Tuesday, September 30, 2014

I Didn't Reach My Goal; Thoughts on Normal Weight People

Weight loss and eating well were on my mind a lot over the holiday in Michigan, and I couldn’t tell if I was over-thinking everything or not. Staying mindful when there is so much food around all the time while balancing occasional indulgences feels like it requires continuous effort, but it can go too far and become the focus of the day.

This morning I weighed in at 181 even, which is just half a pound off from last week. I’ll wait until tomorrow to have an official weigh-in. However, whether or not I focused too much on what to eat, I think the overall results are good. Maybe it’s possible that I really balanced the days, picking and choosing what I really wanted with what I just wanted because it was in front of me. That’s good, since there are two more of these no-gym-no-tracking-food four-day periods.

I also got to see real balance in action. My sister-in-law, who is slim and has a completely normal relationship with food, didn’t eat dinner one night. We had ended a big lunch really late in the afternoon, and she wasn’t hungry. She sat at the table chatting contently with us, and simply didn’t have dinner. I doubt she’s given it another moment’s thought since.

I would love to have that mindset, to be able to listen to my body over what’s being offered or when the next meal is “due.” Luckily, she’s going to be staying with us again next week, for the last holiday period. I really like seeing her in general, but now I think there might be an added bonus: being reminded of how a person with a healthy relationship with food deals with indulgent holidays. Not that skipping meals is (or should be) a frequent part of a balancing act, but more the idea of eating when hungry - no more, no less. Sure, J handles indulgent holidays well, but he also needs about 400 calories more a day than I do to maintain, so he’s not the best person to emulate.

Why he's no longer welcome at the rare books store.

However, I’m getting more and more frustrated that, inexplicably, I still haven’t hit the 170s. Who knows what tomorrow will “officially” bring, but either way, I didn’t hit the 170s in September, a goal I thought was too easy when I set it at the end of August. Despite my success, despite knowing I’m making progress, I’m still letting that stupid number get to me. Maybe I should put the scale away again for awhile.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In: Ten Pounds Down

I kind of want to make a list all of the things I didn’t eat this week - the apple cider donuts brought in by a coworker, the candy in the office bowl, the muffins, bagels, and croissants from today’s “welcome to the firm” breakfast for a new lawyer, even more meeting food, the office candy - because I’m proud. It was in part due to my low/no sugar goal, and partially because I’m feeling motivated. My new rule made it much easier to say no because it took the choice out of the matter. Somehow I forgot about habits and default settings, those automatic answers we have to offers of food and only-available-for-the-next-twenty-minutes cat scratchers.

Last week’s weigh in below.

Pounds Fat82.774.570.472.571.87371.772.1
Pounds Muscle 67.368.266.466.867.367.267.564.4

I’m happy to be down, especially since that makes an official ten pound lost, and twenty from my highest weight! However, still annoyed because I “should” really be into the 170s by now. I’ve tracked every day, and I’ve added up all those calorie deficits. But the 170’s continue to act as a bitchy PR girl at at opening, refusing to let me in. At the end of August, when I said my new goal was get into the 170’s in September, I thought I would knock that out within a week and work on the next goal. But nope. By my estimates, if my BMR is 1850, I should be down 14 pounds, to 177. But after I whine, I keep going, because nobody said weight loss is supposed to be linear.

Still hitting up the gym 4-5 times a week. I've skipped Zumba the past couple of weeks since my buddy is out of town, but we've still had a regular Sunday workout. I am definitely stronger than I used to be - yesterday I did 15 repetitions at 45 pounds of the overhead press. Two months ago, I could barely push out ten repetitions at 25 pounds! The tops of my arms are definitely firmer.

Looking ahead, there will be a couple of challenging occasions. Tomorrow we’re off to Michigan to visit my in-laws. It’s the Jewish New Year, which means that we celebrate and eat a lot. J’s two siblings will also be there, which is wonderful. It also means no MyFitnessPal tracking, no weighing food, and no gym.

I’m going to focus on the next decade - the elusive, bitchy 170s nightclub - that I’ve been trying to get into for what feels like forever. This holiday can get me further to my goals, or take me further from them. My current plan is to choose one unhealthy thing at each meal - at the main part and dessert - that looks especially wonderful, enjoy it, and choose healthy options for the rest of the time. I’ll limit snacks to fruit. Since I don’t snack now, I’ll know that if I’m feeling snacky in Michigan, it’s probably something other than hunger. And I’ll remember that as amazing as food is in general, nothing I am offered, no matter how delicious, will be the last time I am able to eat that item.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Pants Progress and Low Sugar Breakfasts

I’m finally feeling out of my rut, actually motivated instead of just going through the motions. Proud that I kept slugging along, even when it was the last thing I wanted to do. Perhaps the new challenge of cutting out (most) sugar has helped, or maybe motivation really is like a wave, and if you can ride out the low points and keep going, you’ll get to a high point again.

Today, I had a great, wonderful moment. It had to do with pants. Over the last six months, I’ve only been able to wear one pair of pants to work; the other days I wear skirts or dresses. My other pairs of pants either don’t button, or look obscenely tight. Even the pair I actually wear to work doesn’t fit quite right, and they’re definitely not flattering. Today one of the old pairs fit me! Actually fit, not just “can technically button” fit. It’s one of the first concrete proofs of weight loss that I’ve had, scale be damned. At work, I may have looked like I was wearing regular black slacks, but they were victory pants today.

It inspired me to finally take new progress photos, and created a page for them next to the "About Me." I aim to update it once a month.

In other news, the no-sugar challenge has been going well, and having this idea in my head that I’m doing this has made it much easier to bypass the candy at work. Today there was a huge platter of pastries next to my desk, and I didn’t have any. This is a huge accomplishment for me, since even during great weight loss weeks, I still usually “spend” 100-200 calories on little bites from these.

However, you know what has a lot of sugar? My breakfasts, it seems. When I decided to omit sugar from my diet (with the exception of morning coffee), I was focusing on work treats and extraneous evening snacks more than breakfasts. However, since I’m trying to cut sugar during the day, I figured I may as well make some effort to have less sugary breakfasts.

I’m not creative with breakfasts: virtually every morning, I either have a package of Quaker Instant Oatmeal, microwaved with milk, or a flavored Greek yogurt. My oatmeal gets 25% of its 160 calories from sugar, and my yogurt of choice brags a full 30 grams per serving - so about 20% as well.

On Sunday, I made homemade oatmeal. It still has some sugar, but about one-third less than the packaged kind. I’ve been eating that for the last couple of days. Other days I’ll try Cheerios and milk, frozen waffles with peanut butter, or rice cakes with peanut butter and no-sugar-added jelly. They’re convenient, low sugar, and will get me to lunch, and I’m definitely open to other suggestions. However, I’m less inclined to have eggs since they have such a strong smell, and I prefer to torture my coworkers in other office-fun ways anyway.

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Saturday, September 13, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In and Cutting Out Sugar

I can’t believe it’s Saturday; this week has definitely flown by. Partially motivated by my sister-in-law’s visit and wanting to actually feed her, I made dinners during this past week and had leftovers every day. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday were all the same leftovers for lunch - One-Pot Chicken Lo Mein. Easy and delicious. Thankfully, she doesn’t care about junk food, so she didn’t mind that we didn’t have any.

This week’s weigh-in, from Wednesday.

June 8thAugust 4thAugust 12thAugust 19thAugust 26thSeptember 3rdSeptember 10th
Pounds of Fat82.774.570.472.571.87371.7
Pounds of Muscle 67.368.266.466.867.367.267.5

I was somewhat surprised and disappointed at this, since my tracking indicates I should be in the 170s already, but it is what it is.

Not at all mad.

Right now, I’m twenty pounds below my highest weight, but I don’t feel much different. Last time - on the way up and the way down - the difference between 170 pounds and 180 pounds was somehow much more noticeable than the first twenty pound loss, which took me from the original 200 down to 180. At 170 pounds, I could wear my fall/winter sweaters comfortably, my face didn’t look bloated, and my dimples were visible.

I am really impatient to get to that point, and even though I’m making progress, I feel like little things along the way have been slowing me down. Those little treats have been making the difference between a three-pound loss every month and a six-pound one: the candies at work, and most frustratingly, a few licks of batter from what I bake each week for our friends.

The last time I felt like this, like I was doing the weight loss 80%, was back in June. Then at 190 pounds, my little extra treats ended up causing my weight to stay the same week after week. Frustrated and realizing that I was doing enough of the work to feel like I was making an effort, but not enough to actually get results, I plunged in, lowered my daily calorie goal, and lost an average of a pound a week for ten or so weeks. Now I feel like I’m stagnating again, letting little treats add up. This time, it’s slowing the weight loss, not preventing it, but still frustrating.

I want to fix that. As an experiment, I’m going to cut out most of the sugar from my diet. I will still have eight grams of sugar in my coffee each morning, and one treat on Sundays with J, but that will be it. I don’t have any interest in cutting food groups out of my life because it’s not realistic, at least for me.

Butter and I hang like, all the time. 

This is similar to when I went on a whole schpiel about default settings - those automatic answers and reactions that we all have for certain questions or situations. My default answer to an offer of food - especially office treats - has been too much “yes” lately. Sure, I track it, but it still affects my day and possibly the changes I'll say "yes" to other temptations.

It’s time to get back. I’ll take this one week at a time. Assuming we go to the gym and I have the calories to spare, I’ll enjoy a 150-400 calorie treat tomorrow. And then it will just be “No, thanks” for the rest of the week. Maybe next week I’ll keep going, maybe I won’t. But that mentality of “I can stop doing this anytime I want” will help me to not feel like I’m being deprived or punished, and that’s not what this is. In fact, it’s the opposite: I’m trying to take the control from the food, and return it to where it belongs.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In: The Free Lunch

I did not leave off on a great note, but things are better. The good part is that even though the last couple of weeks have been somewhat challenging, I haven’t thrown in the towel. I was able to splurge within my limits, and balance out a few really caloric days with even more lower calorie ones. Right now it’s not about vanity - it’s about health and, to a lesser degree, practicality. My current body fat percentage lies around 38% - that’s really unhealthy, and I’m pretty sure that most of my winter clothes are snug.  

Anyway, here is last week’s weigh-in:

June 8thAugust 4thAugust 12thAugust 19thAugust 26thSeptember 3rd
Pounds Fat82.774.570.472.571.873
Pounds Muscle 67.368.266.466.867.367.2

Annoying, but I am hoping that some of this is bloat. Meanwhile, according to my calorie counting, I have had a calorie deficit of twelve pounds over the last three months. That means I “should” be in the 170s, so I’m counting that as a win. The rest of this week has been much better. I’ve had couple of “why did I eat that/that wasn’t worth it,” but I’m still at a good calorie deficit for the week, and I know feeling guilty won’t help anything anyways. I’ve had to remind myself of that a few times - that punishing myself will really just make me feel worse and more likely to overindulge.

I’ve been thinking about these past couple of weeks, trying to figure out what’s been so challenging about it. Besides the stress, I think a small part it is that I’ve been really bad about making and bringing my lunch. Usually, my motivation is more about the financial aspect than the calorie one. After all, I’m working in an area where there are ten different healthy options on my block alone. So even though I know it’s not the best idea in terms of money, I’m able to justify buying lunches that fit into my weight loss goals.

However, I overlooked the importance of choices and willpower. Every day at lunch, even if I ended up at the healthy place eating the calorie-friendly, superfood-by-day-ninja-by-night food, even if the choice was easy, I still had to figure it out. There is research that suggests we have a limited amount of willpower and decision making abilities - so the tiny decisions we make all day, every day really do take away from some internal strength (NY Times article linked). Everyone is different, but we all have that point where we just can’t decide anymore.

My weight loss success depends on controlling what I can and doing my best with the rest. The more I can reasonably control, the less willpower or decisions will be required to eat well. That means that I need to start packing lunch. It doesn’t matter that I have lots of healthy options available because deciding what to have for lunch is still a decision. Even if I end up with the salad, I’m still looking at the brownies and deciding not to get one. Why not avoid all that? It’s the same reason I realized that I can’t handle having ice cream in our home. If it’s there, I will think about it, and I will want to eat it. And if it's not there, I'm probably not going to go out and get it.

Bottom line: I need to figure out a way to bring lunch. It means some preparation, but the reward is that I don’t need to worry about food during the workday. Tonight for dinner I made tilapia, rice, and some roasted onions and asparagus, and will bring leftovers for lunch. Tomorrow or this week, I’m going to make a list of a few no-prep, reasonable lunches for which I can always have the ingredients.

Monday, September 1, 2014

When Motivation Fades

I'm glad August is over. Some happy-but-food-challenging events happened this week, like the birthday of a good friend who has been away for the summer, whose celebration involved three giant pizzas for ten people. Then there were some stressful things, like someone close to me going through some crappy stuff, and storing 20 boxes of our friend’s random crap in our tiny apartment. Apologies for the vague-blogging, I’m mostly just trying to get across that this week was hard, and I let worrying about food and calories fall to the bottom of the list. I was trying to track, went to the gym a few times, but couldn’t get myself to feel motivated.

I did end up tracking everything as best I could, and it seems I came out about even, and maybe even a thousand calories or so under. So maybe I’m actually getting better at this, at least a little? That a crappy week which followed an indulgent weekend, where I’m trying to track but all I really want is a vanilla twist on a cone with rainbow sprinkles, doesn’t have to set me back totally? (Chocolate sprinkles are for people who hate joy.) Perhaps I’m getting better at having a crappy week?

Right now, even for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been trying to push through, trying to keep going, waiting and hoping for some of that motivation to come back better. You know the cliches about how “The days when it’s most important to exercise are usually the days you most need it” or "if you wait for your perfect conditions to start, you never will"? They feel true. It’s not about what I did in June and July, when I had a whole “eight week reboot”, all energetic, tracking, motivated, feeling excited for the start of something.

But I joined in February!

Rather, it’s what I do now, when the newness (of another restart) has faded, when the weight loss slows, when life happens - that’s what matters. When I lost those fifty pounds, I certainly wasn’t feeling all go-getter and motivated during the entire process, because that’s impossible. But I still tried and still did it, even when I wanted to do anything else but. I kept trying, and all those little days added up (or rather, down) to a weight loss of fifty pounds.

Yesterday, I was trying to get right back into it.  I went to Zumba with my new workout friend and we walked to and from the gym. I still dance like a drunken zebra and can’t figure out how some of these people manage to move their feet, hips, and arms in different but synchronized ways, but it’s fun and burns 500 calories a class. It was a good day; we did some apartment organization and I made us gnocchi with marinara, and roasted asparagus, for dinner.

Today, we went to my parent’s house to celebrate Labor Day and my grandmother’s birthday. I made a chocolate cake for the occasion. I managed to have a good lunch and not eat 2/5 of the frosting. I wouldn’t call my food at dinner a success, but it wasn’t a total fail either. I’m still plugging along, trying to at least eat mindfully and decide if something is worth it.

Moving on - Despite the fact that the last couple of weeks weren’t too bad, I did not make my goal of getting into the 170’s by September. That kind of sucks, since it was well within my reach and I just want to get out of the 180s already. Thus I have an obvious goal for September. Begone 180s, and your little dog too! Beyond that, 175 is my next small goal, mostly because it’s a round number and solidly in the 170s.

This month is going to be hard. There are some Jewish holidays, one of which will involve a long weekend in Michigan, away from habits and routines. Work is going to start getting busy again, as all the attorneys come back from their summer vacations and realize how much shit they need to get done. But I’m going to remember that cliche that is so right, that my weight loss will not be accomplished on those few days when everything is right and I feel great, but rather on the normal, mundane days, where I try to eat right, to shape my habits and reshape my relationship with food.

Minor motivation: I got to see a friend of mine who just had a baby and meet her teeny, beautiful, week-old son. We took a photo together and I looked more like I had given birth a week ago than she did. I still forget that I weigh 180-185 pounds, despite seeing it on the scale.