2021: Unwanted Guests

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It’s been a long time since I last updated this blog. Don’t you hate it when posts start like that? They are, so often, the last post on a blog. The author has run out of steam or life has derailed them.

In my case both things are true.

But this won’t be the last post on this blog, because I need to get back on track. There’s a strong chance that you do too.

Some backstory. I started this blog in September 2019. I had set out to lose 52 lbs in weight in one year. Spoilers: I did that and soon stretched my goal to 72 lbs in one year. I almost hit that goal too. In September 2020, I weighed 13 stones and 1 lb – from a start of 17 stones and 12 lbs. I lost almost five stones in weight.

It’s now Twixmas 2021, New Years Eve and… I currently weigh 15 stones and 8 lbs. I’ve put two and half stones back on – most of that in the last four months. Not exactly square one, but nowhere near the finish line either.

What went wrong? And more importantly, how to fix it?

The first question is easy to answer. COVID happened.

A caveat: I am not here to complain about COVID because there are so many people worse off than me; people living with long COVID, people who have lost family. There are others whose businesses have folded, whose work has dried up. In this post, I want to talk about something more global than that; the impact COVID has had on our general health.

One of my main diet strategies was counting calories. The clue’s in the name of the blog. In September of 2020, or thereabouts, I developed an intolerance to the meal-replacement shake I’d been using to date and, suddenly, the program I’d successfully used to lose almost 70 lbs in weight, fell away.

I am 53. In my 20s I had what I came to think of later as a “blip”. My grandma would call it “a wobble”. They are all euphemisms we use to minimise the periods of mental illness that 1 in 4 people will experience at any given time. My blip lasted a couple of years.

I was diagnosed with depression and General Anxiety Disorder. To be frank, I didn’t get much more external help than that. I know it works for many, but medication didn’t agree with me. I read a lot, learned a lot about managing anxiety holistically and I dug myself out of it.

So, thirty years later when those bastards came knocking at my door again, I recognised them. I also recognised that it would be more difficult to manage them this time around.

For me, COVID laid bare the wider fact that my entire engagement with the world was a network of fixed habits and coping mechanisms. When the world changed, those mechanisms were no longer fit for purpose.

I put my head down and concentrated on what I could do: getting work done. As long as I was able to keep that together, I could keep everything together – or at least provide for my family. I am getting through it, but not as well as I’d like.

I cannot be alone in this. I know I am not alone in this. From the people who aggressively refuse to wear masks to those who are still voluntarily shielding and everyone at all points in between.

From those in denial to those hypervigilant – the toll of the pandemic is uncountable because it has changed everyone. There is a parallel, silent crisis in mental health.

So, it’s no surprise, really, that the diet collapsed. Though I’ve managed more recently to return to scheduled exercise, counting calories has been tough.

There was something in the mindset of abstinence that I could no longer adhere to. We had given up so much, so many of us, that we couldn’t give up anymore. There has to be a balance.

As I write this, I have some thoughts about what that balance will be. It starts with seeing this as a change of lifestyle rather than a project with an end date. I’ll be writing about it more in the coming weeks and months. I hope you’ll join me. I hope because hope really is the most powerful thing we currently have.

This is just a wobble.