*drinking coffee gave me thrush

Something old. Something borrowed. Something blue. For me, the doing or trying something new has never been a problem. It’s the sticking it through. I love a new start, a fresh pair of knickers, the feeling of Yes, finally, this is it! I have unearthed the secret code, found the path, seen the light at the end of the tunnel…

And then, due to some gap in neuron connectivity, I simply forget what I was doing. It’s usually associated with a newly concocted weight loss/health regime: Do the 7-minute workout app every day for six months. Or No more chocolate until Christmas. Or Cut out booze for October – while I look down to find an empty wine glass in my hand and ‘WTF’ on loop in my head. Which then leaves me with only one option – to continue said consumption and start afresh tomorrow.

I make up elaborate ways to keep the momentum with mantras, like ‘Chocolates and sweets ain’t really treats’. When that fails, I put together a case with the precision of a top lawyer arguing the cons to sugar and alcohol consumption. When hard facts fail, I appeal to the parental approach: The deal is I can eat chocolate and drink white wine as much as I want after I exercise off these pounds.

But my hypothalamus and pituitary gland have other plans, silencing the teeny-weeny inner voice saying—Don’t do it! What about our pact? What about OUR PACT? Skinny by Christmas, remember? Smaller upper arms in party photos! Meanwhile, the much larger, stronger voice has bitten two opposing corners from a Penguin bar and is sucking her tea through it. Trust me, it is amazing. The whole thing melts in your mouth and you get this boom shakalaka! sugar hit. I feel guilty after the third bar, usually because I also feel sick.

So what is happening to me? Why do I only last a few days on a new health regime before I feel like life has turned into a stale crumpet?

Well it turns out that I show signs similar to those of an addict’s response to reward. My dopamine levels rise in anticipation of the reward but not from the reward itself. You’ll know it if you have it too –that frenzy before the chocolate/pizza/chips/beer gorge begins. I become a possessed woman with tunnel vision: Give me sugar!!! I should be thankful my brain isn’t screaming for crystal meth, except our family is riddled with diabetes.

But it’s not just sugar. My dopamine levels rise during the anticipation of most things. Then subsequently collapse with the reality. I’m a ‘New’ junkie. When I’m doing something fresh, I feel alive. If I’m in a different restaurant. If I’m walking down a street I’ve not been before. If I meet a new person at a party. Suddenly, life is Technicolor perfect.

When I decided to become a novelist, I was turned on to the max. When I actually finished my book, I felt lost and a little sad. The dream of writing is now reality. No longer aspiring to be someone in baggy jumpers and red lipstick who spends hours hanging in coffee* shops daydreaming narratives. I’m now an actual writer with a real book in the real hands of a real agent, and this makes me uneasy.

I’m a head-in-the-clouds gal. I’m a dream-up-shitter. I’m like let’s-get-high-on-expectation. I get far more from visualising myself in a backless black dress with pointy-out shoulder blades than succumb to what it takes to acquire them.

So if you are like me – and given the amount of wasted gym memberships each year, there’s a lot of us – don’t despair. Don’t self-deprecate or hate. Accept the gift that’s been bestowed upon us. We don’t have to get out of our house pants to have what we want. Our reward centre lives for the Dream Of, the If Only, the One Day… It’s why New Year’s Eve parties are epic failures and gymnasiums are empty by springtime.

So without guilt, take a pen and paper and start doodling. Those new ideas are going to fill you with endorphins. And at zero-calories per daydream, I can’t think of anything better to indulge in.


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