Monday, August 21, 2017

Monthly Goals Report July - Aug

July 20 - August 20, 2017

So here's the short of it:
Weight 278, meaning I lost 4 lbs., and 12 lbs since restarting. We're going with "that's good," in spite of it being only 40% of goal. Other measurements are pretty encouraging: lost an inch around my thigh, and half an inch around my neck, and gained an inch around my bicep. Here's the graphic:

My goals for this month were:

  • Lose 10 lbs (nope, lost 4, which would be under goal for a normal month... it's ok... I lost weight...)
  • Eat 2000 or less calories a day (adjusted up from 1930) -- did this 25 out of 32 days, and only went seriously over (2650 calories) 1 time
  • Walk to work every day -- nailed it, plus walked home a few times and went hiking, etc.
  • Track my calories daily / write down every single thing I ate -- nailed it
  • Strength train every other day with no more than one 2-day rest period a week -- nailed it, until last week when I fell WAY off the wagon, have only worked out once since last Thu


OK, the good: I lost weight. Not only did I lose weight, but I seem to have broken through the 280-boundary that I was feeling stuck at. Just don't sabotage that and I'll be on track to keep losing. When I was first trying to lose and track my weight a couple years ago I was at 245 and feeling like I could never get back down to my goal weight (190) with so far to go. Now, I keep remembering, "OK, I can be smaller. I weighed 245 three years ago. I weighed 195 six years ago. I can get back there." Oddly enough I have one co-worker who keeps reminding me (and she didn't know me back then, which makes it even stranger, but more encouraging in a way) "It didn't all go on in a month, it isn't gonna come off that fast, either."

More good: I am very pleased to see that I have lost an inch off my thigh, and half an inch off my neck, and that I gained a whole inch around my bicep. Even though my belly and waist aren't much smaller (my pants still fit the same) I now see empirically that I am in fact losing body fat, and gaining muscle.

I hate to use an already overused cliche, but overall I am getting the feeling I need to "lean in" to this a little more. I made the broad-strokes changes, and after 3 months of tracking and learning from it, I think I see now where I can put more focus without screwing it up. Calories and fitness, of course.

I need to restrict my daily calories a little tighter without decreasing my food volume. If I feel hungry, I'm going to eat, that's all there is to it. I need to find some places to replace fat and carbs with fiber or protein. I was been causally / anecdotally testing the waters to see if I can get 50% of my calories from plant-based food, and I think I can do it... I might try that for the Aug - Sept month and see what happens.

I also need to work out a little more. I've adapted 100% to walking to work, it never occurs to me to take the car any more. (We'll see what happens the first time I wake up to 2 feet of snow...) And I'm doing ok on strength training, but I think I need to add a little more full-body exercise to my routine, make it a little longer, just do a little more. I'm not sure what. My current fitness routine developed organically, so I'm going to let this next step do the same. Goal for the Aug - Sept month will be to increase my workout time overall to 30 min, and include some new element, maybe HIT or maybe I'll give yoga another whirl (I hated it before, so..... that either means it's totally the right thing, or I was right and yoga is stupid... not sure which.)

I had a couple times this month that I was very discouraged and felt that familiar feeling like I was about to throw in the towel. Particularly when I just kept yo-yo-ing back up above 280, I just wanted to say fuck it and go bury myself in a pile of fried food and eat my way back to the surface with a side of mayo. But, I didn't. I'm not even sure how truthfully, other than every time it happened, that voice in my head would say, "No, this is not the end of the road. You are not going to quit. Giving up now means that other voice is right, and you really are fat and a failure." And somewhere I found the conviction to just move on from setbacks. I realize now that just because I don't make my monthly goal is not a reason to quit -- then I won't make any more goals. I hate failure. But I'm not going to allow it to make me turn back any more. Push through adversity. Be the boss I act like I am.

And remember the wins. I've lost 12 lbs. so far. I've lost an inch off my thigh and and half an inch off my neck and my muscles are getting bigger. My cardio conditioning is coming back really well, and I can tell I am getting stronger. I'm sleeping better and I'm in a better mood. I haven't had what I would classify as a binge in over a month, and my preference for healthy foods is increasing. I had a funny proof of that the other day -- I said, "I want Ranch dressing on my salad today, I'm gonna have it." And then, it tasted gross to me. So, there is positive stuff happening, I just need to keep working at it.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2 Week Experiment

OK so I mostly discovered that weighing yourself twice a day and recording it to the 10th of  a pound makes you crazy.

As I said I was going to, I have tracked my weight every day AM & PM for the last 14 (15 including today) days. In that 14 days span, I actually gained 1.2 lbs. However, if I include today's weight of 278.8 (which is also my lowest recorded weight during the measuring period) I have lost 1.6 lbs., and 11.2 lbs since I started tracking again. I'm trying to focus on that number.

Here's the breakdown on what I discovered:

My weight fluctuated 8.4 lbs over the course of 2 weeks, with my highest weight being 287.2 last Sunday after a 2 day slug-binge-fest (first full weekend off in weeks -- excellent justification) and down as low as 278.8 two days before, coming into that weekend. So I packed on 8 1/2 lbs in two days. If that little snafu hadn't happened, I might have continued downward instead of having to fight my way back down.

I can't seem to break below 280. I'm stuck for some reason. I got to 279 / 278 four times but couldn't stay there. Every time I saw a 7 on the scale instead of an 8 I would get this spike of happiness, like  Holy shit I did it!! Then the next day.... boom! back up to 280whatever. It's infuriating. It's also very discouraging.

So we'll see what happens tomorrow. I have the day off today, so I'm going to try not to fill up on comfort food. I can't make any promises.

Here's the data from my experiment in charts:

And here's a graph of my daily weight and daily average weight:

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Weigh-in Wednesday: mixed results this week

Yes, I know it's Thursday.

So, mixed results this week. I actually gained a pound. I'm disappointed.

Blue Hill Mountain Summit via the Becton Trail, July 29th, 2017
However, I met my fitness goals (blew 'em out of the water, actually) and tracked my diet & exercise every day, and met my walking goal every day. Last Wednesday we went for a 9 mile hike on the Carriage Trails around Witch Hole Pond and the Paradise Hill Loop, and on Saturday we climbed up Blue Hill Mountain. I did not, however, meet my calorie goals; I went significantly over my calorie target two times this week.

And, obviously I did not meet my weight loss goal. In fact, having gained a pound when I needed to lose 2 to stay on track, I might have derailed my month goal of losing 10 lbs. I think I might be able to still meet my baseline goal of 1.5 lbs. a week, as long as I do 100% of my goal the rest of the month. But that will mean I still have to play catch-up next month to get back on track.

Witch Hole Pond, July 26th, 2017
I need to look deeper into what is happening with my weight. I feel like I keep losing and gaining the same 10 lbs. over and over again. I can't seem to get below 280, except for literally one day last week I was 279, and then by mid-week I saw 286 one morning and was like, "Fuuuck. I'm not gonna get to 278 by Wednesday, am I?" On the one hand, I have been working out, walking every day, and we did a couple very strenuous hikes this week -- and I can feel that my pecs and biceps are getting bigger, so possibly it is partly muscle gain. But that isn't all.

I am going to start recording my weight twice a day for a couple weeks and see if I can see a pattern, because I feel as though I perceive one. Like... my weight always seems to bottom out around Tuesday or Wednesday then I always seem to pack on 2-3 lbs. over the course of the week, sometimes I see half-day spikes like 5 or 6 lbs. It's like there is some critical mass I am stuck at. (Yes, I know body stasis is a real thing.) Then, I have a scale-panic and restrict my calories way back for a couple days and voila! I'm back down to 280-281..... So, I need to start tracking my weight closely for a bit and cross reference it with my diet and activity level. I need to see things empirically for myself.

Anyway. It was a mixed bag this week. My focus for next week is going to be to buckle down and just meet my daily goals every single day and hopefully at least salvage my baseline.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Food triggers and binge eating

So in this post I said, "After two months of monitoring this, ruminating on it, Googling it, and generally letting it settle into my brain I have been forced to accept that simply saying that late night eating is my real problem is not sufficient to addressing it -- I have to actually not eat."

As they say, acknowledging a problem is the first step. Not the step, right? There's more to it. Next is addressing it. So, let's address my binge eating at night.

Let's start with a confession: I can easily consume 3 or 4 times as much food as a regular person.

Here's some binge eating I regularly do:

  • When I make a meal, especially pasta, I will eat the equivalent of a whole meal out of the pan as I am preparing it, so that I can also eat a semi-large "meal" and make it look like I am eating normally.
  • Sometimes I will make myself two cheese and mayo sandwiches as a "snack" and eat them both in 3 or 4 bites each. (Note that is like a 1000 calories in 3 minutes.)
  • Sometimes I eat so fast that food packs down into my throat because my esophagus can't get it into my stomach as fast as I'm swallowing it -- I'll have to stop and guzzle water to flush the food into my stomach so I can keep eating.
  • If I am really, really hungry when I eat a meal, I eat so fast that I am already eating a second full helping before I even start to feel like I ate at all.
  • I secret-eat. The eating out of the cooking pan as I prepare is secret eating. In general, that is my secret-eat MO: I eat large portions of the food I am preparing for dinner before it ever gets to the plate, and I will follow up with a few bites every time I go into the kitchen during and after the meal, too.
  • With some foods like pasta, chips or crackers, I will eat them until they are gone. I will even try to stop and I can't. I'll be shoveling it in and even though I am thinking, "I have to stop," I just can't make the fork stop going into my mouth. (NOTE: with this one, I am having a lot of success changing, I have been able to stop or avoid all together lately.... gotta keep that track.)
  • Alcohol. Sometimes I will have a glass of wine after work, before dinner, and it kills my appetite. I sometimes end up drinking all night instead of eating, because the calories from alcohol fool your body into thinking you ate. So then one of two things happens: either, I am just destroyed apocalyptic hung over the next day (which is getting harder and harder on me as I get older) or -- maybe worse -- just before bed, I will tell myself I need to eat something so I'm not crazy hung over tomorrow, and because I'm drunk and have no willpower, I eat some marathon like 2000 calories or total garbage then go immediately pass out. 
There. If you didn't already feel you knew too much about me, there's some really ugly stuff.

So, I've done a lot of reading about binge eating disorder and food addiction. I know that am an emotional eater, and I am starting to be able to recognize the triggers. I eat for stress relief and I eat when I'm bored. 

I have this vivid recollection where I got a subpoena delivered to my door by a cop. That's like every trigger in one package. I fear and distrust police officers. I have a near panic attack when someone knocks on my door without calling first. (I normally will not answer the door if I don't know who it is.) And getting a subpoena played out a whole nightmare scenario. Anyway -- I found myself eating directly out of the refrigerator, actually folding a sandwich in half so I could eat it faster. I don't recall going in the kitchen, or starting to eat. 

"Trigger foods" seem to be a big focus of a lot of the info that is out there about binge eating and food addiction. I find that I have more psychological or emotional triggers than any specific foods that cause me to have a binge. There are certain foods that are my go-to foods, but I think they are very common ones because of their fat-carb-reward loop: pasta, bread, chips (really crackers for me more than chips.) Also, these are foods that are easy to consume large portions of very quickly, and produce the proper dopamine effect that most people experience as "food coma." 

Since I have been approaching my diet, fitness and health goals as a whole lifestyle change, I have been experiencing a lot of success dealing with triggers without binge eating. I find that I have to concentrate really hard sometimes, but I can listen to what my body is telling me versus the urge to gobble down everything I can get in my mouth. When I want to go in the kitchen and "grab a snack," I am able to pay attention and determine if I am actually hungry or not. If I am actually hungry, I'll eat something. If I'm not actually hungry (like when I can feel that my belly is full but I'm still planning a meal in my head,) that is when we're in the danger zone.

So what do we do in the danger zone?
  • I start with water. Drink down a nice big glass of water, fast. I get the visceral satisfaction of swallowing a large portion of something. And water filling your belly does satisfy your hunger pangs long enough for your brain to evaluate if you're really hungry or not. It is also a true fact that your brain has a difficult time differentiating between hunger and thirst, so sometimes you really are just thirsty. Luckily, I also love water, it is my #1 favorite beverage, always has been. So I have a lot of success using water to help me get through triggers.
  • Exercise. This one is new for me, and I discovered it organically. (Another thing I had to discover empirically for myself, couldn't just take everyone's word for it...) I'll feel a hunger pang when I know I should not be hungry (like I already ate...) and I'll grab my free weights and do a couple reps. Next thing I know, I've forgotten all about eating. 
  • Try willpower. As my nutritional health is increasing, I find this one to be a lot easier. Sometimes simply telling myself, "I'm not actually hungry, it's just a trigger," actually works. I'm actually not hungry, because I'm eating enough dietary fiber and vegetables that increase my satisfaction with meals, I am not nutritionally starved so these triggers are more readily identified as merely culprits, not legit hunger.
  • Still can't totally stop? Maybe I am actually hungry. Eat something that is not a binge food. Some grapes or other fruit, or a couple spoonfuls of low fat cottage cheese, or one turkey-cheese roll-up. And immediately drink some water and get the f**k out of the kitchen. This one is a last resort. Stopping binge behavior with food is a slippery slope for the obvious reasons.
I'd like to conclude by saying: the best way to overcome eating triggers is SUCCESS. 

Last night I knew I was going to hit my weight loss goal for the week, because I was already there. All I had to do yesterday was not gain anything and I was set to win this morning. -- And I did it. -- One of my biggest triggers is a self-sabotage I've struggled with forever: I get so close to truly making a lasting change in my weight and health and right when I get to the brink, I fail big. And that justifies a binge, or giving up totally, which reinforces the "why do I bother?..." 

So last night, there I was, right on the brink of making my weekly goal. It's just one sleep away, and I'm already there. All I have to do is just maintain. I ate my healthy salad for dinner and some fresh cherries for a snack after. And then.... every time I go in the kitchen, I'm lookin' in the fridge, "I just need a snack." No. I don't. 

And I got through it with willpower -- I just kept my eyes on the prize: I'm at my goal, I'm not gonna fuck that up just so I can shove a meal I don't need down my throat one time. I did compromise with myself, and I ate some cottage cheese about an hour before bed, and that satisfied me. And when I woke up this morning and got on the scale.... and found not only was I at goal, I was 1 lb. below, I was elated. I did it! It seems silly to have felt that proud of myself for such a small thing, but it really was a big thing. I confronted a lifelong self-destructive patterns and won. Not saying the battle is over, but every success makes me feel more and more like I can do it.

Weight-In Wednesday: lost 3 lbs. and big-boy breakfast

I did it! I made my goal for the week, plus a little. (Which is exactly what I said, "I need to be be at goal or a little ahead, instead of playing catch-up the rest of the time. Those little misses add up to big misses.")

This week's weight goal was 280, and as of this morning I am at 279. SWEET -- saw a 7. This means overall I have lost 3 lbs. this week and 11 lbs. overall since May. And that also means that really, I have lost 10 lbs. twice because in the end of June my weight blimped back up to 290. Gonna aim to not let that happen again.

I've discovered something empirically that I could not accept based on the word of others, even everyone:

I need to restrict my calorie intake at night.

I weight myself every day, twice a day. And, nearly every time I am as much as 3 lbs. lighter in the afternoon than I am first thing in the morning. The only times this has not been true were when I consciously stopped myself from eating into the evening and then my weight in the morning is right at, or just barely a sliver under my weight from the previous afternoon.

After two months of monitoring this, ruminating on it, Googling it, and generally letting it settle into my brain I have been forced to accept that simply saying that late night eating is my real problem is not sufficient to addressing it -- I have to actually not eat.

I use Google Fit to track my activity level and my BMR during the day and when I get home from work any given day I am usually at a 600-1000 calorie deficit for the day, which is right on target. For my overall goal, I am working toward being at a 750 calorie deficit every day with exercise calculated as part of it. That will (mathematically at least) allow me to lose 1.5 lbs per week. So then... I plant my ass in front of the TV and start eating. There are days more than 50% of my calories are consumed at home in the evening. And there are plenty of nights I go way over that.

I have found a couple things that help remedy that. Mostly, shifting a lot of my calories to breakfast makes a big difference. And secondarily to that, eating my greasy carbs at lunch (if I want them) seems to neutralize their negatives and maximize their positives. Yes there are positives such as: me being happy because I get to eat a french fry or a fried fish sandwich once in a while, and the calorie-fat-carb blast in the middle of the day keeps me going through the "late day slump." On the regular my lunch is a salad, but if I want crispy fried chicken on top of it, I have it. Or if there is something irresistible like coleslaw. Mmm. I need to be psychologically satisfied with my meals, too.

Oddly enough, I have to face weird reactions to eating a big breakfast. Where I work, we eat our meals together, in the dining room, with the residents (I work in an assisted living / nursing home.) And I often get comments like, "Well that's a big-boy breakfast isn't it?" Or, "Gee, are you hungry?" (To which I always simply say, "Yep.") (Note I could show up at the table with a 1000 calorie LUNCH on my plate and no one would bat an eyelash, but I eat a full plate of food at breakfast and it's a "big boy breakfast.")

My average breakfast runs around 600 calories. I normally have 2 scrambled eggs, gluten free toast, an apple, half a banana and either oatmeal or yogurt (but not both) and if there is bacon -- obviously, it's bacon. Eating a nice, big breakfast gives me energy through the day, makes it so I can eat a much lower calorie lunch (usually I eat a large salad with whatever protein is being served -- chicken or fish, etc.) and I have the balance of the day for my metabolism to actually use the fat calories instead of store them. My mood throughout the day is also higher and more positive if I had a good breakfast, and I am able to handle stress and demanding situations a lot more readily.

So yes. It is a "big-boy breakfast," because I'm a big boy and I have a lot of work to do. I'm working on not reacting emotionally to criticisms of my weight (which is what commenting on the size of a meal really is.) It's easy to knee-jerk to a defensive reaction, but I do try to save those for the deserving (like the asshole who made a shitty comment to me at an ice cream shop -- yeah I told that guy to go fuck himself, "I have an idea: how about you keep your fucking opinion to yourself where it belongs. What? You thought I came here for a salad maybe? So yeah. Fuck off." .... pretty sure is what I said that time.) But in general I am working on using my Zen on people's opinions / reactions to my weigh and fitness goals the way I do with nearly everything else. I'm making progress, but it's slow going.

At any rate, it's a good week. Lost 3 lbs. Met my exercise, activity, and tracking goals, and I am feeling stronger and healthier. I am going to write a separate entry about the night eating and some goal setting surrounding that. Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

I'm Getting Stronger

Noticed today that my strength training is getting easier. And my form is getting smoother, and my muscles warm up easier. And I'm starting to feel a difference, especially in my chest and arms; can't see it yet, but you will. Combined with walking to work every day, I'm sleeping better and have more energy.  I've kept to my fitness goals for 2 months now, which is like a month and three weeks longer than ever before. #fitnessgoals #strong

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Monthly recap - lost 8 lbs - new goals

Today is two months (61 days) since I started tracking my weight, diet & exercise again. My current weight as of yesterday is 282 lbs., meaning I have lost 8 lbs. That's good. I'll take that. However, based on my goal of losing 1.5 lbs / wk, I am running behind. I should have lost 13 lbs. by now.

Hold up now! No one needs to jump all over me with t-shirt wisdom about accepting my journey or focusing on the positive of losing 8 lbs. I am very pleased to see my weight going down. And I have been walking every day and strength training at least 3x a week, and I can see positive changes in my body and in my health.

In fact, I was ecstatic to see 282 the other day because it is the lowest number I've seen in years, and I was already struggling with not seeming to be able to get below 283. I'd keep getting back down to 283 then seeing a higher number again the very next day. (Yes, I weigh myself every day, I don't care what they say about it.) I had a couple "regressions" this month -- some late night binge eating and some poor meal choices several days in a row and I actually saw my weight go back up to 290 last week, which was the trigger of one of those binge eating nights. (Also had some unwelcome stresses at work that I worked through with a pizza and a gallon of vanilla ice cream...) Then, after a couple days back on track nutritionally, and a little self control, and the scale started going the other way again. But I still kept getting hung up at or near 283, which was a weight I dropped down to very quickly right at the beginning, so it was already the bar so to speak. On weigh-in day this week I was still at that bar, 283. I was so disappointed, almost as much as the day I stepped on and saw that I was all the way back to ground zero at 290. So I weighed myself the next day, with grim expectations and instead got a jolt of happy adrenaline -- "Oh my god! 282!!" Nice. New bar set.

So I've lost 8 lbs. That's just under 1 lb. a week. That's ok. Losing 1-2 lbs. a week is the only realistic long-term pace. But I know I can do better. I can make my goal of 1.5 lbs. a week. I will be at 190 lbs. by my birthday NEXT summer. Losing 100 lbs in 15 months is possible. I will have to make up the 5 lb. deficit somewhere along the way.  It pushes my calculus up to needing to lose 1.6 lbs a week, or I might have another quick weight drop at some point. Or I could do a challenge this coming month and see if I can drop 12 lbs. That would be 2.7 lbs. a week. In those tiny increments it all looks so doable. If I stretched it over 2 months, that would be a fraction over 2 lbs. a week.

Ok that's talked through. So, let's say new goal: I will make up the 5 lb. deficit in no more than 2 months starting today. Meaning my weight by 9/20/17 should be 264 lbs. If I do it at an even pace, I should be at 273 lbs. by 8/20/17 (the day before my birthday,) which is a 10 lb. loss, or 2.25 lbs a week. I'll need to cut 1129 calories a day below my BMR to do that so.... 1935 calories a day. Ouch. But ok, I might be able to do that.

I also need to more aggressively pursue my fitness goals. Building muscle mass particularly at my age (45 next month) is the key to losing weight. Because my metabolism has changed as I get older, cutting calories and doing some cardio isn't enough. I have been backsliding a little on my strength training. The last two weeks I have gone down to every third day (two rest days) and a couple times it was every fourth day. Not good. I need to step that back up, starting today. Also because it has been disgusting hot and humid (truly it has -- 80% humidity and hazy hot sun) I have also been accepting rides home from work most days, so my walk has been cut in half. Gotta remedy that.

Alright. Time to get back on track.

July 20 - August 20 Goals:

Lose 10 lbs.: restrict calorie intake to 1935/day, lose at a consistent 2.25 lbs. per week
Walk to work every day, regardless of weather and walk home at least 3x a week
Strength training every other day, with one 2-day rest period allowed per week
Make a goal tracker for the wall at home that I check off daily