Friday, June 27, 2014

I'll Do It When I'm Skinny

Our firm’s annual summer outing was on Monday. They hold it in the same place every year: a nice Country Club upstate. Most employees bring their families and there’s a golf game, tennis tournament, swimming, and lots of food. As I mentioned on Sunday, it’s a pretty low-key day and if you’re not good at golf or tennis, the main thing to do is hang out by the pool.



Last year, we went swimming and I wore a bathing suit that I had just purchased the day before.  And shorts. Someday I will be comfortable enough to walk around in completely bare legs, but definitely not right now. The reason for the last minute purchase was that I hadn't gone swimming in several years and didn't have any bathing suits. Not even ones that were too small. Just none.

J wanted to go swimming again this year, since it’s the main activity available. I didn't want to, but the only reason against it I could come up with was “I’m uncomfortable walking around in a bathing suit.” He pointed out, correctly, that this was a lame reason, especially since I had walked around in my runway-ready bathing suit and shorts ensemble last year at only ten pounds lighter.




So we went. We swam. I got a weird sunburn on a corner of my shoulder where I missed a spot with the sunscreen. We had a great time hanging out with my coworkers, and I even did pretty okay on the eating front. I’m glad I didn't let my weight stop me from doing something I ultimately enjoyed.

There have been other occasions when I didn't do something because I was too self-conscious about my weight. It's one of the silly reasons I didn't work out or wear bright summer patterns for a long time. Or try skydiving, or para-sailing when I had the opportunity. But screw that. Fine, I’m fat. But I’m wearing a one-piece and shorts. Nobody would really notice or care about my weight unless I was walking around in a string bikini or fishing for compliments about how hot I am.


This issue has manifested itself in other ways, like when I realized that I constantly wear my hair up in a random ponytail or bun to work because I can't bother to wash it and style it a little, or don't try enough to shop for clothes that look nice and are flattering on my size 14-16 body.

I can’t allow my weight to stop me when I know that being self-conscious of it is the only reason I’m not doing something. So when it’s relevant, I ask myself, would I be doing this if I was thinner, comfortable with my body? If the answer is yes, then the next step is to do it. So I go swimming.

I'm getting better at allowing myself to put best self forward, or at least my "I give a shit" self forward, even on non-special occasion days, to make an effort, to go swimming, and not let the silly little voice that tells me not to bother because I can't be at my best self at this weight, so what's the point? That little voice is stupid, and I'm not listening.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Week Three: I Peeked, But Didn't Peak

Week two is over. I confess that I stepped on the scale on Friday morning, and was delighted to see 185.7. Since I weighed in at 191 just before starting this “reboot,” I’ve lost about five pounds in two weeks, right in the healthy weight range for the beginning of a diet.


Even though I am happy to know I’ve made progress, I’m a little disappointed because I messed up the whole point of not knowing my weight: to avoid focusing on it. Right now I’m re-losing weight that I already lost - twice - and then gained back - twice, three times if you count the initial gaining. No need to be reminded of or focus on that. 

No more weigh-ins. When I get tempted to dig out the scale, I’ll remind myself how great it will be to see a (hopefully) double-digit loss for these eight weeks, and that eating well and working out are just as important, if not more, than how much the scale has moved.






As my sneak peek indicated, this was a good week. Work was very slow, as is typical for summers. I will never, ever complain about not having much to do at work. I kept tracking, and we worked out four times plus a really long walk around Central Park in the lovely breeze.


Another good part of the week was that I’m learning that a day without a treat is not the end of the world, and that even if I can have something, doesn’t mean I need to do so. Shocking, right? Last night, I was debating whether to have a flatbread pizza or a loaded baked potato with the 400 calories left for the day. I realized that I could make a small dinner, somewhere around 250-300 calories and have room for a couple of pieces of chocolate. 

Just as quickly I asked myself, What are you doing? Two hundred and fifty calories is a snack or breakfast, not a dinner. I used all the calories for dinner, skipped the dessert, and the world kept turning and I didn’t go insane from lack of dessert and eat the candy aisle at the nearest drug store. So I will try to keep in mind the lesson here: Notwithstanding the occasional ice cream for dinner, a treat is something extra to have after a meal, not instead of it.






Looking ahead, tomorrow is our company’s annual summer outing, which basically translates to a relaxing day at a country club, where people bring their families and there’s an open bar by the pool. I’m trying to get the courage to go swimming, since it’s really fun with J and there’s not that much else to do besides sit by the pool and drink. I really don't want to let my own insecurity stop me from enjoying a pool on a hot day.





On Tuesday, we’re attending a goodbye dinner for J’s dad, who is moving across the country. It sucks that he won’t live so close anymore, but I guess now we have an excuse to go to California. Silver linings. And in one week, we’ll celebrate my amazing grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary.


Below is this week’s meal plan. Once again, strawberries feature prominently in the snacks. At 50 calories a cup and now $2 a pound, they will probably be a summer staple.


SundayMondayTuesdayWednesday ThursdayFridaySaturday
Exercise GymPool - laps GymOffGymGymWalk
Breakfast CoffeeCoffee, oatmealCoffee, yogurtCoffee, yogurtCoffee, oatmealCoffee, oatmealCoffee, yogurt
LunchOatmeal pancakes, strawberriesFirm outingLemon chicken over salad, baked potatoLemon chicken over salad, baked potatoVeggie burger, cheese, on English muffinVeggie burger, cheese, on English muffinTBD
DinnerFrittata Firm outingOut with familyLoaded baked potato, broccoliFlatbread pizzaChicken, broccoli, bread
SnacksCheese, FroYo, fruit FruitHard boiled egg, fruit Cheese, fruit TBDTBD

Today was the first day of week three, and it was a good one. Sunday is our day to have a longer gym session, and I felt like I’m continuously better at pushing myself. A while back, I wrote about how I couldn't do even one rep on one of the strength training machines they have, the overhead press machine, even on the lightest setting. (Ignore the stupid URL title.) I tried it again today and did ten reps at 25 pounds! I'm definitely getting stronger. 

After I burned an excellent 750 calories, J and I stopped for some frozen yogurt and it was delicious, especially knowing that I knew I could enjoy it, go home and have a nice dinner, and still have a great "loss" day.

I'm feeling good about this week, and the next six (thousand) weeks.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Reboot Week Two: I Don't Like Cupcakes

Week one is done! 

I averaged about a thousand net calories per day and felt confident. I packed lunch and a snack or two every day, we went to the gym four mornings and one afternoon, and I felt good and - most importantly - patient. Since I'm trying not to focus on the scale for a bit but still want to record my progress, I weighed in a couple of time by standing on the scale backwards so J could record the results without my seeing. I resisted the temptation to ask him “did it go down somewhat? Is it working?” for a third time, and we moved on.

Yesterday, however, was the only day that wasn't great food-wise. My mother, sister, and I drove to Connecticut to celebrate the bridal shower of a family friend. The bride is my age, we have known each other since we were born, and I love her dearly and was so excited to be celebrating with her. Her fiance is a great guy and they have been through everything together, including the rise and fall of MySpace.




I had a wonderful time and thought I was doing pretty well with eating until I actually tallied everything up. Then I realized that two mimosas, a mini quiche, a couple of slices of cheese and crackers, various salads with toppings and dressings, a few bite-sized desserts, all add up quick. I only took a little bit of everything, but the problem was the “everything” part. I was in default mode, version “let me have a little of that, it's okay because it's only a little.”

While I’d be quick to point out that my food intake would have been double that if I hadn’t been trying, that says more about how badly I have eaten in the past than how well I did yesterday. Despite not eating well, the only thing that really annoyed me was the second mini cupcake. It was fine, it was a cupcake, but it wasn’t amazing, cupcakes don’t even make my top ten desserts, and it really wasn’t worth it.

I know that a vague “I won’t eat too much” is setting myself up for disaster. It’s way too easy to grab a piece of cheese and a cracker and be totally unaware that this is the third one. I need to set reasonable goals, like choosing one dessert that looks the best and enjoying it. Then I can trust that there are going to be a lot of other desserts in life to enjoy, so it’s okay if I don’t have them all now. I'll try to keep this lesson for the rest of the events that seem to all fall within the next couple of months


This week is quiet, but next week is my firm’s annual outing, and a week later we’ll celebrate my grandparent’s 60th wedding anniversary. (Amazing, right? They are my role models.) Then there's another dinner, a weekend away, and another weekend away in the next seven weeks. I know that it would be fine in the long run to indulge a bit at these events, but I’m trying not to do so. This is supposed to be the more intense part of the meal plan, and trying all the foods is not a prerequisite to enjoying the company of family and friends. The biggest reason is that I’m just so unhappy with my weight right now, so dangerously close to that big round 200 number, that I don’t want to stall my progress anymore. Food choices like the ones made at the bridal shower won’t cut it. Therefore, while these are all happy occasions and I'm lucky to have so many, I don't need to celebrate them with food.

No weekly weigh-in since I don’t even know what I weigh at the moment. I did peek at the scale on Tuesday morning and I was down to 189, so maybe that last sucky weigh-in of 191 really was a bit of bloat. It doesn’t matter, since the next time I know my number will be in August.


Tentative Weekly Meal Plan:


SundayMondayTuesdayWednesday ThursdayFridaySaturday
Exercise Short walkGymGymGymGymGymDay of rest
Breakfast Coffee, yogurtCoffee, yogurtCoffee, oatmealCoffee, yogurtCoffee, hard boiled eggs with cheddar cheeseCoffee, yogurtCoffee, yogurt
Lunch Bridal showerTurkey hash: turkey, carrots onions, peppers, and diced potatoesTurkey hash, vegetable soupTurkey hash, baby carrotsTaco salad - lettuce, refried beans, feta, onions, salsa, guacamoleTBD, or buyTBD
DinnerEggsTortilla pizzaHot dogs, broccoli Omelette Chicken breast, baked potato, veggiesChicken, challah, vegetables, wineTBD
SnacksShower foodFruit, hard boiled egg, string cheeseHard boiled eggs, strawberriesFruit, string cheeseFruit, string cheese




The "meal" of last week was the quinoa salad, and I had it for lunch Monday-Thursday. I would probably get sick of it if I had it another time, but the beauty of making one lunch dish a week and then eating it every day during the week is that I don't have to repeat often from week to week. My dish of this week, turned out like a hash (not the fun kind) made from diced potatoes, peppers, onions, and turkey breast. Like the quinoa last week, it’s a one-pot-meal.

Anyone else lukewarm for cupcakes? It's essentially the opposite of cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Learning to Say No: Default Settings

There are many questions to which I have automatic answers. It’s when the mouth and vocal cords bypass the brain and the response comes automatically. They're the Times New Roman of the brain - the default setting. “Would you like to hear about a wonderful timeshare opportunity?” “Do you want to get into my van?” “Would you like to hold a puppy?” No, no, yes.


Auto responses are kind of like habits, but so ingrained they’re practically unconscious. And for most of my life, there was a particular query which always got a yes from me: An offer of food.


When food was offered, I always needed to have some. I would say yes first and think about the rest - if I was hungry or even wanted it - later, or not at all. If I didn’t have something when it was offered, I was missing out. It was unthinkable to watch other people enjoy something and not partake myself. Why should they get it if I don’t? Why on earth would I even need to think about saying no to something that looks good?





It turns out those auto responses cost me some pounds and willpower. I recently realized that during my many weight losses and gains, one of the things that those successful times have in common was that I did actually consider an offer of food and stopped being on autopilot.


I learned that it was okay to say no when a treat was offered. I wasn’t going to die, nobody would be insulted or even think about it for longer than a split second, and I myself would forget about it soon after, too. I discovered that saying no was an option, and had a power of its own as well. It meant that I was in control of my body and what I ate.


During the glory days at my lowest weight, when I was rocking a size 8-10 and enjoying being fifty pounds lighter, I realized that I couldn’t think of a single particular time in which I turned down food. There must have been hundreds of instances, because I was in environments where food was plentiful and yet I had lost a lot of weight. In college, it had been used to lure students to events. At work, it had been offered by generous colleagues or management. But I really had forgotten about them, and it was the ultimate proof that saying no to food is okay. (Funny, because later I would also forget about the things I said “yes” to. Hello again, thirty-five pounds.)





This auto response also comes into play when it’s my own brain making the suggestions. In fact, my brain comes up with more delicious ideas than the people in my life do. At 11:30 PM, I’ll remember that there’s some ice cream in the freezer. Or at noon on Sunday, I’ll remember that I’m an adult and perhaps this adult would like to make a huge stack of chocolate-chip pancakes from scratch with strawberries and whipped cream? Bad brain! No!


I need to learn how to control those internal auto-responses too, to grow the part of me that can acknowledge that while ice cream and pancakes are awesome and - good job brain, great suggestion - I don’t need them right now and that’s okay. When I’m not in the best or most health-conscious of places, I make an ice cream sandwich out of chocolate chip pancakes. In comparison, when I’m doing well, I let the thought slide away.





Sometimes I note how the healthy people I know make decisions about food, and most of them don’t have auto answers at all. If offered something, they actually consider it and make a decision, and move on with life. Maybe it turns out that it wasn’t the “right” decision, and they’ll decide that they shouldn’t have eaten that, or maybe they even regret turning it down, but most of the time it’s just the tiniest blip on their radar. Oh well, there will be cookies again.


So now that I’ve found myself on the wrong end of the scale again, I’m working to change my auto response to “no.” I think my true healthy relationship with food would involve considering offers like the people I’ve observed do. However, for now, when I’ve been at auto-yes for most of my life, I’m trying to swing to the other extreme. Then I can hope to find some balance in the middle, in the magical world of moderation. A cognitive place where I’ll allow myself a moment to decide what I want and what I need.


Its mode of transportation.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Reboot Week One: Weigh-In and Meal Plan

Sunday was the first day of my “weight-loss reboot,” as I like to call it. I’m feeling good about all of this - finally realizing what’s been holding me back (spoiler: me) and changing it up. Most of all, I’m just looking forward to making some progress. It will be good for my health, both mentally and physically.


I’m on day 3, and so far feeling good. J (my husband) and I are still consistently going to the gym, and I’m learning that I can lift/push/pull more than I think, and also that consistently challenging my body will yield the most results. We’re also trying to increase the days per week that we go, from three or four to six days a week.

Food-wise, I made a tentative meal plan for the week and went grocery shopping. I like the idea a meal plan as it solves the nightly question of what to have for dinner in a way that’s much less likely to lead to a dinner of frozen french fries, baby carrots, and a veggie burger that’s been in the freezer since Thanksgiving. I can also make at least one big dish and structure the week around it - quinoa with black beans, feta, red onion and bell peppers this week, pan fried mahi mahi next, then turkey burgers, etc. Who knows?




It helps that this stricter plan of having just 1000-1100 net calories per day (plus non-starchy vegetables) is only for the next eight weeks. When I’m tired of doing it, or it gets really hard, I’ll remind myself that even though I’ll probably never be able to stop spending a certain amount of time and effort on weight-loss and maintenance, these will hopefully be the only days where there's so little room for indulgences.


Over the next couple of months, there will be a few happy but food-challenging occasions, including a bridal shower and my firm's annual outing at a country club. I’m going to make a plan, think about what foods are worth enjoying and what foods are better to pass on, and do my best.


Here’s the Tentative Weekly Meal Plan, with Sunday-today showing what I actually had:



Sunday
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday -TBD
Breakfast
Coffee (sleep late)
Coffee, Greek Yogurt with honey
Coffee, Oatmeal with whole milk
Coffee and oatmeal
Coffee, Greek Yogurt
Coffee and oatmeal

Lunch
Oatmeal with peanut butter
Quinoa salad with feta, red onion, black beans, and bell peppers
Same as Monday
Vegetable soup with grilled cheese
Same as Monday

Same as Wednesday

Dinner
Garlic gnocchi with tomato sauce
Hot dogs on WW bread, pickles, carrots
Loaded baked potato
Veggie pizza
Loaded baked potato
Challah, roasted chicken, veggies
Snacks/ Prework

Chocolate milk, apple

Strawberries; toast with PB
Strawberries; string cheese

Strawberries, string cheese
Nectarines, string cheese
TBD


There may be more vegetables, we’ll see. My meal plan isn’t the most creative right now, but it’s foods I like and a plan I can follow.



While the good news is that I’m feeling confident for the next months (and years), there was a week or so gap between when I realized why I wasn’t losing weight, and finally starting this stricter plan. Unfortunately I got a little too much of the cursed “diet starts on Monday” mentality. I knew that I was still on my standard 1300/day plan, still working out, and there was no reason to go up in weight before I went down. But alas. I used the future diet as an excuse to have unnecessary indulgences and more than one “last hurrah” treat since I knew there wouldn’t be much room for treats, if any, on 1000 calories.





This brings me to the final weigh-in until August. J is going to log all the weight data, but I won't see it. As much as I would love to get to the 170's by the end of this, I don't want to get discouraged if the numbers don't follow.


Measurements 4/23/20144/30/20145/7/20145/14/20145/21/20145/28/20146/9/2014
Weight188.1188.3185.8187.2186.5187.8191.2
Pounds Fat79.581.578.379.178.578.682.7
Pounds Muscle 67.468.467.468.667.167.167.3


Not good at all. I hope some of that is bloat, but honestly I’m ignoring this number. It’s a “new” starting weight. Like I’ve said, feeling guilty about food and weight gain is utterly pointless (and is often an excuse for inaction). For the next 8 weeks, my focus will be on working out, eating well, and improving my eating habits.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Duh: Realizations and a New Plan

Based on my weight, body fat percentage and muscle percentage, I have made little progress over the last three months. We joined the gym in February and have been using it several times a week since, and I started tracking my food and limiting my calories in the beginning of March.

My body has definitely improved in those months: My waist and hips are a little trimmer, my arms and legs have more definition, and I feel that I’m stronger all around and have increased endurance. However, despite these minor physical changes, I’m basically still where I started three months ago.


I’ve been upset, and still hate seeing my rounded face in photos. I’ve tried not to think about how I had expected to lose twenty pounds by now, but instead I’m still wearing a 14 and size Large in most things and nobody who doesn’t know I’m trying to get into shape has seemed to notice any changes. So what gives?

Let me back up a moment.

My weight loss approach to each day has been simple: I can either have a “loss” day, in which I have a calorie deficit, a “maintenance” day, where I eat exactly the number of calories I would need to maintain my weight, which is about 1800 calories, or a “gain” day, where I go above the maintenance level. Every day I start over. It’s nice to know that I have the possibility of losing weight each day, even if it’s only a fraction of a pound. Each day’s weight losses or gains are negligible; but combined, they’re what adds up to fifty pounds gained or lost in a year.

Over these months, I’ve been aiming for a net of 1250-1300 calories, with Saturday and sometimes Friday at a maintenance  or lesser loss level, and 3-5 gym sessions per week. I’ve been pushing myself at the gym, and tracking perhaps five or six out of seven days, carefully weighing and measuring all my food and tracking it all in MyFitnessPal (leahb423, if you’re also on).

Most of these weeks have ended with me getting increasingly annoyed as the scale didn’t move. While I was frustrated at the lack of progress I felt I’d earned, I recently realized the obvious: I just haven’t been doing the math.


According to various Internet sources, I burn about 1800 calories in an average, no exercise day. Thus if I want to lose a pound a week, I need to eat about 1300 calories per day, plus whatever extra I’ve burned off. Alternatively, I could eat more on some days and less on others as long as the total weekly deficit adds up to 3,500 calories.

I think my stagnation boils down to a few simple things:
1) I let myself indulge, have a “maintenance” day on weekends where sometimes I didn’t even track anything
2) being satisfied with only a 200-350 calorie deficit for the other days
3) Two or three crappy, PMS-ing, bored, overeating days every month or so

Those things combined don’t steady weight loss make. If it takes a 3,500 calorie deficit to lose one pound in a week, and I only have a 1000-1750 calorie deficit from Sunday-Thursday, and then I allow myself a zero deficit day or a “lesser” deficit day - well, that’s maybe a pound or two a month. Combine that with sporadic splurging weeks where I end up with no deficit or, in the case of Passover, where I go over my calories, then there is not really any point where there is steady weight loss. Even with regular exercise.


This seems obvious as I write it, but somehow it didn’t hit me that the only way I could lose a pound a week on this plan would be to get that full 500-calorie deficit every day during the week.

Out of the many weight-loss mantras that I heard sprouted around the Internet and in Weight Watchers, one that stuck in my head was this: If you put in 80% of the work, you’ll get 80% of the results. With weight loss, just one or two hundred calories each day can be the difference between losing twenty pounds over a year, or gaining twenty. So maybe for weight loss, putting in 80% of the work can actually yield zero results. I got to the gym, I track most of the time, I weigh, I measure - that’s the 80%. But then I don’t track on one or two days, or I go a little over. That 20% is killing me.



To illustrate my point, I went back over a recent four-week period to see exactly what I’d been doing. Note this was a time when I was tracking almost everything, including the milk in my morning coffee, and working out, and felt I should have been losing weight - but wasn’t.


Four Week Period from April 28-May 25
  • Week of Apr. 28-May 4
    • 3 workouts
    • Tracked 5 calorie deficit days, did not track two days
    • Deficits ranged from 300-500
  • Week of May 5-11
    • 3 workouts
    • Tracked 6 days, with an average of 400 over optimal weight loss caloric intake - some 200 over, one 600 calories over  
  • Week of May 12-18 
    • 5 workouts
    • Tracked 5 days tracking, over from 50-300 on each day, 2 non tracking over days
  • Week of May 19-25 
    • 6 workouts 
    • Tracked 5 days, over 100-200 for all days, with one day at over 500 above “losing” level

Ouch. Out of those 28 days, I didn’t track a full 25% of them, and went over the 1300 calorie limit on most of the days I did track. No wonder I’m not losing weight!


I’m tiring of being frustrated, and done doing this half-assed.

The new plan: 

I will aim to eat 1000-1100 net calories per day, and to exercise 5-6 days a week. On days I work out, I will eat back as many of those calories as I want or need.

This is the plan for the next eight weeks, starting on Sunday and ending on August 3rd. After those 56 days, I will see how I’m doing, see how I feel, and possibly up my daily calories. I probably don’t want to eat just 1000-1100 calories for the rest of the my weight loss journey, but for this little slice in time, where I’ve been pathetically, whine-nily treading for months, I need to start.

As a side note, J suggested that he track my weight for this time so I’m not focused on whether or not I’m losing enough. I decided that would be a good idea, so I will either wait the whole eight weeks or more likely, make him tell me after a month. Sometimes I can’t believe that my husband knows what I weigh, and that it’s now more than he does (shame), and he doesn’t seem to care, but this is just reason #423 why he’s a great husband.


Anyway. Join me as I finally kick this weight loss in the ass. Week 1 starts on Sunday.

It's stuck in your head now too.

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am doing what works for me. I am barely over five feet tall, and I personally don’t go by the assumption that 1200 net calories is a magical, universal number under which all women of all heights and builds will have their bodies slip into starvation mode.