Friday, 17 December 2010

A year without beer?

There's no doubt about it, I do enjoy a couple or three beers. Meeting friends, going out for a meal, or even just in front of the tv on those rare occaisons that I have an evening at home and to myself. Whilst I dont belive alcohol in moderation to be paticulary harmful, there's also no doubt about it - beer ain't a great way to get your carbs in, it is a sure-fire way to pile on extra pounds as well as disrupting sleep and impeding recovery (from training) with a flood of additional toxins.
I can drink a lot for someone of my size, and will tend to do so even if it's not a big 'session'. Drinking in moderation, or a swift half, just isn't my thing. At key times in my year i.e when preparing for a race, I'll steer clear of the stuff altogether. With such a "ban" in place, I am not only saved from the negative effects of the booze, but find the desire to have a drink is very minimal, because i'm feeling good, trim and sleeping well. The more I think about this (it's something that I do tend to ponder upon about 6 days after a big race when the 'booze ban' has been lifted and I've had a couple of bevvies every day for a week straight) it becomes obvious that I'm following a habitual pattern of behaviour rather than making choices based on what I really want. I'll have the "cold ones" becasue I CAN and know that pretty soon, I 'll be back to training and will have to excercIse more disipline. Frankly after a week or so, I really begin to crave a cleaner diet anyway as my body does start to feel pretty lousy as does my mood. But it still always takes that process to get me here! Ok, lets get it in perspective - we're not exactly talking the sort of benders of my early twenties, just a few drinks each night, an additional 500-600 calories in the form of ice cream, cakes or candy and no holds barred on th ingredients that go into creating some nice dinners. A week of this 3 or 4 times a year following a 4 week period of very focused training really isn't harmful. Infact many would argue that it's good to have these periods of freedom - but what's interesting for me is that it isn't really as much a freedom as it is a habit.

I am a very habitual person. It just seems to b the way i work - forming routines and getting easily into habits. This has many advantages when properly focused - it enables me to be very efficient and get a lot done in a short space of time by forming routines and rituals around repetative minor tasks, I rarely forget these important little jobs but can free my attention for other more complex and unique tasks. Anyone who has ever lived with me will be astonished to read that whilst I may appear to be an incredibly messy and cluttered person, there is nothing haphazard about the way that I arrange my stuff around the house. I always know exactly where everything is -most of the time. The occaisions when i dont, it is becasue my 'routine' has been interupted (or yet to be established).

Not all habits are either distinctly good or bad - many of them just "are" - but if we take the view that following habit demonstrates a lack of control, or at least strive to be in control of our habits, then it's important to identify and evaluate them.
So, getting back to those beers and the habitual pattern that can be summarized as a tendancy to drink more beer than I ought to at times when it's "allowed" simply because it's available and/or others are doing so. During periods that I have decided not to drink alchol at all, I very rarely miss it. Whether this is becase these periods I also have plentty of distrction in the form of early morning training and early evening tiredness keeping me form the type of social situation where temptations exist I can say for sure. I have a great deal of admiration, and a certain amount of envy for friends who do not drink at all but still engage in and enjoy this type of social situation and so have decided to test myself out on this. Can I go a year without beer? Will I find that, similary to thsoe 4-6 weeks pr -race dry spells, It's really not something that I miss in my life, or crave - or is it really the short-term objectives also associated with those periods which make abstenance so easy? Note that this is not a pledge to wine with special meals is acceptable as would be holiday cocktails - but will i find a sudden penchance for cooking sherries?? From Janurary, I'll find out.

To add a further dimension to this challenge, I decided to take a look at the other poor dietary habits that i'm guilty of with a view to eliminating one per month. The target is that by the end of the year, I'll be free of most of the things which I percieve to be either poor dietary descisions by virtue of unattural ingredients and processes or at the very least nutritionally worthless excess calories.
With a list of 12, the idea being to knock one thing off the list each month. Hopefully some will stay off for good whilst others are just an excercise in discipline and breaking habits.

Here's the list:

1) Beer
2) Hydrogenated oils/trans fats - this is probably the real baddie on the list, but also requires the most effort to eliminate due to it's prevailance in pre-made foods. Best tack for avoidance will be cutting out the majority of packaged baked goods and dressings, and keeping a watchful eye on ingerdients labels.
3) Candy Confectionary - not a big deal for me unless i'm looking for cheap calories in a garage on a ride, or someone is passing around a packet of sweets.
4) Fizzy drinks /artificial sweenteners - i'm not sure which is the real enemy here, fizzy drink is a simpler catagory to apply, sweetneres is the real baddie tho' so this could include my low-cal hot chocolate or squash
5) Cakes, cookies and pastry - excluding those which I bake myself (or are home- baked for me).
6) Instant coffee - pretty gross substitute for the real thing and is a habit that I only got into since leaving employment
7) Ketchup - mostly sugar, which is why its so nice, but if food doesn't taste good without it, then eat better food!
8) Alcohol (all other)
9) Chocolate- this is late on the list because chocolate is not really one of my habits. I quite like it, and i'll eat it if offered. My preference is for dark choclates which i dont actully think is all that unhealthy if it's good quality. All the crappy type of chocs and bars will have been elimitated under "candy confectionary"
10) Dessert - this is funny one. You might think that the catories preceding this would already rule desserts out BUT most days we will have a fruit salad or yogart or something sweet afetr a meal simply out of habit. Generally Steven needs the extra calories - mostly i dont, but will partake out of habit.
11) Peanut butter - I eat a hell of a lot of the stuff. i dont think it's bad for me - just not really all that healthful ( compared to other types of nut ) and I am slightly allergic to it too.
12) Caffeine - probably the most difficult thing to give up hence why it's last on the list. I do tend to use caffeine as a 'crutch' for training, as well as socially. But I am able to give it up in preparation for races and genrallay feel better forit during my race-week taper after the fist 2-3 days have passed. It's another thing that i really dont miss, but will revert quickly back into the habit, simply because I can, once the race is done.

There are 2 weeks left of this year though so whatch me make the most of it ( 2 strong insatnt coffes and banoffe slice for breakfast today. Diet of champions!)

wish me luck.


Andy Bruce said...

I'm gunna wish Steven luck, come August, he'll need it.

joannacarritt said...

he'll be fine without a drunken, sleep-deprived woman stealing his chocolates!

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