I’d apologise but I’m going to keep doing it

Hello, internet land. I’ve been very busy which is one of the many reasons I haven’t been updating here much, that and the overwhelming horror of the world and a complete lack of motivation…

What have I been doing?

Since the start of 2017, which I ushered in using the “start as you mean to go on” method of dancing drunkenly on a stage in West London, half-naked, covered in gold glitter, with at least one Radio Four comedian (how and why? Who knows), I’ve been engaged in a determined battle against middle-aged spread using the NHS Couch to 5k plan and various other gym-like things, having finally succumbed to Modern Life and begrudgingly forked out for a gym membership. This is partially mitigated by my workplace paying me some of the cost back (part of their attempt to encourage us into healthier habits than spending all night necking coffee and attempting to fight each other, which… we’re still doing), and partially by the fact that I’m very definitely getting my money’s worth.

Owing to a spectacular wobble in which I managed to get a wretch cold, bugger my Achilles’ tendon and inflict a fetching chest haematoma on myself, I’ve been stuck on Week 6 for what feels like eternity, but progress has been made on this front.

I’ve attended one (1) dance class, and learnt some of the basics of the Charleston, which I like to practice at the bus stop after work at around 5am, to the amusement and occasional horror of anyone else travelling at the time; my place of work has moved from the cosy hipster environs of Shoreditch to the alarming identikit irrational platform-borne archipelago of Canary Wharf, which is full of people I would ordinarily cross several roads to avoid and who, judging by the restaurants available, have the blandest and most middle-of-the-road tastes my snotty hipster palate can imagine.

I’ve been to a tribute club night for the late, great George Michael, seen two Oscar-nominated movies, both excellent (The Eagle Huntress was sweet and uplifting; Moonlight was emotional torture, both were An Experience), had a sushi-and-matcha afternoon tea at Tombo in South Kensington, and taken a a Finnish friend to Chinese New Year celebrations and an accidental drag queen pub quiz over dinner in Soho. So far, Mission: Try To Live A Full Life Before I Am Inevitably Murdered By Nazis is a success.

That doesn’t mean I’ve been entirely slack on the creative front, although due to the constraints of employment, physical needs, and the linear nature of time I haven’t been as awesomely productive as my hallucinogenically ambitious 4am self thinks I ought to be: the year to date (and indeed the majority of December) has involved laborious attempts at editing 2015’s NaNoWriMo project Heavy (a semi post-nuclear apocalypse military espionage novel about the unreliability of memory, mutability of truth, and the intersection between loyalty and gaslighting, which seems horribly prescient now); what the late Terry Pratchett cheerfully refers to in his nonfiction collection A Slip of the Keyboard as “blind research” for the next project (working title: Tourist’s Guide to the Ideal London) and outlining and brainstorming thereof; two short stories under my queer-romance-writing pseudonym Melissa Snowdon, one commissioned but not-yet-published blog essay under an entirely different (anonymous) pseudonym which ended up running to around 3,000 words…

Let’s just say I’ve been keeping busy, and intend to remain that way. Exciting news may shortly be arriving on your blog feed. Eyes peeled!

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Robot Mother, The Guilt Bracelet, and an apology.

I bought a new phone.

That’s not the subject of the post, but that’s sort of how all the necessary components came together. I was meandering around the Danger End of Oxford Street in some unexpected sunlight with the Resident Australian and opted to annoy her by addressing my “my phone is annoying” issues right there and then by immediately buying a new handset, because that is how things get done in my life. After paralysing indecision and weighing of choices something then happens on an impulse, etc.

Anyway, this new phone has approximately 400000% more processing power and can sustain more than, say, one app. Combined with the ongoing insanity of trying to both eat like a person and not become a giant pillow cloud for a second time in my life, with the tenacious irritating of my friends by persistently posting FITSHAMING updates on Facebook to inform them, unfiltered, of exactly how many pressups I can’t quite do yet (spoilers: I can do five! In a row! Badly! This is so much better than the NONE I could do before!), and with the Guilt Bracelet which my Delightful Boyfriend bought for me after I interrogated him for a solid month on what his did, that extra processing space opened up a wonderful new world of being less insane.

How?

First, I asked if anyone could think of an app that would tell me how much of whatever nutrient I needed to eat, and then how much I had left of that per day, when I told it what I was eating, to stop me from doing the awful thing where I either set myself a limit and proceeded to dramatically undercut it (“I don’t need to eat 1400 kcal a day, that’s too high!”) or didn’t set myself a limit but then tried to eat as little as possible anyway (“I’m not really hungry/if you eat that you’re a filthy disgusting failure!”). Outsourcing my common sense, since my own has been so comprehensively destroyed by mental illness/eating disorders.

Anyway, it turns out that’s exactly what MyFitnessPal does.

It upped my calorie intake after asking me a bunch of questions…

Normally when Real People do that I sort of vaguely agree with them and then mutter that they have no idea how lazy and fat I am and how little I do and how immediately I will turn into a whale if I eat That Much, and ignore their advice. Occasionally with a side of “YOU’RE JUST TRYING TO SABOTAGE ME” for added crazy. When various online calculators ask me how active I am and I try to give a representative view, I then decide they’ve been adjusting based on a falsehood.

Unfortunately this time I picked the lowest possible activity level. I am a spod. A layabout. My job is writing. My sports interests are nil. I don’t own a bike.

It still told me to eat more than I was eating.

But wait, there’s more.

Not only did Robot Mother scold me about my different nutrient intakes (“your goal was to stay under 2300mg sodium, you salt-hoovering slag”), and allow me to scan barcodes with my phone for information (MAGIC TOY DOES MAGIC THING, DEREK IS ENTRANCED, SURELY WE ARE LIVING IN THE FUTURE), and make it perplexingly difficult to update with workout information (“how many calories does it burn? How the shitting fuckfestival would I know that?”), she also offered a link between The Guilt Bracelet and The Food Hitlering.

Carrots, as well as sticks

Previously my motivation has been “if I do the walking motions, the Guilt Bracelet flashes a light and buzzes and that means I am a Good Boy”, because I have been well-conditioned that rewards are social rather than physical; the other motivation is that if I don’t have a consistent line of green bars on my weekly activity graph (data solves everything, or at least provides me with prettier and more mathematically accurate ways to berate myself) I am A FAILURE MADE OF LAZINESS.

But now that the Guilt Bracelet and Robot Mother are in cahoots with each other, I have noticed: the more I move, the more food I am allowed.

Adjustment

It turns out: the calorie goal is minus activity. Meaning, that’s how much I should be consuming when my movement is taken into account. Not set, no matter whatever else I do, but something I can alter with my behaviour. The illusion of control is mostly what’s necessary to help break a habit which is born from the need for control.

Or, as a different friend told me, as we compared notes over (meticulously-inputted) lattes: it helps not to have to think about what you’re eating because then you don’t feel like you’re getting it wrong all the time. She was referring, too, to Huel, which has provided us both with an Eating Problems Safety Net repeatedly.

And yes, I can feel myself becoming obsessive about this, too. I think it’s something that has to be accepted, after a certain point: there is no way I will ever be comfortable, carefree, and non-compulsive about food. Every time I try there is the spectre of the Delayed Reaction Regret, and given that this is often accompanied by purging I don’t really want to deal with that. Better to let the robot take care of it, and move on to more important shit, like this book

About that apology?

Yeah. If you’re a real flesh human who has spent a lot of time in the last couple of years trying very hard to make me stop eating things that have no calorie content, or stop obsessively making tinier and tinier meals, or even just fixate slightly less brutally on the exact 0.3kg weight fluctuations: sorry. You were right, about that paradoxical window of consumption: sometimes you do need to eat more to get smaller.

Morning Rituals

For “morning” please also read “when I get up”, which on work weeks is halfway through the afternoon, because I work (ostensibly, I usually start earlier and finish earlier) from 10pm until 6.15am.

Rituals and routines help shift a lot of work without making decisions, a handy factor when you’ve just woken up and your brain isn’t actually working yet, or if you have some kind of executive function problem; you can just run the automatic process and don’t have to decide on anything (I’m not saying that solves executive function problems but it can help ameliorate them). Also very useful if, like me, you spend 7 days out of every 14 at minimum running on an increasing sleep deficit.

Many people have morning rituals; reading the newspapers over coffee, using the same three swearwords over burnt toast and aggressive hair-straighteners, grabbing an ostensibly healthy smoothie while running to the station because their morning ritual involves being late, doing yoga with the sunrise because their morning ritual involves being smug…

The longer things are incorporated the more set they become. It’s why you’re encouraged to take medication at the same time every day (I mostly manage this, although apart from the citirizine hydrochloride they’re not really mandatory so much as “recommended”), or why people trying to improve their fitness levels squeeze in their morning run at the same point every day (past me, on my way home, while wearing more and more swanky workout gear).

So far I’ve got the hang of things like “eating breakfast” and “exercise” because of morning routines; boarding school taught me exciting things like “consistently showering” (which depression then completely undermined for years; nothing like “smelling of stale sweat” to increase your sense of no self-worth, compounding the shiteness of depression, weighing you down, and making it ever-more unlikely you’ll find the strength to fix even that), for a while I had the morning ritual of make-up, for a while I had the morning ritual of “removing yesterday’s make-up”, for a while I had the morning ritual of “a hangover every single day”, which was not what I would call Peak Achievement.

These days it goes like this:

Arise thy ass from bed.

Go at once to the kitchen and make tea. Acquire ye water.

Ingest with thy water the selection of pills demeaned necessary to prevent cholesterol from overpowering thy body and the country’s blatant absence of sunlight from turning thy bones to dust. [Summer variant: fling in some anti-histamines or spend all day scratching your visage and sneezing mightily]. Brush the enamel-coated protrusions of bone into thy mouth until they stop feeling like a goblin climbed into thy mouth in the night and wiped its unholy ass all over them.

Prepare thou thy breakfast and consume it. On a good day, Instagram the breakfast photo, because “putting pictures of what I eat on Instagram like a kind of Gallery of Shame” stops me eating so much carbonated assfart.

Enter into the bathroom and consume a cup of tea while sitting on the bog and browsing thy social media profiles on a tablet, which is going to be the single most 21st-century thing I do all day short of complaining at TfL on Twitter while on one of their buses about how the bus isn’t working. Which is in all reality just a very quick version of the Letter to the Times beloved of my stroppy ancestors [Sir, I waited three quarters of an hour for a bus which the LED display reliably informed me, the whole time, was 6 minutes away; when the bus arrived it promptly terminated. Is this some sort of psychological experiment and what does it say about me that I reacted to this by throwing my umbrella into the road and buying a Shitty Chicken Meal?]

At a time judged by the Sacred “I Ran Out Of Internet And Am Now Browsing Food Tumblrs”, ascertain that the calories within breakfast have been assimilated into the bloodstream and the Foul Human Carcass will be capable of completing its morning workout.

Bizarre routine of stretching and warm-ups which is cobbled together from logic, necessity, half-remembered yoga and even more hazily-remembered ballet warm-up.

Whichever of the four entries of specific work-out is earmarked for that day [this took a lot of fiddling, twiddling, and input from three separate fitness-authoritative friends, one of whom can deadlift approximately 300lb and has bright blue hair because she is the coolest being on the planet; it will probably continue to be fiddled with, but I would be kidding everyone if I didn’t explain that it took several near-shouting matches before anyone could convince me that three recovery days a week is preferable for muscle growth and improved strength and that talking me down from six continual days of weight-lifting out of every seven is not, as slightly mental-ly asserted, “a conspiracy to make me remain fat and useless forever”]

After the completion of thy whatevers, post FITSHAMING results on Facebook for maximum accountability [if I were more organised/had space on my tablet for more apps I’d do this on a fitness tracker].

Waste slightly more time on the internet until thou hast regained thy breath.

Slather thy face with cleandirt in an attempt to prevent it from turning into a major oil well. [It will do this anyway. I am on a shot of Sustanon 250 every just-under lunar month – about 26 to 27 days – and it is doing the predicted in Making My Skin Turn Into The Before Shot In A Clearasil Advert. I am assured it will get worse. I cannot wait.] Remove the dirt from thy skin. Remove the dirt from thy sink.

Enter the cleansing cubicle and use low-pressure boiling water to strip thy skin from thy flesh with the aid of whatever weird smelly goo was cheapest in Morrisons recently. Potentially try to remove some of the several months of accretion of glitter from thy over-bleached and wispy hair.

Exit the cleansing cubicle and remove water from Foul Human CarcassReapply The Shame BraceletApply whichever scented unguent seems most likely to prevent thy armpits from smelling like grilled hobos by the end of today.

Industriously apply unwise quantities of glitter suspended in moisturiser. [Because I won’t moisturise otherwise, I put glitter in there. The next step is to bribe myself into using suncream via the same method. If you don’t have to coax yourself into responsible adulthood behaviours by treating your own brain like the truculent four-year-old it actually is, congratulations. If you do, check out my guide to tricking yourself into eating vegetables.]

Optional: Attempt to insert contact lenses with deleterious quantities of glitter gel on thy fingers, because thou art a fucking idiot and never remember to do this FIRST.

Hide the wretched flesh prison from the prying eyes of the world with the application of cloth. 

NOW I AM READY TO SPEND ANOTHER THREE HOURS DICKING AROUND ON THE INTERNET.