Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Back to Reality. Oh, There Goes Gravity...


Today for me is the first official day of school. I went back on Monday but as the saying goes "one works or one meets" and we've had a lot of meetings. This video gives you an idea, though it's a parody, and set in the US, and seems to be takes place in their version of a primary school.


After a summer devoted to personal growth, walks with friends and unhealthy levels of internet usage, reality didn't so much bite as make an open-mawed lunge for my jugular. School is a fast place with lots going on. I'm surrounded by people all day long, and constantly having to make split-second decisions on what to say or how to approach issues. That's just the teachers; today the students return and I'll be meeting plenty of new faces.
I'm nervous, but in an effort to bolster my confidence, have made a list of things I have learned in the past twelve months.

-I am enough. Even if I don't get it right all the time, I do a good job. My resolution for the year is to hold back from comparing myself to my colleagues and instead consolidate my own position and teaching practice. Just because I'm not a Viking, it doesn't mean I have to be a Victim.
-It's okay to strive for happiness and it's the everyday actions that count. It mightn't be as straightforward as Rihanna implies in her awful song, but at least I can decide to try to be happy. Things like tidying up before going to bed so that I always come down to a clean kitchen and cold Diet Coke in the fridge have really helped. I'm going to apply the same principles in work. Slowly, slowly, catchy monkey.
-I'm not the only one. I don't just mean this in a general everybody-struggles kind of way (though that is true and I'd do well to remember it) but in particular in relation to being a childless, Yaris-driving spinster. I am  lucky enough to have some wonderful friends at work, but they are married down to the last one and almost all have two or more children. I can feel a bit "different" and not different better. Joining Gateway Women has helped me there as I've come to know that there are many articulate, capable women who've somehow managed to find themselves in a similar situation.

I give out about my job but it has its good days. My favourite thing to teach is Shakespeare and my biggest disappointment this year is not getting a Higher Level English fifth year class, as they're doing "Othello", which is one of my favourites.  It'll be hard to listen to the others discussing how they're approaching it but I'll have to put in my virtual ear-plugs. There are worse things. I came across this video the other day and answered the questions as it went along. What was the conclusion? The job I should be doing is........English teacher.



Thursday, 22 August 2013

Advice on Getting Over Anorexia Part II

As promised, this is the second part of Advice on Getting Over Anorexia. I changed the original title to from "How to Get Over Anorexia" because I feared "How to..." sounded too prescriptive. I don't want to sound like I have all the answers. I have only some of them.
These are four more strategies for how to stop wasting your time on an eating disorder.

1. Extricate Yourself from the Eating Disorder Community.

What do I mean by the eating disorder community? I mean pro-ana websites, but also support groups. especially the online variety. There is also no point in reading books on how to recover from anorexia. I've read most of them and they were practically no help.
Pro-ana websites weren't around in my day so I don't have much experience of them. I had a look once and they left me cold. They'll leave you cold as well, once you make the decision to leave the Land of Anorectica.  What about online support groups?  I don't know. I've never been a member of an anorexia-specific online support group but I was a member of one for BPD. It's like being in a hall of mirrors. Seeing your problems reflected in the lives of others may make you feel better. You feel less alone and less of a freak. The problem with mirror-lined structures is that it can be hard to find the exit. As long as you are typing "anorexia" or "eating disorder" into search engines, you're still stuck.
I've written of SHINE, the Cork-based, now defunct support-group in the previous post. I'm not as disapproving of real-life support groups as I am of the virtual kind. You get to meet real-life people and there's a bit of chat before and after the sessions so you get to see more of the whole person, not their temporary anorectic persona. It can be a good place to meet like-minded people who you can meet up with outside the group and do stuff together. Even if you attend one of these meetings, be aware that there is generally a consensus view of eating disorders and how to recover, which may or may not suit you. In particular the people running them may claim to be fully recovered, but take these claims with a pinch of salt.  When you are recovered you'll have better things to be doing at seven o'clock on a Tuesday than hang around discussing something that's no longer part of your life. What about books and online resources? It may seem sensible to read up on your condition and to research methods of treatment, but almost books on anorexia take a very pathologising stance. The books explain how you're different to other people, where your parents went wrong, how the culture in which you were raised led you to hate your body and how your behaviours are all understandable. Well, they may be understandable but they're not acceptable.
It is far more helpful to read general self-help books because they will reinforce how you are the same as other people. You are unique, but you are not a freak. You are sensitive, but so are most people, you're not "super-sensitive" or even particularly vulnerable. In fact, vulnerability is a good thing, as explained here by the first author I'm going to recommend Bren Brown Brown's books, especially "The Gifts of Imperfection" should be your first port of reading call. Another one I recommend, although it's a bit dated now, is Susan Jeffers' "Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway".

2. Suck Up the Now.

What is "now"? Now is an adverb, meaning at the present time, not in the past or the future.The phrase "the now" annoys me. Would some-one please tell Eckhart Tolle that it doesn't take the definite article, FFS? However, "Suck Up Now" didn't work as well as a subheading.
I've written in Part I about the importance of having a Plan C. Plan C doesn't have to be too specific; it could just be the sense that another future is possible, a future distinct from that mapped out for you by your parents, friends, teachers and/or spouse, and also distinct from the path of invalidism that up to now has been your only alternative. Plan C deals with the future.
But how are you going to get there? You get there by trudging through the present. By living now, not living later. Anorexia is a trap that once looked very like an escape route. Once you're sick, suddenly nothing matters but your health. This is understandable if you have a real disease and it is understandable that those around you hastily drop all expectations and demands on you once you take on the mantle of illness.  In particular you will be advised not to worry about your education or your career. Conflict about food takes the place of all previous conflict in the home. Anorexia can seem like a Get Out of Jail Free card, but in fact it is the card for Get Into Jail at Huge Personal Cost.
The present can seem scary. If you're in school you worry about exams, if you're in college you worry about your career. Starting work brings its own stresses. If you're single you worry about finding a partner. Relationships aren't perfect either. There are no easy answers apart from saying that life is hard for every-one, even the people who seem to you to have it all together. It's hard but there's no alternative.
Try not to worry about the future, by which I mean any hour later than the present hour. Really, that's about how close your focus should be. An hour. Some would recommend zooming in even further; to the present moment. Pay attention to what's going on around you. This is intensely painful, so painful that your anorexia is an attempt to get away from this pain. If you want to recover, if you want to do anything in life, or get anything out of life, or contribute anything worthwhile, the only way to do it is to live in the moment. Not when you've broken you X-kilo barrier, not when you get to go on the ten-week inpatient programme, not when you've left home, or when you've got to college or left college, or when you have a job, or a relationship or whatever you think it is that would make you enough and worthy of a life.
This notion of living in the moment, no matter how painful that moment, has been popularised by Jon Kabat-Zinn under the heading of Mindfulness Meditation, which he calls "a way of connecting with your life". In this video he defines mindfulness as "paying attention, on purpose, to the present, non-judgementally, as if your life depended on it...which it does".

Mindfulness sounds simple but for many of us it is really, really hard. Hard but worthwhile.

3. Be Kind to Yourself
I am reminded here of the principle in judo and similar martial arts of turning one's opponent's strength to one's own advantage. In order to practise anorexia, you have developed habits of self-discipline and the ability to act counter to your instincts and inclination. You have denied yourself food and comfort, have perhaps exercised beyond the point reason and have certainly honed the art of self-sabotage.
By now, self-denial is a way of life and being kind to yourself will take an act of will. I want to you to use the same will you use to deny yourself, and use it to be good to yourself. At least once every day, do something nice for yourself. It might help to draw up a list of things you enjoy or use a list like this one http://www.dbtselfhelp.com/html/er_handout_8.html. Some days it is easy but other days it is hard. You have to force yourself to do it. This is where you have to be tough and treat yourself as worthy of comfort even if you don't believe it. It'll feel wrong but over time this will help to build emotional resilience.
You can read more about self-kindness and self-compassion at Dr. Kristen Neff's site www.self-compassion.org. Self-kindness and self-compassion can sound like mawkish or mushy concepts but they are magic bullets that will pierce the inflexible walls of your anorectic prison.

4. Never Mind the Triggers
The last time I attended an eating-disorder support meeting, a woman present described a book that she had read and found interesting. She didn't name the book or the author but I was intrigued and approached her after the meeting to ask for the details. Even though I was a grown woman in my late twenties, she wouldn't tell me the name of the book or the author. The book, she said, was very "triggery". During my anorectic days, I would indeed read books like Marya Hornbacher's memoir "Wasted", Jenefer Shute's novel "Life-Size" or Hilde Bruch's classic "The Gilded Cage" over and over, gleaning inspiration. Now I can look at these books and they hold little interest for me. The current equivalent is the proliferation of thinspiration websites. These are intentionally "triggery" but once you have made the decision to move away from anorexia towards a normal, yet unique, life, these books and images, along with fashion magazines and sensationalist "Daily Mail" articles will have no power over you whatsoever. Any power they do have, even now, is not intrinsic to them but comes from you. The concept of triggers - random images or words - having the power to suddenly and irrestistably make you lose control over your behaviour is a lie.  Just ignore them.

In summary, the seven tips are as follows:
1. Depathologise.
2. Have a Plan C.
3. Eat Real Food.
4. Extricate Yourself from the Eating Disorder Community
5. Suck Up the Now
6. Be Kind to Yourself
7. Never Mind the Triggers.

Please let me know in the Comments section if you find these helpful, and of course, feel free to add your own tips.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Advice on Getting Over Anorexia Part I

Anorexia Nervosa: media friendly psychiatric diagnosis that has been providing method-acting weight-loss opportunities for young actresses for several decades.  I used to love the idea of anorexia. Even the word itself: it starts with an A, is pleasantly classical and has that spiky x there to give it an edge.  I now realise that anorexia is about as edgy as a round cushion. The contrast between its public image and the excruciatingly banal reality can only be matched by that between media portrayal of drug addiction and the boring existence that that actually is.

This recent article from The Huffington Post reflects the perplexity anorexia creates, including amonf the medical profession. http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/08/14/anorexia-treatment-cure_n_3753418.html?utm_hp_ref=uk-health#slide=2799694 The out-of-body experience recommended here is nothing compared to this other treatment  http://www.thejournal.ie/brain-implants-to-treat-anorexia-821023-Mar2013/ . If you can't organise an out-of-body experience or brain implant this week, here are my tips for getting over anorexia.


(It feels like time for a disclaimer: you might have noticed that I'm not a doctor or any other kind of health-care professional. I have no qualifications related to eating disorders beyond my experience and observations. Therefore my advice, while invaluable, does not constitute medical advice. )


1. Depathologise
In an interview for the HuffPo article above, Susan Ringwood, Chief Executive of BEAT, refers to anorexia as a "condition". Contrast this to the journal.ie article, which calls anorexia "an illness". You might think "same difference" but I believe there is nothing to be gained from calling anorexia an illness, or worse, a disease.

Anorexia's one of the older diagnoses, predating the DSM, and is neatly called an "eating disorder". A disorder does not constitute a disease, as James Davies explains in "Cracked: Why Psychiatry is Doing More Harm than Good".  Diseases are physical entities with verifiable causes. Disorders are clusters or as Davies calls them "constellations" of feelings and/or behaviours.

Anorectics are often portrayed as being unwilling to admit that they are sick and in need of treatment. This reluctance is, in  my view, a ruse. They might well be avoiding treatment but that is only so they can travel further down the anorectic road to some sort of perfectly skinny destination. Anorectics do believe that they're "sick" but it's "sick" in a general sense. They might even believe that their brains and metabolism are abnormal. I know I did. Putting pressure on an anorectic to admit that she is sick may be understandable where weight-loss is dramatic and feared irreversible without hospital admission, but that does not mean there is any underlying pathology.

So if you're anorectic, you do not have to accept that you're mentally ill. You might have gotten yourself into such a state that a short stay in hospital may be an option, but this is best viewed as a chance to get your strength back. The doctors are not going to break into your skull and fix your wiring. You are not doing this because somewhere in your DNA a cytosine swapped places with an adenine. You're doing it because you're dissatisfied and the sooner you face this the better.

But if anorexia isn't an illness, then why do the symptoms seem to cluster together to form a syndrome? (Symptoms is a medical word that should have no place in your thinking in relation to your problem). This is because anorectic behaviour forms a pattern. Nature loves patterns and they love to reproduce themselves, which is why anorexia can be hard to break out of unless you substitute the pattern with another one. We also know that some behaviours, like obsessing about food, are functions of calorie restriction. They are not a sign of mental illness, as this experiment where male conscientious objectors volunteered to undergo a year of semi-starvation shows http://www.epi.umn.edu/cvdepi/video.asp?id=4047. At around 9.15 minutes in the volunteer talks about buying cookbooks, and also about the depression brought about by lack of food.

On  a lighter note, this a short piece from minbodygreen where Isabel Foxen Duke explains why, for her, even the phrase "eating disorder" is unhelpfully medical. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-7320/why-the-term-eating-disorder-can-be-toxic.html

You are not sick. You do not have an illness, or a disease. You have a problem that needs to be tackled. Doctors, hospitals and counsellors may help but that's all they can do. The problem's origins, expression and solution all lie within the scope of your own life. A life that is your own responsibility.

2. Have a Plan C
Ask yourself where you're headed right now. People love telling you this when you're anorectic "If you don't cop yourself on you'll end in hospital". You'll be threatened with tube-feeding, osteoporosis, infertility and told that you're risking your life.
Some of these risks are real, some exaggerated but none of them scare you. After all, what's the alternative?
Those admonishing you take an alternative for granted; that you cop on to yourself, count your blessings, stuff your face and go back to being the lovely girl they all miss. To you this is so scary that you're putting yourself through pain, discomfort, and would rather risk your life rather than go there.
Like the Carlsberg ad says (not that you'd ever drink anything as calorific as lager) there's always another option besides A and B. Think about what Plan C might look like. You probably already have and have dismissed whatever kind of life you'd like to see yourself living as fantasy. Parts of it probably are fantasy but I want you to go back again and look for elements that might be more realistic.
Imagine a Venn diagram. A, unsurprisingly, is for anorexia. B is for the lovely girl option. What A and B have in common is that you don't have to change. What B and C have in common is that you have to eat a normal amount of food. What do A and C have in common? Most likely, what A (continuing down the anorectic path) and C (choosing to take responsibility for your own life) have in common is that you'll piss people off.
The centre of the diagram, where the three circles converge, is that you are the person most affected by your actions. This is true even of B, where you attempt to recover from anorexia without change. B is unsustainable without developing hidden coping mechanisms such as bulimia or self-harm. Even then you'll eventually embrace C or relapse into A.

3.Eat Real Food
You knew this was coming, didn't you? A few years ago, the US economy went through something called a jobless recovery. (This is where my economic knowledge begins and ends. You can find out more about this subject here http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/. He writes well  but could be wrong for all I know). Well, the jobless recovery didn't do much for actual people. It just worked in theory, just like you going to your counsellor or your psychiatrist and working on your issues or taking your anti-depressants will do nothing for you unless you eat something. Eating normally will make you put on weight, but it is normal eating that is the aim, not weight gain.
Doctors love weighing you because they all did lots of science in school and more in college and think it's useful to measure things. You may have noticed their graphs and curves and their love of doing sums such as working out your BMI. This measurement is for them to gauge how you're doing with the food, but you don't need to worry about gaining weight because you know yourself how much you've eaten. You also know whether or not it's a normal amount.
The good news is that while doctors won't consider you recovered until your BMI is within the normal range, you can actually recover before then. Because the day you stop starving and eat a proper meal is the day you recover.
There used to be an eating disorders support group called SHINE. It was an acronym for Self Help in Normal Eating, and I really think they were on to something. For you to live your Plan C, and to leave the role of sick person behind, you must eat normally. Don't gorge yourself or lie in bed and sip Complan. Eating normally means three meals a day, with maybe a couple of snacks. It means mostly savoury food, with lots of vegetables, slow-release carbohydrates, protein foods and more fats than you're used to. It also means gaps of up to several hours between meals. Others might love serving you endless food or encouraging you to graze, in the belief that what matters is that you put on weight. This is a mistake; eat enough at mealtimes and the weight will return. And by enough I mean plenty; not a bowl of Special K for breakfast and an undressed salad for lunch. If you enjoy cooking, go ahead and cook all you want, as long as you partake.
Some "experts" are big on the idea a restricted diet is a symptom of anorexia and recovery must involve eating taboo foods like chips and chocolate. Others (including a consultant I went to see) insist that you must eat meat. My own view is not to worry if eating chocolate or burgers scares you. Plenty of normal people never eat them and your fear of certain foods will subside once you get back into a normal eating pattern. So as long as your diet is half-way normal, it doesn't matter if it's a bit restricted.

That's it for the moment.
These are my own thoughts, based mostly on what has helped me. They may seem a little simplistic - especially "eat normally to recover from anorexia"duh - but sometimes I think we can overcomplicate things. From my own experience, I had some highly-trained and expensive minds trying to figure out what was up with me and which chemical compound would fix the glitch, when all I needed was some encouragement and reassurance. I also think there's a massive eating disorder industry, from publishing to treatment centres, that benefits from making anorexia a complex issue beyond the reach of common sense. Professional help can be useful, but in the words of Groucho Marx "It's good to keep an open mind. But not so open that your brain falls out." Your brain got you into this mess (when's the last time you saw an anorectic dog?) but it's also your best hope of getting out of it.


Friday, 16 August 2013

Inside I'm Screaming

A question I've asked myself repeatedly is "Why the f**k is everything so hard?" The answer lies within another question I always ask myself, when looking at last week, last year, past decades; "Why the f**k did I have to make everything so hard?"


That Looks Hard

Sadness
I've gone back to see my counsellor. The other day we were discussing Were It's All Gone Wrong : Lately and I'd come to the conclusion that I'd run into a pain wall. I kept telling myself that I was fine and that things weren't bothering me. Things in particular being the pregnancies of two of my colleagues, and closer to home, my sister-in-law. I also haves stuff I need to sort out in the house, and there are issues at work. I was over being upset by these things so I carried on, using my self-help tools, telling no-one I was upset because I wasn't. It was all fine, until it wasn't, and now it's too late to reverse decisions I made in a state of wondering "Where's the nearest rock?"

The counsellor asked me if I felt sad. I hadn't thought about it that way before: sadness. I'd have said I felt resentment, like it wasn't fair. But who was I resenting? Life is an unsupervised playground; no-one's going around enforcing the rules and making sure everyone gets her turn. As soon as she named it, I became aware that that might be the name for the heavy mass that sucks the battery-life from my brain: sadness/sorrow.

I came across this piece by Martha Beck via www.gateway-women.com She writes about regret and getting over it. http://marthabeck.com/2013/07/stop-regretting-decisions/

Of the four basic emotions—sad, mad, glad, and scared—regret is a mixture of the first two...Whatever the proportions, some regretters feel sadness but resist feeling anger; others acknowledge outrage but not sorrow. Denying either component will get you stuck in bitter, unproductive regret.


Self-recrimination is only one half of regret. The other half is sadness. Sadness is the uncoolest emotion of all. Even "sad" itself, as an adjective, means more than just unhappy. It means lame, uncool, pathetic. It's staying in when the world is going out. It's living with your parents. You might want to be cool, but you don't want to be sad. Sadness is sometimes described as a negative emotion, even though there's really no such thing. We are exhorted  "Stop being a victim", "get over yourself", "be positive", "choose happiness". While I've come around to the idea of choosing to cultivate happiness, I don't think we can do this by rejecting sadness.


Inside I'm Screaming
So why is everything so hard? Because half my brain-cells are being used as guards around the prison where I keep my unhappiness, my jealousy and grief. I go around. I visit people. I go to work. I meet people. I sleep with men.  Even when I'm doing nothing, I'm busy. I look fine on the outside; well-adjusted, grateful for what I have, Going Great, but inside I'm screaming, or sobbing.
It's not enough to free the prisoners. they have to be welcomed and reintegrated into society. Dressed, fed, employed and sat at the same table as joy and love and gratitude.

You Are Here
One of my pastimes is to apply my new knowledge to my old self; you know like those letters to me at 16? I've written bullet-pointed lists advice to me at sixteen, at twenty, at twenty-four, at thirty. They're good for filling the morning pages. I need to write one for me at thirty-eight.

If I had to give myself advice, and I do, I'd probably sum it up in two words: slow down. The people who are doing better than you did so because they carped their diems. They made the most of their time in education, they went out and worked instead of pursuing careers in patienthood, they had relationships. They didn't put off living until they got to New York and took over from Tina Brown.

Slow down and look around you. Don't think about all the things you were surrounded by that you didn't see at the time. You couldn't see anything because of the pain cloud. Look around and see what's there now. Look at yourself and think this is what I have to work with. Maybe my brain half-cooked. My suspicions that teenage malnutrition means I haven't reached my skeletal potential may be right. All of these things may be right but I can't change them.

What happens when I do slow down? The first thing that happens is I get uncomfortable. I notice the pain. The pain could be there from years ago, but it has an indefinite life. It scurries out of hiding. I read an awful lot of Sylvia Plath back in the day( really, could this get more clichéd?) and the line that resonated the most with me was from "Elm"

I am inhabited by a cry.
Nightly, it flaps out
Looking, with its hooks, for something to love.

Sylvia Plath

I like that sense of pain being a creature, an animal, an imp, or in her case a bird. A creature with a mind and a sense of direction, a predator that stalks and attacks its victims. That clings and won't leave go, because you are its only source of love. It offers companionship and reading Plath also offered a source of companionship. Some-one who died before I was born. Who never knew me, who'd never lived my life or met my friends. Plath and Theodore Roethke were my friends. At least they were real people, unlike my other chums such as Holden Caulfield and Lucy Snow.

The drama, and later the effort of avoiding all forms of drama, kept me busy. Even during my years of doing nothing, I was keeping busy. Keeping the pain at bay. Going around and around in my head. Creating drama, catastrophe, tragedy where there was none. Then creating as conventional a life as I could.

This month is the month of health and calm. I've never done this before. I've never consciously emptied my life. I always thought it was empty and needed filling. There were all those boxes unfilled; the man, the babies. the place to live, the job, the social life, the evenings.

Slow down and pick up your life in your arms. It'll slow you down. You won't reach the flights of fantasy while carrying your own real self. You won't go as far, but you'll really go there. Because if you try to leave it behind, to walk on and deafen yourself to its cries as you leave it to starve, then it'll find wings and will hide behind every misshapen tree, inside every cupboard, under every bed you sleep in, and in the space between you and others.

That screaming I can hear is my heart. It's me that it's screaming for. I'm going to pick it up and carry it.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Theme of the Month: Health and Calm

Health and Calm have won the competition to be this month's theme. It looked there for a while like it was going to be Fun and Excitement. I've felt the need for more fun - more hanging out, socialising, doing unproductive but recreational activities - for a while. Life had become a bit humdrum. August was going to focus on getting out there, getting messy, reconnecting with the few of my friends who are still living the fun, single life and reaching out to make new friends in similar circumstances.

Yet, while fun is good, I decided that what I really need, in order to face into the Autumn with confidence, is more rest and calm. Living alone, it's easy to take quiet for granted. The neighbours took an extended holiday and while they were gone there was often only the noise of my keyboard and the birdsong through the open French windows. The meter in the hall ticks and tocks away but apart from that there is no noise in the house unless I make it; I turn on a tap, or the radio, or chop vegetables and the silence is broken.

Peace and quiet go together but they're not the same thing. While I had the quiet, the peace wasn't necessarily following. Sometimes the silence can be deafening. Sometimes I responded to a suggested activity with an enthusiastic "yes" solely because it would mean leaving the house and being in company. I need peace and calm so as not to panic in the aloneness. I need to calm down and start being able to turn down engagements and also, while I'm there, to slow down and appreciate them.

So calm it is: brought on by meditating every morning, keeping my gratitude notebook, and drinking more peppermint tea and less Diet Coke.

Less of the fizzy, black delicious stuff is also part of a general resolution this month to be healthier.  September is my busiest month of the year and time will seem in shorter supply. I want to get into good habits and get back running. I'm a lapsed convert, having taken up running in January. Running was one of the best decisions I ever made, and I went, with the help of Mary from www.runwithtina.com from being out of breath after two minutes to running 5k, if not comfortably, then bearably.  I thought this is it; I'm a runner and will be doing this forever. Ahem. Knee pain and the infernal summer have kept me off the roads but I really want to get back for the Autumn. I joined a gym for the summer and have been building up my stamina and leg muscles but I know I'm only fooling myself and only proper, outdoor running will bring back the fitness and sense of well-being I had in April.  As Ruth Field writes in "Run, Fat Bitch, Run"
Running is different from all other forms of exercise, at the level at which you are doing them, because it is much harder. Not harder as in more complicated, but harder as in more physically strenuous. And because it is that much harder, ultimately it is that much more rewarding, both in terms of the dramatic physical changes to your body and indeed to your life in general.
I recommend this book, as it's funny and very motivating, but I don't think I'd ever have pushed through the five-minute barrier. (For really unfit people like myself, this barrier is a real and substantial obstacle) if it weren't for being in the running class.

So health and calm it is: the enemies of panic, the aids of fertility. Producers of a clear mind that is able to make decisions based on my actual self-interest and not on perpetuating the drama of catastrophe. I'm not sure how health and calm contribute to writing though; maybe I should take up smoking instead of running and substitute absinthe, not tea, for the Diet Coke.