the calorie intake – 2,000 cals on a running day, 1,500 on a non-running day (but I’m sure that the average daily intake is less). I still think of food as fuel, not as something to enjoy – I hate putting food in my mouth! “Food’s bad” has become my ‘motto’.
….and as if all of this wasn’t enough, I discovered the ‘16/8’ eating regime – eat during an 8 hour window in the day, fast for 16 hours (can drink water, black coffee etc). No need in this blog to go into the science. I’m pleased to say that I was a bit more flexible with that – been running it more as a 14/10 regime but rigid on that basis!
Bottom line – lost between 23kg and 28kg, depending on what I take as the starting weight (between almost 51lbs [about 3st 8lbs] and almost 62lbs [about 4st 6lbs]).
Why the obsession? Yes, I was overweight, yes, I wasn’t looking good, yes, for health and aesthetic reasons I needed to lose weight. The obsession – well, it’s simply part of my personality, my mental ‘condition’ and ‘makeup’, but it manifests itself as a need to control my behaviour.
The thing is this – in my life, I don’t feel that I have much control. I have no self-confidence, no self-belief, I feel that, most of the time, things just happen to me, I don’t make them happen, I’m passive, not active, I’m always fire-fighting. I can, however, control what I eat. I can take that to an extreme and stop eating altogether. It boosts my self-confidence when I look in a mirror and see the weight loss, when I get on the scales and see that I’ve lost more weight. My wife, over the months, tried to scare me, told me that friends were asking her if I was ill – that was a great compliment (in my mind)!! I have been telling myself that, in this part of my life, I’m successful, I have control, I am in control, I can fight temptation, I make the decisions blah blah blah but, actually, am I in control or am I a victim of this obsession, am I completely OUT OF CONTROL? Sometimes (subjectively), I think the former, sometimes (objectively), the latter. The longer this goes on, the harder, of course, it is to break away from this way of living, constantly thinking food, when can I eat? calories, what can I eat? I’m HUNGRY!
Where does the running fit into this? It is, of course, also an obsession – come rain or shine, I have to do it and do it on time – can’t miss a run! I probably over-do it, push myself too hard but I’ve got the bug, the bug that runners get, and I do think that, unlike my eating, it’s generally a good thing to be doing. It’s good for my self confidence and self-esteem, running, my head telling me to stop, to slow down, to walk, but in my heart I find the strength to keep going, to push on, to get to where I want to get to and I get that “Yes, I CAN” sense of euphoria which has to be good. I take medication daily, an SSRI antidepressant and a beta blocker (to prevent anxiety/panic attacks) but I know that they don’t live my life for me, that they simply put me in a position whereby I can live my life – the medication can’t live my life for me, I have to do the living.
So, where am I at now?
I’ve been to a couple of funerals this week, yesterday a young man, a lovely man, 63-year old husband of an aunt of my wife and, the day before, a pal, 89 (yes, 89). I had similar thoughts to, I guess, a lot of people at the funerals. Yes, of course, we were thinking of the guys who had passed away, our hearts were – are – with the families and friends, but I, and I’m sure we, saw the big picture….whatever we do, whatever we achieve, whether we have that slice of cake or we don’t, that’s the end for all of us. What the heck am I doing by making myself – admit it, Koby!! – what am I achieving by making myself, at times, so miserable, by forcing myself to spend hour after hour hungry, focused, often constantly, on food – or, rather, my extreme lack of it? I have to stop this – not easy but I have to try!!
I tell everyone around me that the ‘secret’ to a happy life, one of the big ‘secrets’, one of the keys, is “moderation” – you know, “a little bit of what you fancy….”. My late grandmother used to tell me, “Everything in moderation”. I know that that’s right (obviously not in relation to everything!!) but I don’t live accordingly – I must! I ate an apple this evening – PAST eating time! An achievement (can you believe this? – I felt so guilty that I went into a room in the house and closed the door so that no one would hear the crunch!! My wife and the kids would have been delighted but I felt guilty ?%$#@!).
Destination set…. ‘moderation’ …..I have to get there, for my own good, for my own mental, and physical, wellbeing and for the wellbeing of my family and friends. I have to take back control.