*** Spoiler Alert & Disclaimer ***
The following article contains explicit spoilers regarding the hit HBO series Game of Thrones.
Many of the references made during this read will require a basal familiarity with Game of Thrones and/or George RR Martin’s ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.
Reading further may result in exposing yourself to the status of our lord and savior Jon Snow. If this is something you want to avoid, bookmark this page and come back once you have watched Episode 2 of Season 6.
And now on to our regularly scheduled program.
I Gained 20 Pounds This Winter
And by pounds, I’m talking about the squishy, love handle specific, rippling as I walk, kind of pounds.
Similar to a new born babe in Ramsay Bolton’s kennel:
It wasn’t a pretty sight.
I’d love to pretend that this recent weight gain was vaguely purposeful. That I had found myself in this predicament out of joy — not terror.
But… that would be a lie.
Last fall I finished up one of my more successful cuts, finding myself in a pretty sweet spot. I had managed to attain a sub 10% body fat percentage AND I was feeling stronger and more athletic than ever. Two goals, on opposite sides of the wall, that I had managed to blend together in a peace-making effort even Alliser Thorne would appreciate.
Having achieved that success, I began looking forward. The seasons were changing and I was coming to grips with one very specific truth:
Winter was coming.
With the winds of winter soon arriving, I decided to tackle a new goal. I was going to spend the winter adding an appreciable amount of lean(ish) muscle. The plan was simple really, add weight at a slow pace, and keep my waist line at a manageable circumference.
Things didn’t go as planned.
I began self-justifying things I would later find out weren’t a good idea. I began eating more than I knew I should, chalking up crap foods as being okay since I was “bulking”.
I witnessed my abs dissipating into the misty abyss of my ever-growing pot belly. And like my abs, the line between right and wrong quickly began to blur.
Discouraged by this aesthetic set-back I decided I was going to jump back on the cutting wagon and shed the fat I had gained.
But this time, something strange happened.
I just couldn’t seem to get my head in the right space, and I quickly found myself in a vicious cycle of failure and disappointment.
A multi-step process, with each step escalating and feeding into the next.
- Disheartened by my failure I felt the pressure to fix things immediately.
- This urge led me to making drastic and unsustainable nutritional decisions.
- These unsustainable choices resulted in burnout and dietary failure.
- See Step 1.
The cycle continued, only getting more vicious the longer it went on.
Eventually the dread became inescapable — and like Jon at the end of season 5 — I found myself stuck in a place of seemingly no return.
Last Sunday Everything Changed
Finishing up another weekend of failed dieting, I sat down to watch the newest installment of the Game of Thrones series.
The intro jumped on the screen and with the violins blaring we began whipping around the map of Westeros. The metallic cylinders of Winterfell began churning and my mind started turning alongside them. But instead of my focus lending towards the strory in front of me, I found my mind slipping away to the struggles behind me.
Slowly I started becoming more and more engrossed with the show. Partly because of my love for it but mostly because of the questions and realizations I found myself pondering.
Things that applied not only to the story of Jon Snow but to me as well.
- How had our hero found himself in such a dire situation?
- How had things gone from so good to so bad… so quickly?
- How could he ever manage to make his way back?
Jon’s return seemed about as promising as me conquering my dietary struggles.
As the episode progressed we watched as everyone’s favorite Brother of the Watch laid naked and lifeless before our eyes. While things at The Wall took a giant turn for the better, the fate of Jon Snow seemed cemented in tragedy.
Until it wasn’t.
53 minutes into the episode the impossible happened.
The lifeless body on screen jolted and his eyes opened. Gasping for breath, Jon suddenly gave hope to a place that had lacked it only seconds ago. And suddenly I realized that this 54 minute fantasy drama was just a “how-to” guide in disguise.
A how-to-guide on coming back from anything.
Returning From Dieting Failure (And Death) in 3 Easy Steps
1) Listen to Davos (Give it another chance)
Leading into the episode there was a specific and overwhelming emotion that resonated within each character at the Wall. The same one that I had been feeling over the last couple weeks.
The Night’s Watch is suddenly leaderless.
Melisandre has lost faith in her God and herself.
The Wildlings are without the one person they believed in.
All of these strong people without hope and unsure of where to go.
And then (of all people) it’s the fucking Onion Knight who brings everyone to their senses.
Davos approaches a down and distraught Melisandre, asking her if there was any way to right the ship. Unreluctant to accept that there is no hope, he looks her in the eyes and utters one simple line:
“Does it have to be this way? If there is anything we can do, let’s do it. Let’s give it one more chance.” 1
In a moment of absolute tragedy it wasn’t a moment of insane courage that was able to set things straight. Instead it was just the willingness to give it one more go.
Crow Tip2: Start over and try again.
One of the hardest parts of jumping back on a diet is the fresh sting from your previous failures. But even harder than that is the fear that your goals are unreachable.
In order to really move forward you must be willing to let go of your recent failures. The number one mistake people make when coming back from a diet failure is they feel the need to make up for the damage that is done.
It’s a mistake that I had to hurdle as well.
Realizing that I was riding a never ending wheel, I made a decision. Rather than attempting to stop the wheel, I was going to break the damn thing. Instead of getting caught up in my repeated failure and the discouragement of my continued regression, I was going to start anew.
The quickest way to never get anywhere is to stay focused on where you’re coming from.
Let go of that and start focusing on where you want to go — not where you are.
Take Davos’ advice and give it one more chance.
2) Find a Red Priestess (Have a Plan)
Upon deciding to give things one last chance, Melisandre begins following the requisite actions needed for any basic supernatural revival.
She slowly hand washes Jon’s naked body and meticulously clips hair from his freshly washed head and beard. Having set the environment up for success she begins chanting a bunch of fancy incantations.
On the surface this is nothing that really helps us in our pursuit of dieting success. But if we take a deeper look we will see what is actually going on.
Melisandre is tasked with what seems an insurmountable goal. Rather than just flailing around aimlessly, she immediately sets forth into action. She knows what she needs to accomplish and she goes about following a plan that will ideally give her the desired results.
While we probably don’t need to go clipping hair from dead bodies, we DO need to follow suit and come up with a plan. We need to decide on a series of actions that not only gets us moving… but gets us moving in the right direction.
The only problem is what if we don’t know what the right actions are?
Crow Tip: Hire a Coach
Like Davos approaching Melisandre, we all need a little help at times.
Especially when we are feeling lost.
The pros to hiring a coach are endless. But, among those various benefits, the most beneficial is almost always the ease of mind. You no longer are caught wondering if you’re making the right decision or not. You’re no longer worrying because that decision making is no longer in your hands.
When chasing any goal of imporatance, we almost always become our own biggest enemy.
I talked about how I began self-justifying crap foods during my bulk and the disastrous rabbit hole it lead me down. This wouldn’t have happened had I set more strict guidelines in place and not fallen victim to my own cognitive biases.
One of the best ways to solve this is through some 3rd party accountability.
A coach isn’t something you’ll need for the rest of your life.
But when the stakes are high and the goals are lofty, few things help more than a scantily-clad Red Priestess.. er.. Coach.
3) Get Rid of Olly (Remove Dietary Hurdles)
One of the most tragic aspects of Jon Snow’s death was at whose hands it came by.
As the Lord Commander of the Night’s Watch, Jon would have more than a couple assumed enemies. People that would be more than happy to slide a cold blade into the bastard of the North.
On the sad day that it finally happened, it was none of Jon’s adversaries that cut him down. It was someone who Jon trusted and loved… his friend and faithful steward, Olly.
When beginning a diet you’re going to quickly encounter resistance. You’ll experience people and things that don’t want you to succeed. Like Jon, you’ll frequently find that these hurdles typically come in the form of your own friends or family.
The worst part of it all is that these hurdles you’ll encounter will very rarely be of ill-intent. And as such, it can be difficult to see them coming before they’ve already came. Whether it be your girlfriend asking you out to dinner or your grandma sending you a batch of your favorite cookies.
Your friends and family (probably) won’t stab you in the belly with a dagger, but when chasing a lean midsection these things can have a similar effect.
Crow Tip: Set Strategies in Place from the Get Go
Upon Jon’s return from the dead, we will hopefully see him commence a quick hanging of all the backstabbers3
(Un)fortunately that isn’t really an option in regards to handling your friends and family.
Instead we are going to have to implement strategies for avoiding these apparent setbacks as they come. Each of us will suffer from different forms of resistance, meaning you may have to come up with a few different strategies.
If grandma’s cooking is your down fall, it may be unrealistic to just never talk to her again. In this case, cooking for her or suggesting certain meals may be a better idea. If you girlfriend asking you out is what leaves you crippled, maybe try choosing non-food dates like laser tag or a walk around King’s Landing.
The trick here is finding a strategy that works for you and the life you live.
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