Friday, September 9, 2011

Screw-up Analysis

I have a little pocket planner that I keep notes in regarding my weight loss journey. It's just one of those little $1 mini calendars with daily squares just big enough to write a weight and a calorie level and some exercise notes, but I find it a very useful tool in seeing the Big Picture, including patterns of my being on- and off- plan. I was looking it over today, seeing what events or occasions, exactly, have tripped me up and sent me spinning out of control in the past. After all, what good are mistakes if we don't learn from them, right? Figure it out, avoid it in the future!

My little mini-journal begins in December, 2009. I weighed 230 pounds and was counting calories, walking, and biking. Over the next few months, I can see by my little calendar the times I ate way too many calories, didn't exercise, gained weight, etc. My brief notes about what was going on when I went off plan are:

sick (I wrote this in 8 consecutive squares in December, still staying on plan, and then I guess the being sick got to me because my calories went way up, and the next square says "want to eat" and the next one, "binge.")
overeating, not tracking
sick (again)
foot pain (I wrote this in 8 consecutive squares in January, staying on plan, and then finally THAT got to me and there is a 3-day binge)

Then in March I started Medifast. I had really good success staying on plan for 2 1/2 months straight. As I look over the next year of calendar squares, the reasons/triggers for when I'd screw up and go headfirst off plan were:

pinkeye, knee pain, company staying for several days in bringing in food (this led to a string of days off plan)
county fair (last summer, had a couple off plan days surrounding this last year)
sick, pms, family had pizza, trip to buffet (these events were one right after the other, I ended up eating pizza and eating way too much off plan food the next day at the buffet)
party at friends (went off because they made a special meal for us and none of it was on plan... which led to several days off plan)
Christmas cookies (ate completely off plan for, like, 3 weeks)
sick (off plan all week)
trip out of town, free breakfast included (ate off plan for several days)
sick again for 3 weeks (off plan most of that time)
went to buffet intending to eat on plan, but lost it
went to friend's house for lunch, the food she served us was completely off plan, I ate it to be 'nice' (this led to several days off plan)
trip out of town, ate out (this led to weeks mostly off plan)

So, this might *sound* like a heck of a lot of screw ups, but remember, this is over the course of a year and a half. Most of the time, I was on plan. But those off plan times? They follow a pattern.

What I learned:
I am likely to eat off plan when I am sick or in pain
I am likely to eat what is prepared for me when I am invited to someone's home for lunch/dinner
I am likely to eat off plan when I am out of town
I am likely to eat off plan during 'special' events/occasions
I am likely to eat off plan at buffets

This translates to:
I sometimes eat for comfort
I feel social pressure to please people by eating what they prepare for me
I feel like eating out when travelling is 'special' and makes the trip more fun
I see holiday/seasonal/special event foods as very desirable
I become overstimulated by the vast amounts/variety of food at buffets and it becomes difficult to remain in control

I just wanted to write this all down, as a first step (awareness). I am going to spend some time thinking about what I, personally, can do to control my eating when these situations come up again. If you have ideas for me, I am all ears. How do you handle these types of situations?


Anonymous said...

:) How do I handle those exact situations when they occur in my life? Same as you.

I'll be watching for those suggestions!


Princess Dieter said...

I started telling people early what i would not eat and what I wished they'd never serve me. Period. No excuses, just, "I need to NOT get diabetes and I need to save what's left of my knee and foot joints, and I can't eat X, Y, Z." At first, they'd forget. Now, they know. Even when my nephew had died and there were weeks straight of famiy getting together with all sorts of traditional Cuban temptations, the people passing trays would see me, go,' Oh, right, not for you!" and move along. :D When they see you're serious, they respect boundaries. I'm not gonna be nice for them so my health deteriorates. Let them be nice to ME!

Buffets: Avoid them altogether. I know they are trouble. Period. I just don't go.

Pain/sickness: I wanted badly to dive into all sorts of brain appeasing foods when my nephew was dying, but I decided that did not honor him at all. It simply capitulated to the same thing that led toh is demise: overeating. So, I prepared huge sacks full of snacks for me and hubby that were on plan and took them to the hospital, sister's house, etc. I told myself pain was no excuse to overeat. It was a cop-out and an insult to the people who love me who shouldn't have to watch me die prematurely.

Illness..well, I haven't been ill too much in the last year, but when asthma/allergies act up badly, I do want to comfort eat. I have to fight off temptations the most then, cause I'm home and sedentary and old "I awnna eat to distract myself" patterns want to re-emerge. That's when I allow myself more food, but only good food. I can have more protein, more veggie, more cheese, more fruit--but not crap. :D I found that anime/mangas are good distractions when sick, so that's what I do. I read or watch something Japanese and I can NOT revert to food-for-distraction. I've totally turned into an otaku in order not to overeat. ; )

That's how I've handled it in the last year.

Lori said...

We have a great kinship in this matter, especially the one about travel being special and an OK time to go off plan.

Anonymous said...

Princess Dieter is spot on.
If you slip-up, only do it for one meal. Lyn, make that a rule, so it doesn't turn into several days off plan. I think that's the problem: one morsel of food off plan, and it sends you into a binge for days. That's gotta change.
Go Lyn!

Cece said...

Great analysis !

Kelly said...

I look at food in the way that alcoholics and drug addicts look at their addictive substances...yet we cannot competely abstain, can we? So foods like flour and sugar are on THE LIST. Abstaining is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do in my life and when I need a reality check, I go watch A&E Intervention and am thankful I'm not addicted to meth or heroine. Now that's a lifelong craving even when off the stuff. We fall down and we get up and I surely do wish I had the mindset of a guy sometimes when they say...oops, got a bit of a belly, better skip some meals and exercise! Hahaha, the simplicity of a male mind. Much love to you Lyn, first time commentor but long time reader. I commend you for keeping this blog for so long. Kudos to you and keep going, you'll get there.


timothy said...

i'm trying to look at special occasions and trips ect ect as OPPORTUNITIES and NOT excuses. there's always a choice and going off plan for me even a little triggers all my food addictions and we know where that leads.
for dinner parties if i know the person i simply ask what were having before if i can't have any of it i eat prior to going or bring something appropriate. i'm also steering away from special occasions being centered around food and looking for other ways to celebrate.

Anonymous said...

Judith Beck. Read her books.

Lyn said...


yep, have done it. I think there is still a review I wrote for one of them on my review blog.

I found her books insightful, did the cards, etc, just didn't really resonate with me a lot.

Diandra said...

It's good to take a look at the whole picture to see a pattern. That way it's easier to determine whether to avoid the triggers or try to fit these occasions into the plan somehow, eventually.

(My "worst case scenario" at this point are evenings spent with certain friends who also like to eat... we make special dinners (if I am in charge of cooking, that is not so bad), and there are treats and desserts, and wine or beer to go with it on most occasions... - well, we only do that once every other month, and the next day I feel bad enough to go right back to my healthier choices. ^^ )

LHA said...

It is only when I am following any kind of strict "diet" or "plan" that I am tempted to overeat. It took me years to figure out that dieting led to weight gain for me because once I went "off" I couldn't control myself. I do much better making my only "plan" this: eat healthy foods as much as possible, stop eating when full, limit the less healthy foods to unusual situations, and (as someone else suggested) keep the less desirable eating to one meal here and there. A lot of the foods that I once found irresistible have lost their power over me because I know I can eat them if the situation calls for it. I also refuse to feel guilty or bad or unsuccessful because I am not adhering to some very strict eating plan. I have lost over 30 pounds but I honestly would have been satisfied to just quit GAINING weight for a while!

Thanks for sharing your incredible journey, Lyn. Your small calendar with notes is a good idea for keeping track of a lot of different things. Thanks also to all the great commenters on your site. I have learned so much from all of you.

Karen said...

Planned eating, no tasting here and there.

I love to travel but I know if I eat junk or trigger foods, then I'll have to spend money on healthcare and illness and not fun vacations. No fun camera or no fun photos and I won't be able to hike or walk and see and do if I'm obese. And I won't want to be in the photos myself.

So it makes it important to me not to over eat because it keeps me from my true loves of life. That motivates me. Great topic

Victoria said...

Wow. At first I didn't see the point of recording everything..but I see the point of it now. You get to see trends in your habits and are able to fix or anticipate. I'm going to start keeping journal.

Anonymous said...

One way I handle special occasions and food is to take advantage of the exercise "loophole" - I can burn off a few of those extra calories that I know I will consume. (Certainly not all, but some). I think the extra exercise (maybe it's an additional amount of time each day or another day a week) helps me to feel that I am in control of these calorie situations when I'm not in control of the meals that I prepare. I look forward to the special occasion where a decadent meal is prepared for a dinner party, add additional exercise into my routine for the week (beforehand if possible), and enjoy the meal immensely with the smallest portions I feel I can get away with without: (a) offending my hosts or (b) feeling as though I'm depriving myself of a treat. It's great if I can serve myself (sometimes I'll offer to help serve for this reason, as well as to be helpful). But, if not, I say 'just a small serving for me, I'm trying to enjoy smaller portions overall' - especially for a dish that I suspect may be quite high calorie. And then, I may go back for a second small serving of some items on the healthier side 'because it's so good I can't resist.' Hopefully, my host feels as though they made a delicious treat for me, and I know that I haven't totally overdone things for my goals. It may end up being more of a 'maintain' day than a 'weight loss' day, but by exercising and planning to enjoy myself, I can go back to the plan for the next meals with the understanding that there will be several 'maintain' days throughout my weight loss journey. (Also, importantly, I DO NOT try to make up for it beforehand or afterwards by eating less than I normally plan to eat for my weight loss goals.) This way of thinking allows me the freedom not to feel guilty about special occasions and to even look forward to those meals. After all, we have many social traditions that celebrate with food together, and it's a shame to miss out on that aspect of our social lives...especially since it may lead to feelings of resentment toward the food we are preparing for ourselves in the long run, perhaps ultimately contributing to rebellious binges. I also make realistic eating goals for vacation - I plan for that to be a 'maintain' time, and I really try to think about ways to plan things so that I get 'coincidental' exercise, if possible, with things I truly enjoy. On the beach? Take several short walks or swim for a bit in between sunbathing and relaxing. Window shopping. Going to a museum where walking and standing will be part of the experience. As always, thanks for sharing, Lyn!

N.R.E. said...

I can't speak for every situation, but when it comes to eating at a friend's house, I just tell them what I can and cannot eat. I have to now because of my diabetes, but even beforehand, I'd ask ahead of time what they were planning to prepare and then this led to a discussion of my likes/dislikes, as well as my husband's. I HATE fish and will not eat it to be polite an he hates pasta, so I wanted to avoid an awkward situation. Most friends usually ask what we want ahead of time, anyway, but for the others, they appreciated me bringing it up. I'd usually frame it, "We'd love to bring something. Do you mind if we discuss the menu beforehand?" and that would lead to, "Oh, do you like this?" etc. Then we'd bring a dish, everyone would enjoy the food and everyone would be happy. I ALWAYS ask guests what they like, as well. Anyway, now that I have diabetes I have to be really particular. I went to a party today and actually brought food with me so I could make sure I had something to eat. Turned out that there was plenty that I could have, but I can prepared.

Claudia said...

Really like Princess Dieter's suggestions!