Friday, 16 April 2010

Am I obsessed?

Sorry to post Thursday late but I got distracted by the TV! It is relevant – to the question above.

Last night M and I watched the last 2 weeks episodes of Supersize vs Superskinny (For US readers and anyone who doesn’t watch this show, its about people seeking to achieve a healthy weight and relationship with food. It has 3 sections – the first puts one very overweight person and one very underweight person in a house together to eat each other’s diet; the second has the wonderful Anna Richardson looking at fad diets and quick fixes; and the third follows 4 anorexics going through an 8 week treatment programme). Anyway, the programme is quite samey and superficial, as you’d expect for a show covering all these things in 1 hour (incl. advert breaks) but very hard to stop watching even so! And in 2 of the episodes so far, the narrator has made a point, in the section about the anorexics, of discussing their unhealthy exercise habits, by talking about how much at least 3 out of the 4 walk. (The 4th spends loads of time on an exercise bike)

And both times they did, M pointed out some similarities between what they’re doing and what I do.

Before I go on, I should point out that unless he’s on holiday, M just. does. not. walk. He thinks its a boring pastime and an inefficient form of exercise that doesn’t improve fitness (except at the beginning when starting to walk from a point of doing literally nothing) and takes a ridiculous amount of time. He also worries about my walking, because I do a lot of walking on roads with no pavements and limited visibility (at least for some stretches). So he freely admits to being biased against it.

Here’s what I do: most days I walk into town – this takes me about 35 minutes each way. Some times I walk into Chepstow – this takes about 1hr 10 mins each way – or go to town via a longer route that takes about the same length of time as a trip to Chepstow. I then go to the library / shop / have a coffee before walking home. I tell myself by walking I reduce pollution, save money on petrol, and reduce wear & tear on my car, but if I’m honest I often shop unnecessarily to give myself ‘an excuse’ to go for a walk – I don’t enjoy just ambling around, I like to have a destination and purpose in mind.  I also tell myself that I’m getting fresh air (admittedly with petrol fumes thrown in for some of the route), making Vitamin D, and giving myself the chance for some very superficial social contact (saying hello to dog walkers mostly!) I generally don’t choose to walk in the rain, though it doesn’t bother me if it starts while I’m out. I often take my camera, and I avoid routes I find terminally boring, but I do spend more time doing the same routes over and over than seeking new places to explore.

Here’s what the anorexics on the show do: Walk every day, whatever the weather. In one case, walk 3-4 hours a day. In every case, walk until they feel they’ve ‘earned’ the very inadequate amount of food they have eaten or will be eating. Every bit of film showing them walking anywhere shows a grim expression, the kind of look I hope I only have on my face when I’m at work – ie.. they feel they’re doing a task rather than looking at the scenery, talking to people etc. One of them, a mathematician, referred to rigidly trying to achieve the 10,000 steps a day guideline – every day. I did that a bit when I started walking but don’t even wear a pedometer anymore and I’m certainly not mentally counting every step!

When I pointed these differences out to M, he did concede that I’m not as bad as the people on the show, but said on the scale of human activity he thinks I’m closer to their end of the scale than to ‘normal people’. And that’s why I’m asking the people who read my daily ‘walked into town today’ blah, for their opinion. I’m not saying I’m going to listen and obey that opinion – I’ve been ignoring M’s negative thoughts on the matter for years!!!  I just think maybe I need some perspective on the subject. Obviously I’m not objective because I enjoy doing it and pretty much intend to keep it up as weather permits until I get a job and don’t have time any more. M’s not objective because he expects me to get hit by a car one of these days. But one thing he said that is true is that several of the people in our street, who have no such emotional connections, have commented in casual conversation about the amount of walks – very long walks, in their minds – I take; and so, indeed, has our postman, who I often see while I’m out and about. So please chime in, I might be upset if you all think I’m a fruitcake, but I am seeking mental health as well as physical and I think maybe I need some external input on this one! Particularly as I will admit then when I was binging I would often hop onto the elliptical for 90 mins or so after a binge, so I am aware that even though I’ve fallen for a very low intensity form of exercise, I am capable of making some unhealthy connections between food, exercise, and weight.

By the way, I went for a walk yesterday. I didn’t want to shop so I didn’t go into town. The first part of my walk (investigation of the wetlands to see if my road-avoiding route into town is clearing – not even close btw) took about 40 mins and then I stayed out for another 25 mins just because. Even to me that does sound like maybe there’s something a bit weird there given that I have pointed out I don’t much enjoy walking without purpose, but in this instance I was motivated by the fact that my back is still not fully enough recovered to allow more intensive exercise. Or was I….?

Food Thursday:

Breakfast: All bran with peaches and a slightly weird concoction of 1 whole egg + a big pile of ricotta cheese, beaten together, cooked like an omelette and topped with jam. it wasn’t bad, wasn’t great either, but I wanted to use up some ricotta left over from the macaroni and cheese I made the other day.


Lunch: Quorn cottage pie with roasted broccoli, brussels sprouts and green beans, followed by a pear


Dinner: Lentil soup with seven grain bread spread with LC, topped with tomato / red onion, and then further topped with a tiny sprinkle of LF mature cheddar


Snacks: Protein smoothie (no spinach again – and I’m still loving the fruit only flavour and colour) and a bowl of Oat So Simple apple & blueberry porridge with added whey. Also a (failed) attempt at tofu chocolate pudding made with soft silken tofu, cocoa powder, PB and vanilla extract with a splash of soy milk to help it blend.

P1040085 P1040086

Weight Thursday: 10 st 2.4 lbs

Apologies for the lengthy post – if you got this far, congratulations! I’ll stop now…


  1. I find that peoples perspectives on what is 'normal' are highly subjective. You have the time during the day to do something and you choose to fill that time doing something that you enjoy, keeps you healthy, reduces environmental impact, saves money. Whats wrong with that? I think that the problem is when something becomes an obsession which gets in the way of your everyday life. If you were going out and walking 10,000 steps in the wind and rain, then you could have a problem, but as you say, that isn't what your doing. Its an interesting issue as I find that some people judge others who eat a healthy diet because from their own perspective they don't see that as normal. I find it highly fustrating. My hubby once said to me 'when are you going to start eating normally again' I said this is normal from now on! I guess thats why so many people on short term diets fail because they never change their perspective on what is normal. Sorry for the long comment! I think as long as you enjoy your walks and don't obsess about them your fine. Like you say, at the end of the day its your opinion and feelings on the matter that count! xx

  2. Hmm. Chrissie, a lot of the things you write have me going "woah, I do that/think that way too" and it can give me a jolt sometimes. When I was in college I would walk all the time. I had a lot more free time. And even when I started working I'd often walk the 45 minutes each way...I only started doing that because the tram was late every morning getting to my nearby stop and was always JAMMERS and even when the service improved I found I enjoyed the walk. I wasn't getting any other exercise apart from that. I moved jobs maybe 15 minute further away and still kept walking most of the time. One of the largest shopping centres in Dublin was a 40 minute walk away so I'd often go over there too at weekends, get a few bits and pieces and if my bags were too heavy I'd get the tram back. Apart from that we, also lived in a scenic area so we'd often go out for walks at the weekend. It was only moving down the country that put a stop to my long walks. even though we're closer to the countryside, walking in nice scenic areas (that dont' involve walking on narrow roads with no paths) mean getting into the car so I'm less inclined to do that! I enjoyed my walks and I think it kept my weight fairly steady...Moving out of Dublin and long hours on trains and having our own kitchen in which I could cook anything I wanted without worrying about flatmates meant the piles packed on and I went into panic mode and started the obsessive exercising (but no walking, because I didn't feel I could get the results I needed in the time that walking would take up). Phew, all about me isn't it!?!

    Anyway, back to you, I think you are probably quite obsessive about this - you have obviously worked very hard to get to the weight you are now and are (like me) afraid to put the weight back on. If I wasn't working I would probably struggle to fill my hours and would dwell even more on my weight(y) issues. I can't say "you should do this, you should do that" because I still don't know how or if to be at peace with myself when it comes to food and exercise. One thing that would set up "alarm bells" for me would be weighing yourself everyday, but again, that might just give you a sense of where you're at and you would not be happy to give that up.

    Err, that's no help whatsoever but you are definitely not alone ;)

  3. Chrissie, I think only you can decide if it's weird for you. I don't think it is, but then, given my history, I don't know that I'm qualified to judge.

    Personally, I think it's a way to fill your days at this point in your life. I guess you need to ask yourself how you would feel if you couldn't walk? Would it bother you if you got a job and your exercise/walking were cut down by a considerable margin?

    What other great things in life are your limiting because you spend the time walking? For what it's worth, I completely understand about having a "purpose" - I do the same thing. I purposefully leave myself an "excuse" to walk to the store so that I get some exercise that has, well, purpose.

    So in short, you don't seem obsessed to me - but you know your innerworkings and your mindset better than I do.

    Take good care - and mind the cars :-)

  4. Hi Chrissie. I don't think you're unhealthily obsessed.

    Walking - the problem these days is that most people don't do enough walking. They see getting in the car as "normal" even if their destination is only 10 mins walk away. A woman turned up late to an art group I used to do saying she'd had to wait 40 mins for a bus ... but it would have taken her less than 10 mins to walk it. Driving is the default position these days - but that doesn't make it right. It's one of the reasons that 2/3 of the adult population are overweight.

    In my grandparents day it was absulutely normal to have to walk an hour or more to get to school or work. And the same back of course.

    It's true that some of the linkages you make between weight, counting calories and exercise contain a little too much anxiety. But it's important to maintain those links if you are to maintain a healthy weight. The trick is not to make it the end all and be all of your existence. If that happens - when it's the only thing you think about all day long - then you're in trouble and need to find other things to focus on for a while.

    Obviously when you start working again you'll have other things to fill your day and your mind. But in the meantime as long as your weight isn't the sole focus of your day, then I think you're OK.

    Bearfriend xx

  5. There's a difference between "obsessed" and "unhealthily obsessed".

    Am I obsessed with the amount / types of food I eat and how much I exercise? Yes. Yes I am. If I was not, if I did not make sure I had good food and balanced exercise - it would be all cake and couches and I would be back up to 275 pounds so easily.

    So, obsessed, careful, watchful, yes.

    But... unhealthily obsessed. No.

    I have never seen you write that you didn't walk one day and therefore didn't eat anything because you didn't deserve it. You always have a nice story to tell about your walks - it's not like you are going out on the Bataan Death march or something.

    So - yeah - to a certain point, maintaining weight loss REQUIRES obsession. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, you know?

  6. The absence of work and therefore structure in your day means that you have 'created' reasons to get up, get moving and stay motivated while you kill the hours at home. There's a lot of hours in a day when your OH's at work and so you can 'afford' a few hours walking outside and enjoying all the benefits that it brings. I've been a power walker for over 10 years now and I love every minute that I'm outside - I call it my headspace. Only you know if you need or would enjoy other activities/company to give your day more purpose. Cracker

  7. I've never thought anything about your walks when I read your blog.. A few questions to consider would be whether walking or not walking affects the amount of food you consume or the way you feel about the amount of food you consume. Also do you feel any sense of panic if you don't fit one in?

    In my opinion exercise is healthy so long as your attitudes that go with it are healthy too. For example when I was really poorly with my eating disorder I would exercise on very small amounts of food and not for any pleasure because I felt like I had to do it. Now the exercise I do is with a purpose, to make me stronger, and I enjoy it... If you enjoy your exercise and have a healthy attitude towards it then I don't thnk you need to be worried.