Week One: Breaking The Habit

How heavy is that butternut squash? 2.6lbs!

Starting Weight: 15st 10lb
Weight this Week: 15st 7.4lb
Weight Loss this Week: 2.6lbs

Blood Pressure average: 128/95 (on the border, and the wrong side at that, of hypertension)

Each of the 52 weeks of my journey I will explore one specific aspect of what I have learned, and keep up to date with any milestones, learning or insights from the previous seven days.

So how was week one? On the whole, pretty easy. I did suffer from sleepiness in the evenings as my body adjusts to less food. I also got hungry a few nights, but it was easy to keep in check.

On the flipside, I feel fantastic and I am filled with energy having dropped just over two and a half pounds (the surprisingly heavy weight of the sweet potato pictured here). Just eating less food, less crap and taking some minor exercise has increased my energy dramatically.

The week was a little hamstrung by the fact that it was my birthday midweek and I was bought dinner. That was an unfortunate blip. But still, I lost weight, so the week was a success.

Am I an addict?

Some time ago I realised that I was addicted to food. I choose the word addicted as I really want to amplify the severity of this problem, one that afflicts so many of us. And like all addicts, in the first instance, it’s quite easy to make bold steps toward change (assuming one is genuinely committed to change), hence my week one being relatively easy. This is also why most diets work for the first few weeks. But it’s in the following weeks and months that my resolve will be tested.

I believe that there are two stages to the habit (addiction) of eating too much and eating bad food.

Stage 1: Chemical addiction, three weeks to break and easy with will power

Stage 2: Physical habit, six to twelve months to ‘reprogram’ with new healthy habits.

First is the chemical addiction.
Sugar, fat, salt, chemicals etc – when I eat these my body is bombarded by a potent cocktail that in turn fires neurons in my brain and releases more chemicals into my bloodstream. The first few weeks are about breaking this quiet literal chemical addiction to bad foods. Make no mistake, eating makes me feel good (or it does in the moment). And that’s because of what that food does to my body and my mind. Remember, it’s a chemical addiction, and it’s what I am breaking right now. And in many ways with food, it’s not too hard. This isn’t nicotine or crack cocaine! In my experience this only takes three or four weeks to break.

The second habit is more challenging.
Once I have tamed the chemical addiction, my stomach shrinks and my chemical lust for bad food leaves me. At that point I need to deal with the physical habit I have gained over my entire lifetime. It’s that thing I do… opening the fridge when I get home, expecting a nice dessert after dinner, pizza on a Friday night. These patterns need to be broken and replaced with new ones. It could be having a cup of tea after a meal, weighing every meal I eat, eating at very specific times, essentially building a new ritual and habit. For me, it also means opting out of social events, family dinners etc., so that I can reprogram my eating habits. Even weighing myself daily is part of my new habit.

Falling back into old habits?
Once the second habit is in place, in my experience, total personal catastrophe is the most likely trigger for falling back into the old habit. That catastrophe could be a relationship break up, loss of a loved one, moving home… something that shatters your ability to control your routine AND increases stress. More on this in the months to come.

Chris Jones

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