Crone Wood, Enniskerry, Wicklow, Ireland

Activity and reward

Saturday was a glorious day in Dublin. The sun was shining, the skies were blue, and with the delicate encouragement of my good lady wife, I felt compelled to get outside and embrace nature.

In other words, it was a nice day and my wife persuaded me to go for a walk in the hills.

In fact, we jumped in the car with the dog and drove south to County Wicklow, and to a place call Crone Woods that is next to Powerscourt Waterfall (the tallest waterfall in Ireland don’t you know?) in Enniskerry.

The trail takes you through the woods and up the Maulin Mountain. It’s about 8km long, and pretty strenuous. It certainly got my heart pumping! But as it was such a lovely day – and as there were so many places to stop and admire the view – it didn’t seem so bad. I took my camera along, so I had plenty of excuses to stop and catch my breath as a composed shots.

Even so, by the end of the walk, we both felt like we’d had a good workout. And with this feeling of virtuousness came the temptation of rewarding ourselves for all the effort. After all, we’d probably burned about 1,000 calories each, so why couldn’t we have a small treat?

So that evening, when we at a friends’ house for dinner, I indulged probably a little more than I should have – both with food and alcohol. Yes, and I know I only just recently talked about the perils of the demon drink, but I’ve never been one to follow my own advice!

I did successfully side-step the plate of garlic bread that was being passed around, but my resolve broke when the cheese board appeared. I’ve always loved a bit of smelly blue cheese, and I could hear it calling to me. So I had some, and I enjoyed it. And I told myself that I had earned it, because I had done all that strenuous walking earlier in the day.

But here’s the thing… the activity and the reward weren’t necessarily equal. In fact the reward I gave myself definitely outweighed the activity in terms of calories eaten and burnt.

I guess that’s why Slimming World doesn’t give extra syns in reward for body magic – because the temptation would always be to over-estimate the benefit of the activity and grant yourself too many syns!


The demon drink

When I fall off the wagon, there’s often an alcoholic drink involved!

Most of the time I avoid drinking any alcohol at all, because it’s high calorie, and those calories provide little or no nutrition. Alcohol doesn’t fill me up, so in effect they’re just empty calories. And I’d rather use my calories (or syns) for food!

Having said that, on occasion I’ve been known to indulge in a small tipple, and when I do it can either go one of two ways. I either stay “good” and stay within my syns for the day, but feel like I’ve missed out on having a really good night. Or I go “bad” and go way beyond my syns (often not even counting them), and have a good night, but end up feeling regretful the next day. So either way, I end up feeling bad.

There’s also the problem that drink often lowers my resolve to make healthy eating decisions. So in addition to all those empty calories, I will often eat all the wrong types of food – and not just when drunk on a night out – but also the next day when I’m hung over.

So it’s best for me not to drink at all. At least that’s what I tell myself – often just before I reach for the wine bottle!


The great unknown of eating out

Unless you’re a total social hermit and never go out, at some point you’re going to have to face the challenge of eating out!

The Slimming World app can help with the syn values of the food served by the major brands, but if you like to eat in more independent restaurants then you might be on your own.

To try and minimise any damage I might cause to myself, I try to employ a number of coping strategies:

  • Check the restaurant menu ahead of time. Most places have their menus online, I am able to check them in advance and decide what I’m going to have. It saves me from making panicked decisions (wrong decisions?) when ordering.
  • Eat before going out. Yeah, I know this sounds kind-of strange – eating before going out to a restaurant. But if I know that the restaurant only serves very calorific food and that there are no healthy options available, then I eat before I get there. That way, I’ll not be hungry when I get there, and I’ll only want something small to eat like a starter. I can still socialise with my friends and family, but not lose control.
  • Ask the waiter questions. Most restaurants will know or can find out how dish is cooked.  So if it’s not obvious I like to check if something is going to be fried, roasted or boiled. And I ask what ingredients are going to be added. It’s amazing – some places will even cook dishes without oil if I mention that I am on a low fat diet.
  • Order off-menu. Some restaurant are more happy to accommodate this than others, but if I don’t ask I don’t get! If I think that a particular ingredient is going to be high in syns then I ask for it to be left out of my meal – or perhaps substitute it for some lovely speedy vegetables. And if there’s a sauce on the dish, I ask for it “one the side” so that I can determine how much or how little I put on the plate.

If all else fails, and I haven’t got the time or nerve in the middle of the restaurant to be checking all the ingredients on your Slimming World app, then I go with my gut instinct. I try to remember that lean meat or fish and vegetables are always a good option – as long as they are not cooked with half a pound of butter!

And it’s also worth remembering that the occasional controlled blow-out can’t cause that much damage. It’s only when I throw caution to the wind and ignore all the food optimizing rules out the of the window that I spoil my weight loss. If I make semi-sensible decisions then I can usually avoid a shock result at the next weigh-in!


Forgive me consultant for I have sinned

It can be really tempting to treat your time to talk in class as a confession.

Forgive me consultant, for I have sinned. It’s been a week since my last weigh-in, and these are my syns. I went out on Saturday. I got drunk and had a kebab on the way home. Then there was this family lunch on Sunday. And I only really got back on-plan on Tuesday.

Over the course of the Image Therapy session there will be a number of people who want to say their confession. They may not say it in quite those words, but they do feel the need to unburden themselves of the guilt of how ‘bad’ they’ve been in the last week.

What with all the drink and chocolate, it’s a wonder I only put up two pounds!

But that’s the great thing about Slimming World. It does allow you to draw a line under your past activity, and let you move on with a fresh slate – a bit like when you confess and get absolution from a priest. The Slimming World ethos allows you to go off the rails, and still be able to come back to group and ask for help without feeling guilty. It allows people to reach out to each other without judgement on past events.

I’m not convinced that it’s absolutely necessary to lay out all your sins/syns to the whole group, because if everyone did that we’d be there all night. But it’s great that people can say they have had a bad week, and ask for help on getting themselves back on track.