Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eat the Damn Donut

There are plenty of food-based activities at my company. We use it to welcome people, to say goodbye, to celebrate Friday, to mourn Monday, to discuss important celebrity issues over lunch, or just because. Employees occasionally leave treats in the kitchen for people to share, and the firm sporadically buys bagels and lox for all. These events are a good way to bond and get to know people outside of the office setting in which I usually see them. However, inevitably, there is always, always, at least one comment like these when it comes to the actual eating:

While taking a bagel: Haha, I should not be eating these, but they look so good!
While enjoying some fries: This is why I have salad for lunch!
Eating a cookie: I think this is okay, I had such a great workout this morning, right?
On taking a second cookie: Ugh, why am I doing this! This is like my second cookie, someone take them away! I’m getting fat!
On appearing dazed and with blood on their clothing: So I was just… at the library.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore my co-workers and I’m lucky to work with such great people. This is a larger criticism of our reflexive belief that we need to either justify or condemn ourselves for any bit of unhealthy food. This isn’t limited to my co-workers, but to everyone who thinks they need to explain the donut in their hand. I’ve heard customers justify their coffee or pastry orders to Starbucks cashiers, who truly do not give a shit. Skinny, slim, average, and overweight alike, most of us have done it.

I used to be much more sensitive about what I was eating in public. Perhaps struggling with my weight made it worse. Getting some French fries? I hoped they didn’t think I was just another fatty gorging on fries. Ordering a salad with grilled chicken, dressing on the side? I hoped they didn’t think I was just another fatty on a diet that would never work. Check a fake text at Potbelly’s when buying a sandwich AND a cookie to make sure that I’m getting the correct type of cookie for my “friend”? Been there.

Then I finally realized that if someone is judging me for what I'm eating, then quite simply, they are the ones with the problem. And if I am judging someone for what they're eating, then I have a problem. Unless they stole my lunch from the fridge, the food choices made by a fellow adult are none of my damn business. So when people laugh about how they can’t believe how many pieces they’ve eaten of the fancy French chocolate that someone bought while in Europe, and how they need to stop, I just shut up. Even if they probably shouldn’t be eating that third donut, it’s between them and the donut.

I think part of why we assume others are judging our food choices - hence the need to justify or condemn them - is because we’re doing it to ourselves first. It ties into the larger problem that so many of us have, which is feeling guilty about our food choices. I’ve ranted about this before, about how feeling guilty over something I ate is just an utter waste of time, serves no purpose, and is often used as an excuse for inaction or to continue eating. It’s not going to change anything and I didn’t actually hurt anybody, so I need to move on and forgive myself for my mistakes.


That’s part of why I started a blog. How many people want to hear my debates over 1300 net calories vs. 1100 net calories, or about how I’m deciding whether or not to count vegetables in my daily totals? I write here so that anybody who is interested can read, and anybody who’s not isn’t forced to listen to me describe the controlled experiments I conduct on my heart rate monitor. Similarly, nobody wants to hear about why their co-worker is or is not eating something.

We feel like we need to justify all these things, forgetting that nobody cares that much, and it’s none of their business anyway.

Leah's Proposed Alternative Eating Commentary:

- "This is/that looks delicious.”
- "In my studies on the planet Thorcrondeux 92, I learned that humans get energy by putting particular substances into their unattractive face gaps and I feel that I am fitting right in. Shall we talk about the lack of water falling from the sky, or the current temperature?"

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Week Seven, Almost There: Women's Magazines and Scales

Open any women’s magazine, point to a page at random, and chances are the contents will be about weight loss. (Actually it will be an ad. For a weight loss product. Or mascara.) But if the page talks about weight loss, then somewhere amongst the five ways you can lose two inches in two weeks, the author will mention how scales are not accurate measurements of weight loss progress for the short term. They get too confused over silly things like bloating and can’t tell when I haven’t, in fact, gained half a pound, because I’ve been so good so something else must be going on.

Even though it should go both ways, I (like most people) don’t question the number on the scale when it’s lower than it was the week before. I don’t think, Oh, that’s not a real loss, I’m a bit dehydrated at the moment. Hell no - I do a mockery football-touchdown dance and gleefully mark it in whatever place I’m using to track everything. But if the number isn’t what I like, I quickly think over any possible reason that could explain how I could have actually lost weight and the scale just isn’t reflecting it. Sometimes it’s true - even my fancy body fat scale can change its own numbers if I weigh myself in different parts of the room - sometimes I just ate too much, and need to accept that the number might be accurate.

This is one of the reasons tracking calories can be so helpful. A couple of months ago, it helped me realize that bloat wasn't the culprit in my stagnating weight, just conveniently forgotten bad days. Hence my “reboot” plan to be more aware of calories. Currently, I am on the last week of my Eight Week Reboot plan and my average calorie intake is still on the "one pound loss per week train," of which I’m proud. I'd like it to be a little higher, but one pound a week adds up.

To more pounds.

According to the numbers - assuming I burn 1850 on an average day - I “should” see an eight pound loss when I step on the scale next week. That would bring me to 183 or so. Whatever the scale says, I know I’ve shed nearly eight pound from my body, and I have the data to prove this. So while I really want to see that number and then get the hell out of the 180s forever, I need to be okay with that not happening.

The last week of this plan will have some challenges. J and I will be heading north with the rest of my family for the wedding of a close family friend, and I’ll be taking off work this Friday to drive up to Connecticut. I’m so excited for the wedding, but will need to remind myself I don’t need to eat everything in order to properly celebrate. And just because I’m not at home in a familiar setting doesn’t mean I’m missing out if I say no. J will be there with me, that will help a lot, and I’ll do my best.


I have no official meal plan for this week since we’re heading out on Thursday and I’m making dinners based on what I find in the fridge. However, I did accomplish my main food-related Sunday goal, which is to make one dish that can serve as lunch for at least four days during the week. This week is vegetable lo mein - made with lo mein noodles, purple cabbage, onions, sesame oil, soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. It’s not ideal protein-wise but I have some dairy on the side. Making one dish to serve for multiple lunches is cheaper and removes the decision of what to eat or how to estimate it during lunchtime.

As I’ve said, this is the last “official” week of my plan, but I’m going to keep going with this method of 1000-1100 calories per day, and then perhaps start increasing the calories over time. having a lower goal actually helps me end up in a good deficit place because there’s such a good cushion. Cheap psychological trick, but effective. I’ve felt great, eaten well and haven’t been hungry, so I’ll continue on this way.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Six Weeks Done: Re-Losing and Average Calories

One of the things I struggle with is that I’m re-losing weight I gained over the last year or so. I’ve talked about this - how I lost fifty pounds and walked and felt like a badass with my bicep lines and singular chin. Then I got cocky, or lazy, or something, and found my way back to 190. Now I’m trying again. Old news.

The funny thing is that it’s not necessarily about feeling guilty or punishing myself for gaining back the weight (though that’s there too), it’s about being annoyed and impatient knowing that I already crossed this bridge. I did this part already, so when will I be done catching up and start making “real” progress?

I know rationally I need to just stop focusing on it and be glad I took control now, instead of after another fifty pounds. And that it was me eating those extra calories and gaining back that weight. Nobody else. Would I rather be relosing down from 190, or be dieting from at even higher weight? Besides, any progress is real progress, regardless of how many times I’ve made that same progress in the past.

I also need to apply this same reasoning to my lack of progress at the beginning of this year. I was all gung-ho tracking/working out, and then getting more and more frustrated at my lack of weight loss, only to realize that - whoops - I was actually eating way more calories per day on average than I realized. In some ways, I wasted March-May being annoyed and impatient instead of actually looking at what I was eating.

That brings me to the last six weeks, the “Reboot” edition of my plan. I started out at 191 with a plan to commit to tracking everything I ate and to work out at least four times a week. The results?  I’ve tracked my food and exercise every single day for the last six weeks - even the three or four crappy days I wish hadn’t happened and wanted to forget. (And good news, those crappy days weren’t as crappy as the crappy days of the past.)

I tried really hard to listen to my body, to decide if I wanted a snack at 3:30 because I was actually hungry, or just kind of bored. In short, I felt good and focused.

So my average calorie intake for the last six weeks is...drumroll...1330. A bit higher than I was originally aiming for, but still enough to lose at least a pound a week. Plus it’s a full 500 calories lower than the average from earlier this year. I’m in such a rush to just make some progress because of how uncomfortable I am in my body right now, but 1330 calorie days add up to 4.5 pounds lost per month. It will happen, this is real progress.

And with zero segway, this is my meal plan for this week, week 7:

Coffee, yogurt
Coffee, yogurt
Coffee, oatmeal
Coffee, yogurt

Tilapia, pesto, linguine
Potluck Luncheon - TBD
Tilapia, pesto, linguine
Tilapia, pesto, linguine
Bubble Up Enchilada Casserole

Chicken soup, hot dog
Corn tortillas, beans, cheese, salsa
Taco salad
Chicken, potatoes, brussel sprouts

Fruit, string cheese
Fruit, string cheese
Fruit, string cheese
Fruit, string cheese
Fruit, string cheese

On Sunday I took a giant bunch of basil and made nut-free pesto. Nutless because that’s the recipe I found, and also because I decided that they’re not worth the calories in this particular dish. I’d much rather focus on the basil, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan. It came out a bit creamier without the nuts, but delicious. Also hella-caloric.

In two weeks, I’ll take my final weigh-in and some new measurements. I love the idea of having a solid six weeks of food, exercise and weight data to use. I can explore fascinating/naval-grazing questions such as: how did the average calories/day relate to the weight loss? Was there a pattern of gains and losses? What weeks had the most weight loss, or the least, and how did it compare to the calorie deficit?

In that time, I’ll also figure out the next stage of the plan in terms of daily calorie allotment and how often I should be weighing in. If I can get my head straight and not be affected by normal fluctuations, I’d like to track daily for a while.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Week 5 Done, and Week 6 Plan: The Gods of Smug

This was a great weekend. We did ALL the laundry, and I mean that quite literally. I realized, after someone told me, that there are actually three steps to dishes and laundry: Wash, dry, put away, dammit.  If the clean laundry lives in a hamper for a week or two, and it only moved when I rummage through it to find specific things, and then eventually gets washed again because we can’t remember if it was clean or dirty, then it was not done. So I’m disproportionately proud to say that the laundry is DONE. This has nothing to do with weight loss, I'm just that proud.

Food-wise, this past week (week 5) averaged out to good, though not as good as it could have been. The weekdays were great and I ate and felt good and went to the gym. But I let myself go a little too much on the weekend. Ironically, the main culprit was cookie dough that I ate in my apartment. I who, of course, just wrote about how locations can make it easier or harder to resist junk food I don’t need, and how I was eating too much cookie dough at a friend’s house and thinking how I probably wouldn’t be eating like this in my own house. 

The gods of smug or philosophy or something reminded me that the food itself matters too, and there I was, Friday afternoon, baking delicious chocolate fudge zebra cookies for a potluck, and snacking on the dough. Some of that I’ll happily blame on PMS and the aforementioned gods, the rest is all me. Between that, the potluck, and cheerios eaten with granola and milk, Friday and Saturday were maintenance-type days instead of loss ones. The good news is that I tracked it all and my average daily caloric intake for the week (Sunday to Saturday) was 1450 - still a damn good number.

Last week, we left my in-law's and arrived in New York late Sunday night and I didn’t even bother trying to put together a meal plan for that week. It was harder and I got lazy. I can make dinner for J and myself no problem, but I’m unmotivated to plan, prepare, or make work lunches. So I end up buying lunch, either a giant salad, soup and half sandwich, or a slice of pizza. It fits into the meal plan, but it’s expensive and repetitive.

$3.50 for a yogurt?

This week I was ready to actually make lunch and save some money, so yesterday I made a bunch of stuffed peppers with turkey, kidney beans, and rice. Easy and a one-dish meal. There are so many other things I want to make over the coming weeks, especially with how cheap some things are in the summer. I’m also planning pesto with sole, frittatas, and maybe see how far I can get before ruining a souffle.

Here’s the tentative Week Six menu, though Sunday is already gone.

SundayMondayTuesdayWednesday ThursdayFridaySaturday
Breakfast CoffeeCoffee, yogurtCoffee, yogurtCoffee, oatmealCoffee, oatmealCoffee, yogurtCoffee
LunchPizza on easy homemade crustStuffed peppers: turkey & rice Veggie burgerStuffed peppers: turkey & rice Stuffed peppers: turkey & rice Stuffed peppers: turkey & rice TBD
DinnerLoaded baked potatoBurrito or taco saladTBDPizza, broccoliTBDChicken, potatoes, Brussels sprouts
SnacksCereal, cherries, turkeyCherriesStrawberries, cheeseStrawberries, cheese

Dinners are mostly left blank because I usually make whatever I'm in the mood for. Rest assured, I eat healthy and blog-worthy dinners such as hot dogs and baked potatoes. I’m aiming to cook vegetables more often.

Just a couple more weeks until I can officially look at the numbers. I’m hoping to be out of the 180s when August 5th arrives, but we’ll see. Generally, my first big along-the-way-goal is 170 - that’s when my face looked "normal," and many of my now too-tight clothing items are from that weight. One-seventy is also only about thirty or forty pounds above my goal weight, which somehow manages to feel infinitely closer than the current (at last look) fifty or sixty I have left to go.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Office Cake vs. Home Cake

Alright, moving on. Fine, those were a couple of harder weeks. While I did much better than I would have normally, I still didn’t do as well as I wanted. This has been a new week, a normal week, and I’ve dived right back into our gym/food tracking routine. Maybe some habits are getting more ingrained. We’re now in week five, steadily plugging along.

But I did realize some interesting things as I was shoving cookie dough in my mouth this past Saturday night. There is another dimension, so to speak, about the default settings I’m trying so hard to change - where I am.

Part of the reason this past week or two was a bit more challenging in terms of food is that we spent over half of it out of the house - first at my parent’s place, then at my MIL’s in Michigan. All of the not-as-great days happened there. It goes without saying that whatever I ate was my choice and I cannot blame anyone else for the occasions I ate too much.

I’m still working on leaning towards saying no when food is offered. In terms of work treats, I’ve made great progress - no bagels at the office breakfast, no cake at the farewell parties (except for that chocolate cake), none of the treats that co-workers randomly bring in. And it really is true that nobody cares whether or not I eat it or why, so I’ve stopped feeling self-conscious.

Oh no, it's fine. Come on in!

As I was eating that cookie dough and vaguely thinking how perhaps I should stop, I realize I probably wouldn't be doing this at home. It’s the setting as much as the actual treat that influences how good I am at turning it down (or, alternatively, deciding that the treat is worth it and enjoying some).

I’ve been able to make progress with ignoring office treats partially because the office is part of my normal routine. Even if the treat itself is special or new, the fact that I’m in the office setting makes it fairly easy to turn it down because I’m used to turning down things in the office, used to passing by the kitchen without peeking at whatever delectable has been placed out. However, that same habit doesn’t really work in new settings, places out of my routine. Turning down cake at work? No problem, I don’t even like cake that much. Turning down cake sitting on the counter at my parent’s house? Gimme.

Somehow I’m still fighting that childhood mentality, which said that parties and basically anywhere that wasn’t my house necessitated some kind of FOMO free-for-all. Treats were a rare commodity in my house, saved for once a week. No cookie jars or ice cream in the freezer. Being a little girl with a lot of issues, I sought the food that thought I was being deprived of elsewhere, anywhere. 

While I’m really proud that I’ve still eaten at “weight loss” levels for almost every day, it’s still a little frustrating that I let a new setting get the best of me. But now I know that new places, even with the same foods, can make it just a little bit harder.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Week 4: Almost Halfway

Week three, which ended last Sunday, was the definition of “good, but not great.” I ate at my calorie deficit, just not the 1.5 lb/week one I was aiming. I exercised, but not as much as I’d like. It was a reasonably successful week but not as good as it should have been.

This week has been harder, the first “hard” week since I restarted. I am glad it’s almost over and look forward to getting back to normal, boring life on Monday. I can get food-challenged when (pretty normal) life stressors happen.With the exception of Wednesday, it hasn’t been that bad a week with food, it was more challenging and with lower than goal calorie deficits.

This week, J spent most of his time helping his dad with moving-type projects and we’re still not done. Altogether we spent a lot of time out of the house on various errands, and then stayed a few extra nights at my parent’s house because of all there was to do. While I could have packed lunches and cooked from there, I just… didn’t.

As for Wednesday, I ate some of the chocolate mousse cake at a farewell office party, plus a bit of picking at the leftovers that were in the kitchen. It was delicious, but not worth it. I also ended up eating Chinese food for dinner. Not close to a binge, but too much nonetheless and possibly into gain territory for the day. The cake did not lead to the chicken moo-shu in a guilty, who-cares-I-already-messed-up kind of way; it was more I’m-really-stressed-out eating with a side of sticky rice.

While I was eating, I was also thinking how I was most definitely using the food to comfort myself from the week and working so hard to stay positive because J was quite stressed. Yet my reaction to these thoughts was along the lines of “It’s working. I kind of feel better.” Maybe as long as this is a very rare occurrence and I really do follow my eating plan the rest of the time, it’s okay.

I know the most important thing is to not allow an imperfect day to make a crappy week. I’m almost halfway through this eight-week crunch time, four weeks from actually knowing my weight and if I lost body fat. It’s good to remember that even if I’m can’t always control where I am or what food is put in front of me, I do control whether I eat it. It’s obviously easier to eat food that someone put in front of me, and harder to resist, it’s still my choice. So far I’ve been really proud of my progress, I’m not going to stop now.

Last night we flew to Michigan to visit J’s mother and her husband. His mom had told us that they recently adopted a second cat, but I didn’t realize until we arrived that it’s a tiny, pure black, mewing little kitten, who currently spends most of her time on my father-in-law’s shoulder.

She fits inside a shoe.

Adorable kittens aside, J’s mom is throwing an Independence Day party today and I’m about to go help her set up. She invited a ton of people and bought 3 tons of food, but (at least right now) I’m feeling confident that I can be in control and not let “it’s just sitting there” wear me down.

Happy July 4th to all! It's July 4th everywhere.