deus ex macchiato

Fabian Bazant-Hegemark's blog

Irrational agency

Overcoming the need to do the things you don't need to do

I recently turned thirty, quite the happy occasion, you'd guess, and in a way it was, because now I finally and for good crossed that barrier where people no longer wonder what I'll do with my life but are convinced I wasted at least a third of it. I disagree, of course, mostly because I am sure that it is more like half of my life. But then, when I was 18, I never imagined reaching the age of thirty. And the more I approached it, the lesser it felt threatening. Being sure as heck that I don't want to turn sixty, I'm sure fifty-five year old me will beg to differ. So many donuts still to be eaten.

But then, maybe because of the magical change in digits, I did feel a sudden urgency in the last couple of months. I didn't want to turn thirty being obese by definition, for example, and hey, I managed to do that. But as soon as I hit that limit, Christmas came and the mildest ever Winter depression did hit me after all. It was nowhere near as bad as it used to be, mind you, but it did make me stuff my face with cookies and chocolates and cake and alcohol, by far not as much as in earlier years, but quite significantly exceeding the limits I had imposed upon my nutrition in the months before.

That was a problem, because as soon as I had spent a couple of days not giving a fuck about my calories – well, I did manage to enter them into my calorie counting app, but I didn't act on that information AT ALL – my feeling of satiety had been shifted to the worse: where in the last months a comparably strict diet had been no problem at all, it suddenly felt like too little. It's been only a couple of days since I feel like I can in fact do this again, so it took me over a month to get back on track, but there is a clear goal still ahead: I want to reach a certain weight. I'm somewhat sure that the problem of why it was so hard for me to get back on track was that I felt I had already reached my goal: not being technically obese (that is, by the way, to have a BMI of below 30. I started out at appr. 36, and am now at 28. Overweight is defined as having a BMI between 25-30). Now, if you're a runner – I guess, the hell do I know about running – and you reach a finish line, I guess you usually stop running eventually. And that's what happened in my mind. I had reached my goal, so who cares?

Alas, I do. Because I did this once before. I had already done all of this shit a couple of years back, then not by restricting my diet but by dancing all the fat off, and it wasn't sustainable back then: as soon as my lifestyle didn't allow for partying all night every other night I couldn't maintain my regiment of "exercise" and in a year or two most of the weight was back on. This time, I tried a different approach, and it again worked, but it again wasn't sustainable: I've reached the point where "eat less" won't work, because I already kinda reached my goal.

When writing, I have a similar problem. I need to cut portions down to manageable size so that I can maintain working on bigger projects. If I have one big project it is too abstract for me, I will just give up or get distracted or both. So what I do is that I set repeating goals that I reach, and then I continue to the next. This kinda works when writing, even though I still have to do a lot of outsmarting because my natural impulse is to eat donuts and lie in bed most of the day, which in itself isn't too sustainable and also a problem when considering ye ole weight losseroo. But how to set this kind of goals for developing a healthy diet? I'm still working on that.

One thing that helps is getting rid of distractions: just as I limited the availability of WiFi and thus porn at home, I try not keeping chocolate in the house. Or, if I do, stuff that I can't just have "one bite" of. Now, that sounds counterintuitive, but hear me out: if I have a bag of chocolate peanuts, I'd eat one and think nothing of it. I wouldn't even log it in my calorie counter. I mean, it's like that conjuring trick with tic tacs, they are allowed to lie about them having any sugar, because the portion size is so small that there is almost no sugar in each of them. So if Ferrero can lie itself out of that, why the hell would I need to log one single chocolate peanut that has maybe 30 calories that I burnt twice by brushing my teeth? Exactly! Fast forward, bag of chocolate peanuts gone, Ferrero still making teeth rot. I'm not sure anybody wins, but I know what I don't lose by that attitude.

But if I have a whole bar of chocolate at home, I would need to open it, I'd see the nutritional information, I'd have to guesstimate how much of that I'm eating right now, or decide that I actively don't give a fuck, and then write it in my log, realize what I've dooone, try to puuuuurge, that wouldn't work agaaaaain, then I'd cry in the shooooower, shout at my doooog, cheese's christ on a cracker that's a fucking ordeal! I better not open that bar of chocolate! Bam. Saved my soul and 600 calories. Look. Look closely. These are the lengths I have to go to to get myself from not becoming a fat tub of lard again. Have a good look. Ferrero. Not even once.

Now, with writing, it's a bit more difficult. I don't have the whole shower-crying scenario when I miss a day of writing, but instead the pain builds up. It builds up to the point where I realize I'm thirty and my novel is still not finished. It builds up to me avoiding friends who'd just ask how the novel is coming along. I'd not organize readings because I can't again repeat the same old stories they heard so many times before. I build up to total catastrophe, and it comes slowly and silently. And if I think about it too much, I think about market saturation, niche products, availabilities, media covering, social media interaction and stuff. So I ignore all of this and just keep writing. And what comes out of it, will come out of it. In the weirdest sense, I feel I understand this fortune cookie bullshit about the journey being the reward. But you still have to walk on your own to journey anywhere at all.