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Tracking

22 Nov

So, let’s talk about tracking. I’m given to understand it’s sort of a controversial subject in the online dieting community (I’m basing this entirely on the few posts I’ve seen on it, and the generally animated discussions that happen as a result).

Pros


  • Maintain an accurate view in your mind of everything you’ve eaten in a given day. Nine times out of ten I could tell you what I had for breakfast, lunch and dinner. But I’ll probably forget that cheese slice (or four) I ate in between. Oh, and that handful of chips from my clerk’s huge-ass bag. Oh, and then there’s the 75 packs of Rockets I compulsively ingested during a painfully long conference call. And so on and so forth. If it isn’t written down the moment I eat it, my brain moves on about the day as though I haven’t eaten it at all. My fat cells disagree.
  • For planning purposes. In having a written account of everything I’ve eaten, I have a good idea of whether or not I can “afford” a pizza for supper, or if I’m better off sticking to a salad. Without that written record, I’m more likely to suffer from a bout of exceedingly convenient amnesia and eat the pizza, regardless of the burger I had for lunch and the bacon sandwich for breakfast. Please also see previous reference to 74 packs of Rockets.
  • Hampers food-ninja behaviour. I hide a lot of what I eat. It’s a strange little tick I have – I don’t like snacking in front of other people unless they’re also eating. If I find myself alone in the kitchen, I will eat before someone can come in and find me. I’ve been doing this my whole life. I’m very good at it. Interestingly, although it’s not guaranteed, probably about 50% of the time whatever primitive part of my brain prompts me to be a food-ninja recognizes the tracker as a person. If I can convince myself that I have to write it down in order to be allowed to eat it, I’ll walk away. A ninja leaves no trace, not even a written one.
  • Increases mindfulness. The fact that I have to actually track everything makes me aware of what I’m eating in a very present-tense way. It can actually cause me to pause and consider whether I actually want it, to weigh the benefits of eating something point-heavy now, or waiting for something better later. And so on and so forth.

Cons


  • It’s hard and requires effort. Not only do you have to remember to write down each individual pack of Rockets, you have to actually do it. You can’t not write it. It screws up the whole system, promotes cheating, and skews the mental image of what you’ve eaten today – in other words, completely undoes all of the pros listed above. It’s really easy to forget to track, or to “forget” to track. It’s hard sometimes to stare at what you’ve eaten in the face and acknowledge that it was too much, or you blew through your bonus points on the first day of the week, or so far on the other side of Healthy that you kind of wonder why food like that is allowed to exist. It’s sometimes hard to keep tracking in the face of that.
  • It promotes obsession. Nothing quite like meticulously jotting down every morsel that crosses your lips to create an unhealthy obsession with counting every calorie. Additionally, the downside of any system is that it can create a strong reliance on that system. Unless you want to count everything, even when you hit maintenance, at some point you need to learn to “stand on your own.” Counting is a way to teach yourself to be mindful about what you eat and plan your intake appropriately, but it can become a crutch if you let it.
  • It can take some of the fun out of eating. Now eating is like a job. Sometimes you just want to eat a fucking chocolate bar. The thought of having to open your log and mark down a big fat “6 Points” beside it takes some of the taste out of the damn thing, even if you do have the room in your food budget for it.
  • It can create a false sense of security if you’re cheating. The most adept of food-ninjas can run circles around a tracking log. It was just a bite, barely worth jotting down, probably not even a point. And if I eat forty-two bites, well, as long as I’m thinking in terms of bites instead of pints, I don’t need to write anything down. Then when it’s supper time and I’m staring down that meatloaf lathered in cheese, I look at my log and it totally looks like I’m on plan and can afford to gorge myself on the whole loaf. Then all that’s left is to act innocent and confused when the scale shows me two pounds up the next morning.

Ultimately – like all weight-loss plans and schemes and so on – it has to be a personal choice. Some people will swear by it, because it’s perfectly suited to the way their brain is built. Some people will eschew it entirely because it doesn’t work at all with their brains and may create larger problems.

For my part, even if you count the cheating and the amazing awesomeness of my food-ninjitsu, I do exponentially better when I’m tracking than when I’m not. I know this from long experience. If I stick to writing things down, I lose weight. If I stop writing things down, I’m good for maybe a week at most. Then things start sliding in again, so sneakily and quietly that I don’t even know I’m doing it on any practical level.

The trouble comes with maintaining the effort. But I’m not as heavy as I am because simple logic like “it’s good for you” works.

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A Brief History of the Relationship Between Ms. Adiposa and The Wagon

24 Aug

sometiems u fall  off da wagon 

Believe it or not, I’m not a yo-yo dieter – not yet.  Nor do I have any intentions of becoming one, though I suppose it’s worth noting that nobody sets out with that noble goal in mind. 

I don’t remember the exact date I first got off my ass and decided to lose weight, but it was probably about five years ago.  Originally I had typed “definitely more than four and less than six years ago”, and then I realized that pretty much answered my question right there.  At the time I was working a different desk job than I am right now (SSDD*) and had made work-buddies with a lady who had – back when she was my age – used Weight Watchers to hit her goal weight and stay there during her young and wild years.  She had apparently even actually been a Weight Watchers leader.  Now she was 50 and had done what most middle-aged people do and gained weight and desperately wanted to lose it again. 

She had been talking about it for a while, and I’d been paying only vague attention for a while.  Losing weight was something I always wanted to do – who doesn’t? – and understood on a theoretical level as something I needed to do.  At the time I was at my highest weight of 260 pounds (some people talk about the Freshman 15…I ate my through the Freshman 40), but to be honest I had no idea where to start, and was more afraid of starting something that would turn me into a yo-yo dieter than I was of not losing weight.  And I didn’t know how to tell the difference between a “good diet” and a “bad one” (short of the most logical ones – if it says all you have to do is eat these magic cookies for two weeks and you’ll weigh a gazillion pounds less…even at my most ignorant on the topic I would have had to stop to wonder). 

And then, at Easter time, my mother randomly decided to check my blood sugar levels (one of her foster kids had recently been diagnosed as diabetic and we were trying to show him not to fear the needle) and the number made her gasp my name, which is never a good thing.  I had an annual check up scheduled anyway, so I brought it up with the doctor, he did an official blood test, and told me I was “pre-diabetes” – another doctor later clarified the diagnosis to “insulin resistant.” 

This, combined with the fact that I have PCOS, which already pre-disposes me to have diabetes at some point in my life, was a bad enough combo to make me cringe at the thought of the amount of effort that was going to be required to fix this before it became unfixable.  But I went back into work and talked to my work-buddy and off we marched to Weight Watchers. 

Over the course of the next three-ish years (minus those unfortunate six months where I fell off the wagon the first time), I saw my weight drop – slowly at times, but always down – to approximately 190 pounds.  That’s a 70 pound loss.  I was and remain intensely proud of that achievement.  It was an incredible victory to break through that “2” at the start of my weight, and an even better one to drop just below the obese line on my BMI (overweight FTW!). 

This was the point it started to get hard.  Up until that point the weight had been coming off relatively steadily without me having to make obscenely drastic changes to my routine – I think over a certain weight even the tiniest changes will take the weight off.  But now I hit my first “plateau” (not a true plateau in the sense that I was doing everything right and still not losing – just in the sense of the weight not coming off anymore).  I wavered back and forth between 190 and 195 for another six months or so, never giving up hope, just slowly considering my habits and routines and trying to decide what I could bear to part with now that the easy changes were no longer giving as good a return on my investment. 

And then the bus drivers went on strike. 

At the time, I did not have a car, nor the license to drive one.  I worked from home the whole time – all fifty-six days of it. 

You might think this would have been a good thing for my weight, and I know for some people it would have been a boon.  But home has traditionally been where I have the most trouble controlling what I eat.  At work my day is structured and finite, and I live and die by habits and routines.  It was easy to structure my eating around my day and control it that way.  At home, my time is free and unstructured, and I’m tired and stressed from the day at work, and if anything emotion is going to happen to me, it’s going to happen at home.  So at home is where I eat, where I binge, where I lose control. 

When that bingeing is limited to the evenings, I could deal with it.  Eat well enough during the day at work, and I could compensate most of the time for eating too much or too badly at home. 

ANd I was at home for fifty-six days.  No car to get out of the house and go somewhere, no busses to take me.  Dead of winter, and far too cold to try to walk anywhere.  I was lonely within a week, and just a little crazy within three.  And bored.  Oh my God I was bored.  Plus it was the holiday season. 

Every single bad habit I thought I’d left behind me reared their ugly heads and attacked at the same time.  Chips found their way into the house again, portion control went out the window, I wouldn’t even look at food if it was green and leafy.  I ordered pizza almost every day and would eat the whole thing.  None of this saving some for tomorrow BS. 

The damage to my weight was calculable – somewhere in the area of twenty-five pounds.  The damage to my morale was not.  More than anything else I was intensely disappointed in myself, and frustrated that all that progress I’d thought I’d made – not in terms of pounds, but in terms of habits – had not been nearly as solid as I had thought.  I fell off that wagon hard and fast and barely even cared as I watched it pull away from me. 

I have been trying since then to regain the good habits and ditch the bad, to get back on the track I had been before the bus strike.  I have managed to maintain at anywhere between 210-215 pounds.  I have not dipped over 215, and that’s a success.  I’ve stopped the weight GAIN, but now I need to get it moving in the other direction again. 

My original goal was 160 lbs or until I was happy with my weight, whichever came first, and that remains the ultimate goal.  But mostly I just want those habits back. 

More than liking what I saw in the mirror, more than being this close to getting to shop in regular stores, I was happy that I was finally in control of my eating, and by extension my life.  I was proud that I had been able to turn around so many of my habits, confident that I would be able to continue down that path.  That’s my first step, my primary goal right now. 

cat

Just get back on the wagon. 

The weight will take care of itself. 


*Same Shit, Different Division

“Smart” food

24 Aug

You know how, whenever you’re receiving weight-loss advice in any form, across any medium, there will always be talk of trigger foods?  These mythical, magical foods that vary from person to person, but are inevitably terrible for you – especially in large quantities.  And if you have just a bite – just the teensiest, tiniest little nibble – it’s like the parts of your brain that are responsible for situational awareness, abd connecting knowledge to action, and actions to consequences all simultaneously shut down.  The next thing you know you’re so full you want to puke and the wrappers/bottles/cans that used to contain your trigger food are laying on the floor all around you, inexplicably empty – a silent testament to a mindless binge.

I have a few trigger foods.  Some of them are typical – chocolate, French fries, cake – and some of them, less so – processed cheese slices.

But there’s one in particular that goes above and beyond all the others – if trigger food it is, it’s the trigger of a rocket launcher:

Contributing Factor #387

Don’t be fooled by its benign, popcorny appearance!  It started out as popcorn; the low-calorie, low-fat, snack of chocie for dieters across the continent and beyond.  And then one brilliant food technician or another in a secret lab decided to smother the damn stuff in white cheddar.  This is what it did to the nutritional value:

It’s basically identical to your average bag of chips, just with more fibre.  Not so benign now, is it?  :(

Especially not when you basically chain-eat the whole bag…

The first time I “fell off the wagon”, will-power and personal motivation aside, this was the main culprit.  I discovered it for the first time about a year after I started weight watchers and friends – can I call you friends? – I practically threw myself under the damn wagon’s wheels for it.  I would eat an entire bag a day – sometimes two.  I would go out in the morning and buy one from the pharmacy and eat it all day at work, covertly, like I was stealing corporate secrets or somethign.  No one could know I was doing it.  Then I would get home and go straight down to the convenience store in the basement of the apartment building I lived in and buy another bag, which I would suck back like a vaccuum cleaner on a late night paid advertisement before my roommate could get home and catch me eating it.  I would even go so far as to throw the bag straight down the trash chute, so she wouldn’t see them in the garbage can.

How does this behaviour make any sense?  It’s cheese-covered popcorn for God’s sake.  But there you have it.  I actually googled “Smartfood addiction” because I was starting to worry myself.  The back of the bag is meant to be tongue-in-cheek:

but for me, that just about summed it up – everything but the “be smart about it”.

I finally gave it up cold turkey, like some people quit smoking.  I refused to buy it, I refused to look at it.  I wouldn’t let myself eat it if it was made available at someone else’s house.  I just stopped acknowledging its existence.  I pulled my broken, bruised ass back up on that wagon, brushed the delicious white cheddar off my fingers, and got back on track.

The second time I fell off the wagon is a different story, for another time, but that was a year and a half ago now.  Since then I’ve been hobbling along behind the wagon, huffing and puffing, trying to catch up, and what should I trip over along the way?

They have 100 calorie snack packs of this stuff now.  I discovered them a couple months ago, and I thought to myself…it’s been almost two whole years…surely, surely I’ve learned my lesson and regained my sanity.  I’ve come a long way since then, whether I’m up on the damn wagon or not.  I’ll just buy the snack packs and see.

The entire box was gone before the morning was up.  And now here we are, two months later, and I just polished off an entire bag of it, while attempting to set up a weight-loss blog in the hopes of using it to motivate me to jog just a bit faster to catch that wagon again.  I was eating Smartfood the entire time I was writing this post.

It’s going to be a long haul…