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charlie, computer cat

August 2018

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relaxing

Triggers?

I had what may be a blinding flash of the obvious last night - I think I figured out one of my dieting problems/eating triggers. A lot of diet books talk about this sort of thing and mostly they focus on eating when you're bored and when you're upset, neither of which quite rang true for me but when talking to Alex last night I suddenly realised: I eat when I'm tired.

This takes a few forms:
1) When I'm tired I am way less likely to be motivated to cook. This means that more often than not, we end up eating take out.
2) When I'm tired I'm much more likely to reach for a snack to keep me going because I feel the need for the energy boost. This tends to take the form of something carby.
3) When I'm tired, I'm much more impatient, so I'm much more suceptible to thinking "gah this diet isn't getting anywhere/is too slow/whatever so I might as well just give it up".
4) When I'm tired I am much less likely to be prepared to do exercise when it can be avoided (e.g. I'll drive to work instead of walking/cycling).

I've been tired a lot this week. This has been due to the fact that we had a couple of late nights at the start of the week and partly due to poor sleeping conditions. I sleep in fairly short cycles and I'm very sensitive to noise unless I'm quite deeply asleep. We've had problems with Charlie this week where if we let her in she'll decide to sharpen her claws on the mattress at 5am and if we shut her out she scrabbles at the door either at 5am or while we're trying to go to sleep. Really, we need to train her to not do one (or both) of these things but effective training is hard to pull off at 5am when you're already tired.

My thoughts about this currently are currently focusing on two main things - how can I avoid feeling tired and how can I avoid overeating when I do?

As far as avoiding tiredness goes, the ideas I've come up with so far are as follows:

1) Go to bed earlier (well duh!). The main problem here is the aforementioned short sleep cycles and light sleeping for large parts of them. If I go to bed earlier and then Alex comes up an hour or so later, it's almost impossible for him to avoid disturbing me. How do I find out what my optimum hours of sleep are anyway?
2) Get up earlier. This sounds crazy but hear me out. I've noticed a frequent pattern recently where I'll wake up around 6:30 or 7 quite suddenly. There generally won't be anything apparently to cause this and I'll feel quite alert but I look at the clock and think "too early" and settle back for more sleep. I suspect this may be putting me at the wrong point in my sleep cycle when I wake up at 7:30 with the alarm.
3) Deal with cat noise at night. Possibly shut them downstairs? This seems mean to Cassie because she is nice and well behaved in the spare bedroom but might work.

I suspect that the best plan for these is going to be to obsessivly diarise for a few weeks to figure out what works well and what doesn't but any suggestions/comments are welcome.

Then there's avoiding overeating when I do feel tired.

1) Force myself to exercise. This is a reasonable idea in principle but I am cautious about it mostly because I have a very strong antipathy to most exercise anyway. If I force myself into it when I feel less than good, is that going to risk putting me off it altogether? If I only did light exercise on those days would that make any difference or does it have to be at a certain level for the hormones to kick in?
2) Plan some low/no cook meals for days when I don't feel I can cope with cooking. The limiting factors here are going to be finding things that really do taste good so I brighten my mood and the size of my freezer, which is very small and mitigates against a lot of cooking in advance (although you could have some stuff like that). I have got some ready meals in there but I bought them because they're low fat ones and while they're not bad, I don't find them satisfying. It occurs to me that finding some ready meals or pasta sauces or whatever that I do find satisfying is likely to be less calories than take-out even if it's more calories than other ready meals. Any suggestions?
3) Corollary to (2). Stop feeling guilty about occasionally asking Alex to prepare said low/no cook meals. As long as it's not all the time (and experience suggests it wouldn't be) then it's perfectly fair and he's said before he'd be happy to so accept that it's a shared thing, damnit! I'm so used to being the one that feeds us that it's hard to get that head off.
4) Find some low calorie energy boosters which can be used as a temporary measure. No particular ideas for any - any suggestions?
5) Do something upstairs rather than watching TV downstairs on evenings when I'm tired - to physically make it more effort to get any snacky stuff.

Any more ideas?
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Comments

Y helo thar, fellow exercise-phobe. :D They say that any exercise, light or not, is helpful. At my work, there is a "stretch lady" who comes by twice a week during lunchtime, who does a class that is just comprised of very light, low-impact stretching, yoga, and pilates. And that can be enough to give an energy boost for the day.

Of course, it's probably better to do something higher impact, etc., etc., but... it's just as important, IMHO, that you get into exercise by doing something you actually enjoy and that isn't frustrating or overly challenging, especially at first. And don't overlook the environment of where you would be doing your exercise. It should be as pleasant for you as possible. =)

Good luck, hon. *Hugs* The energy thing can be a tricky beast, indeed.
That sounds nice actually - something I could do at lunchtime at work, which is otherwise rather dead time would be great.
It's also a bit of a viscous circle. Feel tired, eat carby foods, perk up for a bit then crash and feel tired. What about slow release snacks like cheese or nuts though they are a bit high calorie? A friend brought around some deep fried broad beans last week they have a much lower glycaemic index so they reduce the sugar rush/crash cycle. Potatoes are the worst for this, worse than sugar.
Cheese is not good because I like it too much - I find it very hard to stick to only a little bit, even with very strong cheeses. Nuts, I just don't like, which is annoying because otherwise they'd be quite a good idea. It's the one food dislike from my childhood that I never grew out of. Deep fried raises alarm bells in my head but sounds worth checking out :)
I often find that exercising leaves me feeling energised, even when I started off feeling wiped out. Especially if you do something outdoors in the fresh air. And brisk walking is fine.

I'm a light sleeper and generally wake up several times during the night. I often do wake up when Tim comes to bed but these days I'm pretty good at just dropping off again. OTOH, if you're waking up early and going back to sleep, perhaps you actually need to go to bed *later*. I tend to go to bed between ten and half-past, but occasionally, if I've been ill or really busy or something, it'll creep earlier, and what I then find is that I wake up at half-past five feeling wide awake, go back to sleep and then feel groggy when the alarm goes off. And then I feel tired all day and go to bed early and end up in something of a vicious circle. And yes, shut the cats somewhere; we started shutting Sandy out of the bedroom a few months ago because he kept coming and waking me up at five in the morning and demanding to be let out.

As for low-effort meals, I have several staple weekday dishes (pasta with tomatoey sauces, or with mushrooms or smoked salmon, risotto) that I've done so many times and that require so little effort in terms of chopping or measuring that they barely feel like cooking now. Do you have anything like that? Or if I can't even face that I tend to buy some steak and tell Tim he's cooking it ;-)
Unfortunatly, most of my dishes like that are meat dishes and therefore I have to have thought of it before I leave for work, which when I'm tired I'm less likely to. I need more veggie things like that. In fact, I could use more veggie dishes, full stop. Must ask gastrogasm.

The more I think about it, the more I think I might try the getting up earlier/go to bed later thing and see how it goes. It'd be an interesting experiment anyway and I'll have to get used to getting up earlier eventually.
A fine insight; I suspect it applies to me too. I snack when I'm tired to perk me up. The taste is nice, but increasingly I'm finding it doesn't actually give me more energy. More often, avoiding food at tired times gives me more energy, even if I'm a little hungry, and even if I've skipped earlier meals.

On that bedtime thing. Lately, I've been really tired and I sleep until I'm no longer exhausted - about 2pm. That's 12 hours sleep.

But I've noticed I wake up about 8am very consistently recently, look at the clock (like you), think "haven't had enough sleep", then roll over and have really bad sleep for the next six hours.

So last night I went to sleep at midnight, woke at 8am, and felt ok. No exhaustion all day. (Bit tired from too much internetting, but that's a different problem. Manual job required!).

The corrollary of my story is that going to bed at midnight or earlier is really good for me, and I forget that. I often go later, typically 2am but even 1am has a harsh effect. I tend to think that missing an hour or so won't be too harmful, especially as I can get by on very few hours, or none, for a few days when I need to.

But when I go to bed seems to have an effect on my getting up time and energy level way out of proportion to the variation in bedtime. I conclude that my optimal going to bed time is about 10pm, and that anything before midnight is quite good, and that anything after, if done consistently, results in me needing 14-16 hours before I'm not entirely exhausted and then I'm still a bit flaky.

I'm telling you this because you might find an earlier night makes a real difference, even if you do get disturbed when Alex comes up later. There seems to be something to the idea than which hours are rest/sleep is important, in addition to amount and pattern.
Yee, I think I need to make some more systematic observations and see how it plays out. Woke up early again today and read in bed (Saturday means lie in)and feeling good so far...
Cous-cous-based and pulse-based salads are easy to make ahead and don't require freezing.... do you like pulses at all?


Do you eat breakfast?
TBH, not sure about pulses - I haven't really had them very often. I'd probably have to try some readymade ones and see.

I usually have something for breakfast in the week but usually we have a lie in on weekends so we tend to have early lunch instead.

I don't know about you, but...

...what's worked for me in the past (as I have a similar snacking trigger) is to always have a stock of fruit and veg handy.

I may not have the motivation to sautee mushrooms with boiled pasta for dinner...but I'll usually manage to slice or eat an apple/pear/nectarine, with a bit of bread, and open a bag of baby carrots.

Also: I hate to admit to it, but the pre-mix bags of salad ready-to-go are another good low-motivation solution. A little feta with fresh ground pepper and a dash of olive oil & balsamic vinegar goes a long way to dressing it up.

Also: now that I find myself eating meat again these days - I'm becoming a fan of salami and proscuitto...it allows for portion control, and gives such protein goodness! :-)

Re: I don't know about you, but...

I tend to be not very keen on salad as a meal - I like something hot. Pre mixed salad sounds like a good idea for a side though.
This is very well known - just google for "sleep weight".



I am sure that now you have realised that not sleeping properly is affecting your health Alex will be the first to drag you both up to bed and to help plan meals - I am sure he values the extra years he will have with you as a result! :)

What I did and in fact still do was to
a) make extra portions of the evening meal to eat for lunch, as the pasta/rice+protein'n'veg that this normally is keeps me fuller through the afternoon than sandwiches, as well as being healthier all round. Those plastic boxes from tesco are v. cheap.

b) always have a few cans of soup & baked beans (different cans... er...) around and lots and lots of frozen vegetables in the freezer

c) spend the money I wasn't spending on booze any more on whatever lovely food I wanted - pink grapefruit, frozen berries (mix with low-fat or soya yoghurt for an instant hunger-beater without a following blood sugar crash), daria (plain baked chickpeas: good for a snack as they are nice but don't trigger the urge to eat the whole pack), San Pelligrino (sp?), posh flavoured tofu (for you perhaps ze best Italian delicatessen meats? Or smoked salmon?), extra virgin olive oil, dark chocolate, TEH BIZ.

d) throw out all the "snacky stuff" in same way I would have thrown out ciggies if a smoker. It was not my friend. It did not make me happy. It was affecting my health. It occurred to me that if I wanted to get rid of money without benefiting myself I could buy lottery scratch cards ;)

Exercise isn't just stuff you do down the gym, it's any movement. Walk or cycle over to see a friend or to explore the back streets of Oxford. Hire a pedalo and piss about on the river. Go round the Pitt Rivers or the Ashmolean. Go to London or Bath for the day.
It all counts, it all (and I should know!) helps. Or you could ask your Brownies (as a project) how to incorporate movement into your daily life (nothing like the optimism of children for motivation! Bless them).

And remember: the bottom line is, that neither the cats, nor Alex, nor any of us want you to live with an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, joint pain, Alzheimers or stroke. You *deserve* to be healthy. It is important and you're worth it.

(BTW: I think you may have been onto something as well with the hormonal contraception thing, as when you said how fast you were putting on weight it seemed quite unusual - half that rate would have seemed realistic (a chap at work who is fighting his own weight problems said he even when he had a year in a miserable job, just sitting round depressed drinking cola and eating white-flour pastries all the time, he didn't put on weight that fast). Hormones certainly do influence mood and appetite - expect to have a few days each month where you crave (say) toast and plan ahead for them so they don't alarm & depress you).
Yeah, it was quite a disturbing level of weight gain and as it coincided with other hormonal issues it seemed like a reasonable guess.If it turns out not to be related then the food diary should be helpful to take to my GP.

The difficulty of getting rid of snack food is that I tend to snack on things I use for other meals like pittas and cornflakes.

I wasn't sure with the exercise whether it would kick in the endorphins or whatever if it was light. I'm doing more walking which I quite enjoy but I find it hard to start when I'm tired. I guess I should experiment.

Miscellaneous responses

Yeah I'm sure the tiredness is a factor. I've actually read stuff (New Scientist I think) demonstrating that people who are sleep deprived put on even more weight than you'd expect from the extra calories they consume - presumably from a combination of not having enough energy to be active and nebulous metabolic stuff.

On the exercise front there is a quote from exercise circles to the effect that if you are a reasonably serious gym person you will do - what - 3 hours a week? Which leaves 165 hours (or 109 less sleep) which the three in the gym cannot possibly outweigh - it has to be about lifestyle. Unfortunately quite a lot of that is down to whether you are a naturally fidgetty person, however you can still adjust your average hourly activity level, but not if you are exhausted to do so.

Have you considered redecorating the house? or doing an enormous spring clean?

I would absolutely shut Charley in the kitchen at night - she's not a tiny kitten any more and she can take it. She'll probably never be happy about it, ours certainly weren't, but as t__m__i points out, your health is at stake. For obvious reasons I'm pretty ruthless about sleep.

Re: Miscellaneous responses

Have just cleaned all of the downstairs floors :) Maybe I should get one of those little apps that remind you to take breaks and wander around the office once an hour or something.

(Anonymous)

weight/sleep

Wow what a lot of helpful hints. I think the sleeping is an issue. Don't be ruled by the clock. I've always thought fidgety people are thinner (see your father!) and when my downward thyropid cycle was happening I was definitely always moving if only swinging my leg or tapping my foot.

On the food front. can you not just freeze the sauce for pasta? The ready made salad is a good idea (just don't mention them to John unless you've got time to spare!) Dad often makes a warm salad so ask for recipes he also has recipes for dhall. Do you see your roll as food provider as a way to look after Alex? I know you like to cook but maybe not every night. I can recommend Alex's scrambled eggs.

Porridge is a good breakfast as you know and now you can make is in the microwave - you know those new fangled things that'll never catch on!

I'm going to try some of the suggestions too.

PS shut the cat out - she won't be scarred for life!