Thursday, October 30, 2014

Weigh-In, New Challenges and Changes

Good evening! 

First, here’s the weekly weigh-in:

Pounds Fat82.772.57370.370.871.370.8
Pounds Muscle 67.366.867.265.26765.467.3

Essentially the same number as the previous three weeks - a bit annoying since this was the first week “back” after all the Jewish holidays, and I was hoping to lose a bit.  Overall I’m considering October a maintenance month - not ideal, but pretty good considering the challenges.

Speaking of challenges, while I’m not a huge fan of the aforementioned weight-loss related ones that life craps out, I do like making little challenges or goals for myself. In fact, I’m so committed that I’ve been trying to break into the 170s since August.

Challenges keep me accountable, keep me focused, and make things interesting. When I did the low/no sugar month, I stopped eating office food, something that had definitely been stalling my weight or at the very least, slowing it. 

I was able to do it for the month because I knew it was temporary, and then I was able to keep it going after the time ended because I realized it was a good idea, and not as impossible as I’d assumed it would be. Just today our boss brought in delicious apple fritters for everyone and put them on my desk since that was the central location at the moment, and I didn’t eat any. And it was fine, and nobody cared. So I’m going to consider October not as the month I maintained, but rather the month in which I broke a bad habit.

New challenge: starting today and through November, I want to try and stop picking at food in other setting - that piece of pasta out of the strainer, that bite of leftovers, you know what I mean. I track it, but it’s really mindless, pointless calories that I barely remember and definitely are not satisfying. Maybe there are food issues at hand, but part of the reason I do this is plain old habit. And habits can be broken.

If I can work on issues one at a time, I think I could make real long-term progress.

I’m also going to change up how I count calories so that it works better for my style and can help incorporate those “picking at food” slip-ups into the week instead of wrecking the day. 

Since March, when I started diligently tracking my food, I’ve had a daily calorie goal. It’s on the lower end of the expected range, but I ended up averaging a bit higher because of occasional high-calorie days. Sunday through Thursday, I can usually hit that target number without too much effort. I slip up some days, of course, and go over my calorie goals, but for the most part these days have routines and I often “earn” more calories by working out.

However, I didn't give myself any flexibility. This Sunday I burned 700 calories from Zumba and walking to/from the gym, and felt like I had more calories available than I really needed or wanted. And then on Tuesday, I was weirdly hungry, even after my normal breakfast. So why not take the calories I don’t need from Sunday, within reason, and save them for the rest of the week? Why not count calories weekly instead of daily? I think as long as I’m eating a healthy amount each day and have an weekly average deficit of, say, 4000-4500 calories, the daily breakdowns don’t matter as much and my weight will go down.

I’m going to copy part of the Weight Watchers plan, specifically the idea of having both daily and weekly calorie goals. Weight Watchers managed to be be flexible but stringent, if that even makes sense. Essentially there were flexible rules, and flexibility built into the plan, and if you were careful to stay (rigidly) within those flexibilities, you’d lose weight. There was a daily minimum of “food points,” and a weekly allowance that could be used at any time - all in one day or split over different days. 

So I will start giving myself weekly calories, two thousand of them, available anytime from Wednesday through Tuesday, started today. Based on my patterns, I expect to use most of them on the weekend, but again, it’s all about flexibility.

I’ll keep this up for the next four weeks, and see how I feel. I’m thinking of October as the month I stopped eating office junk, instead of the month where I struggled through holidays and barely maintained. So maybe November could be the month that I get a handle on nibbling at foods and having unplanned higher calorie days.

On an unrelated note, you might have noticed that is now redirecting to, of which I am now the proud owner. Did you know they'll let anybody buy a domain?

Sunday, October 26, 2014

How I Stopped Eating Office Junk Food

About a month ago, I set out to have a low-sugar week. For breakfast, I traded in my sweetened yogurt for homemade oatmeal; I turned down evening treats and just said no to the delicious office sweets. My only slip up was that Friday night, where I had some meringues that one of our friends brought over.

I plan to continue limiting my sugar intake - cutting it out at work and limiting it at home. I don’t think sugar is evil or want to say goodbye to it, no doubt in a drawn-out farewell scene where I cry and the sugar strokes my cheek before sadly turning away and going off to war, but cutting it out for just a week really pinpointed the weaknesses in my food plans. I was doing pretty well, I was making progress, but not as quickly as I could have.

I’ve realized that (part of) the answer is in those little treats that I would end up eating during the day - a little chocolate from the candy bowl, a quarter of a bagel from the office breakfast, a couple of bites of something offered by a generous co-worker... They take a great day and turn it into an okay one, or they leave me with only 300 calories for dinner, so I end up going over my intended calorie allotment in order to eat a reasonable dinner. Not ideal.

Since that week, I have not had a single office treat. Not when there were chocolate croissants at breakfast, not when a colleague brought in cookies from the best place in town, still warm, not when the candy bowl was overflowing with mini Three Musketeers. There has never been a month-long period where I didn’t eat any office food - probably not even a single week where I didn’t partake in some way. (And I wonder why I gained twenty-five pounds after I started working.) 

That's... a tough one.

Before now it never seriously occurred to me that cutting out office food - all office food - was a possibility. I mean, what if there was a really good cake? What about balancing treats with eating healthy? Turns out that was bullshit - I'm not cutting out all sugar, just what's at work. Sometimes it's easier to always say no. I'm taking those automatic "no, thanks" answers to a new super-level, office edition, available in stores right now.

This is one of those things where I’m so proud I want to tell people on the subway about my accomplishment, and high school students are surprisingly good listeners.

And those dumb cliches about how "It gets easier" and "You don't even want it after a while" are completely true. That first week of my personal low-sugar party, I was heating up my oatmeal in the office kitchen and someone had put the leftovers from a “welcome to the company” breakfast in there - a plate or two of pastries, wafting up their intoxicating buttery scent. Almost every other time, even the weeks I lose weight and generally consider to be successful, I’ve had a bite or even a quarter of a muffin. But this time I ignored them until the microwave beeped. And it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. It was just something I do, and I didn’t even feel like I missed out on anything. 

It’s easier to go off previous momentum, to think “I never have those. I can, but they’re not worth it so I don’t bother” than agonize over whether I should spend one or two hundred calories on it. It turns out it’s easier to just never have it than to decide if I should.

The lesson I’ve taken from this is that it’s not worth it 99.9% of the time. Anything offered at work, I can either buy or make. So if I wouldn’t buy it or make it, why should I eat it just because it’s free and in front of me? Once an awesome colleague stood in line for three hours to bring us cronuts, those super-trendy donut/croissant hybrids, only sold at one location and limited to two per customer. That’s the only time it’s ever been worth it for me to have any of the sweets at work, because then I got to try something unique that I’ll most likely never have again. But catered chocolate croissants? Bagels? Even, I dare say it, fresh-made apple cider donuts? Still not worth it. I love that my coworkers and my company can be so generous, and it definitely contributes to our generally pleasant work environment, but I no longer want to participate.

Nobody is going to notice or care, just like they haven’t so far. If I really, really, want something, then I need to want it enough to at least go out and buy it. “Free” and “being offered to me” are not reasons to eat it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Complimenting Weight Loss and Weekly Weigh-In

This has been a pretty good week - I went to the gym almost every day, and pushed myself in the workouts. My Zumba friend and I had a blast at our class, and I’m thinking of trying another one during the week. I’ll say for the last time - I am so happy to be back to regularly schedule programming. The holidays were hard, and I didn’t do as well as I’d hoped, but they’re over now so I’m focusing on what I can actually influence.

This week’s weight, and last week's that I didn't get around to posting:

Pounds Fat82.772.57372.170.370.871.3
Pounds Muscle 67.366.867.264.465.26765.4

Quite frankly, I’m thrilled. I think the not-so-good holidays managed to be balanced out by really successful in-between days. Normally I would have said “screw it, why bother to get back on track for four days when it’s just going to be
another holiday?” This time, though, I realized it was worth it. Weight loss is really all about the long term, so if in the long term I gain a pound or two over a holiday period (because really, that’s all it is) and then back on track the rest of the time, it doesn’t have to have such an effect. Maybe October will be 170s month? Probably not, but considering that it was about 1/3 holiday, I think it's good.

Speaking of weight loss (which in this space, is most of the time) - a while back, when I was heating up my breakfast in the office kitchen, one of the managers politely asked me if I had lost weight. I may have hugged her. She is the first person who doesn’t know that I’m trying to lose weight to notice. I still don’t see a huge difference, but this shows that something is changing.

Complimenting weight loss can be a tricky business. For a while there in 2012, I was steadily losing weight. Thus for people who only saw me every so often, like my gap year abroad friends, I was smaller each time we would get together. They would usually notice and make a comment about it. Some people do not like to be complimented on their weight loss, but I’m not one of them. I like when my hard work is noticed, and it validates that I’m actually accomplishing something tangible, a good reminder for harder days.

I got a little uncomfortable when I started gaining weight, and not just because my pants were too tight. Rather, I would see the same people, and it would be clear to all that I had definitely not lost weight since we’d last seen each other. One memorable time, I saw some friends and when we were greeting each other, one of them said how great I looked, almost in a habitual way. This was unfortunately at a point where I had regained about twenty pounds since the last time I saw them, and was rocking out at about 175. It was a little awkward because I said “Thanks,” but was thinking “No, I don’t, and we both know it."

Despite that, I’m still for weight loss compliments. Almost any accomplishment can be undone, so to speak - weight can be gained, jobs can be lost, medals can be rescinded, governments can fall - either by the person who accomplished it or outside forces. Maybe I'll gain back the weight, but I still enjoy someone noticing on the way down.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Finally Done: Staying Accountable During Holidays

Whew. The major 2014 Jewish holidays, which ate up every single one of my vacation days, and then some, are done. I’ve never been more excited to go back to work on Monday with the knowledge that I will have a five day week. I like routines; I like being in control of my own schedule. Sure, there will be Thanksgiving and then Chanukah/Hanukah/Hanukka in December, but it’s more spread out and/or less of an eating fest.

I mentioned last week that I didn’t eat too well over the first part of the holiday, and only half-assly tried to stop myself. Unfortunately, this weekend wasn’t much better. Once again, I made a few good choices - having an apple when all I wanted was the leftover lava cake (made by yours truly, since I’m such a genius), and plenty of bad ones - eating the leftover lava cake the next day, when it wasn’t even that good anymore. I also didn’t move enough, despite my noble intentions to take a couple of long walks. This morning the scale was at 183.4 - some of that is hopefully bloat, but I may have put on a pound or so.


So the holidays were not great in terms of food, but like last week, I am diving right back into old (good) habits. Today my Zumba friend was back, and we went to our fun and calorie burner class, and I ate well and tracked. I am challenged during holidays, but routine I can do.

However confident and happy I am to be sliding back into routine with the confidence that I will finally, finally, get into the 170s, I probably can’t just ignore how much I was not in control over the holiday. Weight issues, I know, go beyond just food. Most people carrying around an extra 50 pounds have more in their head than “Mmm, donuts,” that helped along their weight gain. My issues seem to rear their chubby little selves around most when I’m not holding myself accountable, or I’m not able to to hold myself accountable. These past few weeks have included a lot of days in the second category, when I wasn’t able to track my food intake or weigh myself.

My brain seems to decide that if I’m not able to track, well then, I’d better take advantage of it, by golly. Just like when I was a kid and came across some unsuspecting cookies sitting out on the counter, I would wonder if I could eat two, or three, before my mother realized some were missing. And when I was filling my plate during lunch on Thursday, I knew that whatever I ate wouldn’t see the electronic light of day because I wouldn’t be able to remember that either, when I was finally able to record all my food. And yes, last night, I tried to track, and couldn’t even remember whether I had breakfast on Thursday or just coffee.

Maybe it would have been easier to have no dessert than to decide what I want to have, how much to have of it, and then to estimate how many calories it is. So far, trying to pick and choose has not been a good strategy for me, as I spent so much time and energy trying to figure out what I should eat. Letting myself go was definitely not a good option, since I went overboard. Sweets have always been my main downfall, and aside from fried items, desserts are usually the easiest to overeat. A nice-sized steak can have as many calories as a slice pie, but I would be able to eat half the steak more easily than half a slice of pie.

I’m not really sure how to deal with this, but maybe if I really can get right back on the horse after the holiday is over, it doesn’t matter. If a day can be a day (or even three days be three days) and as long as I’m not going too overboard during those times, for now I can just let the time go, take the pound or so gain that results from it, and acknowledge that my weight loss will take a bit longer because of it. Long-term I do want to figure out these triggers, but for right now being in a routine most of the time is enough.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Weigh-In After Holidays & What All Those Jewish Holidays Are

Sunday was the end of another holiday period, this time at my parents’ house. It did not go well. There will be another holiday/the tail end of this holiday starting in two days.

To back up slightly, I guess it’s time to explain what all of these vague holidays are to which I’m constantly referring. Feel free to skip the next two paragraphs, obviously. So I’m Jewish, and we have numerous holidays in general, but three that fall close together in the fall. We recently celebrated the Jewish New Year, followed ten days later by a day of repentance called Yom Kippur, in which we believe we are judged for our deeds, good and bad throughout the year. Despite the solemnity, it’s actually considered a happy holy day, one in which we get to “start over,” really reflect on our actions the past year, and think of what to do better in the future.

Currently, we are celebrating the holiday of Sukkot (Soo-kote), an eight-day festivity that culminates with a separate but related holiday in which we celebrate when God gave the Jews the Bible after having led them out of Egypt. Sukkot is two-fold: it is a celebration of the harvest, and also when we remember our ancestors wandering the desert for forty years and only living in temporary huts. Why were we wandering? The excellent joke answer is that the Jews wandered for so long because Moses wouldn’t stop and ask for some damn directions, but the religious answer is that the Jewish people had make a huge boo-boo right after they got the Bible and were being punished. The holiday is eight days, on which additional restrictions (no electricity, no work, no driving/trains/planes, no writing) are in place during the first two and last two days. 

We just had the first two days, now we’re in the middle where it’s business as usual with a few traditions thrown in, and starting on Wednesday night, we’ll celebrate the rest of holiday and have the restrictions again.

What do we do during this time? Pray, eat, sleep, play board games, take walks, take naps, have long discussions, read, learn, unplug from life. It’s actually a great deal, except when you’re me and trying so hard to stay healthy.

So that’s that. If you skipped the above, basically it’s like having Thanksgiving in your house - lots of food, family, and friends. But for two meals a day, for three days. And you can’t go to the gym, write down/track your food intake, or buy anything.

I just ended one of those periods, and it didn’t go how I’d hoped. I had been planning to leave work early on Wednesday, but it got unexpectedly stressful, I left later than I intended, and didn’t get to break for lunch (or at all). Then my train home got delayed, so I got out late, stressed, hungry, and a little hormonal. Not a good combination or start to the holiday. So I overindulged on Wednesday, ending the day annoyed at myself but trying to look ahead to the rest of the holiday. 

But I didn’t have a plan, couldn’t track, hadn’t had the chance to exercise on Wednesday - I don’t even know what happened, but I’m pretty sure I gained. There were some times when I picked and chose alright, like having bread at a meal, but no rice or potatoes, or just splitting a cookie with J. But mostly I got overwhelmed by the sheer amount of food in front of me. My family is pretty healthy, and desserts were saved for weekends and special occasions. But this WAS the special occasion, and I went in knowing that there would be a huge amount of food available, all the time, with no thought as to how I might avoid partaking too much.

Over the Jewish New Year, which we celebrated with J’s family in Michigan, I spent so much time and energy worrying about food, and after all that I only managed to essentially maintain my weight. I didn’t want to repeat that this time, but rejecting that plan and not coming up with a new plan left me with zero plans. If I had had a plan, I might have eaten it.

There is, of course, a giant ‘but’ to all this. A lovely ‘but’ with a bright side and a silver lining. And that is, it was only a couple of days. Even if I do equally as crappy during the next (and final!) days of holy this week, it’s still only a few days. I won’t gain back twenty pounds over a week, even though I might gain one or two. Therefore, as long as I can immediately and completely forgive myself from any overindulging over these holidays, and get right back to tracking, exercising, and healthy eating, I’ll be fine.

Yesterday I went to my Zumba class, tracked my food, and today was equally successful. And I’ll do my best over the holiday (come up with a new plan?) - but no matter what, next Sunday I will get back into the groove again, accept whatever gain, maintain, or lose I get, and keep working. I will get to the 170s.

As of yesterday, I am at 182.5 - up, but not as badly as I thought it would be.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Weekly Weigh-In: Charts

You know how they say time passes more quickly as you get older? I’m only in my mid-twenties and I’m feeling it. I don’t even hate Mondays anymore, because I know the weekend will come (and then be over again) in what will feel like only a couple of moments. What is happening??

Existential crisis aside, this week was okay, but unfortunately included a few extra treats at home that I didn’t plan on. I’m still avoiding all the office treats, but that doesn’t mean as much if I turn down the fresh-baked cookies at work only to purchase one on my way home… Most of the blame for the bad choices is squarely on me, but I’m blaming a bit on PMS and thinking about food too much over the last holiday. Tracked it, trying to move up and on, but still analyzing, as is my personality.

When I got back from Michigan, I felt that too much time and energy had been spent on food - what to eat, how much to eat, how much I’d eaten - despite a good weigh-in. So when I got back, I was sick of making food decisions. Bottom line, I need to think of a better strategy for the next holiday, which will be starting this Wednesday night. Zero new ideas so far, besides “eat everything.” I’d like to eat more intuitively, but don’t know how. I’m open to suggestions.

On official weigh-in day, I weighed the same as the day before:

Pounds Fat82.774.572.57372.170.3
Pounds Muscle 67.368.266.867.264.465.2

I was moping around about not being in the 170s yet, when J looked at my charts and pointed out that I have lost twelve pounds of fat. If I’m off about how many calories I burn every day, or if that number has decreased in the last ten pounds lost, then that actually makes sense. Twelve pounds seems like more than ten. Maybe my goal should be to have less than 70 pounds of fat on me instead of weighing in the 170s.

J also made a chart, because he likes making charts and he's helpful like that.

The orange dots show fat loss over time, and the grey dots represent calorie deficits, assuming a lower metabolic rate of 1800. As you can see, they match up pretty well, implying that my whining isn't warranted since I am, in fact, losing fat at a reasonable rate for what I'm eating.

No matter what though, I’m definitely getting too focused on the scale. Weighing in every day only helps if I can take the number in its context, and right now I’m not doing that. So for the foreseeable future, I will only weigh myself on weigh-in day once a week.