What Went Wrong?

I’ve been thinking about the last year a lot recently, to make sure I really understand where things went off the rails so I can fix it. Bear with me while I break it down and do some problem-solving. A lot of things went right though, so I’m definitely going to list those first:

  • Established a solid exercise routine, managing to workout 5-6 days a week.
  • Established a solid weekday eating routine, which kept me within my maintenance calories.
  • Tracked my efforts regularly using MyFitnessPal.

So…that’s a lot that went right! But notice in point number two, where I say I had a solid weekday eating routine. The unspoken part of that is where things went wrong.

It starts Thursday evenings. A group of friends meets for dinner every Thursday to eat delicious food made by one of our friends who is an excellent cook. Thursday dinners are special, but they’ve become a problem for me. After spending most of the week tracking my calories, staying on target, exercising, and generally doing all the right things, my brain wants to cut loose and just eat without thinking, and I do. And then, on the way home after dinner I realize I’ve shot a giant hole in my routine and I feel horrible about it.

Friday during the day I try to get back on track (…mostly)! But Friday evening is often a time to get together with friends and enjoy the weekend, which I would then do by enjoying eating in a restaurant, for example, with friends and not paying strict attention to my intake. Because Friday!

Saturday is a completely different thing every weekend, and the weekday routine I’ve established doesn’t work because I’m not in my weekday location doing my weekday things, so my food options are often limited/different/exciting compared to my weekday food plan. And since I was good most of the week…I’ve been indulging.

Sunday, much like Saturday, can be anything. But by then I’ve pretty much given up tracking my intake and I just want to eat like a normal person and start again Monday.

And that’s been how my week has looked over the last year or so. A large part of it can definitely be attributed to being bored and exhausted with the constant vigilance I’ve had to apply since I started this journey in 2003. I won’t deny it, it’s tiresome to always be vigilant, to always have to run a background routine to analyze my food choices and pick the least damaging one when everyone around me just eats whatever they want. But like I said last week, it’s that or give it all up and accept the downsides of gaining it all back – the sore knees, uncomfortable airplane seats, derision of strangers, disappointment with myself, clothes that don’t fit… It sucks either way. So since I’ve decided to buckle down and fix it instead…

The place where I need to add extra problem-solving, planning, and vigilance is the weekend. And the weekend, over the last year plus, has lasted about 3 and a half days. That’s half the week. It doesn’t matter how vigilant I am for half the week, if the other half is a food free-for-all.

The biggest part of what I’m trying to do with my current push is re-set the behaviors I need to be successful, and my main focus needs to be on weekends. I aim to re-learn the discipline I previously had and that involves making the following commitments:

  • Planning each meal
  • Avoiding foods that don’t support my goals
  • Avoiding situations where I can’t control my food environment (at least in the beginning while I’m re-establishing habits)
  • Tracking my intake

These are the habits I’m going to be focused on these first few weeks. The weekends will be harder for a while, but this is work I need to do, and work I’ve done before. It sucks having to learn the same lessons over and over again, but that’s the reality of long-term weight management.

The good thing is, I know exactly what the problem is and exactly how to solve it!

That Tracking App May Be Overly Optimistic

I decided to go old-school on my journaling with this current weight-loss push and go back to pen and paper, which is the method I used for years and years. It’s the method that was available back when I started losing weight the first time. Hell, smart phones hadn’t even been invented when I was losing those 200 pounds, it was pen and paper or nothing. No apps, no FitBits, just honesty and a little booklet in my purse.

I realized almost immediately once I started my paper journal this weekend that MyFitnessPal, bless their hearts, were over-counting the calorie burn I was getting with my workouts. That’s the app I’ve been using over the last year or so. Uh…that may explain why I wasn’t getting the results I thought I was, right there! Using pen and paper and the Calories Per Minute calcs I’ve been accustomed to with the program I like best, I’m back on track. My numbers may come down a bit for exercise burn, but I feel it’s a more accurate picture.

Here’s an example: Yesterday I went for a bike ride, as I mentioned. Probably around 13 miles out and back, took me about an hour and 15 minutes (including stops at traffic lights). I estimate that calorie burn as about 525 using my calorie burn rate of 7 cals/minute (“medium intensity” physical activity). Pretty good, and probably pretty accurate, because while biking is great for your legs, they aren’t bearing any weight when you’re doing it. Biking is a seated exercise, always keep that in mind! MyFitnessPal, for the same workout, at a “moderate” pace, estimated 953 calories burned. NO. WAY. Even for “light” bicycling, MyFitnessPal says 714 calories. Still too high. If I’d been using MyFitnessPal and trusting their numbers, I might have thought I could go crazy and eat anything I wanted. That’s no good.

I’m going to stick with my booklet and pen for now. Technology can be great, but I like having a solid foundation in understanding how these numbers work and are created independent of an app.

Also, for those who want to argue it – I know how my body works, and I know that 525 is a lot closer to reality for me than 900+ for an hour and a quarter of biking. I have 13+ years of weight math that tells me the lower number is more accurate. Besides, wouldn’t you rather underestimate your exercise burn than overestimate it?

Strong Start, Accountability, and Environmental Control

I’ve been dieting for two whole days already, why am I still fat??

KIDDING.

Welcome to day three of my program. Three days is the common wisdom for how long most diets last. That’s because by day three the excitement and enthusiasm of starting something new has worn off and all the old temptations are still hanging around. This is the day when something else has to come to bear to keep things from falling apart. For me it’s a carefully constructed web of accountability and environmental control.

Accountability. Means something different to almost everyone. Or, rather, the things that make accountability work for you may not be the things that work for me. Take, for example, weekly weigh-ins. I need them, and I need to do them in front of somebody else. Not my partner either, he’s way too in love with me to care if I gain or lose a few (or a lot of) pounds. It has to be somebody impartial, somebody standing nearby with a clipboard and a pen. They don’t need to say a word, they just need to write down the number while I either cheer or offer lame excuses (this isn’t part of the program, it’s just what happens). I need to know that I’m going to be getting on that scale at the end of the week in front of somebody, it keeps me on track throughout the week.

I also know from years of experience that I can’t be accountable to me. In theory I should be the only person I am accountable to that matters, but in reality I don’t bring the necessary shame to the situation when I gain. I always have an excuse, and I always let it slide. When I have a gain and I’m weighing in at a program, my excuses always sound lame and I know it. Also, when there’s somebody weighing me in at a program, it’s because I’ve paid to be there. This really works on me – dammit I’m paying for this so I’m not going to waste my money! Like a weird hostage situation, I have to involve an outsider in my scheme to make it work. YMMV, as always.

Environmental Control. Means I create an environment in which screwing up is harder than following the program. I have a cabinet in the kitchen where my food lives, and it’s the only place I go. I’ve stocked up the fridge with fruits and veggies, the bowl on the kitchen counter is full of oranges, grapefruits, bananas, and other easy-open snacks.

And I don’t go into tempting situations hungry ever. Yesterday, for example, I went out to a medieval costume event, which could have been a challenging situation but I packed up all the food I thought I would need for a few hours, and made an agreement with my hubby to only visit for a short period of time. I ate lunch before I got on site, and I kept my fruit and other snacks handy. I told my husband before we headed out that I was packing enough food for the length of our planned visit, and once I ran out of food it would be time to go. This allowed me to ignore the many tasty treats sitting out on plates and tables, and also I quickly moved myself out of range of any foods that called to me. One thing I do religiously is ignore food that isn’t on my program. I don’t fixate, I don’t stare, and I certainly don’t longingly gaze. I just ignore it and move away. There’s no point in giving it the time of day, we aren’t destined to be together so I move on. There was one time yesterday when I walked into a space where somebody was eating french fries and the entire area smelled of fries. I turned right around and walked out. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Tomorrow evening is my next meeting. I started Thursday to avoid having a disastrous weekend of debauchery, but Monday evenings will be my regular class time (depending on how traffic shakes out – Thursday night traffic wasn’t bad so if Monday evening is bad I may consider just moving to Thursdays) I don’t expect much of a loss, since it will have only been three days since I started. I’m actually curious to see what happens in three days.

This afternoon we’re going for a bike ride. I’m a weak rider but it’s good for me. As always, with exercise you get points for trying!

Here We Go…

The day has come to get myself back on track. I attended my first maintenance class (they call it Phase 2) in years and years last night. It was a brand new teacher I’d never met before, but she did a fine job. Really the important thing for me is just being there. Just showing up accomplishes a couple of things for me without any other particular effort: 1. It signals that I am committed to doing this, and 2) I learn something new whether or not I think the class module is specifically applicable to me or not.

Let me unpack those a little bit. The first one is really the Laina magic. The thing that makes me successful is simply that I don’t break commitments to myself. Once I’ve made a commitment, even if I’m not super excited about it, I follow through. Sadly, I can be an utter flake on commitments I make to go places and do stuff sometimes to other people (sorry!), but if I’ve made something enough of a priority to myself to make a commitment to me, I DO IT. So while I’m still bitter and annoyed that I have to do this, I’m doing this. Just watch.

And the second one is that I learn by being in class whether it feels like it or not at the time. I’ll be completely honest and say that the first time I went through 18 months of Maintenance back in 2005/2005, I surely thought that a lot of it was BS and that I was wasting my time (but I’d made that commitment, see 1 above, so I went). I was cranky about having to spend time each week on it, and I thought that a lot of my classmates were incredibly dense at times. Often I thought the class modules weren’t even applicable to me and I watched the clock all through class, just trying to get through. I rarely spoke up or participated. But looking back, I learned almost everything I know about keeping it off in those resented 18 months.

Last night’s module was on healthy snacking, and while I’m planning to be on a Healthy Solutions-style diet for the foreseeable future, so it wasn’t directly applicable to my experience right now, there is going to come a time when the info which was presented to me last night, and which my helpful brain took in regardless of my feelings, will come in useful.

I would say that my attitude towards going to class these days is a whole lot better, now that I’ve had some hindsight to understand how valuable just being there is for me. These days I’m much more likely to speak up and participate, too.

And this morning, I’m off to a strong start. Had my healthy breakfast, completed my morning workout (while the cats mocked me with their repose), and I have a walk planned for later today after work, and after I take the cats to the vet later this morning (if I survive that).

*fearfully peers at scale through fingers..*

I got on the scale for the first time today in over 14 months. The last time I got on the scale was January of 2015. But, in order to tackle a problem you have to quantify it.

I knew I’d gained, I knew it was noticeable (to me and probably to anybody who knew me) but I needed to know how bad.

Well…I gained 10 pounds in 14 months. It SURE could have been a lot worse. It makes the solution a lot more manageable to know that my initial goal is 10 pounds because I know that’s completely doable. (I read an article recently that claimed that the threshold for a noticeable weight change is 8 pounds – anything less wouldn’t really be noticeable. I think that’s true for me.)

My stretch goal is 20 pounds. I would like to maintain a weight that is about 20 pounds down from where I am today. So I need to create a lifestyle that supports it. I know that I can do that, but it will require some sacrifices and some changes to current routines. Mostly around eating – like I said, I have a rock solid workout regimen – last week I burned over 4400 calories in exercise, so physical activity is not the problem.

So that’s my initial and long-term goal with re-starting Maintenance (or Phase 2 I guess they’re calling it now?) classes again. I have a goal and it’s specific and achievable.

Onward!

Edited to add: You know what? This lapse isn’t nearly as bad as the last one. The last time I needed to lose 50 pounds. This time it’s only 10 or 20. Maybe I’m getting better at this, after all these years?

Pulling Myself Together

It’s a basic fact of my life that I don’t get to eat whatever I want, and I don’t get to eat mindlessly. Ever. I don’t get to be a normal person in that regard, and I resent the hell out of this reality every day. It’s exhausting, tiresome, and boring all at the same time. It’s also a basic fact of my life that I need to exercise vigorously 5-6 days a week, without fail. However this basic fact is something I have little trouble accepting and integrating into my routine, so I don’t resent it nearly so much.

I got the booby prize body, so my cross to bear is dealing with this reality. Everybody has something they have to deal with day in and day out (at least, I like to tell myself this story), and this is mine. If you don’t have something heavy you have to deal regularly with in your life…I don’t even know, why are you here? Life is struggle, princess, and anybody that tells you different is selling something. I’m selling nothing, therefore you can expect the unvarnished truth from me.

So.

I’ve emailed the director of my old HMR program and asked for the schedule and teachers list for maintenance classes. Maintenance classes were part of the original bargain when I started with HMR – when you sign up you agree to do 18 months of maintenance classes. Well, guess what, that’s a great program and it really helped me change my behaviors and lifestyle starting in 2003. BUT…as I’ve discovered over, and over, and over again ever since – I need a tune-up every once in a while. I need to go back and drink from the well and revisit the tools, skills, and behaviors that got me there.

  • Tools: TheĀ  methods and devices that enable us to master psychological functions.
  • Skills: Proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience.
  • Behaviors: The manner in which one behaves. One’s actions or reactions in response to external or internal stimuli.

None of these things are “tricks.” I mention this because I recently saw a comment online wherein somebody peripherally familiar with me and my efforts over the last 14 years asked a friend if he was going to use my “tricks” to help keep off some weight. It would be nice if any of them were tricks, but they are hard-won tools, skills, and behaviors built over years of effort, discipline, and conscious behavior modification. To dismiss them as tricks is condescending and lacks fundamental understanding of the nature of behavioral modification techniques. Fuck you if you think they’re tricks. This isn’t magic or a shell game. This is hard work, discipline, andĀ  constant practice, and anybody that thinks differently lacks the inherent empathy to consider that other realities exist outside of their own experience.

I sound angry. I don’t care. It’s one of the steps on my path to acceptance.

I hope to re-start maintenance classes this week. I don’t know how long it will take, but I do know that I’m an antique where the HMR program is concerned. Based on the things I hear from my pal Allie, my info and terminology is obsolete and needs updating. I have a lot to catch up on, plus behaviors that need to be relearned or tightened up. Accountability in particular is something I need when I’m working on behavior modification, which means I’ll be getting on a scale for the first time in over 14 months soon, too. I keep experimenting with ditching the scale and I keep failing. I need the data, apparently, to keep on track. Much as I wish I didn’t.

So that’s the plan. Accountability. Weekly classes. Tighten up my behaviors around food and eating. My exercise regimen is rock solid – I just eat too much food, so that’s where I need to focus my efforts. It means I’ll likely be declining festive and social eating occasions for the near future, and modifying my activities to align with my goals going forward.

Onward!

Crossroads

Well, I’ve been seriously considering shutting down this blog and here’s why: I don’t feel like much of a success anymore. So either I have to reevaluate what makes me successful, or accept that I am failing and have been for a while now and shut it down.

I’m not keeping off 200 pounds anymore. If I’m lucky I’m keeping off 160 pounds. I guess that’s still pretty good, but it’s not what I want to see in the mirror, or in my clothes. It’s hard to be open and putting it all out there when I feel so insecure about any success I may have had.

If I were to re-focus on what is success criteria (because that’s a useful thought exercise), I would tell you that I’ve been working out 6 days a week for the last month or so. Every morning I do a 30-minute DVD workout, and almost every afternoon I go for a walk that varies from 45 to 70 minutes. That’s a lot of exercise each day. I also limit my caloric intake to under 1600 calories a day (regardless of how much exercise I do). Sounds like I should be having massive success, right?

Some days (usually weekend days) I don’t limit my calories though, some days I just throw my hands up and eat everything in sight because I’m at a party, or out with friends at dinner, or at some other kind of special occasion event, and hope it’ll all balance out. Two or three days like this in a week and, well, I’m not getting any closer to my goals or dropping any of that extra fat that’s making me so unhappy with my body. I’m getting bigger. Maybe I need to go back and re-read my posts about staying on track instead of just thinking I’m bullet-proof because I did it for 12 years. Because now I’m into my 14th year of this and I’m fucking bored of restrictions and starving myself. But I’m also fucking disappointed with myself and the size I’ve become lately, too.

I guess I’m at a crossroads. Shut it down and give up, or, once again, find the inner will and motivation to pull myself together, get a handle on things, and diet for real again. Again.

To be continued. Maybe.