I said I wouldn’t join the rat race, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to celebrate my accomplishments or share what has been so effective for me.
Clarifications have been added to the bottom of this post. Please see below.
For so long I thought there was something deeply flawed about my body or psyche. I felt gross and inadequate. I couldn’t understand why others could do what felt impossible for me. I wanted to believe those who told me that it was a matter of willpower, and that I just needed to conquer mine. That it would be possible to keep a freezer stocked with ice cream and a cupboard full of crackers and still lose/maintain my weight. I would fixate on the junk food in the house, and think about it all day long. It was crazy to me that my husband didn’t have the same experience, because I thought it was normal to be in the shower right after breakfast and think about when I could eat the cheesecake leftovers in the fridge.
Sounds crazy, right? Out of control? Living that way was exhausting. Now that I look back I really believe that I was addicted to sugar, and based on my love of Fat Chance you can probably guess that I believe conquering my sugar addiction has been the key to my weight loss. I do have some good news who feel bad about their exercise record – I think weight loss comes through what you eat, not exercise. Sweat it out at the gym to boost you mood and build your muscles, but the “I can just exercise it off mentality” is harmful. I can’t be the only one who used to eat donuts and figure I’d go for a run to make up for it? Weight loss (of excess adipose tissue) comes through what you eat. Although I do think that excess sweetener (of any kind) is a very bad thing, I don’t think there is one right way for everyone. I’ll tell you what’s been working for me, and you can develop your own program from there.
Only eat when hungry. I’ll skip breakfast, lunch, and dinner, all in a row, if that’s what I think my body is telling me to do. David Levitsky, professor at Cornell, recently put out a study about breakfast eating and said ““There’s a fundamental belief that if you don’t eat breakfast, you will compensate for the lost calories at lunch or later in the day. We’ve found that there is no caloric compensation in a normal group of eaters.” I pay attention to how I’m feeling, look ahead to the rest of my day to make sure I’m not going to get in a bad spot and make poor choices, and make my choice to eat or not eat accordingly.
Don’t eat to feel full. Hara hachi bu is a Confucian teaching advising people to eat until they are 80 percent full. I work hard to do this every day, at every meal. I have the means and opportunity to eat almost anything I want at any meal, there is no reason to clean my plate and feel unpleasant.
(Almost) No cheating. I’m not perfect. This weight loss experience is long, and I’m going to have tough days. But I used to cheat on an almost-daily basis, telling myself that I’d start over the next day. Now I use Health Month, which keeps me accountable and has helped me develop a set of rules that I can actually stick to. I’ll talk about that a little bit more below.
DietBet. The idea is really simple, and it’s been a great motivator for me. Put down $25 (or so), lose 4%, get the extras from everyone who didn’t meet their goal. Those who have been around me in real life the past few months have heard me say “I’ve got a DietBet, I’m going to skip on the dessert this time around.”
Health Month. A reader mentioned HealthMonth back in March, and I took to it instantly as I’m a big fan of gamification. I set rules for myself, check in on a daily basis, and try not to lose all of my “life points” by the end. I like it so much that I’ve even started using it to modify negative practices I have in non-health related areas of my life (for example, in the month of August I’m not allowed to mindlessly browse social media before I go to bed, and if I do I lose a life point. Oh, and I have to floss too. I lost a life point on the first day for that one!) If this is going to work, I think it is crucial to set up a bad outcome if you lose all of your life points. Not just a bad outcome, something so horrific that you could never allow yourself to let it happen (obviously nothing illegal or that harms anyone else!). I learned about this principle on an episode of Radio Lab, which detailed the story of a woman who was only able to quit smoking after she decided that she would have to give money to the KKK if she ever smoked again. I have a reward each month too, usually some new clothes at the thrift stores in Menlo Park. As the months go by I’ve added and eliminated rules. I want to clean up different areas of my life, and also wean myself off of my dependency on the website so I can see which things have become lasting habits.
To try to help you understand how this works, I thought I’d show you the rules I used for April – August.
April: Drink at least 88 glasses of water a week – Do weight training at least 3 days a week – Run 3 days a week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day
May: Drink at least 65 glasses of water a week – Do weight training at least 2 days a week – Run 3 days a week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Track meals every day using Eatery – No new unnecessary clothing items
June: Do weight training at least 2 days a week – Run 3 days a week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Allow added sugar 1 day/week – No gluten free junk food – No new unnecessary clothing items
July: Do weight training at least 2 days a week – Run 3 days a week – Track your spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Allow added sugar 1 day/week – Can buy unnecessary clothes/accessories for me/kids 1x/week
August: Track spending at least 1 day a week – No wheat every day – No fried food – No HFCS – No corn chips – Allow added sugar 1 day/week - Can buy unnecessary clothes/accessories for me/kids 1x/week – Floss every day – No social media while laying in bed
As you can see, some rules have stayed the same since I started, others have been introduced, and others have been eliminated. I try to pay attention to trigger situations or areas for me, and create rules to target those areas. After a month I reevaluate how I’m doing to decide if I need to continue checking in regarding that thing. First the first two months I didn’t allow myself to have anything with any added sweetener of any kind. Since June I’ve allowed myself added sweetener 1x/week and it’s been really wonderful. I don’t feel deprived, I’m in control, and I’m meeting my weight loss goals. And the beauty of the Health Month game is that I have my life points for some wiggle room. If I’m in a situation where I’ve already had my sugar once that week, but really want some more, I have to weigh whether or not I want to lose a point.
This has helped me navigate all sorts of situations where I normally emerage flaying myself for my inadequacies. I went on a weekend trip with TH to Portland and planned my meals and splurges strategically around my life points. I ate at fantastic restaurants, enjoyed myself, and didn’t for a moment feel deprived. And I won my DietBet that month! At my grandma’s house in Washington they made ice cream by hand, using a crank on an old wooden machine, and I passed it up with no problem. Yes it would have been good, but I would have lost two life points, one for the sugar and one for the high fructose corn syrup, and I didn’t think it would be that good. I laughed and joked with my cousins as they at their ice cream and marveled at how in control I felt. Normally I would sit off to the side, fighting an internal battle, likely eventually giving in and feeling guilty and angry with myself for being a big (fat) failure. Now my indulgences feel like strategic moves, and I know that sometimes I’m going to lose the battle, but I can win the war.
GymPact. Another service that pays you for meeting your goals using the money from those who didn’t reach theirs. GymPact asks you how much money you want to pledge, how many times you want to work out/week, and then takes money from you if you fail to check in and work out as long as you pledged. I like that you can change your workout goals, amount pledged, or freeze your membership altogether on a weekly basis. The app was having issues so I stopped using it for awhile, but I renewed my membership at 24 Hour Fitness this past week so I think I’ll start up again. It feels like you’re getting paid (very small amounts) to work out!
Eatery. I wrote about Eatery previously, and it freaked a lot of people out so I’m not going to get into that again. You can read my previous post to understand how it works. I haven’t used it for a few months and don’t plan to go back to it, as I think it’s served its purpose for me. Eatery acted as a food journal, helping me understand exactly what I was eating. At the end of the week I would sit down with That Husband and we would talk about what my log said, and brainstorm ways I could make positive changes. I saw that I had cut out wheat, but was using rice and potatoes to meet those “carb cravings”. After a few months of using the app I had a firm understanding of my tendencies and negative patterns, and was able to conquer/lessen those by replacing them with other positive behaviors. When I want something crunchy now, I eat a carrot dipped in hummus and goat cheese (that’s what I had for lunch today, it was very satisfying).
TWLC4 Facebook group. A terrific support group full of women with diverse backgrounds, experiences, and opinions. Love you ladies.
Weight loss rewards for every 5 lbs. At the beginning of my weight loss journey I set reward for myself for each 5 lbs lost. They started out small (new mascara) and grow more elaborate and enticing as I get closer to my goal weight (a family photo session!). One of my favorites is “Buy myself fresh flowers 1x/week for 3 months”. In the summer I can get flowers for $3/week, so it’s not a huge hit to our budget, but those flower brighten up our kitchen and are a daily reminder of how far I’ve come.
Speaking of how far I’ve come, let’s talk about the results of the last 5 months. I’ve been measuring myself along the way, between March and July I lost:
Upper Arm – 1 inch
Bust- 4 inches
Waist – 3.5 inches
Belly – 4.5 inches
Hips – 4 inches
Butt – 4 inches
Thigh – 2 inches
Calves – .5 inches
But I think pictures are the way to go! These are the same jeans, but a different white tank. Read more →