Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Week 3 of the No Diet Diet begins

Inky Flower by Caroline using the Sumi-e brushes in Corel Painter

Well I'm another three pounds or so down - hard to be accurate as my scales are a bit wobbly but my weight is heading in the right direction! I won't claim its all been plain sailing this last week, it hasn't, but I'm still on course.

Week 3 on the No Diet Diet starts off with a questionnaire to help one decide what proportion of people tasks to doing tasks to go for over the next 7 days. If I was working I'm sure I'd be going for more people tasks but, as it is, my emphasis is on the doing tasks. There's also a list of 26 other things to do with the suggestion that one incorporates 2 of them into the next week as well. This is the general plan for the next seven days:
  1. Change - this is today and I've decided to change the bedroom around a bit
  2. Create something
  3. Listen (this is the only people task I've got this week)
  4. Activity - try some new activity
  5. Walk
  6. Learn something - one of the examples is to learn more about how to use some gizmo one owns. I could choose my mobile phone, camera, Corel Painter....
  7. Stand - one of their suggestions is that on getting home from work one avoids sitting down... I'll avoid sitting down after breakfast instead.
On the people side though there is someone who might be joining in with me - she ought to be getting her book today or tomorrow.

Earlier this week I read some of the reviews of the No Diet Diet on and was amazed at how many people were prepared to slam it without even trying it - saying it couldn't possibly work because it wasn't food / exercise based!

Another way it won't work is if you off-load all the responsibility for weight-loss onto it.

The whole idea is to become more aware of one's habits and in breaking some of the non-food ones to have more of a chance of exerting control through gaining awareness generally which will probably include some of the food and exercise habits.

One or two of the success stories in the book give the impression that they have no idea how they've lost weight but I've certainly gained in awareness of feeling full and felt like eating different things - so although there is no prescription for what or how much to eat I'm sure that my eating (apart from the pizza episode last Saturday!) has been much more in tune with my needs.

Here are some food habits I've spotted or was already aware of, and that I'm attempting to avoid falling back into:
  1. Difficulty noticing when I've had enough - especially if the radio is on or I'm reading...
  2. Not chewing sufficiently.
  3. When eating on my own I find myself standing up to put the plate away before I've finished chewing my last mouthful.
  4. Eating whilst standing.
  5. Preparing a hot drink tends to trigger me to also want a hot cocoa which is of course a lot more food-like than just a hot water!
  6. Tending to prepare too much of one thing when what I like is variety.
  7. Mindless eating of crunchy things like crisps or Pringles...
  8. A tendency towards all or nothing - finding it much easier to give something up completely than to simply have less. Or indeed to finish the whole tube of Pringles rather than stop and put the lid back on...
  9. Pacing myself against other people rather than being aware of what I need...
Other non-food habits (many of which I hope I've now broken or at least dented):
  1. Switching the radio on, even when I'm quite likely to turn it off again once I've heard what's on. And even stranger having turned it on in one room and turned it off again, I'll turn it on in another room - as though its Radio 4 will be more satisfying than the Radio 4 I've just rejected!
  2. Reading despite physical discomfort. I'd say this is actually one of my very worst habits. I can push myself to keep on reading when my whole body is yelling at me to stop!
  3. Waking up in the night to go to the loo.
  4. Sitting in the same seat at the dining room table.
  5. Surfing the web too much.
  6. Holding the phone to my left ear only.
  7. Sitting in strangely uncomfortable positions - ones that I'm sure if someone told me I must do I'd be very reluctant to hold!
  8. Putting off sorting out financial things.

Yesterday started and ended with lost animals.

In the morning I went out for a walk before breakfast and a man asked me if I'd seen a small brown dog. As I wandered around I heard him calling to her and caught sight of him again towards the end of my walk - still looking for her. I hope he found her.

And in the evening there was an appeal on Radio 4 about an African grey parrot that had gone missing in Bristol. They mentioned it on Radio 4 because it likes the pips on the hour! (Checking on the web it seems the parrot has now been returned.)

I grew up with lots of animals but haven't had any in recent years... getting a pet would definitely be doing something different.... what animal(s) would you recommend and why?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Six Random Things About Me

Random splatters by Caroline in Corel Painter

Soulbrush popped in and has inspired me to tell 6 random things about myself. (You can see hers here).

To make them as random as possible I'm using a random word generator to prompt me:
  1. chopped - I took a term of Karate when I was 22 - I stopped after that because I felt the instructor was ogling me too much and besides I was having a lot of difficulty remembering the forms.
  2. prolonged - well the obvious one is that I've been off-work since 1996 but that's not new so how about a more positive one - when I was in my teens I was did a 12 hour sponsored dance and enjoyed almost every moment of it...
  3. club - I'm not currently a member of any club but I have been in the past a member of the following sorts of clubs: archery, bridge, chess, go, TM, yoga.
  4. undoing - my undoing has been chocolate, and now unsweetened cocoa! But is that news? No probably not... well how about a terrible tendency to have things stop working as soon as I've publicly claimed that they are working... do you think mentioning it now will take its power away?
  5. institution - I went to Warwick to do Maths - it had been an institute of Mathematics before it was even a university - but the reason I went there was because it was nearer home than most of my other options...
  6. flags - Irises are one of my favourite flowers. The Yellow Flag Iris is gorgeous but a bit too big for our town garden's pond.
If you fancy having a go at this I really recommend using that random word generator to nudge you.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


"Routine and the Habitweb" by Caroline using Corel Painter

Illustration Friday's theme this week is Routine - how useful with respect to the No Diet Diet. The book is clearly expecting most people to be stuck inside a routine as well as lots of habits. For instance always getting up at the same time, working the same hours, lunching at the same time, going to bed at the same time, etc. I have no such time-based routine. As I'm not working I don't have anyone else setting my hours for me so my habits are mostly regardless of time and more to do with context.

Today is day 12 of the No Diet Diet for me and it is about being, either more spontaneous or more systematic, whichever one is less comfortable with. There is no doubt about which way I verge - I find being systematic extremely difficult; hence the lack of routine. Not that I haven't attempted to get more organized, I have, but my default behaviour... um... habit... is that of being spontaneous. So that's spontaneous but habit-ridden! A bit of a puzzle but it seems to be true.

I attempted to show the drag of the web of my habits in the picture I did. I'm not sure how well it works as an illustration but it was fun to do.

A couple of years ago I gave myself a day like my school days used to be with everything planned for each hour. I set a timer and did it. That day I felt exhilarated by it but the next day I felt the most extreme refusal to ever do it again - body and soul! Or maybe it was less body and soul but more my habits reasserting themselves... so hard to tell the difference... whichever it was I haven't done it again and decided today to be a little easier on myself in my pick of new systematic behaviours to try. Instead I've planned a few things to do today and over the next few days.

Yesterday I fell into a habit I didn't know I had. I failed to break it at the time, I was sort of aware that I was in it but found it particularly hard to break out of despite several times almost managing to. And this was a habit to do with food.

I'd bought pizzas from one of our local delis; smaller and more expensive than the usual supermarket pizzas and I hoped both more wholesome and more delicious. When I started mine I immediately didn't like it, and yet I carried on eating it. The bread-base was far too thick and the cheese tasted stale and nasty. And the result was it sat very heavily in me and I felt very much less happy than I had that morning (which had been lots of fun; we'd shopped in a new place and bought Japanese ingredients so that I could finally make Jim the sushi I've been promising him for the last 13 years - I wish I'd made the sushi instead of having the pizza!).

In the past, I've had quite a few discussions (arguments?) with my mother-in-law about leaving food. She is very anti-leaving food and considers it a crime to waste it. This is despite the fact that she would also like to be a few pounds lighter than she is. I say that simply eating food because its on your plate won't feed people in other countries or poorer people here and it is using oneself as a waste bin.

I don't set out to waste food but I do know that simply eating something because it is there, rather than because I want it, is more likely to harm me than help anyone else. Unfortunately my rational argument seems to have been forgotten by my body and somehow I've picked up her habit of eating something because it is there even when it is horrible!

Something else that seemed to be going on also seems key. This was the first thing I'd eaten, whilst on the No Diet Diet, that hadn't been satisfying. I noticed that part of the urge to continue to eat was the need to feel satisfied. However it didn't satisfy me at all and I just ended up feeling stuffed! Yuck!

All useful lessons for me and I hope I'm more able to break this habit when it creeps up on me again!

Today, in the interests of being more consciously systematic I finally got around to checking out the website for the No Diet Diet and was most disappointed. They want a subscription of £22.95 per month, or £275.40 a year! Something that's available to the non-payer are the previous monthly newsletters which, frankly, are not very inspiring, nothing like as good as the book. And yes I read (quickly) all 20 of them - this is my day for being systematic.

I got my copy of the book from my local charity bookshop but even full price its only £10. Clearly even more of a bargain than I'd previously realised.

And talking of bargains - remember September 4th is my 3rd blogiversary and I'll be featuring a giveaway then!

Update: I've just scared myself silly looking at some of my books on how to be more organised... I think I'm going to have to consider this an area that really does need some serious changing of habits.

Books I've looked at:

Organizing for the Creative Person may be the best bet out of the organising books but it feels too dense for me today.

The Ultimate Book of Organising Hints and Tips is at least brightly illustrated and can obviously be dipped into - maybe I'll pick one thing from here to actually do today.

Getting Things Done - I know I've thought this potentially useful in the past but today it too feels too dense.

Looks like the message is that I'm feeling dense - still feeling the after-effects of that pizza from yesterday I think!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Look at this!

Look what I've won!

All this came today from Lisa Oceandreamer!

Somehow, a while ago, I ended up on her blog just when she was doing a giveaway to celebrate having blogged for 2 years. I felt a bit cheeky commenting at the time as I was only an occasional visitor there but I felt I ought to leave a congratulation on having blogged for two years and then it turned out that I'd won - so I felt even cheekier, oh dear. But its arrived today and its made me so happy!

Thank you Lisa Oceandreamer - your parcel contained such wonderful cheerful, fun, girly things in addition to the advertised wall-hanging (in my favourite colours)! What a surprise I really wasn't expecting all these extras. I wasn't expecting any extras! I'm so happy I really don't know what to say.

The No Diet Diet suggests today, day 9, one experiment with being more (or less) group-oriented than usual... and as I'm not working I was wondering just how to be more so. Then the doorbell rang and there was a parcel for me, all the way from the USA! I am part of the blogging community and am feeling it right now and here.

So how am I going to do something to spread the bliss?

I'm going to do a giveaway too.

On September the 4th I'll be celebrating my third blogiversary! So make sure you come by then and comment for your chance to win... to win what? You'll have to wait and see...

And thanks again to Lisa Oceandreamer.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Week 2 of the No Diet Diet begins

Early one morning just as the rain was bowing

One week on the No Diet Diet and I'm 3 lbs lighter and more importantly feeling fantastic!

I'm finding it quite staggering that a "diet" which doesn't prescribe or proscribe specific foods or exercises can have this benefit.

Here is my dieting history, just since 2000:

In 2000 I lost a couple of stone (around 30 pounds) in the summer before Jim and I got married in December. I easily kept this weight off for a year until the summer of 2001.

For most of 2001 I was seeing a Jungian psychotherapist and it completely knocked me off balance. I put back on the 2 stone, plus more, in about three weeks during a particularly gruelling time. (This was around the time of 9/11; I do realise that my "gruelling time" was of much less moment than that of many others.)

In 2002, free from the therapist and feeling in control once more, I put myself back on the diet that had worked so well only two years before. Not a pound would budge.

I also tried Atkins over 6 weeks that May/June and again not a pound did I lose.

In 2004 I did manage to lose some weight but only when I skipped whole meals and it didn't stay off. Incidentally this wasn't a "diet" just changes in my appetite at the time.

And since then I've had sporadic attempts but the only result overall had been a gradual increase. I had already worked out for myself that diet's weren't working for me, I just wasn't sure what to do instead...

This year I've not had sugary foods since January and until starting the No Diet Diet I'd lost nothing. Or rather I had an immediate 7 pound loss that went back on again just as quickly. After that my weight has been very steady. I'd been considering this a mini-triumph - at least it wasn't still going up. (I'm keeping off the sugar anyway there are good health reasons for avoiding it, and as I've pretty much lost my sweet tooth now so I'm not missing sugar or feeling in the least bit deprived - in fact anything sugary is now sickly sweet to me!)

Some of you know that in the past (1992 and again in 1996 since when I've not worked) I've been diagnosed as having M.E. or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. Quite a lot of people with it do end up with a weight problem.

When one has so little energy it is natural to eat since it is from food that we derive our physical energy. Another problem is that when feeling very tired, it can be extremely difficult to bother to feed oneself in a healthy way. Also when too tired for most pleasures, food is an obvious last resort. And without the option of working it off with some extreme exercise... If you don't know much about this here is a quote from a website on it:
The fatigue is often made worse by activity. This is called 'post-exertional malaise'. However, the post-exertional malaise may not develop for several hours or more following the activity. It may even develop on the following day.
This means I can look healthy, be seen to be being active and pronounced fit by people who know no better and then a day later be entirely knocked out by what I've done. And it is really hard for me to predict when an activity will have this effect.

So given all of that isn't it amazing that after a week I'm feeling so much happier, and have actually lost 3 pounds!

This week the No Diet Diet is focusing on habits around interacting with people.

The tasks for this week are:
  1. Be more or less assertive than usual
  2. Be more group-centred or more individual-centred whilst in a group
  3. Be more calm or more driven than usual.
  4. Be more adaptable or more decisive than usual.
  5. Be more spontaneous or more more systematic than usual.
  6. Be more introvert or extrovert than usual.
  7. Be more or less conventional than usual.
Today is assertive/unassertive day.

The idea is to decide whether one is habitually assertive or not and then to experiment with a different behaviour. The book becomes more of a guide at this point since they cannot tell you exactly what to do but they do make useful suggestions that act as examples.

In true Caroline-fashion I've diagnosed myself as both. So my tasks today are to assertively return something to a shop (not something I'm looking forward to, though I'm feeling buoyed up by the last week and therefore do feel up to it) and to be gentler in other ways.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Sunday Scribblings - Observations


There was once a wise old man who lived on his own in the thickest part of the woods. Everyone could tell he was extremely wise because he had such a very long beard. And besides you have to be wise to be able to live on your own and survive in the middle of the woods. We’ll be back to see him soon.

Our story opens on the morning of a long summer day, the sort of day that makes one skip and jump just to be. A very blithe summer morning indeed. But what do we see but a young girl sitting weeping. This is not the skipping and jumping we would expect from someone so young and so beautiful on such a day.

We approach and see that her mother has come to comfort her.

“Come on Angela cut that out will you? We’ve got to be off very soon you know.”

“But Mum! Can’t you see I’m shaking in my boots.” (She isn’t wearing boots of course, this is a lovely summer morning). “I had that dreadful dream again last night and I am so frightened that its going to come true. Do let me stay home today.”

“Don’t be absurd. Whoever heard of such a thing?” (This woman clearly has no idea what sort of story she is in!)

“Mum, you know that Violet had the very same dream and after the third time she disappeared.”

“What I know is that Violet was a very silly girl and ran away because she was frightened of a dream. That doesn’t mean the dream itself came true!” (Ah but cause and effect are so hard to tell, especially in stories... and life).

“Could we go to see Uncle Benjamin, Mum? You know he is very wise and if he tells me the dream won’t come true I’ll believe him.” (Young woman you are on dangerous territory - you do realise you are implying that your mother is not wise... and that you will believe anything that someone with a very long beard tells you!)

Her mother looks at her and for once allows some compassion to come through instead of all her rush and hurry. She smiles at this young woman, so recently just a girl and quite often still as vulnerable. She also realises that this might be the only way to get Angela to move.

“Okay, we’ll call in on him on our way back. You know we’ve got to be in Mirthton by ten this morning.”

Their trip to the town is successful, their shopping satisfying and as their purchases are all being sent on by carrier they are free to find their own way home through the thick woods, instead of along the well-trodden, well-populated roads. It is twilight by the time they reach the thickest part of the woods. (This is where the background music ought to be ever so slightly chilling.)

“Is this where Uncle Benjamin lives?” (Are we there yet?)

“I’m not sure, its such a very long time since I came to see him. And you do know he’s not really your uncle don’t you? I meant to mention it before - you are quite old enough now not to call him that.” (Indeed, most middle-aged or even old men are going to prefer to think themselves only a year or two older than such a beautiful young woman, its only little girls that charm by calling them uncle!)

There is a slow deep rumbling, like thunder only more continuous and with no flashes of light. It is now very dark and gloomy in this the thickest part of the woods.

Angela and her mother prudently hold each others hands, not of course because either is actually frightened herself but knowing it will give comfort to the other, and may avoid their becoming separated in such deep, dark woods. (Scaredy cats!)

All of a sudden they are in a clearing by an old shanty. There is Benjamin the wise old man sitting on a rocking chair snoring away. On his lap is a big fluffy marmalade cat. It opens its eyes just to let them know its not really asleep but closes them again to let them know it’s not such a scaredy cat as they are. Somewhat hastily they drop each other's hands.

Angela gets a sudden fit of shyness and her mother realises that she’ll have to wake the old man herself. (Good idea, we’ve no idea that he’s really wise enough to know whether he is properly awake or still dreaming and we wouldn’t want to narrate what might happen if he thinks he’s dreaming about such a beautiful, even nubile, young woman as Angela!)

“Hello, Benjamin. Good evening, sir.” she says.

There is no response.

A little louder.

“Ahem. Cooeee! Benjamin! Helloooo! Wakey wakey!”

The old man stirs. “Just two pints today please” he says and goes straight back to sleep.

Angela looks at her mother. Her mother looks back at her. They think this rather odd. Angela goes up to the shanty and knocks loudly on the door.

“Oh, erm... is it Friday? So sorry my good man. The milk money is on the ledge.”

He says all this but is still not really awake. No-one could mistake Angela for the milkman at this stage in her life. Later maybe.... but that would take a very wise man indeed to guess... not that she’s going to have a sex change, but she will, in 20 years or so, be working delivering milk. That however is a completely different story and it seems very, very unlikely that this snoring old man is being truly prescient.

Angela draws her mother away. And whispers:

“I thought this was the thickest, darkest part of the woods - how on earth does he get milk delivered here? And where does he get money from?” (A very good point, I’m glad she noticed before I had to make it even more obvious.)

Angela walks around the shanty and discovers that on the other side is a neat little path that goes straight up to the road. Her mother is all amazement. They decide to go home and leave wisdom to sleep its sound and well-deserved sleep.

After they have gone, still in his sleep the old man says:

“I’m sorry to say your dream does indeed mean ill-fortune. And the only way to avert it is...” But I stopped listening here as Angela has gone and it was only relevant to her.

I hope you enjoyed this little story with added observations. For different interpretations of this theme go to Sunday Scribblings - Observations.

The No Diet Diet

I'm on day 4 of the No Diet Diet and finding it extraordinary. Yesterday I avoided all hot drinks and noticed a tremendous urge to put the kettle on, even though I was quite happily drinking cold water, my habit of drinking hot water kept on attempting to reassert itself. And today I've been much more aware as I switch on the kettle. Its fine to have a hot drink, its the habit and the knock-on habits that are the problem.

Things I have done differently so far:
  • Swapped sides of the bed, in fact we've alternated since buying the book on Tuesday
  • Sat in a different chair to eat
  • Had a neighbour round for a meal for the first time - we'd kept on saying sometime but never fixing a date, now its actually happened. (Thanks to Jim for all the cooking xxx)
  • Tried a new treatment - Hopi Ear Candling - I didn't especially like or dislike it but it was something different. My neighbour has also tried this in the past and loves it, says she finds it very relaxing. and that she finds it especially useful before long-haul flights.
  • My computer is in yet another place in the house.
  • As well as all the daily challenges so far.
It is a lot more fun than any food based diet!

The oddest thing in some ways is that I've had plenty of days in the past when I've done different things or abstained from doing things I otherwise do habitually. The big difference here is being so aware that I'm on the look out for habits and their knock-on habits; noticing the stirrings of the whole habitweb. Its having the awareness at this level, not that of a single habit, but the whole network of habits that is the important difference for me. And of course the continually doing different things, not just substituting one habit for another...

It makes me feel much lighter.

Thursday, August 14, 2008


Part of the "Do Something Different" regime is to do just that, some different things. You might think that there is rather a lot of difference between 23 and 24 from the list above. But when I looked up in one of my books on hints on how to improve meditation it said, on breath counting, that one should approach it like hopscotch... if you step on a line you simply go back to 1.

In - 1, Out - 1, In - 2, Out - 2, In - 3, Out - 3, In - 4, Out - 4, In - 5, Out - 5, In - 6, I wonder what I can possibly do about... oops... back to one.... In - 1, Out - 1, In - 2, Out - 2...

Yesterday I started the "Do Something Different" regime and did not watch telly, nor did I listen to the radio, read or switch on the computer. It was amazing. I did know that I tended to switch the radio on and off a lot but I had no idea how strong the compulsion to switch it on was, despite my tendency to turn it off again quite soon afterwards.... I resisted but I kept on noticing the urge!

And this increase in self-awareness has already had a knock-on effect to awareness of other habits, including some to do with food. I'm amazed that even the first day should have such an effect.

Today the task is to write for 15 minutes in a way one wouldn't normally write (and despite the fact I've not blogged much recently I didn't think this would count!). So I did it earlier and in fact ended up writing for more like 45 minutes... I started it as a writing meditation, writing what I heard and sensed in other ways. It was a bit like hopscotch too... every time I drifted from the now and noticed my drift I started off again with what I heard.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Do Something Different!

Night Glow

Sorry to have been absent rather longer than planned - Jim has removed an old carpet from the room where my computer is normally kept and then he sealed and painted the concrete floor but its still too smelly for me to be down there so we've moved my computer up to the dining room where its a bit in the way but at least usable!

Over the last few days we've been entertaining Jim's mother, Mary, who came to see the Bristol Balloon Fiesta which was on from last Thursday to Sunday. The night glow is shown above.

Now she has gone and I'm planning to start a specific programme from The No Diet Diet: Do Something Different. The idea is to break the habits that keep one set in one's ways and that consequently lead to weight gain. The first week is about breaking some non-food habits. But I'm a bit stuck already as I don't have the specific habits they target - though I'm sure I'll find something else. Here are the first 7 days worth of tasks:
  1. Avoid TV / radio all day. Maybe I'll have to avoid reading.
  2. Write something for 15 minutes - something you wouldn't have written anyway. (I think this will be fun).
  3. Don't have your favourite drink. They suggest drinking water instead. But water IS my favourite drink.
  4. Go for a 15-minute walk - one that is not part of any normal routine. (I like the sound of this).
  5. Get up an hour earlier. This is rather assuming a set getting-up time... I get up anytime between 5.30 and 8.30...
  6. Make a list of what you want to achieve by this time next year. (I rather refused to do this when Carla suggested it in her wingsforyou challenges so its time I did it...)
  7. Do a good-natured deed for someone else. (I rather hope I'd do this anyway but I'll be extra aware of the possibility that day).
Anyone else feeling like breaking some habits?