The Gambler

Just advanced warning… I'm really tired today and bordering on delirious so this may not make any sense whatsoever :)

On the weekend I was browsing at a department store beauty counter. A twenty-something sales assistant sprang out from behind a mirror and said, "Can I help you? How about this primer?" She waved a tube in my face. "I think you'll love it. It's great at smoothing fine lines and wrinkles!"

Yeah, thanks very much lady!

This trifling anecdote is the only way I could think of to start writing about the tangled pile of stuff I've been thinking about lately. Ageing and health and relationships and work and meaning and whatnot.

At times I've lived like I had a neverending bucket of time. Like no matter how poorly I treated my body I'd have time to Ctrl+Z the damage. But really, it's only luck that I've escaped relatively unscathed (thus far).

Recently I've been humbled by how fast life can change – seeing how the most healthy specimens can become fragile overnight. We humans are really are so vulnerable. It's left me feeling quite rotten for gambling with my own health so much.

Another thing that's brought clarity was hanging out in Brussels with my Up & Running compadre, Julia Jones (better known as Coach Julia to the ladies she bosses around with her virtual megaphone!). The premise of our meeting was to do lots and lots of work, which we did; but I came away feeling like my brain and heart had been dismantled, scrubbed and polished, then put back together again like new.

I dunno, maybe Julia hypnotised me or something? But hanging out with her makes me look forward to being 50 years old. She is kicking arse. Not just because she finished a freaking half iron man a couple of weeks ago, but because does things with purpose, thoughtfulness and consistency. She lives with the kind of structured mindfulness I've been striving for. She squeezes her running shoes into her carry-on luggage – it wouldn't occur to her not to move her butt on a long weekend away. She orders exactly what she wants and relishes a yummy restaurant meal, but eats lighter and healthier at the next meal without making a big thing of it. She works hard, on projects she cares deeply about, but knows when it's time to down tools and chill out. She gives so much to people, but she knows when to draw boundaries. I admire the hell out of her approach to life.

Does this post have a bloody point, woman? you may be asking. Yes! Sorta! I guess lately I'm feeling very conscious of time passing, and the cumulative effects of my thoughts and actions. I'm seeing this Making Healthy Choices thing in a different light. Sometimes a slice of cake is just a slice of cake, but when scoffed too often cake numbs; it dulls the edges and clouds the thoughts. I'm trying to be more thoughtful about what's going on when I reach for cake and what happens afterwards… both the immediate sugar crash and mood plummet, and the effects arteries years down the line.

Likewise when I choose to lift some weights, or go for a bike ride, or eat a salad… sometimes a salad is just a salad. But when it's bursting with colour and flavour it almost feels like a declaration of intent…

I want to live a long life
I want to have strong bones when I'm an old lady
I want to spend my days doing meaningful work
I want to walk for miles without hurty knees
I want to be a strong, clear-minded partner, friend, daughter, sister, business partner

And I really don't need a £30 tube of primer!

(I could really do with a nap, though :) )

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46 thoughts on “The Gambler

  1. I could rant about the wrinkle cream—but I will just shout I GET THIS.

    You write so beautifully, too.

    I get these.

    and as I blogged today MY HANDS LOOK FREAKIN OLD–and I kinda love and am fascinated by that.

    Media and creams be damned.

  2. That’s the effect Julia has in person, isn’t it? She just oozes this balance and awareness and presence.
    I really liked this post. I’ve been thinking a lot about similar things lately, but my thoughts are way more scattered.
    But what I know is that I do want to take care of myself and that does require presence. And awareness. And balance.

    I still plan to do a lot of napping, though. Napping is GREAT.

  3. Well said. Doing it all without the drama – that’s the goal.

    I once had a chick in a dept store approach me about a pore minimising cream and had to back down and admit I really didn’t need it… first time ever one of those sales chicks has said that. I guess it’s a comfort to have small pores :)

  4. There is no doubt in my mind that time goes more quickly the older you get. Julia certainly sounds like someone we could all learn a lesson from!

  5. +1 for this whole post! Maybe you write best when “bordering on delirium” ;-)

  6. “But when it’s bursting with colour and flavour it almost feels like a declaration of intent…”

    You are the best, Shauna.

    JULIA RULES, YEAH!

  7. This is exactly what I aspire to, fantastic post. It also makes me panic a bit too… I am seized by the feeling that I am ruining my body and my life, that I have done so much damage already that is irretrievable… But that kind of panic is so counter-productive. How do carry on on in a no-drama kind of way and accept what you can’t change? Hmm. A dilemma.

  8. I can totally relate here. I just saw myself on video today, and the girl I saw in the video is not the image I have of myself. I knew I had been making poor food choices for several months, but each time I thought “this little slip up wont matter, besides I’m stressed, in a hurry, celebrating, etc.” All those little choices added up to one big shock for me. I am going to recommit to making more mindful food choices today. Thanks Shauna!

  9. I’m a new blog reader and just found your site! This post really hit home for me. It’s true though and sometimes I am right there with you. It’s easy to think you can fix everything *tomorrow*. Tomorrow I’ll start exercising. Tomorrow I’ll get in shape. Tomorrow I’ll take better care of myself. But the tomorrows start to string together and you’re left with years of unhappiness and discontentment wanting something but without direction or purpose. You need a goal, you need a plan, and you need to start today – not tomorrow!

  10. So true! At a recent doctor’s appointment, I found a couple of blood test readings (including cholesterol) a bit elevated, and it really struck me with fear that I’ve neglected my health for way too long. And now (in my early 40s) I’m getting to where it really counts! I want to be there for my family, without taking tons of drugs with questionable side effects. Thanks for the reminder of the importance of doing things right NOW! :-)

  11. The interesting thing about this post, for me, is the bit you *don’t* say but imply none-the-less, and something that I’m trying to work on at the moment too – not just that everything we do now is laying down groundwork for our future, but also that while I want to still be looking after myself in the future, I don’t want to be making a meal of it. I want to be like Julia, and doing it *naturally*, because it’s all just the obvious thing, not a constant fight with myself.

  12. I HATE those people! Those ones that make look so effortless! But long for the day when I can live a balanced, healthy, successful, drama-free life without over-thinking every step! And, you’re right! That kind of life doesn’t come in a tube!

  13. Thanks for your comments guys! Really love all the different perspectives!

    Ali – Hello! Nice to meet you!

    Airlie – nice one! :) the thing i’ve observed about Julia is that it is not effortless… but she just shuts up and gets on with making the effort! which is something i need to work on, bigtime :P

    Sue F – i totally hear you! from what i have observed of people who appear to do this stuff “naturally” and make me froth with envy (e.g. Julia, or Carla of Mizfitonline.com, Dr G) is that what they do is realistic and sustainable and what they personally find enjoyable. If it covers those three things, they stick to it over time… so they’re consistent… and that way it feels more “natural”. Still hard work, still have to persuade themselves to get on the bike (or equipment of your choice) some days, but don’t seem to need to make a big THING of it…

    i have much to learn, grasshopper!

  14. Julia sounds like the kind of person I always wanted to be when I grew up, but as I’m nearing 40 I start realising I’d better get on with it! I have realised I need to be a bit less hard on myself and focus on the times when I’ve done right by my body and mind rather than the times when it all when to hell in an ice cream tub. That way I’ve got a better chance of repeating the good stuff. Love your declaration of intent :-)

  15. Shauna, you rock!

    I love the thought of making a declaration of intent.

    The kicker about the tube is that nothing you slather on your skin can help your heart or make you healthier (well, except maybe sunscreen for us fair skinned maidens). The other thing is fat doesn’t wrinkle so my skin looks a bit older now that I don’t have so much fat to plump and smooth out the lines but I’m ok with that.

    I recently celebrated my 44th birthday so I’ve been doing lots of thinking about age and health and how much I’ve abused my body over the years and how much better I feel now than I did 10 even 20 years ago. It’s true – you are only as old or young as you feel.

    Rock on!

  16. Years ago I remember moaning about the veins being so prominent in my feet since I’ve gotten older and my son calmly telling me they look that way because I’m an athlete. Nice kid. Really enjoyed this post.

  17. What a great post! I totally agree with it all! I feel on the verge of delirium today too….darn 5:30AM workouts! ;-)

    Love Up & Running! (and occasionally hate it!)

  18. I relate so much to this post. I’ve been reading you for years, we’re right around the same age, and I have recently starting thinking of this “healthy living” thing in a much more broad way. I love your blog, always have. xo

  19. Hi Shauna, I was looking madly on my computer for this, which I copied from one of your blogs a long time ago and it is still taped to my desk:

    “There’s enough dodgy things that could happen to a person without voluntarily shortening your lifespan with crappy lifestyle choices. And the dawning of a new year makes me particularly sentimental, so I’ve been thinking of my friends, and my family and the lovely Dr. G and all the things I want to do with my life…and I want to take care of myself better. I want to see my grandkiddies and roam the world and be able to ride a bike when I’m an old lady, all the while still eating my greens with my own teeth. It’s a powerful incentive that’s easy to lose sight of.”

    DAMN…you write good. But while looking for this to avoid having to retype it, which I did, cause I couldn’t find it, I found this response to an e-mail I sent you almost exactly one year ago: (It meant so much to me that you replied to ME, that I saved it!)

    This is what I wrote in response to a blog you wrote, evidently sometime around a year ago:

    Oh Shauna, I wish you nothing but good things, but you scare me to death. You are the bright shining example of successful weight loss and if you are struggling with maintaining, what hope do I have? And it’s not just you, there are hundreds, no thousands, no tens of thousands who are going through this struggle. What is wrong with us–that food is such a temptation? It’s a curse. People who are thin did not get this FAT gene, and they are so very lucky. Today, for the first time in 30 years, I am wearing jeans to work, TIGHT jeans (size 22, so you can see I have a ways to go, but 90 lbs gone!)and people actually noticed my weight loss today. I am okay now, I can keep doing this for however long it takes, but can I keep doing it forever? I don’t know. But I doubt it. I am an addict, but I am also getting older, 59, and I know if I gain back this weight, I’m killing myself. Maybe that motivation alone will be enough to help me keep it off. I pray that it is. Because we are all fighting this insane battle, and most of us are losing.
    99 • Posted by Pam • July 19, 2010 at 08:07 PM

    And here’s your wonderful, although somewhat chastising reply:

    There is NOTHING wrong with us Pam. For me it’s not about motivation, it’s about digging deep and facing up to WHY I turn to food and learning to stop and take stock of my feelings and hunger before I eat. I’m not a shining example of successful weight loss nor a beacon of hope; I’m just muddling along having ups and downs, trying to figure myself out like everyone else.
    Personally I don’t see my food and body issues as a curse or an addiction or a losing battle. The food stuff is just PART of the picture and I needed to dig deeper and get to know myself and my ways better. Things are finally moving in a positive direction :)
    Well done on your fantastic progress btw… just keep on keepin’ on :)
    Again thank you all for your wonderful comments!!!
    100 • Posted by Shauna • July 19, 2010 at 08:15 PM

    I remember that day a year ago when I felt super HOT in my new size 22 jeans, the first jeans I had worn in close to 30 years. I guess it makes me a little misty-eyed, because today, almost exactly ONE YEAR later, I am wearing a size 10 WHITE jeans to work, and I have lost 180 lbs.! WOW! I impress myself. I remembered wearing those jeans to work that day a year ago, but mistakenly remembered they were probably a size 18 or so. NOPE, they were evidently a 22, and dang I thought I was hot stuff. Obviously I was not hot then, and still am not, even 90 pounds lighter and 90 days maintaining. At my age, that “hot” ship has sailed, unfortunately.

    But your blog about taking care of yourself for all those reasons you listed still rings true to me. I have an almost 2-year old granddaughter, and even though I’m already 60 (60??!! How did that happen?) I want to DANCE AT HER WEDDING. It’s a powerful incentive indeed!

    Keep on keeping on Shauna, love ya!

  20. Definitely relate to and agree with so much of what you’re saying here!

    I find Julia just so immensely sensible and inspirational (and bossy, but bossy is good!) – I also think that you should bear in mind the changes you’ve made in your own life over the past 10 years (or thereabouts), you’re still just a bairn in the grand old scheme of things…

    Napping is the business.

  21. I was watching an Ironman special (as you do) and an 80 year old competitor remarked that if you want to be doing this kind of stuff when you’re 80, you have to start thinking about it at 40 (years away for you, you whippersnapper. But still) I love that.

  22. I think I may be starting to find the ‘just doing it without making a big thing of it’ is becoming a habit rather than something I need to force myself to do. At work tonight there was takeaway chinese (plus chips) and a huge volume of leftovers. I chose not to partake but got offered a bag of chips that were left. I took one and thought ‘mmmmmmmmmmmmm greasy salty goodness’!!! And that was it. It wasn’t until I read your post that I realised how huge a deal that is for me. That one chip was hot and delicious, but it was actually enough to just enjoy the taste of something I hardly have these days and not have it turn into a carb marathon.

  23. Dear Shauna, Being mindful and deliberate about one’s daily and life choices is so essential to leading a happy life but it is too easy to get tired, frazzled and start behaving impulsively instead. But sometimes we also are too hard on ourselves too. I read on the abc news website a little while ago when the Dalai Lama came to Australia, he was asked whether he ever gets angry and he said that he did. In fact, he had gotten angry the day before, “I shouted!” he said and laughed and then went on to give a lecture on inner peace. I think we should strive for better, seek to live in the present, practise mindfulness but also be kind to ourselves when we fail. Rest up, Shauna. Lindaxxx

  24. I think the best advice I’ve ever had, not just in regards to losing weight but to living life, is to take the things you admire in other people and make them a part of you. You might feel weird and self-concious about it, but eventually it feels weird not to do it :)

    But, if you shut up and just do it, where will be blog fodder come from? :P

  25. Shauna! I’m normally a lurker, but this post REALLY spoke to me, so I was inspired to comment. :) I turned 30 about two months ago and have been having somewhat of a crisis around similar issues–I lived my 20s as if I had an endless bucket of time to become the person I wanted to be, and right now I’m feeling like I’ve hit 30 without even figuring out basic goals I have for myself, never mind a road map for how to get to any of them. I know that eating healthily and eating mindfully are goals I’ve always had for myself and I’ve been doing MUCH better working on improving my habits in that department, but other large questions have been looming as well–do I want kids? What do I want to do for a living “forever,” “when I grow up?” How am I spending my free time, and is it all building toward anything? Do I have any passion for anything in particular? I’ve just felt like I’ve been running out of time to figure all of this out, and thus immense pressure to figure it all out RIGHT NOW. Your words are inspiring for me…maybe it’s time to practice structured mindfulness to try to reflect on where I’m going. So, thank you, and MANY apologies for dumping my existential crises all over your blog…definitely not my intent when I started this comment, and I hope I made at least a semblance of sense! :) Thank you so much for writing…I absolutely love your blog!

  26. I swear to God something is in the air…I’ve never heard the phrase “structured mindfulness” until I read this post, but YES!! That’s what I want too! I’ve been at either extreme over the years and am looking for some middle ground. How boring, yet how comforting :-)

    And this:

    “Sometimes a slice of cake is just a slice of cake, but when scoffed too often cake numbs; it dulls the edges and clouds the thoughts.”

    Oh how that speaks to me!

    I’m not yet 49 but! I will be 50 next year (2012). Here’s to 50!!

  27. This post is so awesome Shauna! I admire Julia so much and think she is amazing. Even though I know she is 50, I struggle to remember that. I think it’s really helpful to know it’s not effortless, for anyone, it’s the commitment to expending the effort in looking after yourself that matters. I am really excited for you at the moment, I just get this feeling a bunch of pieces are falling into place for you or something… :)

  28. Thank you gazillions everyone for you comments… such thoughtful funny lovely people, thank you for stopping by :)

    @Pam – your comment had gone to the Typepad Spam folder, sorry for the delay in publishing it! Hilarious that I wrote “It’s a powerful incentive that’s easy to lose sight of” as evidently I had started to lose sight of it again ;)

    Btw… HOT is a relative concept Pam, and I bet you are HOT STUFF mate. Wow, what a year you’ve had. Well done on all that hard work!

  29. Shauna, thank you for so eloquently putting into words what I have been thinking about for months!

  30. Hey Shauna, long time no post fellow Oz in the UK. Love this stuff – fits with lots of my thoughts – of course I’ve got quite a few years on you though!

    Also thought I’d mention a book I’m reading at the moment, which I’m loving and which ties in with mindfulness concepts. It’s called “The Compassionate Mind Guide to Ending Overeating”. It’s really resonating with me – and definitely looks into all the stuff about unhelpful cycles of relationship with food (both overeating, and unhealthy approaches to food restruction).

    link to amazon.co.uk

  31. Oh, and by the way, I am doing a course through the University of Glasgow which requires me to be up there for teaching blocks every few months for two weeks. Maybe we could finally meet? Next fortnight will be in Nov!

  32. Thanks for a wonderful post. I really do think it’s all about keeping things in perspective – though I definitely find that easier said than done most times. I’ve always thought to myself, ‘After I lose weight, I’ll do this/buy this/go there’ etc. Too much time has passed and I don’t want to wait to live anymore … how sad is it to put weight loss as a pre-requisite to happiness? Though in my reality, I feel like it is.

  33. great post, Shauna. you are doing good, important work on your insides. you WILL be all those things you want to be, because you don’t stop searching or learning or trying.

    thank you for your comment, too. it means so much to know you are there, reading and cheering me on. It’s on my bucket list to come to Scotland and meet you in person (or, to meet you on one of your trip to the states, but really, I’d love to come to Scotland again–visited once in college, but it was very brief). We have long lives ahead of us. I’m sure it will happen eventually! :)

  34. It’s uber-wonderful that you’ve discovered this way of looking at your older years now, while you’re still young. You now have a vision of what you’d like you to be when you’re older, and trust me, you won’t be able to shake that vision :)

    How great that you had to chance to see a glimpse of your own future through someone you admire. That’s why it’s so awesome to hang with people you look up to-it rubs off! (As you have changed so many people’s idea of what’s possible in weight loss.) What goes around comes around. I think that’s so sweet.

  35. Hi Shauna,
    I’m another Aussie living in the UK since 2000. I bought your book months ago and finally read it this past week while on holiday. Fabulous! Inspiring, of course, on the whole fatgirl/dietgirl thing but what made me laugh out loud were the references to the awful UK food (yes, it’s improved in the past decade!) and delight at receiving care packages of favourite Aussie treats. [Why oh why hasn't some entrepreneuring Britisher discovered Cherry Ripes!! Ok... so maybe that would just be one more test for the well padded.] But more poignant, though the Cherry Ripes are way up there (!), was seeing THAT shirt in one of your photos. You know the one. It has to be Myer’s big girl shop circa 2000. Sort of goldy/green and vaguely smart enough for special occasions. I still remember finally throwing it with glee into the charity shop bin. But really, the most important message I took from your book was your decision at the end NOT to fight to get down to some so called ideal weight but rather be you and be healthy. I see now from your website you are looking at mindfulness. Perhaps I’ll do some reading around that too. :o)

    Anyway… I just wanted to say thanks. I’m beginning the health (ok, diet) journey again. Your book and site provide wonderful motivation. LOVE the dietgirl spreadsheet!

    Thanks
    Madeleine

  36. thank you so much everyone!

    Mopsy – so good to hear from you! will send you an email!

    Madeleine – hello and welcome! thank you very much for reading the book! so sorry to hear you had that unfortunate shirt too, glad to hear you’ve binned it now, hehe :)

  37. The aging thing creeps up so fast. When I was at the makeup counter for my 15 year high school reunion, they gave me an eye cream to “minimize those fine lines…” I was only 33 and had never noticed any lines. I’m 40 now and there is no doubt that they are there, but as long as they’re smile lines, I guess that’s okay.

    The hardest part about becoming conscious of the aging thing is that feeling that THERE IS NO TIME! Also, the fact that the young chicks seem to look a lot better than I remember looking at their age. NOT FAIR.

  38. About a year and a half ago, I fell in with a group of up-in-years runners/triathletes. Before that, I thought my best years were behind me. Hearing the stories of the woman-who-could-be-my-mom running a 50 mile race last year and having the humbling privledge of a 67 year old beat me at every race I run with him… I know I have a long and happy racing life if I take care of myself. It’s made me a lot more mindful and happier about getting older…

  39. WOW! I can completely relate to this post, I tend to go to bed and lay there thinking about what I did that day, and if I past the day away on the computer, or doing mindless chores, I am sad. It is true, we are only here for such a short time, that we need to own our lives, and strive to be the best us we can be each and every day. I hope one day soon I get it during the day, and not just reflecting back in the evening.
    I would love to be mindlessly healthy, and just be naturally beautiful too… right now I would settle to be mindfully healthy and to get rid of the lovely hairs I saw on a photo above my lip today! sigh.. 30 is not being kind!

  40. I hadn’t read your blog in a long time; too long I’m now realizing because it hit too close to home. I also lost weight and regained, only worse. I lost 50 and was within about 25 pounds of my goal weight and over the course of about three years I gained 110 pounds. I’ve been killing myself with food when I thought I’d found the key just a few short years ago. The only thing maybe worse than being fat is getting thin, or close to it, and then getting even fatter than before. It makes you feel like a failure and you second-guess your own intelligence: I know better than this, so why do I keep doing it?

    Anyway, this is all to say that I wanted to thank you profusely for putting yourself out there and staying visible when it would have been easier to hide your struggles. It means more than you know. If nothing else, this post made me reheat my leftover salmon and brussels sprouts instead of going out for takeout, and I’ll put that in the win column.

  41. Thank you for this post. It really put into words how I have been feeling lately. It’s like I woke up recently and realized I don’t have all the time in the world that I thought I did, but at the same time I’m still looking forward to being 50 or 60 because I know some awesome people that age. Thanks for expressing what I didn’t really know how to!

  42. Please write another book! You would be doing something meaningful. It’s hopeful to know someone thinks about the same junk I do.