My supervisor, who I haven’t seen for a couple of months, asks me how I am.
“I’m good,” I tell her.
“Have you lost weight?” She says, wondering if the stress of eye surgery has had an impact.
“Maybe, but it won’t be stress. Sometimes I forget to eat.”
She raises an eyebrow and I decide not to tell her that for dinner last night, having run out of time before going to a show, I ate a pot of peanuts and a bag of M&Ms for dessert.
“I don’t worry about it. If you told me I’d put weight on I’d probably be more interested.”
As a fat child, I have remained sensitive to weight gain, although this is mitigated by an unswerving belief that I can lose weight whenever I want to.
“I think it’s one of the reasons I don’t work with weight loss anymore,” I say. “Growing up in a family where there was anorexia, bulimia and my own obesity issues have made me realise how complicated weight and body image is. Most clients who want to lose weight don’t want to understand why they have a destructive relationship with food. So it’s frustrating.”
At some point, I learned a simple but important fact about establishing habits. They need to be enjoyable, at least on some level.
I could never go to the gym religiously but I would go to great lengths to avoid missing tennis. I don’t like the gym, even though it’s good for me. I love tennis, whether it’s good for me or not.
Once, I gave up all sugar for a month. It was incredibly hard but, because I wrote about it, that made it fun and much easier.
The things I’ve done serially badly in my life are those where I have never been able to find an angle of enjoyment powerful enough to keep me on track.
When I eventually grew out of eating biscuits and sweets to comfort myself I looked for the same sort of hug in destructive relationships. I’d choose partners who might be sweet for a moment on my lips but left me carrying nothing but trouble on my metaphorical hips.
The most difficult thing about breaking this cycle was coming to terms with the need to find something similarly wonderful in affirming myself instead of looking for it in someone else. It was like a month without sugar only for much longer and on crack.
The habit I’m most proud of establishing in recent times is the one where I meet my friend Martin every Tuesday to record an episode of our podcast “Sideways”.
If I’m honest I wasn’t sure I’d be able to maintain the routine. I’m a horror for picking something up and putting it down again before it’s finished. But what I forgot to acknowledge to myself was that, if I enjoy it, I’ll keep doing it. This is a truth for everything good and everything bad.
It’s so enjoyable that it wouldn’t matter if nobody listened at all, although I’m happy that they do.
So perhaps that’s the most important part of maintaining a habit. If whatever you do is truly for yourself, why would you ever stop doing it? Unless of course, you don’t feel you’re worth it.