Week 5 Results: Surprise! Meat Puppet is Defective!

I stayed on target all week, no slips or eating off-plan, as I expect of myself. I had 49 servings of fruits/veggies. I had 37 meal replacements. I burned 4,340 calories in physical activity. I averaged a net caloric intake of ~754 calories per day. As you can see, I met and exceeded all of my target goals.

I spent the weekend medieval camping, and despite vast amounts of tasty temptation, I stayed on program every single minute of every single day. You could say I ROCKED IT. I will say it. I rocked it. I am feeling so good about how I handled this weekend with my prepping and my planning. After last weeks astounding physical activity numbers and dismal result on the scale I was expecting that the “check was in the mail,” so to speak, and I’d see a great loss this week. Are you ready for my amazing result??

I was up .7 pounds. I gained.

I’m getting really sick of your shit, body. This meat puppet I use to drive my brain around is defective and I’d like to trade it in on a new one that works now please. If you have never understood the feeling of impotent rage, this is it. To do everything right, to be absolutely immaculate in your execution, and to still fail is the embodiment of situations that inspire impotent rage. I feelz it.

Alright, now that that’s out of the way, taking an objective look at the situation, there are three options when one is plateauing:

  • Eat less
  • Eat more
  • Exercise harder

Two of these three options are not feasible for me, as I’m already eating as little as I can get away with, and exercising as hard as I can. So my coach has recommended that I try the other one. I will eat more to try to fuel my body into realizing it is not starving. I will also reel back the exercise a bit because perhaps I am overdoing it there too.

This is so weird to me, you guys. In my thirties, what I am doing now would absolutely work to get me the results I expected. It no longer works. Welcome to my fully wrecked metabolism, courtesy of aging and genetics. I don’t know what works now, but I am going to experiment and find out.

I’ve got nothing but time, and my very own laboratory (body) to experiment with.

According to everything I read, a diet made up of fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and complex carbohydrates should be the gold standard for healthy eating. However I may not have been getting enough of them. So, this week, more fruits and veggies, more of everything. I’m aiming to net in at around 1000 calories per day, so I need to up my caloric intake of healthy foods, and maybe cut back the exercising a bit.

Another thing that actually buttresses my suspicion here that I am not getting enough fuel (despite averaging a total of ~1400 calories per day, netting in at ~700), is that last week I was desperately depressed. I took things that weren’t big deals on their surface and overreacted myself into a deep hole of despair. When does that happen? When things are out of whack. Perhaps I didn’t have enough energy to keep an even keel. I could be wrong. We’ll find out next week I guess.

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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!

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!

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!

*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!