Making All-or-Nothing Work To My Advantage

Despite years of practice, I know that I often fall into having an all-or-nothing mindset around weight management, where I have to be either “all-in” on my eating program, or I am out of control. I often can’t inhabit a middle ground for long, and particularly when I was new to maintaining my weight loss I needed to spend the vast majority of my time all-in. The more time I spend all-in the better off I am. But once I’m out of control, how do I get back in?

I need to put my foot down sometimes and designate certain days, weeks, events, or places as “decision-free”. Meaning, I don’t get to decide what of the food on offer I get to eat. This removes me from falling into a vicious cycle of negotiating myself down a slippery slope into a dieting train wreck. So, when I know it’s time to get back into control, I decide I’m in the groove and I start kicking up my planning several notches. I ensure I have all the food I need to sustain my needs for the day, and I rule out anything not already planned for.

When I find myself in a situation where there is food available – a party, a buffet, any kind of event where food is part of the social situation, I make up my mind before I go that nothing there is on my plan. I don’t get to eat anything there, I don’t have to make any choices, and so I eat before I arrive.

The reason this is so effective is because I can completely disregard the food table (or menu, whatever) and pretend in my mind like it doesn’t exist. I can tell myself that it’s not even food – it’s just plastic food replicas. Because if I didn’t to this, if I just decided I would eat the healthy things I found at the food table for the party (for example), I would start negotiating with the part of me that makes food choices. I would say, “Hey look, veggies, those are safe, I can eat those. oh, but they’d taste so much better with that cheese dip on them, I’ll just take a little! And, ooh, right next to them – just a bite or two of cheese, cheese is made of milk so that’s healthy. But I’ll need a cracker or two to put that on, and hey – cookies! I can have one or two. And now I need some protein, so I’ll grab some cold cuts, but look, wings, those are chicken and that’s healthy…!”

See the slippery slope in action? I’m better off if I just remove the entire decision making scenario from the situation and don’t have to make any choices at all. This is how I handle food situations when I know I can’t control my decision-making in the moment. It’s easier to decide before-hand, if I know I am better off avoiding treats and focusing on my own health, than to try to implement this on the spot.

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New Trail

I found a new running trail this morning. I was waiting at the light, all set to go turn left onto my usual route on the Iron Horse Trail when I saw a woman come running toward me from straight ahead over a gentle rise in the road. I thought, “She seems to be enjoying her run, I wonder what is up that way?” It turns out there is a paved, separate bike path alongside the main road, and it’s all asphalt (not concrete – much easier on the body!). Civilization quickly drops away and you’re running in gently rolling hills surrounded by birds and nature, with a view of mountains ahead.

It appears to be a pretty long road – for me today it was an out-and-back because I don’t have the endurance to find out if it loops back anywhere, but I ran all the way to the San Ramon city limits before I turned back and when I mapped it I think I ran almost 4 miles. The out part was mostly uphill which made coming home the fun easy, part. Even better – it’s nominally a bike path, so I have options – I can pull out my bike and explore further later on.

Right – exercise out of the way, on with my day!

Friday links on taking care of the body and mind

Researchers identify useless diet foods – This pretty much covers the basics of things I try not to eat. This article is from New Zealand, where I believe that “biscuits” refers to what we in the States call cookies. I’m pleased that it points out that both fruit juice and granola are not so healthy. All sugar for not nearly enough nutritional value to justify the caloric load. Obviously some of these foods are fine in moderation, but they should be considered more as a garnish or treat than as a dietary staple. Also, I love that this list is abbreviated as NEEDNT.

And now for some stuff we should all eat more of… Eating citrus lowers women’s stroke risk – Oranges, clementines, Mandarins, grapefruit – all in season in the Northern Hemisphere right now! Note the bit at the end urging us to consume the whole fruit rather than drinking juice. I heartily agree.

How to fake a good night’s sleep – For my friends who like to burn the candle at both ends. You know who you are.

And this one’s just for fun: Inhalable caffeine reviewed by FDA – WHY?  I love my coffee just as it is, thank you very much!

Last night I managed to sneak in a quick run after work. I’m continuing my aim to get about an hour of physical activity every day. Today I can probably get a lot of walking in but no high-intensity exercise. Tomorrow, though, I’ve got a nice run planned, or a swim. Either will suit me just fine!

A good day of weight management

I’m in the groove right now. I’ve been enjoying the rhythm of the all-day meetings at the hotel this week. While on the one hand they’re challenging because I have no control over the food options, on the other the schedule helps me impose some structure. When I’m working in my office, I can eat whenever I want all day long, and I think I tend to mindlessly graze. When I’m bored – eat. When I’m stressed – eat. Now, what I bring with me to eat is unvaryingly supportive, but the fact is that you CAN eat too much fruit – eat enough of it and you can go over your maintenance calories, or at least I can eat enough to maintain at a few pounds above where I want.

With these meetings, the day is structured – we start at 8am and there’s one break around 10am, then lunch at noon and another break around 3pm. I challenge myself to conform my eating to the breaks, and then I further challenge myself to eat small portions. For the first break I eat a small plate of fruit, usually mostly pineapple (yum!). For lunch today I filled my plate with a little salad, a big pile of steamed broccoli, and a piece of salmon (this hotel really knows how to get it right – when I cook salmon it’s always too dry or overcooked but they seem to have it down) and some fruit. Ignored the rolls, mashed potatoes and brownies like they didn’t even exist. And no going back for seconds! It’s not automatic, you know, to be mindful – I had to fight urges to go for seconds a couple of times as people around me went back to the buffet. But, my stomach doesn’t need to feel distended for me to be satisfied. For the afternoon break today the hotel offering was candy bars, cookies or brownies. So I ate the banana I’d packed. Two out of three times I was able to find something among the catered offerings – that’s pretty good!

My co-workers in from out of town invited me along to dinner with them tonight in the City, but right now I’m in a focused mindset. I’d made plans in my head to go to the pool tonight, so I smiled and said, “I can’t, I have plans already.” I don’t need to make a plan with anybody else for it to be important – I value me enough that an agreement with myself is something worth keeping.

I swam 76 laps tonight – about 45 minutes.

Opportunistic

I got a little surprise this morning when I weighed myself – I’m back under my goal weight. I’m not going to say my little bout of food poisoning was worth it, but I shamelessly exploited the opportunity to get my portion sizes reined in by the day and a half of not eating it gave me. It’s one of those silver linings you hate to admit but it’s true – spend a night puking your guts out and the next day afraid to eat anything and your stomach shrinks a little, and if you take advantage of that you can ride that on in for a nice little dieting kickstart. Which I did.

Tonight my husband was heading out to spend some time with some friends of ours, a couple who live across the Bay. I wanted to go but I still needed to get a workout in for the day. I thought about staying home and going to the gym but I really didn’t want to miss the chance to see friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I knew that my husband would be spending some time outside working on some martial arts techniques for part of the evening with the husband, and then I remembered – these friends have a treadmill in the garage! And they are totally on board with my diet and exercise weirdness. So I packed my gym bag and we showed up and I said, “I have an odd request. Can I use your treadmill for a half hour?” And you know what? It worked out perfectly because my friend needed to finish up some work while her husband was outside with my man, so I got my workout done in the garage, changed back into regular clothes in the spare bedroom and got to have a lovely catch-up with my friend after we were both done with our needed activities for the day.

I’m back at the hotel this week for work, eating conference catering and sitting in a conference room all day every day. I know that the block the hotel sits on takes just under 15 minutes to walk fully around, so I’m putting that knowledge to use. Beats sitting around eating a cookie or a brownie during the break.

New Model for Weight Loss?

I don’t mean to just be a clearing house for links, but this article –  “Total Rethink Needed on Dieting – scientists”  – caught my eye this morning. It doesn’t strike me as a total re-think, it actually strikes me as something that the more serious weight loss programs have been upfront about but that the more consumer-oriented programs often neglect to mention – that as your weight drops, your baseline metabolic rate drops with it so you need to recalculate. But, it could be that I’ve skimmed too quickly and need to go back and re-read a little more thoroughly.

I haven’t had a chance to play with the simulator linked in the article yet, but I’m curious if any of you have had the opportunity, and what your thoughts are on it.  (You’ll need to allow the applet access to your computer to load it, but it seems legit and upfront to me – it’s coming from the National Institutes of Health and US Dept of Health and Human Services).

Link Roundup

Here are some stories I enjoyed this week on weight management, the food landscape, and building healthy habits.

Trimming super-size with half-orders, plate colors – Interesting research into helping people choose smaller portions.

Mars has vowed to stop shipping any chocolate products that exceed 250 calories per portion by the end of 2013 – A step in the right direction for sure! Although I have a couple other thoughts about this one. One is that this seems a bit like reducing the nicotine content in cigarettes and putting on a bigger filter. The other is that – hell, I’m not exactly the target market here, I haven’t purchased a candy bar in probably over 10 years. Because I just can’t find a hole in my daily eating plan that 300-500 calories of junk would be a perfect way to fill.

Get your kids into the kitchen and feed them for life – Love this. I wish I’d learned to cook healthy food when I was a kid, I think it’s vital skill everybody should learn. If no other reason than to reduce the heavy reliance so many people in our society have on restaurant eating. It’s almost always cheaper and healthier to make it yourself!