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!

Goodbye Twitter

I deactivated my Twitter account this morning. I got 5 emails in a row from them saying they’d detected a suspicious sign in attempt. My account has been hacked a couple of times in the past, too. The hassle factor of using Twitter is just not outweighing the usefulness of it. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more than one or two views, total, referred from my Twitter postings.

So if you were following me on Twitter to keep up with this blog…you probably don’t exist! Ha! Ok, maybe there are a few of you out there, although I’m somewhat skeptical about that. Anyway, you can always hit the “Follow” button over on the right there —> to get email or other types of updates when I post.

This week I’m focusing on mixing cardio and strength. And reducing my caloric intake because I had a crazy weekend at Costume College with probably too much eating for the last few days, so I’m working on balance. Also today is my wedding anniversary, so there’s that.

It’s a Brand New Day

I start on the meal replacement portion of my program today. Last week we were waiting for them to come in, and journaling our food. Last night we had our final med check and weigh-in, first class with our instructor, and picked up our meal replacements.

I’ve lost 2.5 pounds already but that’s just an accident of timing – last Wednesday was the day in my monthly cycle when I am the highest weight for the month, so I was bound to lose weight no matter what I did in the intervening week.

Today I put together a super-cute outfit, I painted my nails last night (AND I didn’t mess them up before they dried, which is extremely rare!), I’m even wearing lipstick. I’m working on having other things to celebrate and enjoy in my day than food. So I’m going to plan little treats for myself over the next four months like a facial or a massage, new running shoes, a hike on a favorite trail, bubble baths, things like that which don’t involve food.

Oh and I took a “before” picture last night, which is too depressing right now to post, but which I will surely post once I’ve made some progress. My husband and I plan to take a photo monthly as we progress through the program.

All right. I’ve got my shaker bottle, my MRs, and I’ve cleared out my office of all food (not that there was much to begin with). LET’S DO THIS.

It’s not a resolution, it’s a coincidence

I recommitted to my diet and exercise program recently. On December 30th, actually. It was part of my realization that something was extremely not right in my world. I stepped on the scale and the number read 208.5. This is the highest number I have seen on my scale since I started maintaining my loss. Essentially, this number jolted me into the realization that I was no longer maintaining.

My normal range I like to maintain is 195-205. Obviously I’m happier when I’m on the lower end of the range. When I’m on the higher end of the scale I start to practice more heavily some of my weight management behaviors (journaling/tracking, more exercise, environmental control, etc). But this time, over several months of a defeatist “screw it!” mentality, I’d gotten to that number through sheer neglect. I hadn’t been weighing myself regularly (umm..at all). I’d regularly eaten whatever looked good without any thought to my higher goals of weight maintenance. Exercise was slipshod – any excuse for skipping it would work.

This is completely out of character for me, and as I mentioned in my last post, I did eventually figure out why, but that didn’t erase the damage done. That left me with one option –  rededicate myself to my diet and exercise program. Right at the beginning of the New Year. I know – how cliche!

Normally I eschew New Years Resolutions because they have such a legendary reputation for failure. But, what was I going to do – NOT do what needed to be done just because of a personal aversion to New Years resolutions and a coincidence of the calendar? Now is the time I need to be doing this, regardless of any feelings I may have about the resolution tradition. I can choose not to call it a resolution, though. Or a diet.

So for the last three weeks I’ve been rededicated to my program. It’s not any particular program, it’s MY program which I’ve put together based on 10 years now of maintaining my weight loss. It looks like this:

1. Every day I carry a little book around in my purse and record every thing I eat along with approximate calories for each, as well as any calories burned through exercise.

2. I try to exercise hard at least 4 days out of the week, and lightly (a walk) the other days, and aim for 3000 calories burned through exercise total for the week. (It’s a goal, I don’t always hit it but getting close is good)

3. I eat almost exclusively whole foods – fruits, vegetables, meats, etc which would be recognized as food by my ancestors. Because of this inclination I eat very little pasta, bread, sugar, desserts, cake, ice cream, etc. Not because I’m doing paleo or gluten free or any other current popular program, but because to get the most nutritional value out of the calories I’m consuming there’s no room for those things in my diet.

Here’s how this has been breaking down for me. A typical work day in my journal:

  • hot cereal: 250
  • berries: 50
  • portion-controlled lunch entree (Amy’s Light and Lean are my current favorites): 250
  • grapes: 75
  • banana: 150
  • pear: 75
  • coffee with splenda: 0
  • steak: 400
  • lots of cauliflower: 100
  • Total:1350
  • Exercise: HIIT for 25 minutes then strength training for 30 minutes. I approximate 400 calories burned.
  • Net: 950

On lighter exercise days, obviously, my net will be higher. On days when I run my net is lower as I burn more running than doing HIIT and strength training. I’ve been averaging a net of around 950 calories/day per week. I get this number by adding up my daily calorie totals for the week, then I add up the exercise calories burned for the week and subtract those, and divide the result by 7. It’s not necessary but I enjoy the process.

I’m down 7.5 pounds in the first two weeks. I expect things to level out fairly soon though because if there’s one thing my numbers have shown me over the last few years it’s that I seem to have a hard limit to how much I can lose anymore. I started out wanting to get back into my normal range, and I already am. Regardless of whether I continue to lose or not, I appreciate the mental calm that comes with knowing I’m following my program and not straying.

Three Days In

Today is day three of my new “Stop Acting Like Treats Are Part of My Daily Diet” program and so far it’s working out pretty well.

It’s amazing how insidious the little treats were, they managed to creep in, little bites throughout the day – a small snack in the morning between breakfast and lunch, one in the afternoon (but it’s just a latte – I’m drinking it! Oh, and some popcorn – popcorn’s like nothing, right?), and a little something sweet after dinner, hardly anything really…

They really add up. Even if they don’t seem like much of anything individually, by the end of the day I was consuming almost 1/3 more than I should have been for the whole day!

And it’s not like I have to completely eliminate eating at those times, I just need to replace the junk things I was eating with supportive foods like fruits or veggies. Easy enough, and half the time when I contemplate the available options I find I’m not actually really and truly hungry – I just wanted a treat. Hmm. NO!

Forgive me, body, for I have sinned

I made the mistake of letting treats turn into habits.

I discovered yesterday as I switched out my summer clothes for my winter clothes in my closet that my winter clothes don’t…quite…fit…right.

DAMMIT! Time for a ruthless, honest review of my eating.

And I looked at my habits over the last several weeks and months and I realized that I had let 500-600 calories per day of treats creep into my routine. PER DAY. That is ridiculous! I had let little treats throughout my work day, small indulgences I was allowing myself to distract from the unpleasantness of my workday, to harden into daily habits. So now, if I cut those 500 calories per day and do nothing else to change anything, I should drop some pounds (slowly) without too much effort. Which I’ve started doing as of this morning. If I add in some additional exercise, then maybe I can do more.

My goal is to lose 10 pounds by January 5th. That’s 11 weeks away, so I’ll need to stay on target, which could be a real challenge with the holidays coming right at us. I’ll be tracking my input by journaling, and working harder on getting exercise into my day via running, hitting the gym, riding my bike to work, and walking more.

One of the things I’m noticing over the last few years is that it is extremely easy to get sidetracked from my exercise program due to physical issues as I age. I planned to hit the HIIT yesterday afternoon and do some windsprints at my local park. Except that before breakfast yesterday I was walloped with a monster migraine that didn’t let up for 24 hours. The only thing I can do, as I age and encounter physical limitations and issues, is to stay on track with my eating plans when my exercise plans get blown away. That’s hard to do because the “glue” that holds my weight management mindset together is oftentimes the mental focus that comes from exercise. Staying on track without it takes some extra discipline, planning, and grit.

Day to Day Dieting Tools

I’ve been re-acquainting myself with the tools and behaviors I use to stave off hunger and avoid straying when I’m on a diet.

First, let me define some terms: I draw a sharp distinction between maintaining and dieting. For me, when I’m maintaining I stick to some guidelines but what I can eat is not strictly limited. When I’m dieting, I have a specific weight loss goal I’m working towards and I have significantly limited the universe of food I allow myself to consume, in order to meet that goal.

Ok, with that understanding, I’m definitely in a dieting mode right now, and so I need stronger guardrails on my eating behaviors. I put these in place by controlling my environment – making sure that I have plenty of the foods I can have on hand and removing foods that might cause a lapse or temptation – and by having tools on hand to help me through the tough spots: hunger or mouth cravings.

Here are a couple of my tools I keep on hand at work:

1. Gum. Great for giving me something to work on and when I’m chewing gum I’m less susceptible to temptation because my mouth is already busy – idly popping something into my mouth is harder to do when I’m chewing gum already.

2. Big plastic water cup, which doubles as a big plastic Crystal Light cup. To bulk up my portion-controlled lunch entree I’ll make up a big cup of CrystalLight (I love the little single-serving packets they sell them in now – so convenient!) drink the whole thing with lunch, and that will help to fill up my stomach and make it feel satisfied that we’ve eaten lunch. Also, this cup sits on my desk all day with water so I can sip throughout the day.

3. Shaker bottle. Invaluable for making up shakes. Cleanup in the break room is pretty simple too- just throw some water and dish soap in and shake, then rinse.

4. Red lunch box in back, full of all my approved foods. More than I need for a day, even, because I never know when a long day may strike, or a day when my hunger spikes, so a bit of extra is always a good idea.

5. Coffee cup for hot tea (not pictured, but you know what a coffee cup looks like).

This week has been surprisingly easy. Once I’m in the mode, I’m in the mode and workdays are simple and straightforward. Weekends and social activities are another matter, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it…

Today’s exercise: 50 minute run this morning before work. All is on target this week.