Losing It

My mad, crazy journey to health and beyond

How to lose 15kg in 8 weeks

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  1. Stop drinking alcohol. Have minor nervous breakdown. Get talked off the ledge by sister, friends, and life coach on an almost daily basis. Drink enough sparkling water to sink the Titanic.
  1. Train every day. Squeeze into gym pants that are two sizes too small but refuse to buy new ones because A) you don’t have money, and B) YOU WILL NOT BUY LABELS THAT SAY XXL! Start weightlifting again. If 40kg squats can ever be considered weightlifting. Go back to Adventure Boot Camp. Wear black T-shirts so no-one can see how drenched in sweat you are after the warmup. Sign up for trail runs. Reconsider the run part about 30 seconds in. Do trail walks instead. Push, push, push. Don’t stop. You can walk slowly, but you can’t stop.
  1. Eat actual food. KFC, McDonald’s and Mr D do not count as actual food. Go grocery shopping. Buy stuff that expires. Eat it before it does. Cook meals. Eat when you’re hungry. Stop when you’re full. Lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, complex carbs. Make the best choices you can when you go out for meals. Say no to dessert. But eat the chocolate cupcake that your boot camp buddy gives you, because life is short and chocolate is sent from the gods.
  1. Talk to life coach. Your head is a fucking mess. Adulting is hard. You need help. Remember that survivors ask for help; victims sit back and blame everyone else for their mistakes. So go get some help. You badass surviving bitch you.

 

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  1. Get out of the house and do things. Apparently there’s stuff to do in Cape Town other than sit in bars every night and get hammered. So go do it. Play bingo, take part in pub quizzes, go to the cinema, paint clay pots, go for hikes, cook dinner for friends, sing, dance, go to plays, concerts, parties, eat out in restaurants, say yes to anything that gets you out of the house and gets you living again. And then come home exhausted to a big comfy couch and a hard drive full of series. Because, balance.
  1. Connect. With family. With old friends you haven’t seen in ages. With new friends who are now part of your posse. With acquaintances who become friends before you know it. With women in your Facebook group. With yourself. Not with Tinder. Good Christ.
  1. Track your progress. Take before pics. Take before measurements. Try to fit into jeans. Think ‘fucking hell’, and pretend that you’re wearing a skirt because you want to, not because your tubby butt is now too chunky to even fit into your fat jeans. Keep at it, keep tracking and weighing and measuring, and keep remembering that even though it feels like a waste of time and effort, you will get to wear jeans again. Track your progress after 8 weeks and realise that you’ve lost 15kg, 50cm, and that your smallest pair of fat jeans is now too big for you. High five everyone you possibly fucking can. Feel like a rock star, because you are. Write this blog post, and get back to it. Life is too good to miss out on.

 

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Food for thought

Skinless chicken breast, 100g. 23g protein, 2g fat, 0g carbs.

Egg, large. 6.3g protein, 4.8g fat, 0.4g carbs.

White potato, 100g. 2g protein, 1g fat, 17g carbs.

And on, and on, and on, and on.

 

For almost four years now I’ve followed this way of eating. IIFYM. If It Fits Your Macros. A lot of very clever people on a lot of very good sites can explain it far better than I can, but I’ll give it a shot. Essentially it involves you tracking all the food you eat in a day, adding up all the protein, fat and carbohydrate values of every gram of food you put in your mouth, to ensure that you don’t go over the collective total of protein, fats, and carbohydrates (also known as macronutrients) that you’re allowed to eat in a day – a total usually worked out for you with an online calculator, or preferably, by a professional nutritionist. If that’s confusing, then Google is your friend.

 

The point is that it works. It works like gangbusters actually. It helped me lose 55kg in the space of 3 years. The fact that I gained a shitload of weight back isn’t the fault of the eating plan, it’s the fault of my damn self. Not enough self-control, not enough self-care, not enough self-love. My water bottle says it best I think. Zero fucks given.

 

Before IIFYM there was moderate carb. Before that there was fat free. Before that there was eat as little as possible. Before that I can’t remember, but there was most definitely something, as I’ve been on one eating plan or another since I was 16 years old. As have most women I know. Being female is awesome.

 

But back to the here and now. January last year I was at 80kg, which sounds like a lot, but looks like this:

 

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I’m smiling in that pic, but my head is going a million miles a minute. I had just run 5km into Knysna from the white bridge (my shirt is soaked through with sweat if you look closely) and I’m wondering how to track the breakfast I just ate, and what kind of oil my mom will be using to cook dinner that night so I can enter it in MyFitnessPal to make sure that I’m not over my macros for the day. And then I have to figure out who’s driving into town tomorrow so that I can catch a lift to the gym I signed up with so I don’t miss out on a weightlifting session. On my fucking Christmas holiday. There was no keep calm and carry on, there was only plan and track and work and sleep and plan and track and track some more and run and lift and push and pull and PRESSURE SO MUCH PRESSURE.

 

And eventually I cracked under all of it. All that time, eating right and tracking and training and making good choices and not drinking and being completely, totally, 100% focused on my health journey and nothing else. I cracked. And then I did the only thing I could do – I went 100% the other way. And ate and drank and ate and drank and did as little training as I could get away with. Because when I fuck something up, I do it good and proper. No half measures here.

 

I had the occasional glimmer of hope. I did the SleekGeek challenge in October last year and lost 12kg. Gained it all back. I went balls to the wall in February and lost 10kg. Gained it all back. And then somewhere in March or April this year, I came to a realisation. I just did not give a fucking shit. I didn’t care about being healthy, I didn’t care about losing weight, I didn’t care about eating right. I just didn’t care. It was too hard, and too much work, and too much effort, and I didn’t believe that I could do it again anyway.

 

At the same time though, I didn’t LIKE being overweight. I didn’t like that I couldn’t fit into any of my jeans, even the fat ones. I didn’t like that I was huffing and puffing like a stampeding rhino after climbing the one flight of stairs to my flat. And I didn’t like that I felt bloated and tired and lethargic and just plain crap. So even though I didn’t give a shit about being healthy, I WANTED to give a shit about it. Which meant that I had to ask for help. So I did.

 

I usually hate asking for help. I’d rather struggle on my own than inconvenience someone else. I have zero issue admitting that I have a problem, it’s not about that. It’s about imposing on other people, having them go out of their way, and thinking less of me for asking in the first place. So when I say that I asked for help, trust me that it was a big step.

 

But ask for it I did, and it came in the form of a health coach, who I’m still seeing. And I won’t bore you with the details, but we’re looking at a lot of stuff. Why don’t I value my health, why do I drink like a sailor on shore leave, why am I so stressed and anxious and worried about EVERYTHING, ALL THE TIME??? I also began consulting with her partner, a holistic health practitioner, not about how to eat healthily (dear God I should bloody well know by now) but about how to adopt healthier habits, and to find physiological balance and healing through the help of natural supplementation. I am paraphrasing like a champ right now, but hopefully you get the picture.

 

What I also did, was make a promise to give up alcohol for six months, which you can read more about here, and to focus less on any kind of stress or trigger and fixation, and to focus more on living.

 

Which is what brings us to this. Five weeks of no alcohol, healthy eating choices, regular training, and an 11.6kg loss to show for it.

 

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BUT OHMIGOD NICOLA, HOW ARE YOU DOING IT?

 

Simple. I’m not obsessing. I’m living. I’m not making healthy living THE ENTIRE FOCUS OF EVERY SINGLE MINUTE OF EVERY SINGLE DAY. It’s important, sure, but it’s not my whole life – it’s just part of my life. I’m not following any type of structured eating plan. I’m eating all food groups, and following the basics that I’ve learned from IIFYM along the way. More carbs on days I lift weights, fewer carbs on days that I don’t. Big, low-calorie nutrient-dense meals, with no snacking in between. Food bursting with colour, taste and texture. Starch at night, if I’m eating any, so that I sleep better. Simple, sensible, easy-to-follow guidelines that I stick to without much thought. And I’m able to stick to them because after years of IIFYM I know the types of foods I can eat and the portion sizes I need to get the right kinds of nutrients for my body, while creating enough of a calorie deficit in order for me to lose weight in a healthy, sustainable, consistent way.

 

Here’s what I had to eat yesterday, if you’re needing more than that. I did an hour of weightlifting in the morning, so I got to eat more carbs, to give my body the fuel it needed.

 

  • Pre-workout: Fitchef green smoothie with apple, spinach and other stuff (I didn’t look at the label, sorry)
  • Breakfast: 2 scrambled eggs on rye, with smoked salmon and mushrooms
  • Lunch: Homemade vegetable stirfry with chicken strips, and 1 tbsp of soya sauce
  • Dinner: Sirloin steak (with the fat cut off), garlic baby potatoes, and steamed vegetables

 

It was delicious, and eating tasty food like that, without stressing about it and tracking it and making it my one and only focus – that’s what’s helping me lose weight in a calmer way this time round.

 

As for training, yes, I’m doing it. Right now I’m doing four weightlifting sessions a week, three boot camp sessions a week, and one trail or road run. If you can count, that adds up to eight (well done you!) because I train twice on Fridays, purposefully. By the time I’ve finished my Friday night boot camp, I’m so exhausted I can barely walk, let alone drink. Which means instead of fantasising about drinking 12 bottles of wine and 90 tequilas at my local, I’m on my couch in my pjs, trying to lift my fork to my mouth while watching MKR. If you set up your life in a way that helps you succeed, that’s exactly what you’ll do.

 

And what else am I doing? I’m living, in a way that brings balance. I’m going out but I’m also staying in. I’m meeting friends and reading books. I’m eating out and I’m cooking at home. I’m weightlifting in the morning and going to pub quizzes in the evening. I’m crying with my coach about all the work stress I’m under, and I’m laughing with my friends and loving every moment. And while I’m doing that, health is becoming a part of my life, not my entire life. Will I fall down? Yes. Will I drink too much again? Absolutely. Will I become angry and frustrated and want to smash an entire lemon meringue pie in my face? Almost certainly. But there’s one thing I won’t do, and that’s make the same mistakes again. Life’s way too short to keep making the same ones anyway. Time to make some brand-new ones, and hopefully learn some brand-new lessons along the way.

 

*Disclaimer: While I may not be following any structured eating plan, the way I’m eating is very much based on IIFYM principles. So that doesn’t mean I sit around all day in my pajamas eating cake and drinking wine. It means I make healthy choices and eat healthy food. And I train every day. If you want to lose weight, those are things you have to do. What you don’t have to do, however, is obsess over them every second of every day. That’s all that’s changed. Just so we’re clear…

 

 

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Seven days

No, this is not a Craig David song. No-one was making love by Wednesday, and on Thursday, and Friday and Saturday. Although we did chill on Sunday.

Monday: Taking a break from civilisation. Up early to train. Healthy meals all day. Work till 9:30pm. TV. Bed. Watch stuff on laptop. Know I should really be going to sleep. Watch more stuff anyway.

Tuesday: Up early to train. Healthy meals all day. Work till 7pm. TV. Bed. Watch stuff on laptop. Big Fat Quiz of the Year cracks me up. Even though I’ve seen every episode 3 times now.

Wednesday: Up early to train. Healthy meals all day. Work till 4:30pm. Watch The Cutting Edge. For the millionth time. TOEPICK! Bed. Watch stuff on laptop again. Starting to develop a crush on Jimmy Carr. May need to return to civilisation sooner than I thought.

Thursday: Up early to train. Healthy meals all day. Work till 5:30pm. TV. Bed. Watch stuff on laptop. I like Noel Fielding’s hair. And his dress. That was a weird sentence.

Friday: Up early to train. Healthy meals all day. Work, then return to civilisation. TV. Bed. Watch stuff on laptop. Wishing the year would hurry up and end so they would bring out a new episode of Big Fat Quiz of the Year. Obsession with Richard Ayoade is now at an 11 out of 10.

Saturday: Up at 4:30am. What in the name of all that is holy??? Eat breakfast half-asleep. Drive 500 miles (ok, 50km) through to Landskroon Winery. Not to drink. To run. Because I am mad.

Landskroon

Run 10km in 1:16. Not quite last, but almost. Eh, don’t care – was a beautiful run. Realise that left arm is in an immense amount of pain, with almost zero mobility. Drive home, shower. Carefully. Drive through to hair salon. Changing gears is excruciating. Yay for me. Sit in chair and wonder if everyone looks revolting in those awful hairdressing capes, or if it’s just me. How come I never noticed I had so many chins??? Drive home. Ow. OW! Healthy lunch, watch tv, take drugs given to me by pharmacist. Drape hot pack over arm. Pray for slow death. Realise that getting dressed for function later will be almost impossible. Call friend over to help. Drink bubbly, get dressed very slowly. Bubbly helps. So does friend. Call Uber. Thank fuck I don’t have to drive. Get to Pigalle (fancy!) for freelance Christmas party. Have super awesome time with friends!

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Eat healthy food. DRINK ALL THE DRINKS! Move on to some other clubs. Not feeling it. Some weird-ass dude is trying to feel my face. Dimly recall there’s some sort of song about that. Realise that when I am in a club surrounded by 25-year-olds on E, it’s probably time to leave. Pour myself into an Uber and go home to pass out. Getting undressed doesn’t hurt quite as badly. Thank you alcohol.

Sunday: Why am I asleep on my couch? Remember moving there in the middle of the night. Don’t question it. Headache. Arm still hurts like a mother bitch. Yay Myprodol and Rehidrat! Healthy breakfast. Shower, Cavendish, Mockingjay Part 2. Biltong snacks. Home after decent movie and appalling Point Break trailer. Crave pizza. Have a chicken and salad wrap instead. I would high five myself but it’s too much effort. So traumatised by previous trailer, watch real (and only!) Point Break to calm myself down. Snooze on couch. Wake up to Keanu yelling “I AM AN FBI AGENT!” Yes you are baby, yes you are. Skype parents, watch random crap on TV. End off day with a healthy dinner and half of Ghost. Apparently I’m in a Patrick Swayze kind of mood. He would never put me in a corner.

Monday: Up and at ’em, go go GO! Drive through to Clifton, climb a fucking ridiculous amount of stairs (whatever 280 x 14 is). Die.

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Home. Breakfast. Doctor. Cortisone and anaesthetic. Bliss. Work till 6:30pm. Healthy meals all day. Perve new intern on Grey’s. Again. Assessing whether or not this means I am in need of a life. Bed. More Big Fat Quiz. Wonder if Eddie Izzard is straight or gay. Google. Straight apparently. You learn something new about transvestites every day.

Tuesday: Step on scale.

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Realise that after a week of regular training, healthy eating, positive thinking and doing a lot of what I love, I have managed to lose 3.7kg in one week. Because I am a fucking legend.

And that, my friends, is balance.

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An ode to my feet

Terrific tootsies, fabulous footsies, plates of meat that take me down the street – this one’s for you.

Thank you for getting me out of bed at 4am every day (yay for freelancing!).

Thank you for taking me to the gym and back again.

Thank you for standing strong through deadlifts, bench presses, squats, farmer’s walks and more.

Thank you for dragging me up the fucking mountains of hell (otherwise known as Alto wine estate) and back down again safely.

Thank you for taking me up every one of the 280-something Biskop steps, three times up and down. (I may not look like I’m saying thank you, but I really am.

Biskop

Thank you for digging yourselves in the couch every evening and staying there.

Thank you for skipping the aisles in Pick n Pay full of chocolate and ice cream and sin on tap.

Thank you for taking me home instead of to the pub.

Thank you for leading me away from the takeaway menu and towards a fridge full of healthy food instead.

Thank you for running me round Century City for 10km on Saturday. It may have been epically boring, but that wasn’t your fault.

Thank you for looking so pretty in your gorgeous Rouge Day Spa pedicure (in ultra-black Orly Goth – high five for feet with attitude!).

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Goth

And most of all, thank you for standing on either side of this today.

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Awesome, fabulous, fantastic feet, thank you for walking me through a week full of healthy choices – let’s see where the next seven days take us!

(It’s not Shakespeare, but it’ll do.)

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You want a hot body? You better work bitch

Much to my surprise, the reaction to my last blog was overwhelming. I guess semi-nudity is always a hit, no matter how many back rolls you have (will bear this in mind for future blog posts). So to those of you who read it, connected with it, and took the time to share your thoughts with me, a huge thank you!

What was most gratifying was seeing how many people agreed with my point of view – how having an obsessive attitude towards healthy eating and fitness is completely unsustainable, and how we need to focus on the bigger picture of making healthy choices for the rest of our lives, and not just for the immediate future.

That said, there was some feedback that worried me a little, and made me think that some people had missed the point either accidentally or on purpose. What I was trying to say was, don’t get so bogged down in the tiny insignificant details, and if you’ve worked hard, don’t let a ridiculous scale reading bother you. It’s for the rest of your life so keep on trucking. What I wasn’t saying was spend all week on the couch eating takeaways and thinking, ‘meh, it’s for the rest of my life, I still got plenty of time to eat right and work out’.

No. Just… no.

While I’m all about the bigger picture, and being relaxed, and not letting a pathetic loss like 200g (i.e. this week) get me down, I’m all about working my ass off too. Literally. There is a pair of size 36 skinny jeans in my cupboard that I am looking forward to CRUSHING at some point. Which is why over the past week I:

1. Logged all my food like a macro-loving fool

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If it was going in my tummy, it went into MyFitnessPal first. Much as I would love to gorge on pizza and Lindt balls, it just ain’t happening. In fact, there are more carbs in a large Debonairs Tikka Chicken pizza than I’m allowed EVER, even on a carb refeed day (trust me, I checked). Mama just don’t have the macros. And I can’t order a regular pizza, because please, who does that?

2. Entered a clusterfuck* of runs

(*Official collective noun)

Night run, parkrun, trail run, I did them all. I ran, I walked, I swore, I complained, I faceplanted like a motherfucker and hurt my hand badly, I came last, I got a PB on my 5k, and I finished every one of them. Because that’s how I roll.

Constantia Trail Run

Grabouw trail run

Parkrun PB

It also has to be said that in the moment I tripped over a tree root, went flying, hit the deck like a sack of potatoes  and bent all the fingers in my right hand back, literally the first thought that went through my head was “how am I going to lift on Friday??”. I don’t know if that’s sad or awesome – I’m gonna go ahead and say a bit of both.

3. Did Satan’s workout

On top of my two PT sessions a week, I also go into the gym once a week for a conditioning session on my own. The one I’ve been given at the moment I have lovingly (??) dubbed Satan’s workout. Because only the Devil himself (or at a push, Lord Voldemort) could have come up with this hellfire on earth.

My trainer. Satan.

My trainer. Satan.

I would love to tell you exactly what it involves, but it mostly passes by in a haze of kettlebell swings, ball slams, assault bike fuckery, and medium-grade nausea. All of which result in me looking like this afterwards:

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Now that’s attractive.

4. Rested

I am not one of these people that works out twice a day, six times a week.  Like, who’s got the time? Four to five times a week is enough for me thanks very much. Bob Harper said it once on The Biggest Loser and it’s still true today. Rest is a weapon. Watch me wield this bitch.

Rest trail run

5. Had me some spoils

This is where the bigger picture thing comes in. Because while I did all the work, I gots to have me some of the play too.

Like for starters, a well-deserved pedicure for my tired, trail running feet. Thanks Rouge Day Spa, you’re the best! And because I like me some unusual colours, I didn’t go for a red or pink – instead I went for this off-beat what-the-heck grey-blue colour, called Pretty Ugly. Which actually I think is pretty awesome. Don’t worry Pretty Ugly – my tootsies and I will show you some love!

Pretty Ugly toes

Pretty Ugly

Then because as of 1 February I’ve given up takeaways for the next 100 days (which means no more “I’m too lazy to cook, let’s get some Simply Asia up in here” evenings) I celebrated my last day of laziness with this:

The most awesome curry in the world.

The most awesome curry in the world.

That there is the chicken vindaloo from Bibi’s Kitchen in Wynberg, and it is without a doubt the most awesome curry in the world. Since I’ve forced myself to stay away from it for the past eight months (!), I figured my last night of takeaways was the perfect time to smash one in my face. Fuck it was good! And before you start wagging your finger at me, it was all worked into my macros. I basically lived on water and hugs just so I could eat this in the evening. And it was totally worth it.

And finally because I’m nothing if not patriotic, I had myself a little biltong orgy courtesy of Meat Locker – a delicious new butchery service I recently discovered. I of course made the fatal mistake of saying, “oh I’ll just have one slice”.

Meat Locker

Bam, that sucker was gone within 24 hours, and it took a lot of higher grade maths and hair pulling to get my macros back on track. But again, totally worth it. And now I’m hungry.

So ja, that was my week – a lot of hard work, a lot of fun, and a lot of dedication. I have no idea if the biltong was cured with sugar, or if it was grain-fed or grass-fed. I have no idea what kind of oil was used to make my chicken vindaloo. I have no idea why I stuck to my macros, trained 5 days out of the week, got enough rest and water, and only lost 200 grams. And I don’t care. Because worrying about things like that takes up too much energy and I don’t have any to spare. Britney and I are too busy working, bitch.

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Pictures of me in my underpants!

WW Winner

No false advertising here baby. That is me, in all my black underwear glory, large and in fucking charge. But don’t feel too sorry for me though – the reason I’m standing there like a half-naked boss is because in 2013, I won the SleekGeek Winter Warrior ladies’ weight loss challenge, and banked R10 000 in the process. Uh-huh, 10 big ones baby. It helps block out some of the embarrassment. It also helps pay off debts, fatten up your savings account, buy a bunch of treats, and pay it forward too – all of which I did.

But more than a big fat bank account (which is always good), entering the SleekGeek challenge did something more for me – it helped kickstart a wellness programme that I’m still on to this day, it helped me focus and get my priorities right, and it helped me realise that it was possible to go more than one week without drinking (who knew?).

I’ve done more SleekGeek challenges since then (all of them actually) but that was the one that started it all – and it’s why, if you’re looking for the motivation you need to get off the couch and into some gym pants, I always recommend challenge as a starting point. It worked for me – no reason why it couldn’t work for you too.

Which is why I’m issuing you a challenge (yes, a challenge – you didn’t think this was all just going to be you staring at me in my knickers did you?). And that challenge is this – to buddy up with me for the upcoming SleekGeek New Year Challenge and take your life back! I’ve got one free entry to give away, and damn, if you win that entry I am going to ride your ass like Zorro to make sure we win. Because R10 000 doesn’t last long, and mama needs more free cheddar in her life.

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So if you’d like to enter the Losing It draw to win one free entry into the SleekGeek New Year Challenge, then leave your name below, or some sort of thing that lets me know you want to enter. I’ll do the draw over the weekend, and let you know who the lucky winner is (or not so lucky, because trust me, Team Nicola is going to work like a motherfucker).

But even if you don’t get the free entry, you still have the chance to get a discounted one. The regular price for challenge is R599, but if you enter in January 2015, you’ll get it for just R399 – and you’ll get a fantastic set of discounts, eating plans, training plans and motivation and inspiration too. Everything you need to finally tick that sad “must lose weight” resolution off your list. As well as R500 000 worth of prizes to be won too (did I forget to mention that?).

So that’s it peeps – me in my underwear, issuing you a challenge. If you’ve got what it takes enter below to win your free entry now, or enter in January and get a 33% discount off the regular price. 2015 is going to get crushed so hard, I almost feel a little sorry for it.

SG 1

PS: If you’re wondering if I got a kick-back out of this, the answer is yes, I did. How’s that for transparency?

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Hi I’m Nicola and I’m a food addict

As you should know by now, I am an avid follower of The Biggest Loser. Love that shit! But while I’m waiting for some kind soul to upload Season 15, episode 14 onto YouTube, I’ve been watching another similar kind of programme – Extreme Makeover Weight Loss Edition.

 

Extreme Makeover

 

It’s the same sort of thing as the Biggest Loser, except here they take one severely overweight person (as in over 500lbs) and make them work with a trainer over the course of a year to lose a shit-ton of weight – all culminating in a jaw-dropping reveal at the end. Yes of course it’s all made for TV and ratings, and I’m not sure if losing 250lbs or more in a year is safe or healthy, but I’m still able to engage and connect with it, and take things away to use along my own journey.

And the most meaningful episode I’ve seen so far was the one with Wally. I don’t remember exactly how much he weighed, but it was up there in either the high 400lbs or over 500lbs. He had a wife and small child, and had all but given up the fight against food addiction and morbid obesity.

So the TV trainer took Wally on, worked him out, gave him nutritional advice and motivation, and helped him lose over 100lbs in the first 3 months. Well done Wally! But then the trainer left Wally to continue his journey on his own, and things started to go downhill. Wally put up a good fight in the beginning, but eventually started returning to drivethrus and takeaways, until at the end of 6 months, the trainer returned to find that instead of losing another 70lbs, Wally had only lost 25lbs – not enough to meet the target he’d been set.

The trainer had some choice words for him, including ‘liar’, ‘betrayal’, ‘shame’, and a whole host of other things. Reluctantly he agreed to keep helping Wally, and gave him another target for the next 3 months. And that’s when the shit storm hit. Wally cut off all contact with the trainer altogether, until one night he sent an email that was part cry for help, part suicide note. The trainer took the first flight to his house, to find that Wally had gained almost all his weight back, and despite having had all his money and credit cards taken away from him, was still finding ways to sneak food, binge, and eat on the sly. His wife was in tears, the trainer was at his wit’s end, and Wally was made to admit to the world that he was in fact, a food addict.

Sadly, this episode did not end with a sparkling transformation, but instead with the trainer taking Wally to rehab, and leaving him there, desolate and alone.

It was a very hard episode to watch, and it was one that took me back to when I was in the same space as Wally. Because like him, I too am a food addict. Yes, I’m in recovery right now, but the fact remains: I am, and always will be, addicted to food.

 

Food addiction

 

That’s why I identified with Wally. I know exactly what it feels like to sit there and eat and eat and eat past the point of fullness, because as soon as you stop eating you start feeling. I know what it’s like to eat one lunch in front of your friends, then go to McDonald’s afterwards and have four more lunches on your own. I know what it’s like to live in debt with three maxed out credit cards because ordering Mr Delivery every night is cripplingly expensive. And I know what it’s like to lie in bed at night, alone in the 3am blackness, praying that you never wake up again so the pain can just STOP.

I don’t know what it’s like being addicted to drugs or alcohol, but I can tell you that when you’re addicted to food, your life becomes one filled with furtiveness and shame. Your entire day becomes an exercise in hiding – throwing takeaway boxes away before anyone sees, leaving parties early so you can have a second dinner without anyone knowing, stuffing your face while you’re driving away from the takeout joint so your friends don’t see how much you actually bought for yourself… and then making sure to never, ever look at yourself in the mirror, because then you’ll actually have to face up to what you’ve become – a full-blown addict.

People often sat around the coffee table at work saying, ‘ooh I had such a binge last night – I had a whole chocolate and a packet of crisps’. And I wanted to laugh and cry a little all at the same time. Because a binge for me wasn’t a pathetic Tempo and a packet of Lays. It was one of those family variety packs at KFC, all for myself. Or a large pizza plus a large pasta followed by chocolate brownies and ice cream. Or my favourite – 6 chicken and beef samoosas, two chicken vindaloos with rice and nine cream cakes. NINE. With all that stuffed into me on a daily basis, you start to see why the three credit cards were necessary.

 

Doughnuts

 

So what’s the big deal then – why can’t you just stop? It’s easy – just stop shoving shit into your mouth. Hahahahaha. Yes, sure, it’s that easy.

The awesome thing about food addiction is that unlike when recovering from alcohol and drug abuse, you can’t go cold turkey. You need to eat to live. And that’s where the problem comes in. You wouldn’t tell an alcoholic, ‘go chug three to six drinks a day, that’s fine’. Or to a drug user, ‘sure, smack that bitch up six times a day, it’s all good!’. But if you’re a food addict, you’re expected to have your drug of choice three to six times a day, and yet still be able to keep your cravings under control? Not a fuck.

Because a craving it is, let me tell you. At times I almost felt as if I was possessed – that some demon had taken over and I was a prisoner in my own body, powerless to escape its control. I would often watch myself as if from above, shoving things into my face, unable to stop and unable to stop myself. Because the power of food addiction is an all-consuming, inexorable force.

 

Crack

 

And just as much as it’s a force, it’s pure bliss as well. While you’re eating nothing matters – not that you’re bored, lonely, weak, tired, sad, nothing. You’re the king of the world. Until you stop eating. And then you have to look around at your bleak, sad life, littered with takeaway boxes and regret. It’s too much, and too depressing to take in, so you start right back up again with the eating. Because as long as you’re filling your face with food, you don’t have to focus on anything else.

Occasionally the dim realisation that you are killing yourself one Big Mac at a time floats into your conscious mind, and you make the vague effort to get up and do something. But by that time you are so full of bad carbs and unhealthy fats that you cannot get off the couch. I tried it many times, believe me. But you are so weighed down by food and failure that it literally feels as if the steel bands of addiction are pinning you to the couch in an unbreakable iron grip. And so you fall back into the comforting depths of your food palace, look at the delivery menu and pick up the phone. And the cycle continues.

So yes, I understood Wally, I identified with Wally, and I cried with Wally. But at the same time I felt an overpowering sense of relief. Because I’m not where he is anymore. I’ve managed to get off the couch, I’ve managed to wrest back control of my body from the food demons, and I’ve managed to make a life for myself that isn’t defined by food. I’m sad for Wally but I’m proud of myself, because it is without a doubt the absolute hardest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life. And I did it.

Spoiler alert: yes, I will relapse at some point and look for solace in the bottom of a takeaway bag rather than my friends, family or support structures. Because I’m an addict, and that’s what we do. But those periods in my life are becoming shorter, and fewer and less necessary. What is necessary for me is to remember what lies beyond my couch – a world full of possibilities that I’m finally able to get up and embrace, free from the clawing, hungry grasp of my addiction. Food now feeds my body, not my soul, and that’s the way it should be. Wally, wherever you are, I hope that life is helping you learn the same thing.

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I am running a crack den out of my kitchen

Ok no, not really. But I might as well be, what with all the exotic pills and powders that have started taking over the place.

I mean just look at this.

 

Pictured: BCAAs, whey protein, dextrose, omega 3 fish oil, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin D, Meta I-3-C,  and a partridge in a pear tree.

Pictured: BCAAs, whey protein, dextrose, omega 3 fish oil, magnesium, zinc, Vitamin D, Meta I-3-C,
and a partridge in a pear tree.

 

My kitchen counter used to be covered in bottles of wine and takeaway boxes – now I have so many supplements and sports nutrition products that I could open my own Dischem. (Note to self: open own Dischem.)

How times have changed. This time last year I got all excited when Mr Delivery knocked on my door. Now when my latest tub of whey protein arrives it’s like Christmas up in here.

 

SSN. This stuff is the shit.

SSN. This stuff is the shit.

 

Of course it wasn’t an easy transition to make. When I was told I had to start taking whey protein and the like, I immediately thought, ‘oh lord no, that means I have to go to the GUY AISLE’. You know, the one manned by an intimidating giant of a person, full of tubs screaming incomprehensible things like L-GLUTAMINE, CREATINE and YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE WOMAN!

But my first experience with the guy aisle and the giant man was surprisingly painless. I told him what I wanted, he made some helpful suggestions (none of which involved telling me to bugger off and go to the glitter aisle instead) and I’ve been chugging the stuff down ever since.

 

This chocolate whey is seriously sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

This chocolate whey is seriously sometimes the only thing that gets me out of bed in the morning.

 

Do I know what all this stuff does for me? Not 100%, but what I do know is that I feel a lot healthier and have way more energy. Whether that’s down to the clean eating and exercise alone, I have no idea. I try not to overthink things. I know that I have no clue what I’m doing, which is why I pay very clever people to tell me what to do instead. So if they tell me to drink this and take that, that’s what I’m going to do. (I’ve tried to get them to tell me to down tequila shooters every Friday but no luck so far. Will keep you posted.)

And yes, it’s expensive. My latest whey delivery set me back over R500. But then compare that to an evening out at Banana Jam where I used to drop R700 on a bill with NO FOOD, and it all evens out in the end.

So yes, my kitchen may now be filled with weird and wonderful things, but I’m very proud of my little supplement corner. It’s a tangible reminder of the many changes I’ve made in my life, all of them for the better. So bottoms up!

 

Bottom

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The 12 Days of Drinking

Not to be confused with the 12 Days of Christmas. Although I wouldn’t mind if someone gave me five gold rings.

Not to be confused with the 12 Days of Christmas. Although I wouldn’t mind if someone gave me five gold rings.

 

I love alcohol. This should not come as a great surprise to anyone. While I’ve managed to keep my binge eating to a minimum over the past six months (and actually feel a little ill at the thought of reverting to old patterns), my binge drinking is still as monstrous a demon as ever.

 

Binge drinking

 

I’ve gotten way better at the drinking thing though. I’ve stopped going out during the week (with the exception of pub quiz, where sparkling water features heavily). And on weekends, sparkling water is still the main attraction – to the frustration of both my drinking buddies, and myself. But all this abstinence is paying off though, so it’s a trend I want to continue. Believe me, if the sparkling water wasn’t working, there’s no way I’d be doing it.

 

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.  Zero.

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
Zero.

 

But I know myself. If I abstain for too long, Bad Nicola will eventually claw her way out of the depths in which I’ve buried her, and emerge in a binge the likes the world has never seen. I’m talking beer, wine, champagne, cocktails, shooters, embarrassing conversations, slurring, faceplanting, namethrowing, post-drinking McDonald’s, waking up at 4am with a headache stronger than Hiroshima, sweating, vomiting, vowing never to drink again, downing a handful of Myprodol, eating my weight in junk food for the next week because fuck it, and gaining 5kg.

 

Or as I used to call it, Friday night.

Or as I used to call it, Friday night.

 

So to counteract the beast within, what I did last year was pinpoint certain days of the month where I was allowed to drink. Usually no more than two (days, not drinks – duh). A special occasion like a birthday, or a girls’ night, or a dinner with a group of friends. And for the most part it worked. I was having big gaps in between drinking where I did great work in terms of weight loss, and then I was able to party every so often with no restrictions, and not feel guilty afterwards.

 

Come to me oh sweet, sweet nectar.

Come to me oh sweet, sweet nectar.

 

However towards the end of the year when things were winding down and I was tired and restless, the drinks began to creep in again. A glass of wine here and a beer and a shooter there. Saying I was going to drink sparkling water all night, then changing my mind and drinking wine instead. Giving in when I should have been standing strong.

 

Curse you oh cruel mistress!

Curse you oh cruel mistress!

 

Of course saying all that, my drinking wasn’t hectic or out of control in the slightest. And it was still 90% better than it had been in the first half of the year. But as I said, I know myself – if I give myself an inch, I’ll take a mile. And I was disappointed that I’d gone against the plans I’d made for myself, and worried that one glass of wine would eventually turn into two, then three, then OH MY GOD WHY AM I WAKING UP IN A DUMPSTER???

Which is why this year, I have devised a very clever and ingenious plan known as ‘The 12 Days of Drinking’. I know, it sounds very complicated, but what it actually involves is me drinking for only 12 days out of the year. That’s one day a month if you have trouble with math.

In order to make this fair and ensure that I spread the love equally, I have reserved most of the days for my friends’ birthday celebrations (you guys, aren’t you lucky!). Unless of course your party looks like it’s going to be kak boring, in which case I’ll save the drinking for another day.

 

Scratch that. I’ll need to drink even MORE at the boring parties.

Scratch that. I’ll need to drink even MORE at the boring parties.

 

The drinking days are spread out every 4 to 5 weeks, which means I’ll be able to get some good hard work done in between, then splash out for some guilt-free fun to both give Good Nicola a night off, and feed Bad Nicola’s soul before she goes batshit-crazy. A win-win!

I’m hoping for three things with this plan.

  1. That I can stick to it.
  2. That I can eventually progress to a point where I’ll be happy with just one or two glasses of wine rather than one or two bottles…
  3. …which will then mean that I can incorporate more responsible drinking days into my lifestyle once I reach my goal weight.

Is it a perfect plan? Probably not, but it’s the best way I can think of to avoid all my triggers, have some balance in my life, appease my dark side and still smash the shit out of some beerquilas every so often.

 

Mmm, beerquila!

Mmm, beerquila!

 

Because life isn’t just about chicken and broccoli, it’s about fun too – and my definition of fun still includes alcohol, sorry to say.

So, friends, Romans, countrymen – if you have a birthday coming up, it’s more than likely that I’ll be able to toast your awesomeness with a glass of wine rather than water. Can’t wait!

(Oh, and if you’re wondering what happens when I have two friends with a birthday in the same month, the answer is obvious – I’ll drink with the one I like more. Duh.)

 

 

 

 

4 Comments »

Food Wars

Nandos

 

Inside Nicola’s head: a play in one act.

 

Good Nicola (GN): Finally home, thank the pope!

Bad Nicola (BN): Rush hour traffic can suck it!

GN: You said it sista.

BN: Man I can’t wait to mooch on the couch with a cup of coffee and chillax!!

GN:  Um…

BN: Come on, time’s a-wastin’! Let’s get out of the kitchen and into couch heaven. Wait, why are we in the kitchen anyway?

GN: Ok, you promise not to freak out?

BN: Yes…..

GN: We don’t have time to sit down because we have to cook all three of our meals for tomorrow.

BN: WHAT THE FUCK???

GN: You promised not to freak out!

BN: That was when I thought you were going to tell me something sensible. This is beyond ridiculous!

GN: No but-

BN: Uh-uh, don’t you ‘no but’ me you gargantuan asshole. We have been up since 5am, slogging away in the gym, battling through rush hour traffic, putting in a full day of work, battling back home through more gorgeous wonderful rush hour traffic, and now that we’re finally home, you’re telling me that instead of sitting down for FIVE FREAKING MINUTES I now have to stand in front of the stove for fuck knows how long, cooking all my meals for tomorrow? You must be out of your freaking mind.

GN: Look I’m not crazy about it either, but if we don’t cook, who do you think will – the magical kitchen elves?

BN: Ooh, burn.

GN: Oh shut up. I’m tired too. I also want to sit on the couch doing nothing and watching TV and generally metamorphosing into a potato, but we have to cook all our meals for tomorrow or else we won’t have anything to eat. This is what we signed up for. Eating to lose weight, remember!

BN: Oh for fuck’s sakes. Why can’t we just cook all our meals on a Sunday afternoon like the normal people instead of going through this mission every bloody evening?

GN: Because we tried that you idiot, and instead of cooking, you always make us go to the movies instead.

BN: Well the one movie was an important treatise on the consequences of the abuse of power. It was more of a documentary really, so it doesn’t count.

GN: You mean Thor 2 where Chris Hemsworth gets his kit off?

BN: You say potato, I say potahto.

GN: I think we may be drifting slightly from the point here…

BN: Look, we don’t have to cook ALL our meals for tomorrow. I have a plan!

GN: I feel a nightmare coming on….

BN: Here’s what we do. You pick up that lovely little phone of yours, call Mr D, get him to deliver us some Nando’s and salad. Then while we’re waiting for that to arrive, whip up an omelette for tomorrow’s brekkie. And once lovely Mr D gets here, you’ll have made your breakfast, and you’ll have your dinner delivered with leftovers for lunch. Taaa-daaa! I am a genius!

GN: Well, it would be easier and quicker than cooking everything.

BN: This is what I am saying. You should listen to me, I’m very clever.

GN: Ok where’s that phone.

BN: Wooohooo! Yummy chicken deliciousness, here we come!

GN: Ok, so it’s 021 68… wait!

BN: Nooooooooo! You were so close!

GN: No, we can’t do this! It’s expensive and it’s cheating! You don’t know what they make all their stuff with, you don’t know if it’s the correct portion sizes, and it’s a slippery slope. Today it’s Nando’s, tomorrow it’s us passed out in a carb coma surrounded by chocolate wrappers and leftover KFC boxes. NO!

BN: AAGGGHHHH!!!! I just want to sit down and relax! I am TIRED OF WORKING SO HARD!

GN: Well then you shouldn’t have eaten all that shit that got us here in the first place!

BN: I see your lips moving but all I hear is BLAH BLAH BLAH!!!!

GN: I’m not even listening to you anymore. We’re going into the kitchen, we’re cooking all our meals, and that’s that.

BN: WHATEVER YOU SAY MISS GOODY TWO-SHOES!

GN: This is fucking exhausting.

BN: I hate you.

GN: I hate you too.

 

The end

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