Week Three of the Code

Wednesday is my weigh-in day. I started finding daily weigh-ins frustrating, so once a week is good for me now. This morning I discovered two things. One, I’m down another pound and a half (that’s 10.5 pounds in 3 weeks) and two, my scale is garbage. My home scale will give you a different weight every single time you step on it, so I’ve decided to just go with the first weight I get and stop stepping on it more than once. I did it this morning out of curiosity, and now I know: My scale is unreliable. Since I don’t have anywhere else to weigh myself I’ll just have to look at it as a rough guide. I sometimes think I can see a difference in my body already, but 10.5 pounds on my frame is basically negligible so it could just be wishful thinking.

I also learned this week not to fast on a day I wake up with even the smallest vestiges of a migraine, because pain is infinitely increased by hunger, there’s a bit of a runaway-train effect. Both are magnified.

In migraine news, I’ve only had 2 non-alcohol-related migraines since I started this new way of eating three weeks ago. I would like to say I’m definitely not going to drink red wine anymore but jeez, how many times have I said that? It’s almost never worth the pain and yet I persist. Anyway, migraines seem to be down since I’ve cut out sugar, flour, and artificial sweeteners. Dammit.

My husband recently read my copy of The Obesity Code and the day he finished it he walked into the kitchen and threw everything with refined carbs in it out of our refrigerator. That’s teamwork, baby!

Grocery shopping has been interesting – our cart is full of fruits and veggies, meat, cheese, and eggs. That’s about it. We are making all our meals from scratch now and I’m, surprisingly, enjoying it. No more frozen Lean Cuisine lunches – the food I’m making now is much more tasty and filling.

One other thing I noticed – after the first couple of weeks, my urge to snack between meals has disappeared. My body has adjusted to the new schedule and no longer demands constant snacks throughout the day. Yes, I’m very hungry by the time dinner rolls around, but a normal amount of healthy food fills me up just fine.

And to replace diet soda and combat hunger on fast days, I’m making my own sodas now, using seltzer water, a squeeze of lime juice, pinch of salt, and a little cider vinegar. Sounds weird, but surprisingly tasty!


Fixing Myself, and Ruminations on the Biggest Loser

I’m coming to the conclusion that the last couple of weeks of depression and exhaustion that I’ve been experiencing were the result of over-training and under-eating. In an effort to counteract that I’ve take the following steps:

  • I picked up some healthy fats yesterday to incorporate into my diet – avocados for my salads, sour cream for my baked potatoes, nuts for…just eating, a very little bit at a time. You have to be careful with nuts!
  • I’m scaling back my workouts. This morning I ran my usual 3.2 mile route. That’s enough for today. Pushing for longer distances was probably more than I needed to do at a time when I’d drastically reduced my intake.

I also ordered some new running shoes, that’s nothing to do with the rest of it, just more of a treat for me and it was time. Running in new shoes is so great, I’m really looking forward to getting them next week and running on clouds for a while!

I’ve been having some further thoughts on the Biggest Loser report that came out earlier this week. And, well, the show in general. I’ve never watched the Biggest Loser, so obviously I’m not in the best place to critique it, but let me just tell you why I’ve never watched it and maybe that will help explain why I find it distasteful.

The Biggest Loser, far as I can tell, is predicated on the principle that fat people should be ashamed of their bodies and work like hell to change them. Further, it appears to be a platform for fat-shaming with a nationally televised reach. The appeal of the show seems to be based solely upon the desire of a national audience to see fat people understand how wrong their bodies are, and be forced to change them. The whole idea of the show assumes the obvious underlying statement that fat people must be humiliated into changing their ways, and the most entertaining way to do that is to set them to compete against one another like animals. To make them into a spectacle. I abhor every single part of this message. As a person who grew up fat, I am disgusted by the very premise of this show. It wounds me viscerally to be reminded that for the first 30 years of my life the only value many could see in me was as a figure of pity, scorn, and to serve as a warning to others.

Add in the complete lack of support and follow-through for the contestants inherent in a reality TV show, and I firmly believe that the show is not about “helping” fat people, it’s about making them into a spectacle for gawking, mockery, and derision. When the contestants inevitably gain back the weight they lost – because they haven’t learned the skills, tools, and behaviors they’d need to keep it off, and they haven’t received any long-term support – the publicity around their failure humiliates them yet again, meanwhile driving ratings for the show up, up, up. Because any publicity is good publicity for the show. But not for the humans upon which it preys.

So there you have it. My uninformed views on a show I haven’t seen and likely never will.

Exercise Routine Confirmed

Yesterday confirmed something I was pretty sure I already knew – the exercise routine I have developed for myself is the way it is for a reason. And that reason is because any variation and the whole thing falls apart.

As I mentioned, I had to go into the office to sit in some meetings and yesterday’s meeting started at 9am. My normal exercise routine occurs in the mornings from around 8:30am to 9:30am. Obviously I wasn’t going to be able to exercise in the morning (don’t even start with “get up earlier.” I already know from long experience that’s a non-starter for my body). My mental plan was to get some exercise in the late afternoon after work.

Here’s what went really well yesterday: Food. I packed all the food I would need for the day, so that when management brought in pizzas for everyone in order to enable us to work through lunch (yes, I see right through this tactic), I simply slipped out, microwaved my pre-portioned meal in the break room, and stayed on plan. That room smelled deliciously of pizza but since I had a plan and everything I needed I didn’t even look at pizza (I’m totally serious, I don’t look at food I don’t intend to eat. I also don’t window shop, for similar reasons), although I did enjoy the smell.

Here’s what happened when I got home from work: Nothing. My body was adamant that not even a walk would occur. It was cold and windy out, which was why the walk wasn’t happening. And I was just fatigued and didn’t feel up to even a low-key workout. And I know this about my body. I know this so hard. I know that I have to hit the hardcore exercise in the morning or it simply won’t happen at all. That’s why I do it in the morning. Routine confirmed: morning exercise is my bag. Check.

Instead I had a nice hot bath last night after dinner, which also ensured I didn’t end up snacking all evening. And this morning my run went beautifully, so maybe a rest day was exactly what my body needed. I did the new longer distance (4 miles), and didn’t hear a single bodily complaint, everything was grooving right along. Win!

Anyway, sometimes I get the firm reminder that my routine is the way it is because nothing else works. I suppose that, eventually, if my only option was working out in the evening, I could brute-force it into happening, but it would be a struggle every time and eventually it would feel like an onerous burden – it’s really hard to maintain a routine when you’re working against yourself. So much better to find a time, place, & activity that feels positive and stick with it!

Workday Planning

I had no trouble meeting my co-worker for drinks and sticking to sparkling water Tuesday night because I had made a plan, so I followed it. That’s the magic of making a plan – if a plan already exists it’s easier to follow it than to make a decision in the moment. At least for me.

Which is great because yesterday and today I’ve had to go into the office for day-long meetings. This is a change to my usual routine, which means I’ve needed to make a plan. A plan involves either figuring out what I can eat there, or bringing what I need. Since there’s nothing there, I have to bring my food. I have an insulated lunch bag which I will pack with things I can eat. I also bring a big unbreakable cup to fill with water when I get there (I’m so over disposable plastic bottles – that shit just ends up in a whale’s stomach killing her slowly), so I can sip water throughout the day. I also have a shaker bottle I can make a shake in for mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks.

Yesterday I went for a long run before heading to the office, and even had a walk after work so I ended up burning over a thousand calories in exercise! That’s a new high for me. Today’s meeting starts very early though so I won’t have time for morning exercise. I’ll have to do a workout DVD or a walk after things wrap up this afternoon.

I can’t stress enough how reassuring it is to me to always have a plan. Having to make decisions constantly throughout the day is exhausting, so I really rely on my plan to free up my energy for more important thoughts throughout the day.

Week 2 Complete: Other Signs of Progress

After last Monday’s annoying results, I’ve been keeping my head down and focusing on working my program to the max. So if my results are less-than-great this week there is absolutely no biological or physical reason for it. None that I can think of.

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan (this is a given for me when I’m in the groove). I had 52 servings of fruits/veggies (4 more than last week – more is better!). I had 38 meal replacements. I burned 4,345 calories in physical activity (550 more than last week!). I averaged a net caloric intake of ~820 calories per day (last week it was 860, all of that difference is due to exercise because my total cals was more this week than last week).

However, since I need that silver lining, that glimmering prize, that sign of life, some sort of signal that all this effort is paying off, I got out the measuring tape this morning and I am a solid three-quarters of an inch down at both waist and hips. Suck it, scale!

My next challenge: A weekend getaway coming up wherein I try to not be a total downer because I can’t eat at restaurants. I foresee a lot of picnicing for us – picnics are fun! Even hotel-room picnics are something my husband and I occasionally enjoy on vacation. Packing a cooler full of delicious, healthy food then staying in for the evening can be a nice change and inexpensive, too (compared to going to a fancy, crowded eatery)! The best thing I can do is reframe the experience into something good, instead of letting it be a downer or something onerous.

Motivation and Willpower: Similar Problems

In class this week we talked about motivation, and how you find it, nurture it, and boost it. These are all great things, because often when people fall off the wagon it’s because motivation has waned, and considering that we’re all going to be doing this for the rest of our lives…there’s a long, long road ahead to stay motivated.

But I put motivation in the same category as willpower, by and large. It’s a variable emotional state that can come and go at random. The problem is, you have to be able to execute whether or not you’re feeling particularly motivated every day. Just like you have to be able to execute your plan whether or not your willpower is feeling strong.

The thing to do, then, is to set up structures – routines, habits, and environments – that will make it easier to default to “getting it done” than not. That’s when you really need the motivation – use motivation to set up the on-going situation that you’ll need to make success the default action.

Environmental control is one of the biggest factors in this quest. If you’ve set up your environment for success, then failing takes extra work (you’d have to be motivated to self-sabotage! Don’t do that!). If there’s nothing in my kitchen but supportive foods, I would have to make a special trip to the store or a restaurant to go off course. I’d have to stop and think about whether I really wanted to screw up all my hard work badly enough to make a special trip to do it. I never do, because I am essentially lazy.

Same thing with pre-packing supportive foods to go to an event like last weekend. All my food was right there, and I would have had to make a special effort – such as asking somebody else (who knows I’m on a diet!) for some of their food – to get off track.

This is also why my current exercise regimen is so perfect for me. It takes almost zero effort for me to go downstairs and do a DVD or YouTube workout at the time I have allotted in my calendar for my workout. I don’t have to leave the house, I just have to put on a sports bra, shorts, and shoes. If I wanted to NOT do it I’d have to sit there staring at my calendar reminder and think up reasons for not doing it. Then I’d have to justify if those pathetically lame excuses are really worth screwing up my hard work so far. Almost never do they meet that bar. And since there’s such a wide variety of options out there on the web, if I’m feeling low-energy, I can always just pick something that matches my mood, while still getting in my exercise.

Pretty much none of this auto-pilot stuff requires motivation on my part. What it requires, mostly, is an understanding of how my own brain works, and how to use that to catch myself in a web of good habits and practices. Once those are set up, it practically runs itself.

I’m not saying you should set up a routine just like mine, I’m saying a good routine for you should do the thing for you that mine does – makes it easy to succeed.

Prepping for Success!

I wish I could say it’s been really hard to get back on track and do all the things I need to do, like food prep and planning and regular exercise. I say that because if it were really hard for me to do those things then maybe I would be a more sympathetic character because maybe it’s something you are struggling with right now too.

But it hasn’t been hard at all, it’s been like pulling on a dress from the back of my closet that I haven’t worn in a couple of years and finding it fits perfectly. Delightful, and surprising, and quite a bit of a relief. It feels like that moment when you think, “Oh my god this is working! I can wear this, it’s perfect!”

If you find that annoying because you’re struggling with it, think about it this way: I’ve been doing this for more than thirteen years. It had BETTER start getting easier at some point. And it does (isn’t that awesome news?!). Eventually, if you stay at it, it becomes second nature, something you can do without much effort or thought.

Yesterday I had a long, long day of exciting fun events and staying on my feet. I did a minimal amount of prep – I picked up a small cooler from Target Friday night and shopped for some easy-to eat- fruit. In the morning I packed up easy, delicious, supportive things that I like to eat. Grapes, raspberries, pre-cut pineapple, a salad already mixed with homemade dressing in a tupperware, a diet soda, and an apple. These required less than 10 minutes of prep to pull together since they were already in my kitchen (and they were). I then threw some bananas, lunch and dinner entrees, and utensils in a paper bag and headed out the door. I spent all day at a medieval tournament event and didn’t stray off my plan for a second because I had so much food with me that the moment I felt even a stir of hunger I could pull something out of my stores and shove it in my face.

Swanky Evening Out!

Swanky Evening Out!

After I got home I heated up a dinner entree, had a double shake, and got dressed for my evening activity, a costume ball with some friends. I didn’t eat anything at the ball despite there being a table of light refreshments because I was already full when I got there and was having so much fun hanging out with friends and occasionally dancing that there was no draw. I also didn’t loiter near the food table or bar because that’s pointless temptation.

My point is that it gets easier with repetition, until it’s not the onerous burden it feels at first. You can still maintain a glamorous, fun lifestyle even while sticking to healthier eating. I didn’t miss out on anything, or feel left out by not being able to munch my way through the day (or rather, I did munch my way through the day, just not on sausage and cheese and eclairs).

There was a relief that came with the dawning realization I had throughout the day that I can do this, I have done this, and I can continue to do this because it’s not that hard! It takes setting up some structures and patterns in the initial stages, but it gets easier!