Wednesday, January 2, 2013

That First Off Plan Bite: Sticking To a Diet (Or Not)

I've not yet talked about what, exactly, the circumstances were for me to take that first off plan bite last week. Yes, there was stress. There was medical stuff. There was a holiday. But you know I'd been eating on plan with Medifast for several weeks and was feeling great. I was down 11 pounds in 4 weeks and stayed on plan in week 5, even though I didn't have a loss. And then it happened. I took that first off plan bite. Before the Kit Kat incident, before the cheese and crackers, I took the first bite that set in motion all the other off plan bites that followed this week and resulted in a huge gain.

I wasn't having cravings. I wasn't hungry. I wasn't fighting myself about food at all. I felt quite good and was going along just fine. So WHY... why would I CHOOSE to put that bite in my mouth that would end a five week stretch of success and send me off track?

It's always all about that first bite. For many of us, we go along doing well on our chosen plan and then *something* comes along that results in a poor eating choice. In my experience, it doesn't matter what it is. The fact is, that first bite always brings a sense of relief... a removal of inner conflict... an end to the perhaps subconscious or perhaps very overt battle in our minds about whether we are going to eat our planned, healthy food or something else. Whenever there is conflict, struggle, and a sense of constantly having to be on guard or even 'waiting for the other shoe to drop,' that is stress. We might not *feel* stressed but it is there. And when you finally give in and pop that peanut butter cup in your mouth, all the stress and conflict melts away, being replaced by relief and sometimes guilt or shame. And sometimes that one bite is the black-and-white 'flip' that turns you from an on-plan, working-to-lose-weight machine into a puddle of "I am a failure, I can't do it, I am just going to eat." And that can lead to days, weeks, or months of indulgence and relapse into bad habits.

Well, enough of that. The circumstances of my first off- plan bite were eerily similar to something that happened a couple of years ago, when I went off Medifast because I went to a dinner party where the only things served were baked macaroni and cheese, dinner rolls, and sweets. This time, we were invited to a different dinner party. It was not a potluck but a provided meal. Admittedly I had no idea what would be served but figured I could always pick at protein and veggies and drink water, and then eat a reasonable amount when I got home. I ate a Medifast meal before I went and brought a bar in my purse, just in case. When I got there, I nibbled on the only on-plan thing I saw: celery sticks. But when we were all sitting around the big dining room table and the food was brought, I had a choice to make: eat or sit with an empty plate. Honestly I was not worried about it, even though the meal was a huge dish of homemade baked macaroni and cheese along with big juicy cheeseburgers on buns. There were pita chips and hummus, too... all decidedly NOT on plan. For a brief moment I considered taking a cheeseburger and picking the bun off to eat it with a fork, but really. Sometimes that kind of thing can fly, and other times it is just glaring and attention-drawing, and I just thought "well, I'll be fine. I'll just eat a reasonable amount and get right back on plan afterwards." So I put a burger and a spoonful of macaroni on my plate, along with 2 pita chips and a dab of hummus and I enjoyed them. I also enjoyed socializing and being with people I care about.

That was my first off plan bite. That is what took me off the Medifast Road and led to a week of disruption. It was HARD for me to forget about food after that; every time I went to grab a Medifast meal, I wanted something else instead. It made it easier to justify a few crackers or too much ham on Christmas or a little slice of birthday cake this week. It gave me cravings and hunger and made it very difficult to get back to low carb eating. I am back now, but I paid a price: 7 pounds gained, headaches, nausea, and sore joints.

It is so much easier to never take that bite and just stay the course all the way to one's goal weight. But so few of us do that. It is possible, for sure. The longer I can go without an off plan bite, the quicker I will be at my goal.

This morning I got out a new, digital scale that was sent to me to review. It is supposed to be really accurate, so I was not too happy when I saw that it consistently weighed me several pounds heavier than my old dial scale. I am going to weigh my kids on it later and once I am satisfied that it really is more accurate, I will probably switch to using that from now on.


Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, through many practice trials, we've learned that one bite always follows with many more bites... this habit then runs to completion after it has been triggered, even if we don't want it to. But in order to live "normally," we have to learn a new response to that first bite, not just avoid it. Avoiding it may help in initial weight loss, but maintenance really requires us to develop a new set of habits, and we have to learn that one bite does not necessarily mean more. This, for me, has been the hardest skill to acquire (in fact it has taken years of deliberate training), but it's proven to be the most useful and important one of all. There are no more out-of-control eating episodes, whether I've had one bite or not.

It can be done.

Chanelle said...

Hi Lyn,

I know I haven't commented in a while (mainly because someone almost always seems to make the same comment I would, and you also get a lot of comments and advice so I usually don't have to), but if you remembered my last, very long comment, I mentioned that I am studying health care/nutrition in school (along with my whole life story, lol).

Now part of the reason that I have read your blog for years is because you are SO honest about your struggles with food and also because I find your predicament to be so unfortunate sometimes; the fact that you have to eat at such low calories and it seems like you can't even have 1 off-plan bite, or you will gain 6 or 7 pounds :( (Sidebar: honestly that sounds like how I was when I had Cushing's disease so sometimes I really wonder if you have a good enough endocrinologist to catch an underlying hormonal issue.. but that is beside the point).

So I hope this doesn't come off the wrong way because I really want make a career out of health education/nutrition and I always try to understand others' unique situations but... over the years you have posted a few times about being on Medifast and coming to a point where you "aren't obsessing over food", and you "barely think about food" and are "free" from constant food thoughts, but if that is true, how are you then having the moments where you feel that you need an off-plan bite? Personally, it sounds a lot like self-sabotage (which I am only suggesting because I did that to myself for YEARS in other areas of life).

Also, I 100% GET what you mean by not trying to draw attention to your food choices (especially since people can be massive food pushers), but if you were surrounded by people that you cared about/cared about you, don't you think that they would understand your issues with food to a certain extent and not make such a big deal about you taking the bun of your burger?

Again, I'll be totally honest: when I was reading that you decided to have a burger with the bun, a tiny bit of macaroni and cheese, and pita chips and a bit of hummus, it sounded like the choice was fueled by a) having a mix of things on your plate so people wouldn't look at you as "weird" for having less than them and b) simply WANTING to eat those things and having a bit of an excuse to take them BECAUSE of your want to blend in with everyone else. To me it seems as if you a) put too much pressure on yourself to be 100% on-plan from the get-go or b) you took all these preventative measures (eating before, having the bar in your purse), but in the very back of your mind, had no intention to really stay on plan? (please correct me if I'm wrong!)

The only other thing I could think to avoid that situation is to tell the host/hostess ahead of time that you are really trying to stay on your eating plan, and since you decided to come to the party, maybe they could be an "ally" for you and redirect the conversation if anyone made comments about your food. Then you wouldn't feel as if all eyes are on you.

Again, this post is not driven by an ulterior motive, but I am just so incredibly intrigued by this hell that you seem to be going through just to reach your happy weight.. and trust me, you have done much more work on the food and emotional side of the equation than most anyone I know, as most people are content to give up and not even consider decreasing calories past 1500 because they just won't give up crappy foods.

Anyway... this is way longer than I wanted it to be but I just felt compelled to ask that question since I can count on a thoughtful, reflective response from you.


lisa~sunshine said...

Try weighing other things on the scale.. dumbbells? bag of dog food? or other things that you know the weight of... that's what I do with scales when I'm unsure...

As far as eating out.. I had to learn a LONG time ago that what I put into my mouth.. is what I WANT.. I had to lose the feelings of Needing to please.. or make someone else happy.. I"m truthfull.. to the point and honest.. I would have eating the burger and said.. bread doesn't make me feel good.. period.. I guess I wonder why you feel the need to please someone else? while hurting yourself? If living in pain due to your feet is caused by weight gain then reducing weight.. should take top priority.. not what you feel someone else would think.. but this is just my opinion.. and what i do..
Of coarse it's not ment to be harsh and I do get that certain times are just rough.. and we just came through a HUGE holiday ordeal.. Also.. I have a large family with A LOT of birthdays.. everyone celebrates.. it's cake monthly.. if I ate or felt obligated too.. I wouldn't get anywhere..

Lyn said...

Chanelle and lisa~

well, sometimes there really is a lot to dig up in a specific incident. Sometimes, I ponder and realize something new about myself from such an event... a fear, a desire to please, a driver to stay heavier, etc. In this case though, it wasn't all that complicated. There were a lot of emotions in this event as the person who prepared it had been through complete hell this year (think slowly losing a child) and frankly, my eating seemed really inconsequential at the time compared to her family's suffering. I just wanted to be there, be supportive, and not make any of it about me or cause any inkling of stress for the hostess. Maybe that doesn't seem like a good answer, but it's the honest one. All the eating since then has been because I craved it, I was hungry, I wanted it, it tastes good, etc... and that's the kind of thing I have to stop.

Chanelle, you are very thoughtful and insightful with your pondering of these issues. I think you will help a lot of people in your career!

Chanelle said...

No Lyn! I totally get it! I wish I could sympathize a bit more because I did striggle with my weight (even if it was for less than 2 years and caused by an underlying hormone issue), but my whole life I have dealt with perfectionism, OCD tendencies, anxiety, etc... honestly I am surprised that I didn't have an eating disorder since I was also a dancer when I was young! It's a miracle that I have a pretty normal relationship with food.

But I totally get having these really weird reasons for doing things that make total sense in your head, but when you write it down... it just... seems so stupid/weird/nonsensical. I see a lot of myself in you sometime, just with the way that we think and analyze and obsess.

The more I thought about your post today, the more it seems like you were subconsciously testing yourself; seeing if your slate was clean and if, this time, the food obsession was really gone. Then in combination with the need to please that almost all women feel, and "the holiday spirit"... literally was the "perfect storm" so to speak.

Thank you for the response! I know it is impossible to understand everyone but when I can reach a point where things aren't so mysterious to me, it helps me prepare for these encounters in the future.

Please keep up the honesty and candor and hard work Lyn! I am a veery healthy person but I am sure that I would have given up at some point if I had the same journey as you, and like I said, most people aren't willing to do *whatever* it takes to reach optimal health. Kudos to you for taking the harder route and risking it all for the greatest regard <3


P.S. and thank you for the wonderful compliment :)

Karen said...

The only thing that stopped me , was me. Once I accepted this, I was able to do what I needed to do.

Don't let you get you. If you want to stop you can choose that. I know because I got off that crazy train myself. Lots of work and I had help from lots of different resources.

Hope you'll consider getting help with this. Your kids , the dog , your life are waiting. Never easy, always worth it. Karen p

Anonymous said...

Hi Lyn,

I remember a while back that your doctor's scale weighed you several pounds heavier than your home scale so I tend to think the new scale is accurate.

I had the same experience when I got a new scale. It stinks, but just make the adjustment and move on. It's better to know your true weight, after all.

As someone else suggested you can weigh something with a known mass but I would suggest weighing yourself, then weighing yourself holding the bag of flour or whatever, then compute the difference. This is more accurate than setting a small object directly on the scale.

Any word from the rheumatologist? I've recently been diagnosed with an auto-immune disease myself so I am hoping you avoid that fate.

Keep up the good work!

Rebecca (not anonymous I just don't have a blog yet; I may start one now that I have this new thing to deal with)

Lyn said...


I have an appt with the rheumatologist in a couple of weeks.

Anonymous said...

I think the social pressures regarding food are definitely underestimated. When I'm trying to eat low calorie, I constantly have food pushed at me by friends and family. I can say "no" every time, but, after awhile, I do start feeling kind of isolated and uncomfortable. And I'm only trying to maintain my weight, not lose at this point. Someone once said that, to lose weight, you have to become a little mean. I think they were right, unfortunately :S

Anonymous said...

Considering the low carb craze I don't think anyone would've thought twice if you ate a burger without a bun, if they noticed at all. That and hummus on some of those celery sticks would have made an okay meal.

Anonymous said...

Actually, its not the first bite, its the second. And this is why Medifast does not work for me. I'm sorry you are struggling, you have come a long way... but if you could have gotten celery sticks, different veggies, and hummus, and maybe a bit of mac-and-cheese, then you would have had a pretty balanced meal. I've had times when I have not been able to eat anything at parties, etc... it happens. But basically, what I'm saying is that you can have that one splurge, then go back on the "diet". I've slipped, of course I have, but you have to be able to go off-plan a little without it derailing the following week...

good luck.

Gwen said...

Sorry about this. I guess I'm pushy...because when I'm 'at it', I have no problem at all changing what's served around so it's low carb for me. I would've had no problem with a bunless burger; I order them all the time that way (or bunless chicken sandwiches)...I make others around me at easy by saying "I know, I'm really high maintenance" and laughing. You might try that next time.

When in times of stress (or boredom), that's my rough go situations. Thing is, life is full of stress, and I just have to find better ways to knee-jerk instead of the momentary pleasures of junk food. It's a journey. :)

Traveling Light said...

Ha. The sad thing is that the reason I'm sitting here reading this blog is because I want to go downstairs and have that FIRST BITE right now.

Sigh. Two days in and alrady the battle wages in my head. aarrgghh.

This post was ironically fitting. thanks. And don't do what I've done--once the words are down on the page, I somehow become absolved from the need to do what I just said I wouldn't do. I'm not quite sure how that happens...

Let's travel light thru 2013, shall we?


Anonymous said...

Lyn, I think that if you really felt that your eating had seemed inconsequential compared to her family's suffering it wouldn't have been as big a deal to you not to go off-plan. You could have said you can't have bread or pasta for health reasons -- which is true -- and it wouldn't have been making it about you in any way. People would have understood that, a lot of people have special dietary needs and those needs don't change just because they're in a social situation -- that's how people have to eat regardless of what's going on. When you were at this dinner party you ate for comfort -- just not your own. You ate to address someone else's emotional problem and as a way of caring for your friend, which is really kind, but ultimately you created this bigger problem for yourself because you didn't make caring for *yourself* as important as it needed to be. Because you're right: your eating at that dinner party wasn't important -- that's why it wouldn't have mattered if you had taken the bun off your burger and eaten it with a knife and fork. But you didn't because you made it important and felt like you "had" to go off-plan for purely emotive reasons.

Lyn said...


I think you're reading way too much into it. Also, I never felt like I "had" to go off plan. It was a choice I made.

MargieAnne said...

Hi Lyn, Some situations are beyond difficult. This is the first Christmas/New Year season I have not lost the plot because I ate something off plan. How did this happen? I think that during the year there has been a healing of hormones that influence appetite and set up cravings for starches and sugars. There was no abundance of post Christmas Feast left-overs.

I have been trying to think of wheat, in particular, as something I am seriously allergic too. Since I am not celiac it does take some mental gymnastics and there are a few situations where I decide, 'to heck with it!' In your situation I would have probably done exactly as you did. And I fully understand the struggle in the following days to stick with the plan.

Hope you are having a very good day.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, I didn't mean that comment to come off as judgemental as I guess it did? It just seemed a lot to me like you prioritised other people's comfort over your own (present and future) in making that choice -- without even realising maybe that that's what you were doing, and that's something I struggle with a lot myself when I'm making these choices in my life too (I think everyone does to some extent).

Doug said...

Ugh I hate that first bite.. It never is worth it. "I'll just have one little taste" quickly turns into "wow why are there three empty candy bags and where did that huge plate of cookies go?"

Get back on the wagon and try try again, that's where I'm at.