…but it’s a theme that comes up from time to time.
It’s perhaps not surprising that it comes to the fore when I have occasion to be dealing with photos. Back in 2006 I joked about the “Flickr Diet“. (Remember Flickr? It still exists. No longer owned by Yahoo. Somehow I still have a “pro” account there.) In 2016 I hit the same feeling as I was trying to consolidate my various photo repositories. In 2018 I got our APS photos digitised (easy), and a couple of weeks ago I got Trigger in Amsterdam to scan 30 envelopes of 35mm negatives from the 80s and 90s. (These are not all our 35mm negatives — just some of the easy ones. We’ve still got a box of mixed prints and negatives. Back in the day, when you ordered reprints, it was very easy for the film strips to get separated from their origins.)
It would have been easy enough to just file away those old photos and not look at them again, if only I hadn’t bought myself a new iPad last month. The iPad I’d been using before was Abi’s old original iPad Air from 2013 or 2014, which was no longer getting software updates and had stopped being able to run certain apps. I got myself a new low-end “basic” iPad. That’s all I need, but of course it comes with all the new OS features like widgets. I put the Photos widget on my home screen, and now I find myself looking at old photos and “memories” slideshows almost every time I pick it up.
Here’s the problem: in those old photos, I look a) happier, b) younger, c) thinner.
The happier element is, in part, an illusion. “Don’t compare your backstage to someone else’s on-stage” This applies to one’s self across time just as well. Past Martin is a different person, with different desires, needs and priorities than present Martin. And photos of him are snapshots in time, when he was putting on a smile for the camera regardless of what was going on in his life at the time. Like the Cheshire Cat, the smile sticks around long after the rest of its self has disappeared.
(Only in part, though. The last few years haven’t exactly been a wellspring of delight, but, you know, we’re working on it.)
The younger element is to be expected, I suppose. And the thinner part, well. I guess we’re back here again.
One recipe for successful goal achievement is to combine sufficient motivation with a sense of self-efficacy to make the project feel achievable. It’s a push-pull kind of thing. Even so, environment and circumstances play a significant part as well — not everything is within our control. (The classic “means, motive, opportunity” triangle.)
Last year I reflected on the fact that my weight has gone up and down in the past, and it will likely go up and down in the future. I feel comfortable with the idea that I’ve lost weight before, and I can do it again. However, I haven’t felt much motivation to do so recently, and the circumstances of the pandemic, as well as work and family factors, have had me prioritizing other aspects of my physical and mental health.
There have been other lifestyle/diet changes that I’ve been able to make successfully and (I think) easily make since 2018, specifically: eating a vegetarian diet and not drinking alcohol. I think that motivation and short-term feedback are the differences between these two changes, and losing weight. In giving up meat, I felt (and feel) a strong motivation to not have animals killed for my food. (Give me time to deal with eggs and cheese.) Giving up alcohol was motivated by the short-term feedback loop of feeling physically poisoned the next day after even a single glass of wine or whisky the previous evening.
In both cases, these changes felt like examples of “changing my relationship with food” in a qualitative sense rather than a quantitative sense. Past successful diets for me have mostly been calorie-counting affairs, which, perhaps, have mentally felt like things I would do for a while and then go back to some kind of normal, rather than permanent “I will never do this again” changes. The Atkins/low-carb diet was an interesting outlier: it was successful in terms of bringing about weight loss, but not successful as a long-term change because I have no intention of giving up bread for life.
Right now, spurred by confronting my younger, thinner self on a regular basis (he has a jawline rather than a jawsmudge, the bastard) I’m toying with the idea of trying a 5:2 or another intermittent fasting diet. Not because I think it holds a magical answer; Seimon et al.’s (2015) systematic review suggests that it works, but it’s not substantially more or less effective than other weight loss methods. However, psychologically, I might find it easier to follow an unambiguous “it’s Tuesday, I don’t eat on Tuesdays” schema than to persist with an “only so much but not more” pattern.
It might work, I don’t know! It’s 16:00 so far and I’m feeling hungry, but I’ve managed to avoid making myself a sandwich or grabbing one of the rowies I bought in Stonehaven yesterday. We’ll see.