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.

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.