Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tough Love

For the last few months (since November), I have been basically maintaining. I have justified it, saying to myself, "It's winter. Maybe I can't lose in the winter. Maintaining is okay. Maybe I will just wait until summer. I am eating right, I am doing everything right, so maybe my body just needs to stay at this weight for awhile." Earlier this month, I started out at 248, dropped to 244, and then in one day was back to 248 again. I threw up my hands in despair. What to do? In desperation, I posted a message on a weight loss forum I frequent, called I said:

I am starting to get a little annoyed. It seems my weight is all over the place, but just bounces up and down in the same area... for the past 3 months! I dropped 30 pounds from Aug to Nov, and since then it has been 241 to 251, up and down all the time. When I was sick I got down to 241 but then bounced right back to 245. When I overate, I got up to 251 but within a couple days of eating right I was back down to 245. Generally, I am just seeing 244-248 on the scales. It is getting frustrating. So this month I started exercising more (not a lot, just more). I started really watching my intake and eating healthier. I went from 248 to 244. Great! But then I have one day eating less healthy and I am back to 248. Takes me 3 or 4 days to re-lose to 244. I just can't seem to get out of this RUT of the mid-240's!Do you think my body is just trying to take a break from losing? Or is that just an excuse? Should I ramp it up even more, be more strict? I don't want to maintain forever. All tips appreciated.

Now, what do you think I was hoping for as an answer? Maybe that I should go ahead and eat a couple bags of M&M's to make me feel better, since I can't lose weight anyway? Or maybe a little "oh, it's okay, all I eat is chicken breast and plain salad and I don't lose weight either." Or maybe someone would feel bad for me and mail me a cheesecake.

But no. Instead, I got some tough love. And this tough love came from people who have actually LOST huge amounts of weight and are at or near a normal weight now! These people know what they are talking about. They did not offer me condolences, or excuses, or cheesecake. They offered me this advice:

- You need to have many, many more days of watching your intake (counting calories just to be sure) and many, many less days of eating less healthy.

- String some good days/weeks back to back and before you know it you will be busting out of those 240's and then you will conquer the 230's and then the 220's and before you know it, you will be in ONEderland.

- The only way to lose fat is to create an energy deficit, where your input is less than your energy expended and then your body is then forced to dip into its stored fat reserves to make up the difference. You can create an energy deficit in one of two ways: eating fewer calories than your body requires or burning more calories than you're consuming. Ideally, we use a combination of the two: eating less and moving more.

- If you have lost some weight, your BMR is going to drop. You don't need as much food because you aren't carrying around as much weight. I would consider dropping calories by 200 per day. I don't find exercise burns as much as generally promised. Listen to your body. It is trying to tell you what to do.

Sigh. So true. All of it. I had to take a long, hard look at the reality of my eating. I HAD stopped counting calories. I HAD been going overboard a bit... a little cake here, some pizza there... and instead of saying NO to indulgences or trying to fit them into my daily calories, I just went ahead and had moderate portions. It was enough to keep me from gaining, but not enough to lose more weight. So I decided it was time to give MYSELF some tough love. I set a calorie limit of 1500/day. I started logging everything I eat on, and for every day that I stayed under 1500 calories I put a big green X on my calendar. If I went over, I got a red X. There's no denying how many days you went off plan with this method. It helps keep me accountable.

I also got strict with my bike riding. I ride my recumbent exercise bike 3x a week. I started out at 5 minutes and added 2 minutes each week. So now I am riding for 14 minutes, 3x a week.

So, what results have I seen with my new plan? I have 4 green X's on the calendar (in a row). In that 4 days I have lost 6 pounds, and am down to 242. I am SO HAPPY to finally be losing again! It feels fantastic!

Give yourself some tough love. Face the reality of exactly what is holding you back from losing weight. Try the green/red X method. The goal is to string together as many green X's as possible, broken up by very few red X's. And at the end of the month, you can see the brutally honest truth about just how committed you have been to staying on track with your eating. It's so easy to forget or minimize the days we go off plan, but this way we are reminded daily of how many times we slacked.

I read in a magazine this weekend that there was a little study done in which people at work were given a jar of mini candy bars on their desks. They could eat however many they wanted to. Half of the people were instructed to throw away their candy wrappers immediately, while the other half were told to leave the wrappers on their desktop. Guess what? The people who left the wrappers on their desks ate far fewer candy bars in a day than the people who threw them away. Why? Because we tend to forget just how much we have eaten, but the wrappers were a constant reminder of just how many had been eaten. The X's work the same way. You might forget that you had a slice of pizza last Friday, a scoop of ice cream on Monday, and an extra helping of spaghetti on Wednesday, but if you see 3 big red X's on your calendar, you are going to see that you have already indulged enough and you need to stay ON plan.

Thank you to the great folks at 3fc for taking the time to point this out to me! I appreciate it more than you know.


Anonymous said...

Hey! I found your blog on 3FC and have enjoyed reading it! Congratulations on choosing to be tough and on the scale moving!
So exciting! Keep it up!
bethbeth from 3FC

Heather said...

congrats on your loss and for taking all that wonderful advice. This post is kind of what I needed to because I also am kind of stuck and it has become very clear that exercise is what I am lacking. guess its time to take some advice myself!

MB said...

Maintaining is always better and sometimes your body just needs time to adjust. Winter is tough but the days are getting longer and spring will be here before you know it.

If I'm being brutally honest the past few months would be full of red x's. That is some great advice and even though things are really stressful right now I'm going to try to work on those green x's.

I read the meaning of "diet" in Greek is "way of life." They should all be green days with a few treats. :)

Laura said...

I'm in the same spot as you - not gaining, not losing, and admittedly if I am truthful there would be a lot of red X's. Time to get back on the stick. It's just what I needed today.

Lynne said...

I've been stuck for YEARS in the 190s. I JUST CAN'T lose!! or so I thought. Reality is I didn't measure my food. I eat well, just too much. I started this month really being strict about what goes in (exactly how much) and WOW - I'd say my old 4oz is more like 8 --- yes, 8. I'd say my old tbsp is more like a heaping tbsp. The end result - too many calories = no weight loss. It's not easy, and I hate that this is my life, but it CAN BE DONE! Stick with it!!

Ms Ingrid said...

Love that green and red X-s system. When I started my plan, I used yellow smiley-face stickers and when I was bad I drew a huge sad face in my calendar with a black marker.

After 1 month I had all smileys :)

Sybil said...

Yeah, I read that thread on 3FC too and appreciated the tough love/wake-up call. Read something else this AM about if you're not losing weight, you're eating too much. (OK! I HEAR YOU ALREADY!) So, starting today, I'm dropping my intake by 100 calories and see where that takes me.

Enjoy your blog. You seem to be a straight-shooter!

Honi said...

YAY great post.. I needed that tough love too!!

Teale said...

I definately applaud this post. I think that so many times people use the "plateau" excuse, when the fact really is that they just aren't paying as much attention as they once were, or working as hard as they once were. We all need tough love from time to time!

Anonymous said...

I struggle as you do. When I lost weight before I was very strict and found that when I spiked my calories here and there the weight dropped much more. I think I was going a little too low on my intake. Try it, not by eating junk, just up your cals --yo-yo them a bit and see it it helps. I was so shocked but happy to lose more. I've just started reading your story, I think it's great. Congrats on the loss thus far.