I lived out some long-term food fantasies recently. I found myself freed up mentally for the first time to try these things I’ve always wanted to, after I did a diet that really worked in the first half of the year. I figured I could always phase the diet in again for a few weeks if necessary, once the deeds were done. It would be worth it.
A whole chocolate cake. Chocolate is the thing for me. I’ve always been very restrict-y about it. The furthest I’d go is a ‘freddo’ with my sandwich- a small frog-shaped chunk of chocolate costing 25p. I would never buy a regular chocolate bar and eat it. The guilt wouldn’t be worth it. So a whole chocolate cake was very much the white whale, and was my first port of call after it dawned on me that I could go ahead and have these things. ‘Disgusting’ you might be thinking, but getting this out of my system (so to speak) was a good idea I reckon. Pretty nuts though admittedly, to sit down with a pristine birthday cake and a fork. It’s so far out on a limb I might not have made it back.
In fact I settled on a prepackaged cake that was around 3/4 size your typical supermarket birthday cake. It was a rich good-quality one though, from ‘Tesco’s finest’ range. I sliced it in two and had one half for breakfast and the other for dinner. Halfway through each meal, a quarter-cake down, I had a lovely sensation of having just had a large helping of delicious chocolate cake and if there was no tomorrow could easily manage the same again: and the same again still awaited me- wonderful. The half a cake was a perfect portion, it was absolutely fantastic and I have no real desire to repeat the experience.
A bag full of pick n mix. Not a few bits and bobs, but a big bag full. Tesco do it on the cheap luckily. I put a loaf of bread and some washing powder in my basket for respectability, before going to town on the pick and mix containers with my little pink trowel. I went heavy on the chocolaty items. Washed down with Dr Pepper, it was everything I imagined and more.
A Willy Wonka-style tile of chocolate. All for me. I went for the own-brand supermarket version. It appeals to me more than Dairy Milk or whatever. Something about the sight of tile upon tile of cheap chocolate, it’s as delicious as the chocolate itself. Or maybe I just prefer the taste. The richer stuff can be cloying.
A tray of caramel squares. One of those packages from a local baking operation that you see on sale in petrol garages and supermarkets. Very satisfying.
I’ve started counting my daily calories. I’m using an app called ‘Diet Diary’. It’s as vanilla as they come, which I love. The icon is a cartoon cucumber and notepad, with the words ‘Simple Diet Diary’ in a comic sans-esque font. It’s the pure-hearted underdog of diet-tracking apps. It has only the few computational conveniences you want, and no more. I keep track of calories and protein. The app shows me my totals so far for the day, and I can copy and paste past entries. For the last seven days my average daily calories has been 2172 and my average protein 141 grams. The idea of recording calories for evermore isn’t such a wonderful prospect. It sounds a bit of a strangled existence. The thought of it gives me butterflies. But not counting them is also a headache. It may well be a thirty-days-to-build-the-habit kind of situation, by which point it will have stopped feeling uncomfortable. I’ll have to see.
In the middle of making dinner tonight I had a little moment of clarity. I realised that I perceive there to be something fundamentally wrong with me, in any and all my interactions with people and in the way I conduct my life. There’s just something I’m doing that’s not right, is the feeling.
When I did cognitive behavioural therapy the goal was to identify a negative core belief like that one, then work to shift it to something more positive by challenging it day to day. The shift didn’t happen for me. For one thing, the time the program required was asking too much. You had to take little notes of your problem-thoughts all day long and then systematically challenge them in the evening with counter questions and ideas. It could have been that I was using a bad book, but just today on the radio I heard that cognitive behavioural therapy, when used in working with convicted paedophiles, had zero impact on reoffending levels- which suggests it’s not the most powerful technique in the world.
There were interesting elements though. One of the key exercises was to identify finally the core belief that needed to be shifted. I have the feeling there really is a core belief there. At the time I never did manage to get it into words despite mulling over it for quite a long time on a few occasions. But it seemed to come into focus more tonight. There’s a faint welling-up of teary emotion going on somewhere in me just now when I think about it. I still can’t put it into words precisely which is odd. There’s some feeling of inadequacy involved. But it’s more that I deserve to be scorned and I have no prospect of a joyful life. All my schemes, big and small, are undermined by the thought ‘You know how that’s going to end up’. It’s not always a conscious thought but is always acknowledged on some deep and convincing level. It’s a total bummer. Why isn’t it my default attitude to be excited by possibilities, rather than this?
There’s anger rising in me at the thought of people putting my avoidance behaviour and negativity down to cowardice or immaturity. Are most people actually dealing with this kind of built-in handicap, but bearing it by means of strong character/better strategy? Or do most people have positive core beliefs? Does anyone have a positive core belief? Lucky fucking bastard if do.
I’m attracted to the idea of turning a new leaf this minute and working as hard and as smart as I can at everything I do, with no let-up. Like there might be some redemptive power of hard work that would rid me of all this. But then I can see there have been times where I’ve worked hard and still felt less-than or weird when I had to talk to people. And also hard work isn’t enough in some instances. Styling yourself, decorating a room and things like that, hard work doesn’t cut it. You need a positive self-image in place first to have any peace with those things.
For now I’ll say that CBT doesn’t work and that the best way for anyone to start to develop a positive self-image would be to work hard at something they’re well-suited to.