Joeblade

Willpower

I can be fairly strong-willed at times. Though my increasing supply of gadgets might suggest otherwise, that’s just because it’s what you can see. If you could see all the crap I don’t buy, well, you’d be dead impressed.

There’s books that I don’t buy, there’s games, DVDs, CDs and clothes. There’s food and drink that is left on the shelf and there are gigs that I don’t attend, but I’m tested on a near-daily basis. I blame the internet; it provides all of these things with just a few mouse clicks, so you don’t just need the willpower to avoid a regular shop, you need the willpower to avoid opening a web browser.

But it’s not just about the commerce. Just thinking about the subject now, I can recall plenty of times today alone where my willpower has been tested. It starts almost as soon as my alarm goes off; do I lie in and arrive at work late, or do I force myself up and get to leave for home early instead? It goes on; do I have breakfast at home or eat at The Company’s canteen where fried food is cheaply and readily available? Do I get the bus, or do I, frugally and healthily, take the Long Walk through the drizzle and grey? Then when I’m at work, do I eat a bar of chocolate or do I snack on pumpkin seeds?

The gym is part of this. As part of my new ‘stop looking like a sort of pear’ exercise regime, I’ve changed my diet as well, quite substantially. No more crisps, chocolate and biscuits; now I’m all about the pumpkin seeds, dates and carob. Walnut halves. Unsweetened papaya chunks. Unsalted peanuts. God, it’s all so terribly depressing, it must be doing me good, like a sort of dietary Catholicism.

It’s like chocolate, but not as good.

I’ve managed to keep this up for a good fortnight, but it’s a struggle. It’s not a struggle because we have chocolate and crisp vending machines here — those are out of sight, and with my stock of bird food right by my side it’s just easier to fill up on that than it is to walk the 50 metres to the machines (fitness through laziness, you see?). The hardest part is the chip shop.

After I get off the bus, it’s a thirty minute walk to get back home, and for at least 20 of those minutes I’m downwind of a fish and chip shop, a fish and chip shop that’s only 30 seconds away from my front door. So I’ll have spent all day eating nuts and berries like a bloody Disney cartoon animal, then will have exhausted myself at the gym, I’ll be absolutely ravenous, and I’m forced to inhale this chip smell for the last part of my journey. It’s hell.

It’s a boring walk — just houses to look at — so I find myself playing a sort of fantasy meal game, where I imagine what I might order from the chip shop if my willpower doesn’t hold out. Chips and curry sauce, perhaps, or chips and gravy. No, no, I’m thinking too small; chips and a steak and kidney pie, perhaps. No, a battered sausage. A large battered sausage. Or maybe some fish — some cod, some plaice, or, ooh, some scampi would be good. With some baked beans, some mushy peas, and a pickled egg, oh, Jesus, a pickled egg.

It also doesn’t help that this chip shop is not just any chip shop, it’s perhaps the best chip shop I’ve ever eaten from. The portions are huge — a small portion of chips fills a dinner plate and can easily be split between two people, and they serve mushy peas by the mug — and the quality is excellent. So I not only know that at the end of the Long Walk is a chip shop, I know that there’s a chip shop that will serve me a giant helping of fantastic food that will make me really happy and I also know that all I have for dinner at home is a quiche. A quiche.

Rewards.

The problem gets worse, because you start telling yourself that you deserve this wonderfully chippy meal because you’ve been so good during the day by eating bananas and drinking fruit tea. Then, once you allow yourself a reward, it all just spirals out of control; you open a bottle of wine and have a couple of glasses, you position yourself in front of the TV all night with a couple of DVDs, you order in some fine Parisian women — you make a night of it. Before you know it, what had been an evening of quiche, salad and some quiet reading has become a fat-encrusted, wine-fuelled, borderline-illegal night of debauchery.

But, like I said, I can be fairly strong-willed at times. There’s just only so much quiche you can eat, you know?

By Paul Haine, in