28 days later

1 03 2010

The end of the road

That’s it. The end. The final day. As the clock ticks towards midnight I will have completed exactly one month living under the rules.

I was sort of hoping that I’d have some grand statements or revelations at the end of the project, like an explorer finding a lost city or boundless treasure. I don’t really feel like that. To be honest it’s a weird anti-climax. I feel good that the project is finished and I can go back to normal but I also feel like something will be missing. I’ve become really attached to living by the rules. I’m going to miss this slightly odd life.

So what have I learned? In the best tradition of school science experiments I wanted to try and wrap up what’s happened and draw some conclusions. I thought I’d start with what I’ve enjoyed. I’ve definitely enjoyed the self-discipline. There’s a strange comfort in denying yourself something, it builds character and strength. It’s also great for confidence. I feel like if I’ve been able to take on this then I could do anything. It’s certainly empowering to try something and come away at least partly victorious.

I do feel healthier. I didn’t eat badly before I started but I’ve felt the benefit of eating well. I’ve also dropped weight. I don’t think I needed to, I was pretty fit and healthy but I feel better for it and I’ll confess to the vanity of enjoying a bit more definition. There’s no rippling eight pack but I feel like I look a bit better. In total I’ve lost about ten lbs in weight. Aside from the first week I haven’t felt hungry and I’ve been able to enjoy things I like.

I’ve also enjoyed the challenge of trying to adapt to life under the rules. Finding a new way to walk to work or structuring my day differently to make things easier. It’s hard at first but it quite quickly becomes routine. That’s given me an understanding that I can and will adapt to change.

So then what about what I haven’t enjoyed? The least pleasant thing has been the consistent and nagging sense of anxiety about not breaking rules. That’s not just fear of the financial penalty but out of a commitment to doing this project right. Thinking about what I should and shouldn’t be doing fr0m the moment I wake up to the moment I fall asleep has been exhausting.

On top of that there’s the pressure on your daily routine. If you were single, had no kids, didn’t work and loved rules you could just about comply with everything you are supposed to but in the real world? No way. I’ve had to structure my entire life around making time to do what I’m supposed to, from allowing extra time to get anywhere to spending a minimum of 25 minutes in the bathroom before I can go to bed.

I’ve found many of the rules utterly pointless. Some of them are so far from reasonable there’s no way any sane and sensible person will comply with them. They’ve clearly been designed in a committee meeting by people who feel like they should set rules. Far too often there’s no user-centric design involved. Rule setters need to build them from the bottom up. A better understanding of humans and their behaviour would go a long way. Ironically this isn’t about reducing the power of rules, it would give everyone a better chance of doing the things they’re supposed to and would offer benefit across the board.

A big part of this is the silo factor. Government departments seem to make rules entirely independent of each other with little or no understanding that they are adding to an unsustainably large pile. Rules should be set in the round, with an understanding of just how possible it is to comply and what the knock on impact is for the ordinary person.

I realise that’s four paragraphs of bad things to two paragraphs of good but this has definitely been a positive experience for me. I can’t say I’ll be doing it again but some of the things I’ve done will definitely stick. I’ll eat less, be better on the bike and will probably have a lower carbon footprint. For some things though I’m going to enjoy breaking the rules again.

I’m off tomorrow night to get drunk and enjoy a large meal of many courses. Maybe one of those foie gras dishes where the goose isn’t just force fed grain but foie gras itself. Mmmmmmmm unethical. I also want a desert. I’m not a big sweet eater but having been starved of refined sugar I’m craving badly. I want something that will hasten me towards type two diabetes faster than a Richard Curtis box set.

And do you know somewhere in there is the joy of all this. By denying myself something for a month I’ve come to appreciate what I’ve got. I’m not going to get all worthy on you but as my friend Al Humphreys the adventurer points out. ‘If you have to earn your comfy sofa, you’ll enjoy it more’.

Final stats:

Weight: 13st 10lb

Body fat 19.9%

Frustration 2

Infractions 11.5

Wellbeing 8

Fines £500 going to Headway

No new rules today




2 responses

1 03 2010

I think it’s a great little experiment / project that you’ve done.
Any plans do the reverse and spend a month breaking as many rules as you can find. (apart from proper illigal stuff and life threating things too, perhaps)?

Next February?

1 03 2010

Thanks for your comment. You’re not the first to suggest the reverse option. I think I could end up in trouble with that one!

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