Many, many posts back I declared I didn’t want to drink anymore. I’m pleased to report that I kept that promise to myself, and I am now six months and one day alcohol-free. I’m much happier for it, and for the last couple of months I’ve genuinely not missed it at all. It’s starting to feel like a “normal” way of life now.
To help me kick that rather destructive vice into the dust, I decided to tackle my weight at the same time. People usually advise against this for good reason; when you don’t drink, you crave sugar. Big time. But I’m one of those people who need an obsession of some kind to function, so I started running (staggering!) while keeping tabs on calories in and calories out. I really did not need to get ANY bigger than I already was.
Full disclosure, I was thirteen stone six (188lb) on the day I quit the booze. I’m only five foot three tall. Oops. As of this morning, I’m still the same height, I’m relieved to report, but now just over two stone (29lb/13kg) lighter at 159lb. After a two-month plateau between January and March, I decided to put the scales away, just keep on making better choices on an hour-to-hour basis, and good things started happening again.
If you’ve been struggling to lose weight yourself, I’d like to talk a bit about non-scale victories and how important they are in comparison to what the scales say.
It is LOVELY when we see the evidence of all our hard work reflected on the scales. Can’t lie; I was addicted to my scales to begin with. The more active I was during the week, the more frequently I jumped on them for that all-important encouragement bulletin. If I lost two pounds, I could almost hear the roar of the Colosseum crowd. When you have a lot to lose, the scales dutifully ping up a number that’s lower than the last, and you’re motivated to drive that weight ever lower. Fabulous.
Here’s the rub; your relationship with the scales changes over time.
Think of the scales as the bloke in the pub who always has an opinion. When that opinion aligns with your own, they’re your bestest pal. You could spend the evening putting the world to rights, and you don’t mind them occasionally pounding you on the shoulder and booming, “you’re awright, son/darlin’!”
Sometimes, that back-slapping can get a bit severe. For example, you could be filled with the joy of the scales’ approval when they announce your loss of three pounds in a week. Three!! Well, you can have that impulse chicken-in-a-casket** from the bar menu, right? And the side-order of chips! The scales cheer you along (while stealing your chips) because you’ve earned it, right?
Just days later you’re back to where you were, despite that single, lousy blow-out, which surely didn’t cost you 7000 calories over your basal metabolic rate. It didn’t… did it? After all, you’ve been disciplined ever since: you’ve been out running, not stuffing your face after dinner…
The scales are giving you a punitive, temporary result; if you’ve been doing a lot of exercise, then you will have gathered a fair bit of protective water around your muscles while they repair. You certainly haven’t regained two and a half pounds of fat in just three days. Mr Scales is just punishing you for going home early rather than sticking around for that ‘one for the road’. It’s passive-aggressive bitchery at its digital best.
Thanks a sodding bunch, Mr Scales.
Am I saying that scales are not your friends at all after those first golden weeks? No, they can still be your friend, but to keep your mental health in good balance, you have to treat the scales like that ‘salt of the earth’ geezer from down t’ pub. Scales are very much a ‘small-doses’ friend. Enjoy them when they’re full of bonhomie and cheer for your progress, but, for God’s sake, don’t go camping with them. And always look around for Little Miss Non-Scale Victories (Miss NSV), because she’s a fabulous social buffer.
Joking aside, the scales are only there to record your journey to a smaller silhouette. You’re doing this for you – not for digital approval. Once that clicked with me, I started feeling much more bouncy, and much more inclined to get on with the rest of my life, which has meant being more active, and which means I can now get into the Jeans of Misfortune***.
Back to Little Miss NSV.
She’s the sign of progress you want to embrace. Miss NSV is the quiet friend who never says she’s coming out to play, but when you happen upon her, you’re always pleased to see her. She will never make you think you’ve gained three pounds overnight, steal your parking space, or argue with you about Brexit. She always tells you the truth about how far you’ve come, but she does it with a hug and a smile. Miss NSV is quiet and engaging, and she’s pretty much guaranteed to dissuade you from fixating on other people’s scale victories.
The only downside of Miss NSV is that she’s a master of disguise. We don’t always know she’s there. She’s rarely propping up the bar with Mr Scales (who she writes off as an annoying, smelly dickhead) and is more likely to be found reading a book by the fire. We have to remind ourselves to go and look for her.
Miss NSV manifests herself emotionally and psychologically even more than she does physically. So, to help track her down, here’s a sliding scale of NSV appearances, based on subtlety…
Is-it-green-or-is-it-blue levels of subtle
- The laid-back ability to say ‘no thanks’ when people keep pushing sweets and treats on you.
- A day going by when food really is just fuel, because you’re getting on with your life with the knowledge that the bulk will take care of itself.
- You unthinkingly pull on a pair of jeans you couldn’t fit two months ago. You might have thrown a party at the time, but now you’re just looking forward.
- You’re casually doing exercise that once got you severely out of breath.
- You spend an afternoon being active and not even thinking about dinner.
- Feeling your tummy growl is actually quite fun.
- A salad can be seen as a source of enjoyment rather than poison offered by goblins and orcs, because you have no qualms about being heavy-handed with the dressing and the fun ingredients.
- You pass on chocolate because you’re just not in the mood for it, and not because you’re being ‘good’.
Fit-bloke-in-a-tight-shirt levels of subtle
- The family member who can always be relied upon to remind you that you’re on the large side suddenly has nothing to say. They might not compliment you, but they don’t make comparisons to large land mammals either.
- You can button up jeans which are one size down. they might turn the belly north of the waistline into a mixed-muffin wasteland, but you can do them up without lying down, and without losing feeling in your pelvis. Keep going, and they’ll fit in a few weeks.
- There is more space between your belly and the way your shirt hangs
- Jeans are suddenly loose around your thighs
- Increasingly, you’re inclined to go out for a run or get some exercise to make you FEEL BETTER, not because of the effect it will have on your waistline.
- You no longer have an extended fight to the death with the elastic while trying to get your sports bra on.
- Someone you’ve not seen for a while says, “you’re looking well!”
(This is the fail-safe compliment of the hyper-polite, who do not wish to intimate that you looked large last time they saw you.)
- You pass on dessert because you’re actually full, not because you’re depriving yourself.
Lawrence Llewellyn-Bowen Feature Wall level of subtlety
- Your trousers fall down. This, depending upon location and company, can be a mixed blessing.
- You get whistled at, or become the subject of much female eyebrow-bouncing.
- Some good-natured but loud-mouthed soul of your occasional acquaintance bellows, “fuck me luv/mate, where’s the rest of ya?”
- The family matriarch previously relied upon for reminding you that you were large can now be guaranteed to warn you about the dangers of undereating.
Because there is no winning with these people, you should still count it as a win.
- You return from a shopping trip in the same non-homicidal frame of mind that you were in when you set off in the morning.
Feel free to add your own NSVs in the comments (with their subtlety rating), and I’ll add them to the list.
** Not a spelling error.
*** So named because I fell into a bog last time I wore them in 2016, and the resultant cleaning required made them shrink little little shrunken things.