Got “The Funk”? 8 things you can do to start feeling better.

Oh, GAWD – The Funk. I’m not talking about the teat-ridden Old Gregg kind either.

We’ve all experienced The Funk at some time or other. It’s shit. Really, really shit. But also… essential? Because really, it’s during funks that we begin to reevaluate things. After all, The Funk wouldn’t come for us at all if our lives were ticking along swimmingly.

For me personally, thinking of The Funk as something that has purpose can make things feel less grey. My most recent Funk was a long one from which I have only just emerged. Happily though, it not only made me realise that I needed to take better care of myself, but it also pushed me to change certain things in my life for the better. I have emerged happier, more focused, and free of some toxic individuals and situations that I found the strength to walk away from. But that doesn’t mean that it didn’t feel fucking horrible at the time.

As such, I have compiled some tips for dealing with The Funk while you’re riding it out. These tips will not make The Funk go away – only time will take care of that – but they will make it a hell of a lot easier to live with.

1.Stop fighting the funk

imgur_funk_feelings
Source: Imgur/NBC

The belief that we can control how we feel is at best misguided and at worst, damaging. Emotions are natural. Yes, they are sometimes irrational, but they are essential; they’re what guide us through life. We know not to walk down that dark alley with a terrible reputation at 3am because our fear tells us not to. We know the kind of people we want in our lives because we feel positive and rejuvenated after spending time with them.

You wouldn’t tell yourself that you shouldn’t have these feelings – so why do you tell yourself that you shouldn’t have The Funk? The more you deny its existence, the more insidious it becomes. You’re already feeling crappy, right? So why make it worse by heaping guilt and shame on yourself? Why exhaust yourself by denying it?

Do yourself a favour, and just accept that The Funk is where you are right now. And that’s okay. Funks are part of the human experience. It’s okay to have bad days, months or years. It’s all about how you manage them.

So try this…

2. Practice a little gratitude.

tenor
Source: Tenor/CBS

Now I’m not saying you should leap out of bed every morning, kiss the floor, throw your arms skywards and shout “THANK YOU FOR MY LIFE!” Unless that’s your bag, in which case go ahead.

What I’m suggesting is being thankful for the little things. Make eye contact with the bus driver and say thank you; don’t just tap your pass and run along. Leave a note thanking the cleaner for busting his or her ass to make your desk habitable long after you’ve gone home. Thank the lecturer after class. Acknowledging the seemingly small, everyday things that other people do for you can make a world of difference.

You can also take a moment to be mindfully thankful. Something I do when I’m feeling low is to take a few minutes or so to think about all the good things in my life.  The beauty of this is it that it can be performed anywhere – you just need a few quiet moments to yourself. Close your eyes and do it on the bus. Sit on your bed when you first wake up in the morning and run your mind.

It might feel like everything has turned to shit, but you’ll be surprised by just how many things you can think of – even acknowledging the things you take for granted, such as having a roof over your head, can make you feel just that little bit better.

Speaking of running your mind…

3. Listen to what you have to say.

ab20793eb7660d1b404c3204e2bf23aa
Source: Pinterest/ABC

You are likely in the throes of The Funk because your life has taken a wrong turn somewhere, big or small. It’s a good idea to think about what you are trying to tell yourself right now. Are you ruminating on something specific? Are you dissatisfied with your job, for example, or are there problems in your relationship? Don’t dismiss these thoughts. Yes, it can be painful to focus on what it is that’s making you feel crappy, but you’re going to feel it at some point. The longer you try to squash these thoughts down like items in an over-packed suitcase, the harder they’re going to bite you on the bum when you can’t fight them off anymore. Trust me, it will happen.

Luckily, discontent really is the first step to change. You might not be able to fix everything right away – hell, you might not even have the energy because The Funk has a habit of draining that right out of you – but the first step is knowing what you need to fix. If your head, heart or gut are ever telling you something that you don’t want to hear… well, that’s usually the best sign that you should swallow your pride and listen.

Then you can…

4.  Take control.

giphy1
Giphy/Disney

Being in a funk can make you feel helpless. I suggested accepting that you’ve got The Funk, but I never said anything about submitting to it. So take control. Prepare for change.

Start by making a list of everything that’s not right about your life right now. Consider relationships with the people around you, frustrations with where you’re at in life, things you aren’t doing that you should be or want to be… anything at all you can think of that you would like to improve. Be really, really honest with yourself.

Then, one by one, think about how you want to tackle these things. How are you going to salvage that sour friendship? Can you sit down and talk it out? When and how will you do it and what will you say? Maybe you just missed out on a promotion, or didn’t get the grades you were expecting. What made you fall short this time and how can you improve? How will you work towards the change? Make little plans. Remember the SMART targets that were shoved down your throat at school. They’re cheesy but they work. Just sitting down and really thinking everything out will automatically make you feel better, because you’re doing something. You’re taking the first few steps to send The Funk on its merry way.

Consider also the small things you can do right now to make life feel a little brighter. Working towards good health is an important consideration. The benefits of exercise on our mental health are well documented. Maybe you could squeeze in a run in a couple of times a week, or even think about taking a brisk walk during your lunch hour. Or perhaps you could take ten minutes in the evening for a quick meditation session. If you’re new to meditation there are hundreds of brilliant guided meditation videos on YouTube, of varying lengths and on different topics.

It doesn’t all have to be about you, though…

5. Make someone else smile.

giphy
Source: Giphy/Paramount Pictures

Ah, the simple compliment. It’s funny how a quick kind word to another person can boost our own mood. Like someone’s shoes? Tell them! Think they did a great job on whatever they did a great job on? Let them know. Seeing their eyes light up will make you feel warm, and knowing you boosted their day will feel pretty good in itself. Putting positive energy out into the world is the best way of ensuring it flies right back at you, like a warm and fuzzy boomerang.

Gratitude also comes into play again here. Let a treasured friend or family member know how much you appreciate them. Perhaps they’ve been supportive whilst you’ve been fighting your funk, listening to your troubles and offering solutions. Send them a heartfelt card to say thank you, or take them out for a meal at their favourite restaurant. Of course, you don’t really need a reason to do these things; it’s always nice to make someone else feel appreciated.

You could even take it one step further and think about volunteering. If you love animals, maybe you could help out at a local shelter for a few hours every weekend. You could also helps others by volunteering at a soup kitchen or joining a befriending scheme for vulnerable people or the elderly. Helping people will bring you outside of your own troubles for a while and better still, make a real difference to their lives.

And when you get home, you can…

6. Treat yourself!

giphy2
Source: Giphy/Disney

Sometimes, it’s the little things that make us feel better. If you’ve had an especially rough week, treat yourself to a massage or a haircut. If you can’t afford it, put on some relaxing music, get yourself a cheap face pack and spend the evening pampering yourself. Absorb how good your moisturiser feels on your skin, breathe in the smell.

You could also treat yourself to something naughty, maybe some chocolate whilst you watch your favourite film, or order in a pizza to chill with when you’re feeling too beaten down to cook. Don’t make a habit of this, especially if you’re prone to comfort eating when you’re feeling down; you don’t want to get into that cycle and thus prolong The Funk.

Getting out of the house is great too. Purchase a ticket to the cinema or the theatre, spend a day out in a museum or an art gallery; anything you like. Just make sure you’re reminding yourself of the simple pleasures in life. Or even the not so simple ones – take a holiday if you can afford it! I am a great advocate of taking city breaks by yourself. It’s a chance to get away and do exactly what you want to do. Seeing new places will again remind you that there is life outside of what you’re experiencing at the moment. Big old world out there.

The bottom line is that it’s important to remind yourself that you can still experience pleasure. And make yourself do it too; the more you decide you haven’t got time or motivation to do nice things for yourself, the further into The Funk you will sink. Which leads me to my next point…

7. Do what you love.

best animations_looneytunes
Source: Warner Bros/merdereves.tumblr.com

Not only can hobbies and interests be a great distraction from feeling crappy, they can also provide a sense of purpose. Engaging in what you love reminds you of who you are as an individual. It will not only give you something to look forward to, it will remind you what having fun is like, something that might feel long forgotten in the everyday throes of Funkland.

Whether it’s playing an instrument, hiking, painting, writing a blog about daffodils… get on it. Work on developing your skill, or just do it because it makes you happy. It doesn’t matter. This might also be a good time to try something completely new. Have you been meaning to sign up for those local ballet lessons for a year and a half, or do you want to try pottery? Do it! Can’t be bothered to do it? Force yourself! You never know where trying something new will lead you. If you can just show up and give it a go, everything else will take care of itself from there.

So, here you are doing all these great things to help yourself and improve your life. But if you can’t do it all alone…

8. Seek counselling.

giphy3
Source: Netflix/Giphy

Even if you have the greatest, most supportive people in your life who are willing to talk things through with you until the cows come home, sometimes going one step further and seeking counselling is just what you need. Talking with someone who doesn’t know you and can help you fight The Funk with a degree of objectivity can really help you make sense of things.

Here in the UK, CBT is available on the NHS and you can ask to be referred through your GP. CBT is extremely beneficial and suitable for just about everybody, but be prepared that you may have to wait for a couple of months to be seen depending on demand in your area.

The other, quicker option is to pay to speak with someone. The British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy provides this list, where you can find someone who either provides general counselling or someone who specialises in something more specific to your own issues.

Realistically, a private counsellor is too pricey for many of us. Another option is to seek counselling through a charitable organisation. Some mental health and wellbeing charities will offer free counselling, although this does depend on the area. Other charities will ask you to pay, but their fee schemes will usually be based on a sliding scale, where they will ask you to pay depending on your income. Free self-help talking groups are also an option. Have a browse online and see what’s available in your location.

You could also call The Samaritans. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be suicidal to speak to them (although if you are, please get your ass on the phone to them right now, or better still get your ass down to A&E). It is free to call them in the UK on 116 123. It’s completely confidential and the number won’t show up on a phone bill.

 

Finally, keep in mind, no matter how bad things feel right now… it will pass. The Funk sucks, but it’s always temporary. Keep fighting.

Accountability: Vitamin D-Bag

(At the time of writing because I got distracted…) I’ve been watching Daytime TV for five minutes. So far, I’ve learned that Harry Styles is loud in bed, you can buy swimming pool inflatables which are dimensionally accurate replicas of Kim Kardashian’s arse, and that you can actually get eye cancer. The more you know…

It’s been almost four weeks since my last accountability update, and it’s been quite a four weeks. The main thing is, I’m doing a lot, lot better, both physically and mentally. I’m currently having some tests to work out why I’m in pain all the time, and so far what’s come up is a huge vitamin D deficiency – my doc said the average healthy level is around 75 and mine is like 23 or something – so pretty big. Eep. Though it’s hardly surprising – vitamin D is the only vitamin we have to get from sources other than food, in this case the sun, although there are small amounts in eggs and fish and they add it to some cereals and other processed things that I try not to eat. I love the sun, don’t get me wrong – I’m definitely a summer person. However, I love it from a distance, kind of like a creepy stalker. I like seeing it early in the morning. I do like being out in it, as long as I can take refuge in the shade because I hate being hot. It’s a complicated relationship. So chances are, even before it was stupid winter, I wasn’t getting enough for a while.

ahs emma roberts why coven too hot ac failure animated GIF
Luckily, it’s easily fixed – and luckier still, it could actually be the source of all of my issues. Various studies have linked low vitamin D with depression, which could explain why I’ve had so much trouble fighting my way out of my most recent episode. I’m definitely coming out the other side, but it’s been a long time coming. I’ve had bad spells before, but they’re usually relatively short periods of feeling absolutely hysterically terrible and barely functioning until I manage to bring myself back up with meds adjustment and some self help. This has been more like a period of coasting along, going through the motions, feeling permanently tired of everything and getting tearful and nihilistic at the slightest negative provocation. I’ve heard depression described before as ‘anger without energy’ and that’s definitely how things have felt this time. It’s very hard to describe. A lot of people will say that if depression was a colour, it would be black, and when I’m in the kind of place where I feel desperate and hopeless, then I agree. But when I’m having the more flat, less intense but slowly draining episodes, it’s grey. The world feels grey. Dull.

Kimmy Schmidt

When I typed barely functioning into my phone just now, my phone threw up ‘vagina’ as the next word. I have no clue why. Must have used that phrase in bizarre conversation at some point. Barely Functioning Vaginas would be a fucking amazing band name.

I’ve never thought of myself as having SAD (seasonal affective disorder) because I know I can feel shit at all times of year, but maybe I do. I think everyone does to some extent. No one likes getting up and going home in the dark during the peak of winter. Why don’t we just hibernate? Squirrels have the right idea. They get to sleep for some of the year and spend the rest bouncing around with their little fluffy tails, being skittish and looking adorable. Be like the squirrel.*

I’m not saying everything is down to the Vitamin D deficiency – just that this particular brand of depression is unusual for me and it would make sense if that was causing it. I have noticed a huge difference in my mood since the weather changed, a lot more than usual. It’s also generally been a very positive few weeks. I’ve been on a placement that I’ve absolutely loved and I finally seem to be getting somewhere in terms of getting some therapy sorted, as well as getting other stressful bits and pieces either sorted or watching them come to their natural conclusion. I’ve been forcing myself to go out more and socialise too, which has been difficult but really helpful. Things are looking up. People who see me regularly have all commented that I seem better. I’m feeling positive today.

Birthday Party GIFs on Giphy

So, the pain from the trapped nerve in my hip seems to have been easing. I’ve been trying to wear looser clothes to ease the pressure (it’s called skinny jeans syndrome for a reason) and been doing a lot of walking and yoga, which has helped hugely. I went to the gym earlier for the first time in a few weeks and took it pretty easy for that reason – was also kind of forced to as after five minutes on the treadmill I felt like I was dying – fitness levels have fucking plummeted.

In terms of the general pain, I’m still not much clearer on what’s going on. Doc was suspecting arthritis but inflammation blood test came back negative so that’s a good sign. I had an X-ray on my hips earlier today (apparently I walk funny, why did no one tell me before? No, hang on, they did…) so that might be more conclusive. Weirdly enough though, the pain could be explained by the Vitamin D deficiency too. I was doing some research after doc called me about it and stumbled across an article written by a doctor about a lady who had been suffering with chronic pain and fatigue for a long time, had seen countless doctors and even been told it was all in her head. Understandably, she was at her wit’s end. This doctor was the first to decide to test for a Vitamin D deficiency. Her levels came back very, very low. She was given some heavy ass supplements and abracadabra, within a few weeks she was a new woman and felt better than she ever had. Who knew that something so effing simple could be the cause of so much misery!

It makes me wonder who else is out there miserable and suffering and feeling like they’re crazy all because they have a vitamin deficiency. It’s madness. To be fair, my research tells me that recognition of the problems Vitamin D deficiency can cause is actually quite new. Who knows. Maybe we all just need more sun. I have to say, Britain, with your antics in the past year and your terrible weather, you’re not really selling it to me right now. Either way – I’m hopeful that I will either feel better once I’ve finished this vitamin treatment or at least have an answer to everything soon.

Oh also, I’ve been eating my veggies. So yay.

* I reminded myself of a weird little song by The White Stripes about breaking your problems down into small pieces and dealing with them one at a time like squirrels do with nuts. Check it out. It’s pretty uplifting.

The biggest weight loss mistakes.

We all know someone who is constantly on a diet. Maybe that someone is you. But this is the thing: diets don’t actually work. These days when I hear the word ‘diet,’ I think of feeling faint, guilty and deprived, whilst swallowing constantly to get rid of the fragments of rice cake sticking to my throat. I think of obsessing over calories and macros and walking on the spot in front of the TV for three hours at a time to burn off that spoonful of sugar I had in my coffee earlier to get me through the afternoon. This is precisely why I don’t diet. It’s miserable, obsessive and makes you behave in some very odd ways.

The fact is, a diet is temporary, and it is temporary because we drive ourselves to despair. We give up. Not only are we all stupidly busy, but we are also all constantly bombarded with conflicting information about what is and isn’t good for us, what we should and shouldn’t be doing, all in the context of being under immense pressure to maintain a body ideal that is not obtainable for many of us. As a result, we are so determined to lose weight and to lose it fast that we’re seeking out quick fixes, getting obsessive over the fluctuating digits on the scale and throwing bags of money at the Diet Industry (TM) that we could save ourselves with a bit of thought, foresight and education.

It’s not all about what we’re eating; it’s also partly about how we’re moving, somewhat about what we’re thinking, and often about how we’re behaving. The four barriers to weight loss I am about to discuss encompass all of these things. I’ve made all the mistakes I am about to detail here. To set the usual disclaimer, I am not a professional; just someone who knows that staying healthy and trying to navigate a chaotic and busy life is really damn tough. I write from that perspective because I know it is one that many people share, however your mileage may vary. As such, anything I write on this blog should be taken as friendly advice and nothing more. If you need professional input, get off the bloody internet and go see a doctor. Losing weight should be a personal decision and nobody should ever tell you that you need to aside from a qualified health professional.

Mistake Number 1: Eating ‘Diet’ Foods

It’s no secret that the Diet Industry (TM) is more interested in its profits than it is in our health. You can’t walk down the street, turn on the TV or get on the tube without adverts displaying the latest weight loss miracle getting right up in your grill. Their plans and potions and products may work in the short term, but longstanding weight loss starts with a frank honest assessment about your own attitudes towards food and continues with a series of healthy lifestyle changes. Otherwise, you’re going to finish your four-week pre-packaged cabbage smoothie diet or whatever, maybe see some results (if you can even stick with something so miserable in the first place) then quickly and easily slip into your old habits.

weightlossmistakes1
Source: 20th Television/Giphy

The majority of diet-designed foods may look appealing with their super low calorie content. There’s also their convenience; the majority of us are busy and stressed out and simply believe that we do not have the time to prepare healthy, delicious meals. Much easier to pick up a Weight Watchers frozen meal after a hard day and you’ve got a dinner in ten minutes. The thing is, most of these meals are highly processed and full of added sugars and sweeteners that are at best not satiating and at worst damaging to your health. If you’re trying to lose weight and keep it off, long-term, they’re the worst thing you can eat. The portions are tiny, unsatisfying, and contain a lot of modified starches and preservatives which have zero nutritional value. If you’re counting calories, you are wasting them on these meals when you could instead be getting them from natural, unprocessed fruits and vegetables which will keep you fuller for longer and do a much better job of nourishing your body. Fruit and vegetables should always be a major staple of your diet. You can’t live on frozen diet meals forever.

Preparing healthy meals doesn’t have to be miserable and arduous. A quick google search will bring up thousands of quick to prepare recipes for delicious and nutritious meals and snacks to keep you feeling full and healthy all day. It’s also best to always read the list of ingredients on anything you eat – the less ingredients, the less processed the food is. Being mindful of this golden rule will really help you think twice before you put something in your mouth (whaey) and therefore help you change your eating habits for good.

Mistake Number 2: The Daily Weigh-In

This one is more psychologically than physically damaging, but should be avoided none the less. Our body experiences natural fluctuations in weight on a daily basis, which is determined by several things. One of the biggest culprits is sodium. If you eat a diet high in sodium, which is most likely what you are doing if you are chowing down on those processed ready meals which are usually very high in salt, your body will retain water to balance out that sodium content – therefore, your scale reading will be higher purely due to this water weight. We also all know that hormones play a role – honestly, if you’re female and you’re approaching your period, I would just avoid the scales altogether until you’re out of the woods. We can gain up to ten pounds during this fabulous time of the month and you will torture yourself trying to guess what is period weight and what is you.

weightlossmistakes3
Source: Giphy/Paramount Pictures

So, with that ever changing number, it can be very difficult to know how much weight you are actually losing if you weigh yourself every day. Experiencing a fluctuation where your weight goes higher can also make you feel down if you have been working really hard and may affect your motivation. A good rule is to weigh yourself once every few days at a minimum, however from personal experience I would strongly advise once a week. It can also be more reliable to measure your waist to see how you’re getting on. There is growing evidence to suggest that our waist-to-height ratio is a much more important indicator of our health and risk of disease than our weight or BMI. Check it out.

We can also look at the fat vs muscle argument here. You may be losing fat whilst gaining muscle, which of course is awesome – but as a result, the scale won’t budge very much. However, the inches off your waistline will. Especially if you’re weight training or working out hard, this might prove to be a much better option.

Mistake Number 3: I Must Never Eat Pizza Again

NO NO NO NO NO. And again for emphasis – NO! Why?

Of course a bar of Galaxy is unhealthy. Of course a bacon cheeseburger is unhealthy. But telling yourself that these foods are off limits, all of the time? That’s even more unhealthy. I am not saying you should eat these foods every day, or even every week. But it’s human nature to feel miserable when we can’t have something we want. The bottom line? You’re setting yourself up for failure.

weightlossmistakes4
Source: Placebookmarks/Nickelodeon

Say you tell yourself you can never stop by Burger King after a really long, hard day ever again. This might seem like a good idea when you are just starting out with eating healthy or losing weight, but give it a week or two, when you feel miserable and weak and tired and hungry because you’ve been eating nothing but bowls of spinach every day, that Burger King extra large meal is looking the best it ever has. You will weaken. All your resolve and good intentions will fly out of the window. You swing by Burger King, tears of joy running down your face, grease all over your chin, and you think fuck it, you’ve messed up now, so you might as well get a whole tub of ice cream for dessert. Your brain is like, woohoo. I have been reborn. The next day, you feel guilty and miserable. You can’t face your bowl of spinach. You have a biscuit or five with your mid-morning coffee, and they taste so darn good that you start thinking maybe this health kick wasn’t such a great idea after all. You were so miserable while you were eating healthy that you just can’t bear it anymore. Your old habits swallow you up. Within a short period of time, you’re even more miserable, tired, sick and gaining weight… time for another health kick! And so the cycle continues. Don’t do it to yourself. If you had that Burger King to look forward to on a Saturday night, say, would you not be more motivated to eat that bowl of spinach the rest of the time? (I’m not advising a daily bowl of spinach, but you catch my drift).

Yes, a diet based on whole, natural foods (mostly plants) is the way forward, but that doesn’t mean you can never have a slice of Red Velvet Cake again. Could you imagine a more miserable life? No? Then don’t do it to yourself. As long as you’re mindful about moderation, there is simply no need.

Mistake Number 4: Only Doing Cardio As Part of Your Exercise Routine

weightlossmistakes6

We’ve been told for years that cutting calories + cardio = weight loss. Especially as women, we are very afraid of weight lifting for the fear of looking ‘bulky.’ This doesn’t have to be the case. It is a lot harder for women than men to bulk up.

Yes, cardio is very good for burning calories and heart health, and can cause weight loss along with clean eating. But by only doing cardio, you are neglecting to build lean muscle and may actually be damaging your health in the long term! Excessive cardio can lead to breakdown of tissue, release of the stress hormone cortisol (a factor for weight gain in itself) and can even damage your heart or lead to a stroke. Just like with the bad stuff, moderation can be key with the good stuff too.

Weight training alone can actually help you to lose weight – your metabolism receives a huge boost that may continue for up to 36 hours after exercising, therefore leading you to burn far more calories over the course of the day just going about your usual business. Also, the lean muscle you build over time will ensure you naturally burn more calories on a daily basis just by existing. Cardio is great and it has its place – but it can’t do that. Plus, cardio can be boring as hell.  Personally I can’t spend too long on a treadmill or an elliptical purely because I get bored. And maybe in the case of the elliptical also because I kind of hate the bloody thing. The burrrn.

Better still than steady state cardio workout for weight loss is High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, which burns a lot more fat. On a boredom level too, I’ve found HIIT really helpful; not doing the same thing for long periods of time at once keeps me interested and therefore I push myself harder because I’m not zoning out thinking about what I’m going to eat after said workout.

Weight training will not only shave off the pounds but it will also sculpt your body a lot better than cardio will. Also, cardio won’t necessarily help you get strong, whereas weight training will, improving your bone density and putting you at less risk for nasty things like osteoporosis. What’s not to love?

 

Got any of your own mistakes to share?  Comment below…

The ballad of the Shady Ass Mofo.

Ladies, gentleman and all in between: this is a public service announcement. This is not a test. Creatures of the most confusing, damaging and downright frustrating proportions walk among us. They can be found everywhere – in the office, on the tube, next door but one, up a tree in Alabama. They are armed with charm, charisma, and skills of manipulation so refined they may well have a PhD in the art. They are extremely dangerous to your sanity. That’s right, friends: I am talking about The Shady Ass Mofo.

buzz-lightyear-free-falling-nooooo-reaction-gif-in-toy-story-2
Source: Disney/Pixar

The Shady Ass Mofo – the SAMF – is everywhere. He is the charming man you have been taught since childhood you must ensnare, and dance until midnight you will – but rather than chase you down with the glass slipper he’ll lose it somewhere and call three days later with some fantastical (but plausible) excuse. She is the film noir dame with a shimmy in her hips and a knife in her bra.

Sometimes, especially in the beginning, you’re swept up in a whirlwind of joy, picking chunks of the fairytale glitter the heavens are raining down on you out of your hair. You think you could marry this person. Its too good to be true – and deep down, you know that it is. Soon, you’re proven right; the SAMF’s mask slips easily and often. Don’t ignore it when you see it.  I hate to break it to you, but if your spidey senses are tingling about anything sinister being amiss – you’re probably right.

3142734248_1_14_vub0pjh1
Source: Giphy/Colombia Pictures

The spectrum of the SAMF’s behaviour ranges from a bit shitty and upsetting to actual diagnosable narcissism. Rather than address the issues they are clearly battling and work on building their self esteem in healthy ways, the SAMF manipulates reality and the people around them to repair their damaged pride. Confusingly, along with their dose of toxic low self esteem, they usually have egos the size of Baghdad – and by allowing them into your lives, you have been unwittingly tasked with stroking them.

Having now dated three SAMFs, I would like to share my expertise on the subject.  I will do a post about self protection from a SAMF at some point as a second part to this post; but for now, I’m going to talk about how to spot one.

For the purposes of this post I will be focusing on romantic relationships but if you’re dealing with a SAMF, no matter if they’re a friend, family member, colleague, whatever, you will recognise these traits.  Adapt and apply as appropriate:

1. You try to talk to the SAMF about something that’s bothering you – then end up apologising yourself.

3003ef8
Source: Cartoon Network/Wifflegif

The first sign on our list is especially telling, and sadly common when it comes to dealing with the SAMF. Pretty standard story: SAMF does something crappy, you approach them to tell them the crappy thing was crappy and ask them not to do it again, and the SAMF makes you feel like youre overreacting, imagining it or worse still, the cause of the crappy thing. Regardless if it’s big or small, in their eyes or yours, if something is upsetting for you they should want to try and work it out with you.

If they’ve said something you’ve been hurt by and they tell you you’re too sensitive when you address it with them, that’s not okay. The point is they’ve said something hurtful whether they intended to or not and they should talk it through with you and apologise. If they respond with an eye roll and ask why you’re always getting at them over nothing – especially if they say youre clearly only feeling the way you do because of how things are in your life, absolving themselves of all responsibility entirely – this will often end with you apologising for ‘just overreacting’ and trying to appease them. They are very practiced and very, very convincing.

No – you are not too sensitive. You are not overreacting. You do not need to apologise for expressing how you feel. You deserve to be validated and to be confident that your partner will take you seriously. Someone who treats you like this does not care about your happiness; they are more interested in preserving their ego and being right than they are in sustaining a healthy relationship with you.

2. They’re inconsistent.

why-dont-you-just-say-it-with-gifs_-_the-fuck__-gif
Source: NBC/Giphy

In the beginning, this person seemed perfect.  They shared your interests, your values, they wanted to talk to you all the time, they claimed they wanted to know everything about you.

Days, weeks, a month later, all that changed, very sharply and with no warning whatsoever. They’re suddenly less interested in hanging out. They’re not that into that band or show or game you bonded over anymore; in fact, they never really liked them all that much. Your values are different, very suddenly. I once dated a guy who made a point of giving money to a homeless man on our first date and lamented about how he felt for him – then two weeks later  told me he thought homeless people were lazy and should just get off their arses and find a job!

The inconsistent SAMF’s mood changes from hour to hour. They’re showering you with love and affection one day then they are quiet and standoffish the next. When it’s good, its so good, and you know you can stick it out for those times. Maybe it’s just a phase – and oh, look, that person I like is back again!

Some inconsistent SAMFs present themselves as soft-hearted victims of a conveyer belt of monsters they’ve encountered, as someone who needs protection and nurturance – then, when you actually see them deal with an unpleasant person or situation, you witness from them an unprecedented and uncalled for flurry of rage and cruelty. Bonus points if the sudden switch in personality genuinely frightens you.

Look, this person is not who they’re pretending they are. They want to present the best face they can to you to keep you, but the mask can and will slip. The sides you see that you don’t like? That’s the real them. The sides you like? They’re a creation, and they’re effort to sustain. That’s why they never last for long. Why do they need to pretend? Really, who knows. And don’t torture yourself trying to work them out.

Which leads me to my next point…

3. You can’t work them out.

giphy
Source: Crushable/Warner Bros

In fact, sometimes you feel like you hardly know them. Sure, a bit of mystery is sexy, especially in the beginning, but in a ‘still waters run deep’ sense – not in a ‘we’ve been dating for half a year and I still don’t know your political views’ sense.

They seem completely reluctant to share themselves with you. They’re continually guarded, like a cool but guilty suspect being pressed by an unrelenting cop. They don’t seem to have an opinion about much of anything, but you know they’re not brainless; just hesitant. They always seem vague, unemotional and detached to the point where even the most intuitive person would struggle to read their expression. Sometimes you feel like you’re not actually spending time with a full person, but a one-dimensional character in a mediocre film. That’s definitely a sign that something’s not right. If someone is boring, you will know about it… but the way this person is just doesn’t feel the same as ‘boring’. It’s more that it feels as though you can’t penetrate them any deeper than the superficial. A relationship cannot work if one person is holding back. You may have never seen where they live, never met their friends, despite the fact that he or she makes vague plans for you to do this that just never materialise. Hint: If their guardedness is at this level, that is a really, really bad sign.

If any of this rings true, then I’m sorry to say no good can come of it. They are either closing themselves off to you because they just don’t want to let you in – no matter what their mouths are saying, their behaviour will give you the truth – or they’re being shady so they don’t accidentally drop something into conversation that they don’t want you to find out about. Best case scenario: They’re pretending to be interested when they’re not, which is a downright shitty thing to do. Worst case scenario: They have another partner and children in Switzerland. And of course they don’t want you to find this out.

4. They are rude, judgemental and entitled.

matildaimrightyourewrong
Source: Jersey Films/5amagain.wordpress.com

Goethe once said you can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.

Warning you to be wary of someone who is rude to the waiter is such commonplace advice it’s almost cliché – certainly true though, anyone who does treat waiting staff like shit is probably not a nice person. Beyond the waiter though, how do they treat people? Do they say please and thank you? Do they love to complain over minor glitches at the restaurant or the cinema, expressing disproportionate anger and insisting on speaking to management? Do they otherwise expect favourable or preferential treatment? A person who cannot navigate day to day things with a grain of respect for others and their time is bad news. This type of SAMF – despite being nice to you – is purposely hiding less than favourable parts of their personality from you. Pay attention when these behaviours come out. They’ll tell you things that the SAMF won’t.

Are they pleasant to your friends and family? Do they make an effort, or would they rather not turn up? Obviously it’s important that they treat your loved ones well – but what about theirs? Are they rude to their own family on the phone,  or unkind about them? Do they call their parents names? Talk cruel and unnecesary shit about their friends? There’s nothing wrong with your partners talking about conflicts with people in their lives to you – as long as it’s productive and resolution-oriented – but that’s as far as it should go. Making fun of their friend’s acne or calling their mother a bitch is not cool. Says a lot about them. And a lot about the kind of things they say about you when you’re not around. Shady af, friends. Shady af.

5. You feel sad and bad about yourself when you’re around them.

gif-appreciation-of-troy-barnes-_-head-over-feels
Source: Gifrific/NBC

Some particularly toxic breeds of SAMF are adept at this. This is because they have no self-esteem of their own. In fact, they have more involved, complex issues than a library of mathematical magazines.

Don’t get me wrong: plenty of perfectly good people in this world are insecure. There is nothing wrong with having issues. Who doesn’t?  Someone once told me that there are two types of people in this world: the type that has got shit to sort out, and the type that has got shit to sort out but doesn’t know it/doesn’t want to. The SAMF falls into the latter category. Their unrelenting narcissism does not allow them to admit to the increasingly obvious chinks in their armour, so how else do they help themselves? That’s right, kids: by making the people close to them feel like big old bags of dicks.

Got a best friend? Yeah, the SAMF thinks that person is bad for you and you should cut them off. Got a promotion at work, an amazing grade or something else you are incredibly proud of? The SAMF thinks that’s cool and everything, but you’re showing off about it a bit, don’t you think? Or maybe you’re upset about something; the SAMF will say you’re being too sensitive, what is there to be sad about? The SAMF has been through much worse and you don’t see them crying about it. Hell, have you ever actually done anything in your life? Because the SAMF has done it too, and he or she has done it better.

Some SAMFs may directly name call or threaten; in that case, get out, get out right now and never look back. But oftentimes, SAMFs will employ subtlety to chip away at your self-esteem. We’ve all had that ‘friend’ who is the master of the backhanded compliment; that distant relative with a PhD in cryptic slights from the University of Passive Aggression. It is no fun to have that friend or relative and trust me, it is even less fun to date people like that.

 

The bottom line is, the SAMF feels bad and they want you to feel bad too. They lack the insight and self-awareness to understand this fact and they will carry on. And if you call them out on it? You’re taking it far too much to heart, of course (see point 1).

The bottom bottom line is, you do not have to take that shit from anyone – friends, family, partner, your hamster, whoever. Sometimes you need to walk away and you might feel guilty, but fuck it, you need to keep your sanity intact. Besides, if your own peace of mind is shot to bits, how can you be your best self for both you and for the people around you who really deserve you?

6. Their stories just do not add up.

the-mighty-boosh_-_-tumblr
Source: Giphy.com/BBC

Its unlikely, its dramatic, its unprecedented… But its highly plausible. Sound familiar?

Oh, he would love to come and meet your friends this weekend… but unfortunately he has to cancel because he has nerve damage in his calf that he’s never mentioned before and needs to have an MRI scan… on a Sunday.

It’s true; things come up and our plans change. But if it happens consistently and it’s never just something simple like ‘my car broke down’, you are potentially dealing with someone who likes to twist the truth worryingly more than the odd white lie. In the same vein, if it happens consistently and their excuse is always my car broke down – they’re probably just an idiot who thinks you’re an idiot too.

There’s the unreliable and shit-filled kind of liar mentioned above… then there’s the pathological type. Oh my actual fuck. You’ll have so much fun with this one. Does she tell a lot of stories about her life that seem rich, detailed and fantastical? Are some convoluted and tragic, sounding as though they came right off the pages of some dreadful real life story magazine, like Chat or Take a Break? Is the common thread that she is the innocent, grand hero of every single fucking one? Certainly, it’s true… terrible and amazing things do happen to people. But some people like to just pretend that terrible and amazing things have happened to them more than they actually have.

If absolutely every minor trivial event turns into an epic story, or so much of this Spielberg movie worthy stuff has happened to them that you start to wonder how one seemingly regular person could have experienced so much… this is suspect. Also, that nagging feeling you get when you suspect you’re being royally lied to? That feeling is likely to be right. That’s our real sixth sense. Listen to it ffs.

Regardless of which category they fall into, this is downright shady behaviour. Ask the SAMF directly why they are unreliable and full of, frankly, shit. If you can’t get a straight answer – which you probably can’t because liars lie and lie and lie and then they lie to your face even more when they’re caught – cut them loose. There’s no point in driving yourself crazy trying to work out a liar.

7. They act totally indifferent to you.

eed518884be80fb1425d068c1de09c96
Source: Pinterest/CBS

You feel like you could back flip into the room wearing Bjork’s Swan dress singing the Slovenian National Anthem and they still might not notice. Or even be interested enough to ask about all the crazy shit you must have gone through in order to actually carry this out.

Monosyllabic answers, long periods of staring into space, still not recalling what your best friend’s name is even after three months of dating: my friend, this person is not engaging with you. Someone who is really into you will be interested when you tell them what you had on your toast for breakfast. They will, at the very least, want to know how your day went.

Maybe you try and vent to them about an issue you’re having, and they grunt in response, or pat you on the head then start talking about the new phone they’re thinking of getting. Or you’ve planned to spend the day together and they are quiet and distracted, spending a lot of time checking their phone and looking worried and insisting everything is fine when you ask what’s up. If the latter happens frequently and there seems to be no explanation for it, you may not be their only squeeze – or at least they’re not present, and they don’t want to be.

If you feel like someone isn’t listening to you: They aren’t. And if you suspect they don’t care, they probably don’t. Ask yourself, if you called them in a crisis – could you be absolutely sure they’d be there? If the answer is anything less than a fervent yes, it might be time to rethink how important you actually are to this person.

8. Conversely, they’re too interested.

images
Source: bslcrane.BlogSpot.com/Disney

As stated above, of course the people close to you should be interested in you – or at least be interested enough in you as a person to pretend to be interested when you talk about something that bores the pants off them. But if they need to know every minute detail of your life, your thoughts, your emotions – even pressing and pushing when you’ve stated it’s something you don’t want to share – this can be kind of a red flag.

If you feel like they are asking pressing questions and intently studying every response you give, to the point where you begin to feel like you’re on a brown couch, you probably might as well be. Manipulators love to psychoanalyse their targets; from the moment you meet them they will be teasing out your vulnerabilities, working out what’s important to you, creating a profile of you in their minds so they can work out exactly how to play you. I say play because it really is just a game to the SAMF. They are well aware of the things you like and appreciate so they know how to keep you sweet when they sense they might be losing you. And they will not think twice about using your weaknesses against you in conflict, in some pretty fucked up and mean spirited ways.

Oh, and have you got have mutual friends with your SAMF? Because he or she is not above playing you off against each other – he said this, she said that – because they manipulate the friend too. This type of SAMF wants you all to themselves and any barrier to that must be obliterated.

They may also express unnecessary jealousy and possessiveness. If they are suspicious or easily annoyed at the mention of others, entirely unnecessarily, it is highly possible that they themselves have something to hide. At least, call them out; ideally, run.

9. They’re extremely unreliable.

houseunreliablegif
Source: Giphy/HBO

“You can talk to me about anything!” You try, and they wriggle out of the subject… back to them.

“Sure, I will DEFINITELY be there.” They cancel last minute. This is a frequent occurrence.

Oh, and my personal favourite: “I am totally committed to this/you/us.” Funny, when absolutely everything else but that thing or person you are committed to seems to come before it or them.

Okay, I am not saying you should expect to be first priority every single waking minute of every single fucking day for anyone – the phrase ‘being a priority, not an option’ is very much abused in this way – but if you are quite reasonably expecting to at least rank somewhere on that priority list, and often find yourself disappointed, you may well have a SAMF on your hands.

The unreliable SAMF is, like most of the others, distant and difficult to mentally pinpoint. They say one thing and do the polar opposite. They make plans they have absolutely no intention of keeping. They exaggerate their skillset and claim they can do things they simply cannot – thus, when you ask them to follow through, they suddenly have the perfect excuse for why they can’t. They omit important details or facts to twist the truth. They fail to do things they said they would do, even when they knew it was so important to you – and make vague justifications for their shitty behaviour with phrases like ‘yeah I didn’t tell you I couldn’t do it because I didn’t want to upset you’ or, the most common and the SAMF’s favourite dish ‘ you’re overreacting.’

The fact is, if you can’t even rely on them to pick up the fucking phone when you call around 90% of the time, where would this person be if you really needed them? Like, if you were calling from the middle of a burning building? Likely they are flitty, jerky like little sparrows, flapping from one position to the next second to second; disorganised, and not in an endearing, scatty way, but in the kind of way that makes you want to tear your own face off.

10. They make you feel like you’re going crazy.

tumblr_mr7j527lii1rk11gco1_250

This one is the most telling of all that you’re dealing with a rotten no good SAMF. Run, run fast and never look back.

Assuming you are a sane and reasonable human being, if you feel as though things aren’t quite right, that’s because, newsflash: they. are. not. There is always a reason for these feelings and if there was nothing wrong, things would be so much easier. And no, your otherwise perfectly working memory isn’t lying to you about what the SAMF said or did, no matter how vehemently he or she denies it – you were there, you know what happened. You’re not clingy or possessive for wanting them to call you back after two days if you are actually in what you think is a relationship, and you’re not needy for wanting to spend time with them – when you love someone, of course that’s what you want. And if you and SAMFy were right for each other, and if they felt the same as you, they’d want that too. They wouldn’t fade in and out of your life at their leisure, they wouldn’t hide things from you, act disinterested, shut you out of their lives. You would matter. Things feel off BECAUSE THEY ARE.

eep…

The SAMF behaviours discussed above range from shitty and disrespectful to legit emotional abuse. If you recognise any of this from anyone in your life, PLEASE cut them off. Its hard, its horrible and yes, loss is painful – but that pain will be temporary. Either way, there’s going to be pain; and you will cause it to yourself unnecessarily if you keep giving their shady ass the benefit of the very strong doubt.

The reason we don’t like listening to our gut is because it tells us things we don’t want to hear. It’s not comfortable, true – but every now and then, it’s good to listen. And I promise you – if you were constantly thinking of someone specific whilst you were reading this post, that is your gut screaming in your face that that person is a massive SAMF. Let them go.

Steph v Carbs: Progress

I tried contouring for the first time this morning. That shit is hard. I looked like a kid who’d got into mum’s bronzer. Never mind.

So, I’ve been doing the low carb thing for almost two weeks now. This is how it’s going:

The good:

It’s actually going pretty well when it goes, which is probably about 70% of the time. I used a couple of online calculators to work out how much I can actually eat for this to work for me, and the answer was around 145g, so not actually that low, and means I can still eat a reasonable amount of fruit (huzzah)… and sneak in a bit of wholewheat bread here and there (yes, I need to stop doing that). At first I thought that 145g might be way too high and I was prepared to go lower, but it’s actually working just fine for me – I’ve already lost some weight (though that might also have to do with the fact that I’ve cut out alcohol) and I’ve certainly noticed a huge reduction in my appetite. It’s also pushing me to eat a lot more vegetables as I  can’t rely on fruit and supermarket smoothies so much for my five a day, which was an initial goal so that’s good.

The hurdles:

The other 30% of the time, I’m still finding myself saying ‘fuck it’. I’ve been catching up with friends quite a bit this week and generally, socialising = food. I could be making non-carb choices, but I end up not wanting to because I want to enjoy myself. It’s back to the process I was talking about in my Treats post. It will probably take a while to undo that way of thinking; poor eating habits are largely psychological after all, but awareness is the first step. And of course, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional ‘fuck it’ – but my ‘fuck it’s were becoming daily and I do not want to slip back into that, so I need to work this out. Maybe morning affirmations in the mirror… ‘I am strong and I do not need you, cake, no matter how moist and delectable and just downright divine you are…’

(I’m only half joking).

Yeah, it’s going to take time to reverse this. We do tend to celebrate with food as a society and that is not necessarily a bad thing as a whole. But when you’re like me and are prone to equate food with feelings… you need to be careful with that association, otherwise you’ll be reaching for a family-sized pack of Dairy Milk if you manage to get through rush hour on the tube without calling someone a dickhead under your breath.

Another thing I’m struggling with is the eggs. I am not a huge fan of eggs – certainly doesn’t help when you’re about to tuck in and some bright spark guffaws ‘LUL UR EATING CHICKEN PERIOD’ (yes, this actually happened and I have never forgotten it) – but not only are eggs almost necessarily a staple of low carb eating as they are full of the good stuff and basically carb free, I know that if I have eggs for breakfast, I will be full and definitely have less cravings for the stuff I’m not supposed to be eating throughout the day.  So they’re kind of a necessary evil.

I haven’t been able to meet my exercise quota this week either due to my sciatica flaring up, which has been a bit of a bummer. I exercise primarily for my mental health and because its something I genuinely enjoy (in hindsight, anyway), but even walking has been a struggle this week. Boo. It’s slightly better now and I managed to do a little yesterday, but I’m supposed to be going to a dance class with my bestie tomorrow so it better behave…

On that note, if you’re looking for various health and fitness related stuff, there are some awesome deals on Wowcher right now. No doubt they’re cashing in on people’s New Year’s resolutions but it’s so worth it. (I may have just discovered Wowcher. I don’t understand how it is so good. I managed to pick up a sports watch for ten quid. The irritating TV ads were putting me off for far too long it seems).

So that’s my accountability for the week. I’m going to work on being a little more disciplined in situations where I’m tempted not to be and I’ll try and make a post at some point on tips for that…

I still haven’t touched a drop of alcohol this year and I’m feeling great for it! No foggy head, no wasted days from hangovers, definitely more energy/motivation and my liver probably thinks it’s died and gone to heaven. I’m considering sticking to it beyond January because I really am feeling the difference. Plus, having quit smoking and drinking I’ve certainly noticed my finances are looking healthier! Click here if you would like to sponsor me for Cancer Research’s Dryathlon. Doing this kind of thing for charity sure keeps you going/accountable… I sure miss red wine though…

Haters gon’ hate (carbs)

I have always been pro carbs. I fucking love carbs. The bad ones, obviously, because cupcakes. And the good ones too. Fruit, quinoa, brown rice… filling and nutritious. I refused to jump on the low-carb bandwagon. Paleo? Bite me. Atkins? Smelly farts. Dukan? My dad tried that and it literally made him cry.

In the last few days, I’ve done what I considered the unthinkable – I HAVE CUT THE CARBS.

lowcarbme
source: thegameofnerds.tumblr.com

Not completely, of course. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and it seems that as I appear to be pretty carb-tolerant, take regular exercise and am not overweight (I was surprised too after the Christmas period), the ideal amount of carbs for me to be eating for this to work for me is around 100g a day. I have chosen to spend these grams mainly on low-carb fruits. Berries, melons, oranges, the odd apple. Yum. But no bananas or mangos, which is a bit sad face but never mind.

As I’m not a huge meat eater (apart from fish and chicken) and I only enjoy eggs on occasion and I’m now having to step up my intake of both of these, having fruit to look forward to is a nice silver lining. And I’m hoping it will reframe my idea of what foods are good to look forward to (i.e. not fried chicken on a ‘cheat day’.)

Speaking of cheat days, I’m not sure if I’ll incorporate those yet. They’re another thing I’ve advocated hugely in the past when ‘dieting,’ as a metabolic boost if restricting calories and also as a psychological incentive. However, I know that I tend to do things to excess; a cheat day for me in the past has been more of a binge day, which isn’t good. Maybe I’ll sneak in a cheat meal or snack here and there, but I think a whole day might lead me down the path of sabotage, especially in the beginning. I know that this is going to be hard for me, but I don’t want to put myself in the position where I know I will say ‘fuck it’ early on.

As with any ‘diet’, low-carb should be seen as a lifestyle change rather than a quick fix. If this does seem to work for me, maybe I’ll stick to it long-term, reintroducing carbs slowly but with a much smaller intake. We’ll see how it goes.

The Idea Behind Low Carb Diets

To put it very very simply, the body’s first port of call for energy is carbohydrates. It will burn these up before anything else. With no carbs to burn, it turns to the fat stores in the body and starts burning these up instead.

So, what’s made me decide to load up on the meats and cut back on the grains? A few things, actually. Mostly, there is the lure of fat loss. I may not be overweight according to my BMI; but as we are all pretty much aware now, BMI is not the be all and end all (link). It does not take into account body composition, muscle, build etc… or indeed, where you’re storing that fat. I am one of those unfortunate types who has always stored fat around my stomach, which can be responsible for the development of diabetes and certain cancers, regardless of whether your weight is normal or not; and the weight I have gained in the past year or so since I put my exercise and good diet on the backburner has mostly nestled there. Cheers, body! Low-carb diets are also very good for reducing abdominal fat compared to low fat diets so this seems win/win to me. I also think that doing the dryathlon this year will help with this. God knows how many calories I was taking in with my alcohol consumption last year…

So the weight loss is pretty rapid in the beginning, usually due to your body beginning to rid itself of excess water weight. I have a rule that I only weigh myself once a week at most, and I’ve only been doing this for a few days so we’ll see. Will update shortly…

Also, calorie control is not required. As we are all coming to realise, calorie controlled diets’ are brutal and often not sustainable in the long term, with some studies showing that many people who follow them quickly pack the pounds back on when they stop. If you’re prone to binge eating or emotional munching like me, all that strictness and hunger will set you up for self-sabotage. When I’ve restricted my calories to say 1,200 a day, I’ve felt hungry, miserable, foggy and weak; whilst all mileage varies, I am quite tall and lead a busy life, so my body needs more to function. Low carb diets do not require you to restrict your calories, instead following the golden principle of eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full.

As long as you can stick to this – and due to the heavy-on-the-veggies, protein rich, high fat foods low carb consists of, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem – you can’t go wrong. Low carb diets basically tell your appetite to sit the fuck down, basically ensuring you automatically eat less calories; even more so when eating a diet high in protein. I’ve certainly noticing myself wanting to snack less, and when I do snack I’m usually quite satisfied after a few spoonfuls of Greek yogurt (forgot how good that shit was…), especially when I find myself hungry at night. Plus, when I snack usually I’ll automatically reach for carbs for the energy boost. I also got into the very bad habit a little while ago of having a cup of sugary tea to perk myself up at work in the afternoons. And cut.

Lastly, I am great at eating fruit, but not so good at eating my veggies. I am hoping that following this diet, which restricts fruit and doesn’t give me the excuse of ‘but I ate so much fruit today, I don’t need so many veggies at dinner’ anymore. Which if it changes my habits and attitude to veggies, can only be a good thing.

So, this is ultimately why I’m doing it – to see if it makes me healthier. Couple this with the fact that studies have shown that low-carb diets can decrease insulin resistance and tackle metabolic syndrome, both of which are precursor to type 2 diabetes. I am lucky enough not to suffer with either, but I always figure that prevention is better than cure. There are apparently an abundance of other health benefits, including lowered blood pressure, an increase of good cholesterol and lots of other little bonuses  – for more information on the benefits, this is a good article I found. However, especially if you have health problems or are on regular medication, it is a good idea to speak to a medical professional before you begin any changes in your diet.

For now though, I’m feeling pretty good from the increase in my veggie intake and quite positive that I can stick this out. I’ve also accidentally invented (well, probably not invented but hey) a pretty sexy omelette that I’ll post a recipe for at some point. In fact I’m going to make one right now and watch Dance Moms (it’s the tail end of my Christmas break, don’t judge me). Toodles.

Treats.

I have a sore throat and am munching blueberries like there’s no tomorrow. I forgot how yummy they were. Fried chicken and Sainsburys muffins literally wreck your tastebuds. And your waistline. And your body. And your LIFE. But damn they sure are good. Why can’t they also be nutritious?!

So as the sore throat part might imply, for the past couple of days I have been a big old sack of lurgy. Literally a sack until early this afternoon, all sacked out on the sofa like a big old saggy sack watching David Bowie concerts on YouTube (God rest his soul). I don’t like taking time off work, it makes me feel bad. And what with being a student in one of the world’s most expensive cities, I don’t particularly like missing out on dem coins either (yes I did just say dem coins and I won’t apologise). The latter is a pain in the arse but not the end of the world; the former is also a pain in the arse but something I am working on changing. I’ll do a post about guilt at some point.

But today’s post is more about how when I’m sick, I tend to think I can do whatever the fuck I want. And by do, I mean eat. Starve a fever, feed a cold, has always been my mum’s motto, and it’s one I’ve taken to heart big time. That’s where one of my biggest problems with sticking to a healthy lifestyle long-term comes in: the excuses. I am a master of making excuses for myself. “Well, I’ve quit smoking, I’m not drinking for at least the next 24 days… guess another square of chocolate is okay… when I’m well enough I can HIIT it off… and besides, gotta have some kind of a treat!”

I used food to death when I first quit smoking. I know that’s quite common, largely because your sense of taste starts coming back and food just feels so good that you can’t stop putting it in your mouth. I was probably quite capable of eating a whole cow those first few weeks. I took the attitude that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself for eating a huge portion of spaghetti for dinner and then two cupcakes for pudding; I didn’t really seem to be gaining weight. Plus, my lung capacity was increasing, meaning I could exercise for longer (as an aside – quitting smoking makes exercise so much more tolerable, please do it for that reason alone!) and again… can’t smoke, so gotta have a treat!

There it is again: a treat. Sure, a cupcake is a treat. One cupcake, maybe once a week. Two nightly – that is not a treat. Quitting smoking or not.That is not good. I know that when I eat bad, I get depressed. I know that I feel worse physically.

A couple glasses of wine on Friday? Nice, that’s a treat. A couple of glasses on Tuesday, a bottle on Friday and then a night out involving spirits on a Saturday… each fun on occasion, in isolation. But in 2016, most of my weeks looked like this. “I’m a student!” I would say. “Only young once… can’t do this shit when I’m a real adult with a job. Besides, I work hard… gotta have a treat!”

One of my many unhealthy talents is excuses. I’m a student. I work hard. I’ve had a bad day. I did a Fitness Blender 1,000 calorie workout on Tuesday. So abusing my body and mind is totally fine. Gotta have a treat…

My dictionary defines a treat as “An event or item out of the ordinary that gives great pleasure.” Yes, drinking booze and eating crap does give me great pleasure. But it’s increasingly not out of the ordinary. There was a time in my life when these things really were treats. And my life was better. I was healthier, mentally and physically.

A little while ago, I started referring to myself as a hedonist. I think this was my pretentious way of applying the principle of ‘YOLO’. And also excusing the fact that I was indulging in stuff that felt good because I didn’t feel good a lot of the time and I wasn’t ready to start working for healthy, lasting happiness, rather than spending time looking forward to doing things that created short sharp bursts of pleasure… short lived rather than constant. I came across this great quote the other day – I can’t remember where but please leave a comment if you know who I can credit this to – “bad habits are easy to develop but hard to live with; good habits are hard to develop but easy to live with.” That rang so true.

Do I want to stop treating myself? Absolutely not; I’m determined to enjoy my life. But you really can have too much of a good thing. That’s when it gets bad. So, it is my goal to work at keeping unhealthy treats few and far between; to be enjoyed IN MODERATION and in a way that has no adverse effects on my life.

But healthy treats? Why not every day?

I’m trying to change my mindset as to what a treat that can be enjoyed regularly is. So, here is a list of five healthy treats. Feel free to nab them:

  1. Grooming. Putting on a facepack, a hair treatment and doing a good old DIY mani-pedi of an evening is a treat I’ve been indulging in often lately. It’s relaxing and makes me feel better, no matter what mood I’m in. I’ve decided to set aside an evening for this at least once a week this year – regardless of how busy I am. In fact, especially if I’m busy.
  2. An overpriced smoothie. Sadly not a frequent one if you’re a poor student like me, but sometimes swinging by itsu or equivalent and spending five quid on a healthy smoothie I’ll devour in as many minutes is a nice little feel-good boost. They’re yummy, make me feel all bright eyed and bushy tailed and happy that I’ve done something good for my body. One little thing at a time. And if I can spend five quid on a glass of wine, I can spend the same on this.
  3. BAKING! As long as you don’t munch down all of your creations after the fact (note to self after all discussed above), baking is one of life’s simple pleasures. I keep meaning to take a batch of my M&M cupcakes to the ill-tempered neighbours downstairs. Might get on this one soon.
  4. A YouTube session. This one is particularly good when feeling really bored or a bit low. Sit down for an hour or two and just binge on YouTube vids – I recommend Animal Planet’s Too Cute! selection after a particularly rough day. This is also a good distraction if you’re trying to quit a bad habit like smoking or frequent drinking – how can you still want that vodka and coke when you’re distracted by videos of tiny mewing kittens befriending a big snuggly dog?! Oah teh cutez.
  5. Create something for the pure fucking fun of it. Writing is often such a chore for me, because I have things I am seriously working on for serious and if I don’t treat it like work and take it seriously for serious then how do I expect to seriously get anywhere? But sometimes, it’s nice to just write something that I want to… a silly little yarn or a poem or something purely for myself. And when I do, it’s a real treat. Or I do something I don’t take seriously, like one of my video collages or some doodling. It’s a nice distraction… and stops you resenting the serious stuff.

So much better than cupcakes.

Also, I’ve raised £55.00 for Cancer Research so far for the Dryathlon. Not bad! Love to everyone who’s sponsored me.

I’m going to have a Strepsil now and think about a healthy dinner. Eating crap is not going to make my cold go away any quicker. I’ve typed it, now I have to stick to it. Which is what this blog is all about.