How Dare I?

I maintained this week. I expected a huge gain, like 4 pounds, but I was exactly the same. The reason I expected a gain is because I wasn’t counting calories and exercising to exhaustion every day, which my previous 14 years of experience had led me to believe is the only way to not gain. My new world is exciting and delightful.

I had two “cheat days” last week, because Saturday one of my best friends got married and I ate whatever I wanted, including two pieces of cake – with lots of frosting (OMG I LOVE FROSTING). But no gain.

I eat so much now that I start thinking I should cut back. One of my biggest pleasures, that was denied to me for so many years of my life, is nuts. I may have a pistachio problem. I eat pistachios like candy, piles of them. The sorts of volume that I would have trembled in fear at just 6 months ago. They, clearly, are not a problem for me following the new method. I don’t even fast much, I skip breakfast a couple of days a week and that’s about it.

What all this tells me is that if I did decide I wanted to drop some pounds it would be easy because I currently feel the opposite of deprived. I feel so satisfied, so sated, that sometimes I think maybe I’m abusing my privilege, or getting away with something naughty, by eating so deliciously. How dare I enjoy my meals and eating experience so much without gaining weight and beating myself up mentally? How dare I be so happy when there are starving dieters in America?

And yet here I sit, perfectly happy with my body, not willing to cut back to drop some pounds because I love myself just the way that I am. What the hell, seriously, HOW DARE I?

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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!

More Numeric Ruminations

Last week Trystan commented here that despite the number on the scale, I still do a healthy lifestyle better than almost anyone. I am hugely proud to hear that, but also it reminded me that people don’t just come here because I’m specifically keeping off 200 pounds (because I’m not), but for other reasons and living a healthy lifestyle may very well be one of them.

So, today I’m going to ramble about last week’s numbers. Last week I burned 3,780 calories in exercise. That’s well above the 2000/week recommended by a lot of programs – almost double, in fact. All that, and I even took Saturday as a rest day! How did I get there? Well, I could break it down and tell you that represents 305 minutes of activity (a little over 5 hours) that week. That’s an average of 12 calories burned per minute, but I don’t exercise in averages. A majority of my exercise was at a high intensity (running, kickboxing), which using my ballpark calculations I estimate at 14 calories/minute. The rest of it was at moderate or medium intensity (walking, yoga, weightlifting), which I ballpark at 8 calories a minute. These numbers are based on my weight and change when my weight does – when I weigh less I burn less per minute, when I weigh more I burn more. Most days I do 40-60 minutes of exercise.

I also did a great job last week at journaling my food intake (except Saturday which was unusual). I saw a steady downward motion on the scale – started at 224.5 on Monday morning and by Sunday morning I was at 221.5, excellent progress.

Yesterday I went for a long, hard run. I didn’t have anywhere to be, and the usual symphony of bodily complaints was at a mere whisper, so I decided to go for it. Not my longest route, but a portion of it which was 5.5 miles and included a serious hill in the middle. It is a steep, high hill and I don’t attempt it very often because it is HARD. But when I do attempt it I have only a single goal – to not drop into a walk on the way up it. That’s it. That’s the only thing I want to accomplish on that run. On Sunday I powered through and made it up the hill, then back down again. By the end my legs were burning pretty hard – not only a longer run than I have done all year, but a seriously strenuous section in the middle. That run took me about 90 minutes, and burned ~1260 calories. I took a long nap after that run. Yesterday I consumed approximately 1600 calories all day. Pretty good in/out ratio there!

So naturally, as you can imagine, I woke up this morning to the highest weight I have seen in years – 225. That’s right, running  shoots my weight up. Always. Running harder than usual will spike it higher than usual. That’s just how it goes. Maybe not for everyone, but always and without fail for me. At this point I’m just looking at the numbers out of objective, scientific curiosity. “Oh, huh, that’s a surprising number to see after yesterday. Wow. Body, you never fail to confound me.”

I started reading a new book I bought on Rianh’s recommendation last week, The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung. I’m about halfway through, so nobody spoil the ending for me (the butler did it, right? It’s always the butler!), but so far it makes a lot of sense and I am hoping there will be a “how to do this” section in the back, because I will probably want to give his ideas a try. What do I have to lose, other than all this fabulous and exciting fat?! I’ll keep you posted as I go.

Brain Games

I’ve noticed something interesting going on in my brain. It has to do with the scale. You guys know I have a fraught relationship with the scale. I try to get on it as little as possible. In fact, I haven’t been on it since November. I am trying to learn to maintain and manage my weight by eating healthy and exercising. I don’t want to spend my whole life on a perpetual cycle of weight gain followed by fast loss through a program. I want to eat naturally, not shakes and pre-packaged foods I buy from a weight-loss system.

What’s weird is that I’ve been doing this since 2003, and I still feel like I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. I still feel like I have no idea how to lose weight. I have lots of friends who know exactly what you should do to lose weight and will happily expound at length on The Answer for Weight Loss. It is, of course, whatever worked for them. The further I get with this whole thing the less I know for sure.

Anyway, the brain thing.

I try not to weigh myself too often, usually because I just can’t bear it. I don’t want to be on the constant merry-go-round of hope, fear, disappointment, elation…it’s too much. Just too much. I just want to live a quiet, maintained life with my weight. So I do my exercise – 40-60 minutes of vigorous, breathing-hard, sweating, red-faced, hard exercise 5-6 days a week. And I watch my intake – lots of fruits and veggies, portions that aren’t too big, the occasional indulgence (but not too much). And I don’t get on the scale until my brain freaks out.

That’s what happens. I go for a few months and then my brain freaks out and convinces me that I’m DOING IT ALL WRONG and I’m clearly enjoying food too much, my eating is out of control, I must have gained tons of weight enjoying myself and I AM A FAILURE. My brain completely freaks out. I get depressed because I suck at this and I’m gaining weight and failing and all my exercise is for nothing because I must have gained 10 pounds since the last time I got on the scale.

And my brain starts making me notice things I hadn’t before, which are a sure sign that I’ve gained a ton of weight. Suddenly my hips are present to me in a way they weren’t before. My belly looks bloated. My legs feel sluggish and large. Clearly I’ve failed and am gaining weight and I need to get control of all this before I’m back up to my highest weight ever. I moan about how bad I’ve been and  how much weight I must have gained and, always, my husband says, “You look the same to me. Are you sure you’ve gained weight, or are you just guessing?”

Darling. I’m just guessing. I can’t face the scale so I don’t, I just guess that things are bad because my brain is telling me I’m a failure.

So after a few days or weeks of this I decide it’s time to Take Things In Hand. I need to get on the scale, get a handle on just how bad things have become, and start working on losing whatever huge amount of weight I’ve gained since I’ve been enjoying food and out of control. So this morning, after weeks of my brain convincing me I’d gained 10-20 pounds over the holidays I gave up and got on the scale so I could quantify the problem in order to begin working on it.

Up a half pound since the last time I weighed in November. That’s within regular fluctuation range. I am maintaining, my weight is extremely stable. Everything is going fine, I haven’t gained anything over the holidays, my system is working. It’s my brain that’s disordered.

I need a better system for brain management.

Weekly Results and a New Thing: Crossover Drills

I went to three parties this weekend – two barbecues and a pool party, so naturally I didn’t expect to lose anything this week. I did, however, follow the plan I laid out on Friday, sticking to fruits and veggies and lean protein, eating before, avoiding alcohol, and exercising each morning.

I wish I could say that I avoid alcohol in an effort to maintain my weight, because if that were the case then I could occasionally plan to indulge. No, after years of experimentation and trial, it’s become clear that one of the fastest, most pervasive migraine triggers for me is alcohol of any kind. I can perform a complicated pharmaceutical regimen occasionally if I feel an event is worth it, which allows me to drink without an immediate migraine, however I can’t use it too often, and it doesn’t always work. So it’s mostly not worth it.

I’ve been thinking, lately, about how to engage more of my leg muscles when I run. Mostly running uses the muscles on the front and back of your thighs. But there are also muscles along the inside and outside of your thighs, and those don’t get nearly as much work during  a run (they get some, I know because if I stop for a while then restart they are sore). So I started experimenting with crossover drills. Basically, I pick a block with evenly spaced trees, and I go from one tree to the next leading with my right side, then at the next tree I switch over and lead with my left side, so I’m moving facing sideways instead of facing forward.

I can do about 3 sets of those per run, because man they are hard! They really take it out of me – both the physical movement, which is new, and the mental effort required to do it without tripping myself! Also it’s fun and I think I look like a Srs Bzns Athlete when I do it. Even though I’m just doing it going down the sidewalk and the only ones who see me are oblivious cars passing on the road.

Oh, this week I was down .4, almost a half pound (missed it by a tenth). I didn’t expect to be down at all, what with all the socializing and festive eating (which I mostly didn’t partake of) over the long weekend, and my home scale hovering in the same general region all week as if I’d plateaued. Four-tenths of a pound is well within the margin of error, but I suppose if the margin keeps moving slowly downward that’s good for me. Total loss since March 25th is 13.6. I don’t want to do any of the things that might move the needle down any faster, because I’m right at the threshold now of where I might start to enjoy my life less were I to do those things, and I’m not willing to decrease my happiness for faster weight loss. This has to be sustainable.

Maintenance “Swing Range” Numbers

This week in class we’re talking about Emotional Eating – you know, that thing you do where you feel sad, or lonely, or angry, or stressed, and you eat a whole box of cookies and ice cream mindlessly due to that uncomfortable feeling?

Well, emotional eating is not my problem. Oh, I assure you, I have eating problems, but not that one in particular. My problems run more to social eating, opportunistic eating, and portion control. So this module about emotional eating isn’t doing much for me, other than a good reminder. But any time the teacher asks what our particular foods are that we run to for comfort and soothing, I got nothing. Everybody has different reasons for their eating issues, I just happen to have this one under control (although it took years of work). These days when I need comfort I can usually find a non-food method, or eat something that’s allowable under my program (fresh, ripe stone fruits right now are rocking my world).

So instead of talking about that, I’ll give you a snapshot of how my week went on the scale. Last week, it went:

  • Monday: Baseline weight for the week (up 3 pounds from before trip)
  • Tuesday: -4
  • Wednesday: +3
  • Thursday: -2.5
  • Friday: +2.5
  • Saturday: +.5
  • Sunday: -2
  • Monday: +1.5
  • Monday afternoon before leaving for class: +5 (!!!)

This is why it’s generally not a good idea to weigh yourself every day once you’re in maintenance. Once a week is sufficient, because these swings are the opposite of motivational. I mean, yeah, it’s great when you’re down 4 one day, but when you’re up 3 the next and you didn’t go on a binge…it’s kind of infuriating. What’s even more frustrating is on none of those days did I step outside my program. I was doing everything perfectly, and I got wild, ridiculous swings. THIS IS NORMAL FOR MAINTAINING. People think that when you’re maintaining a stable weight you actually have a stable weight. This is not true.

Oh, and last night at class, when I did my official weigh in? Down 5 pounds for the week. Totally unexpected after that mid-afternoon check-in! I’ll take it (although there’s a little voice in my head pointing out that with such a large loss there’s a good chance I’ll have some of it come back next week because it wasn’t “real.” Thanks brain!). Three of that was just my body re-adjusting after the cruise, the rest is solid progress – I’m down 12.6 officially, less than 8 to go to my stretch goal!

What’s your normal day-to-day “swing range” in maintenance? Four to five pounds seems to be mine. Frustrating, but at least I know about it and that it’s nothing to freak out about. Theoretically.

Cruising and Weight Management

I just got back from a cruise, a first time endeavor for me and my husband. We did ten days in the Mediterranean, starting in Athens and ending in Barcelona, with a couple of days at each end in those cities, and arrived home late Sunday night.

Here’s what I learned:

-There are healthy options on a cruise, but they are sometimes very hard to find, and some of the menu descriptions can be deceiving, so ask. For example, I learned the hard way that “crisp” can mean deep fried. Ugh. You’re welcome.

-You’re better off doing the seated dining where it’s an option, because a buffet is an invitation to overindulgence. (buffets are my natural enemy in the wild, and I avoid them at all costs whenever possible).

-Food is available 24/7. That doesn’t mean you need to eat it 24/7.

-The quickest way to eat regrettably, and inflate your cruise tab, is alcohol. As always. This is the same on land or sea.

-Air France has the worst airplane food I’ve ever encountered on an international flight, hands down. I wasn’t expecting that!

Anyway, as I mentioned before I left, I didn’t want to gain a pound a day like my pal Rick Steves says can be common on a cruise (aieee!). Nightmare scenario for me!

Here were the strategies I employed:

  1. Don’t snack between meals. This had an unintended consequence for me, unfortunately, because when you eat lunch at noon or 1 and your dinner seating isn’t until 8:15, that’s a very long gap between meals. I normally try to eat every 2-3 hours, and this caused me some headaches I probably didn’t need to have. Due to the complete upending of my usual routine inherent in any travel, sometimes the first sign I’d have that I was hungry was a splitting headache. NO BUENO. Were I to do it again, I would plan in some healthy snacks every few hours, by stockpiling fruit from the breakfast buffet (which I started doing eventually but not at first).
  2. Load up on lean meats and veggies for dinner. Most meal options come with veggies, but also you can order sides of extra veggies. One night lobster was a menu option – YES PLEASE!
  3. Dessert was always a fruit plate. And a fruit plate was always an option on the dessert menu. I took the view of, which of these options would leave me feeling the best? Almost every time it was fruit plate.
  4. SO MUCH WALKING. I definitely got more walking on the days we didn’t book excursions from the boat, because we ended up walking off the boat and exploring the port city all on foot. But, even some (not all, but some!) excursions netted us up to 8 miles of walking, which was a surprise!. (Personal high was about 12 miles the day we explored Athens, all on foot!)
  5. Eat the local delicacy when on shore. Life can’t be all boiled chicken and broccoli, my friends! Pizza in Naples, tapas in Spain, daube provencal in Arles. The walking will take care of it!

I’ve lately been focusing my mindset on fueling my body in the way it wants to be fueled, and that means avoiding sugar. Protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates work best for me, but things like desserts that are pure sugar will leave me feeling sluggish and bloated for sure, so when it came time to choose dessert, it was usually pretty easy for me to pick the thing that would help me feel my best. Somebody in our dinner group commented one evening that I was “being so good” with my dessert selections, and I could honestly say that I just liked fruit better than the other options. I wasn’t trying consciously to be on a diet, I just want to not feel crappy while I’m on vacation!

So…you may be wondering…how did this all work out for me?

Well, last night I went to my class and weighed in up 3.2 pounds, so that doesn’t sound very great, does it?

Unless you know, like I do, that my body always freaks out when I take an inter-continental flight, and that it would take a day or two to settle down.

This morning I weighed in down 3.5 pounds from yesterday. So that means I had a net change of just about nothing. That was my goal. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.