Diet Fatigue… and a Maintenance Experiment

Diet Fatigue. Its not something I’ve seen defined anywhere. But I bet all of you who have ever been on a diet know what I am talking about. Sometimes it wears on you, all this thinking and restricting and counting and denying…whatever your particular form of dieting happens to be at this particular time.

I’ve been doing this for 10 years now. That is, I started this last weight loss adventure over 10 years ago. I have been “maintaining,” more or less, for over 8 years. I guess I won’t talk about anybody else’s experience, but for me, maintaining has been an ongoing tension between a diet mindset and trying to “normalize” my relationship with food. One thing that’s been consistent about my maintenance: I have consistently gained and lost between 10 and 20 pounds over the years.

So right now, I’m tired. I’m really really tired. Bah to diets. A couple of weeks ago, on my way home from church, I bought a particular junk food baked item that I love. I’ve probably had 3 of them in the past 10 years. And I ate it on the way home. 430 delicious calories. And then I proceeded to feel “bad” about that choice for the rest of the way home. And it made me mad, that I couldn’t even enjoy a treat without angst. And I remembered for the first time in a long time why I had said “I will never diet again,” and I “maintained” a weight of 257.5 (haha, I have to laugh that the .5 was so consistent when I used to weigh back then) for over 20 years. My mind flashed on all the candy bars I ate every day (that I never eat now) and I wanted to eat all of them, right now! Fortunately, I mostly got over that feeling by the time I got home. And, BTW, its only a 20 minute drive from the grocery store to my house :)

So I decided to try an experiment. You know how some folks say you are sabotaging yourself by restricting your calories? So I decided to try eating more. Mind you, I’ve tried this many times over the years, and sadly, it never works for me. The rules are different for the formerly severely overweight person. ANYWAY, the experiment. I decided to log my food into LoseIt. Bu I would not worry if I went a little over their calorie allotment for me. After all, that calorie allotment was supposed to be for weight loss, and that was not my goal for this experiment. My goal was to not GAIN any weight, which is a constant worry for me. And I would log ALL my exercise, and eat all those “exercise calories” if I wanted to. I would only weigh once a week to make sure this crazy plan was not leading to weight gain.

I know for most of you, this will just be another form of dieting. But for me it was reassuring to have the parameters of logging food and exercise and weighing once a week while I experimented with eating more than normal.

I’m pretty sure I ate more than I usually do, and I did eat without guilt or angst. I’m pretty sure I exercised a little more. I think LoseIt was pretty generous with their exercise calories, but I just went with it. And the result of the experiment? For five weeks I maintained the same weight. One week it would be two pounds up, and another it would be two pounds down. But for five weeks, my weight was very consistent.

Diet fatigue doesn’t last forever. And this experiment will not last forever. According to most experts, change in your diet and exercise is actually a good thing for long term weight loss. So if you’re feeling tired, don’t throw in the towel. Give yourself a little grace, and try something new or different.

The Relentlessness of Food

Lately I’ve grown a little weary of the endless counting/journaling/calculating/decision-making nature of the way I choose to eat and control my daily meals. Food–its just relentless! Its always there. You can’t live without it.

Even when you decided almost 10 years ago that a certain food item is not healthy and you don’t need to have three a week and in fact you very very seldom ever eat one (hamburgers,) ten years later they’re still there, and you find yourself still wanting one too often. Even the “good stuff”–whole, healthy non-processed foods–if there is too much in the house at one time, its easy to eat too much of that stuff too.

I know its a temporary feeling. I’m not on any type of slippery slope. I just wanted to put that out there–its relentless. It never ends. Its wearying.

Balancing Act

Sometimes I feel like I’m on a very narrow balance beam. Other times I feel like I’ve got the whole floor to myself. Its a balancing act figuring out what to eat and how much to eat so I will lose weight the most efficient way possible without going so far that I will lose control and regain.

I admit that as time goes on, with this diet, I am a little more obsessive about it. Every night before I go to sleep, I write down my meal plan for the next day. And then the next day I will either write out the entire meal plan on my refrigerator notes, or I will write down each meal as it occurs. (This is not as hard as it sounds, It usually looks something like this:)

  • BF 250
  • LUN SH 170, veg 50
  • BAR 170
  • DIN fish 120, veg 50
  • SN — (usually its 200)

Quite a while ago I read a nutrition counselor that advised writing out a menu plan for the day instead of just tracking what you are eating as you go. I think that’s a pretty good idea myself. If I am feeling a little deprived, I can see that there is another meal coming that I am looking forward to. And if I am tempted to get a little extravagant with one meal, I can see that I will have to give up something else later in the day (so I usually don’t do that.)

I’m also balancing my protein intake throughout the day. That definitely keeps me from getting too hungry. Which is probably one reason that I am obsessive about “making my list and checking it twice.” Most of the time I am just not too hungry, so I feel the need to reassure myself that I am not eating too much.

One more balancing act–while keeping the majority of my choices whole foods, I admit to allowing in a few lower calorie processed products. Here’s a few of the latest that I picked up:

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That is the best sugar-free syrup out there. It has 20 calories per 1/4 cup. I don’t ever use a quarter cup on my pancakes or french toast. I got the Smuckers SF marmalade to try on my Simple Snow Peas and Shrimp. I have used Better’n Peanut Butter in the past, but gave it up for my own homemade nut butters. So why would I buy this? Well, convenience. But also because it has half the calories of regular peanut butter. I wanted to see how it worked in my Spackle 2.0. Verdict? VERY good. It was also very delicious on half an apple. The last bottle is just a spice blend that I really love: Montreal Chicken.

Here’s another little shortcut I tried. They had these bags on sale for 98 cents. I know it would still have been cheaper to buy the whole vegetables and chop them up, but I thought the convenience might help me to eat vegetables a little more often. And sure enough, it did! I need a steamer. But since I don’t have one yet, I just put half the package in boiling water with a little salt and some Mrs. Dash spice. Only 60 calories for half a bag.

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I was looking for something in my finder on my computer and I came across a recipe that I did not remember at all. They were called Shut Up Brownies–I just searched the original blog for them and I see she published it in 2008–that has to be the very first year I was blogging! Anyway, I gave them a try. And at first, I was all, ‘These are NOT brownies,‘ even though I was impressed with their size for 75 CALORIES. And then I was, “These are stinkin’ good for 75 calories.” “I could eat two of these for breakfast for only 150 calories!!!” Whether you call them brownies or muffins, they are very tasty and very filling.

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I regularly check in on Suzi’s blog, because she always has some interesting low calorie snack items. Last night she mentioned frozen yogurt trail mix bars. I googled it, and came upon this recipe (don’t know if its the one Suzi used.) I had some Fage greek yogurt that I wasn’t using, and some yummy Shelley granola that I wasn’t using, so it was a perfect time for me to try this. I did not follow the recipe, just the directions. I used 1 1/2 cups of yogurt, 1/2 cup of granola, and 1/4 cup of dried cranberries. Cut it into six pieces, and they are only 90 calories each.

Here they are, all packed up and ready to go back in the freezer.

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Lastly, I had some VRB (very ripe bananas) sitting on the counter, and I decided that today was the day to mash them and make some more banana cubes. I filled two ice cube trays, and there was still a little banana left in the bowl. I estimated it to be one large banana. I decided to experiment! This was a really delicious experiment. These little muffins were only 80 calories each. They have a different texture than those shut up brownies. They are very moist, more like clafouti? Anyway, I was quite pleased with myself.

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I can stop baking and experimenting for a while now. I have quite a nice stash of low calorie snacks in the freezer. More time for quilting!

How to Build a Better Pizza

  1. If you have “issues” with pizza, like you can’t stop eating it, or you are not eating wheat or cheese or whatever, then don’t even start.
  2. If you have problems with honesty, forget about it. This is the kind of food assemblage that requires brutal honesty.
  3. But if you really enjoy pizza, and would like to have it once in a while without breaking the calorie bank, read on.

I made this pizza out of stuff I had leftover in my fridge. Look through your refrigerator and see what you have that might be good for pizza toppings. In my opinion, you need mozzarella cheese and marinara sauce for it to be a real pizza.

What I had on hand: mushrooms, onion, pineapple, roma tomatoes, a little bit of pepperoni, and some olives. I use Trader Joe’s whole wheat pizza crust. I love this stuff. The dough comes pre-made in a plastic bag that you can stick in the freezer until the mood hits.

You also need a piece of scratch paper to write down the calories on all the stuff you add to the pizza. This pizza dough is supposed to make enough crust for 8 slices. But I stretched it extra thin, so it ended up making 12 nice sized pieces.

I measured out the marinara sauce (I used Contadina’s for this. I also like TJ’s marinara sauce.) Both of them are pretty low in calories. I used string cheese for the cheese. Just because they are pre-measured, and I don’t use much cheese. I thought I would only use 2 (2 ounces.) That was really pretty skimpy, so I added a third. I sliced the mushrooms and onions, and spread them on there. And then measured out a couple Tbsp of olives, and cut up one cup of fresh pineapple. And I cut the 8 little slices of pepperoni into little bits and spread it around. Oh, and then I cut up one roma tomato and added that on top.

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Now here’s where the brutally honest part comes in. It would be so easy to add just a little bit more of this, or a dab more of that. But if you want to enjoy your pizza without guilt, just be honest. Only use what you measure and count.

Here’s how it added up:

  • Pizza dough:  960 cal
  • Pepperoni:     100 cal
  • Pineapple:       80 cal
  • Olives:              30 cal
  • Sauce:              60 cal
  • Cheese:         240 cal
  • Mush/Onion     45 cal
  • Tomato             15 cal

Grand total: 1530. Divided by 12, that makes it 127 calories per slice. The first night I took three slices, but that was really too much. Two slices would have been just right. The rest of the pizza was wrapped in foil and frozen for later. I reheat almost everything at 425 in my toaster oven. Just like fresh baked.

I always like to have some kind of plain green vegetable with my pizza. Not that I make pizza all that often–I probably make pizza once or twice a year. This was so delicious!

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So did you guys hear that we had a freak snow storm here on Tuesday? It dumped so much snow so fast that I couldn’t get home for about three hours. There were cars sliding off the road all over the place, and both main roads that I take to get home were closed. I was so happy to get home before dark and to find that the electricity was still on.

Noah LOVES the snow.

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The view off my deck the next morning:

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We took a walk before it all melted away.

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The end.

 

 

Getting Down to the Nitty Gritty

Its been over a week since I started The Hunger Game, and I am very pleased with myself.  Its not so hard to wait until you are hungry.  Food tastes better when you are hungry.  And real hunger is not such a bad feeling.  Its not that horrible, low-blood-sugar hunger that I have feared.  And I have not experienced that for years now.  That is what helps me to make good choices in what I am going to eat most of the time.

Over the weekend I was going over my food in my mind and trying to add the calories up (I can’t make myself stop!)  And I realized that I could pretty easily write them down in my kindle.  So I thought I’d share what and when I ate for three days of The Hunger Game.

Its been over a week now, and its going very well.  The biggest difference is in my snacking, both planned and unplanned.  I am not having any snack with my afternoon coffee, and many times I eat ‘dinner’ late, and there is no hunger afterward (or time) so I do not have dessert.  And then there’s all the times during the day when I might grab a handful of walnuts.  None of that going on either.  Overall, it seems like I’m eating less.  I don’t know if it will make any change in my weight though.  We’ll have to wait a month to see that!  Which, BTW.  I laughed at myself when I checked my schedule to see when the month would be over.  The last week of The Hunger Game will be spent in Sisters, Oregon,   on a trip I have been looking forward to for months.  It will be a good challenge to NOT eat when I am not hungry, especially on the long drive.  I don’t think it will be so much of an issue while I am there, because I will still be able to have treats or eat out.  I’ll just have to wait until I’m hungry.  I am taking a workshop with two great teachers, and was so looking forward to meeting a long-time blog reader-friend.  Just yesterday she called and said her work schedule was not going to allow her to come.  I am so disappointed!  I was so looking forward to meeting you, L., and I hope that we will be able to plan a meeting in the future sometime!

So here’s my food log:

FRIDAY:

  • 6am–coffee
  • 8am–English Muffin French toast (200c)
  • 11am–honeycrisp apple and Justin’s cocoa almond butter (300c)
  • 2:30pm–cube steak w/tomatoes and boiled potato (300c)
  • 4p-6:30p–Swim
  • 7p–Vicky’s vegan banana nut muffin (250c)
  • 8p–microwave carrots, roasted beets (150c)
  • 12a–walnuts (200c)
  • TOTAL 1400 calories

SATURDAY:

  • 6:30am–coffee
  • 7:30am–yogurt w/muesli, walnuts, and ch. chips (300c)
  • 10am–apple w/string cheese  (200c)
  • 12–Vicky’s taco salad  (350c)
  • 4pm–coffee, blueberry pudding cake (300c)
  • 8pm–tomatoes, popcorn w/2 sq. sugar free chocolate (250c)
  • TOTAL  1400 calories

SUNDAY:

  • 6am–coffee
  • 7am–flax cake with walnuts, peach topping (350c)
  • 10am–1/4 quest bar
  • 12:30pm–3/4 quest bar (175c)
  • 1:30p–froyo (400c)
  • 5:30p–4 oz chicken breast, corn on the cob, tomato (300c)
  • 9pm–yogurt/honey/walnuts (125c), Vicky’s nutty nibbie cookie (75c)
  • TOTAL  1425 calories

Now.  The calories are approximations.  But I did try to be honest, and I erred on the side of rounding up instead of rounding down.  Its really interesting that they are almost exactly the same total each day.  I’m not going to continue to do this.  I want to see what happens when I eat only when I am hungry and make healthy choices the majority of the time.

Did the observant among you notice that I said I was swimming from 4-6:30pm on Friday?  Yes, that’s right!  I reached my goal of swimming 2.4 miles on Friday!!!!!  I was beginning to think that I was not going to make this goal.  But with a little encouragement from Shelley (“it’d be a nice way to end September,”) and a not-crowded pool on Friday afternoon, I decided to go for it!  I know for sure it is not physically as hard as running for that amount of time.  It is almost more of a mental challenge (I’m cold, I’m hungry, I HAVE TO PEE LOL).  Anyway, I’m not much of a goal-setter.  But it has been fun to set goals and then actually reach them.  My next goal will be to get back to the weights and work on that 100 pound bench press.

A few food notes:

  • English muffin french toast:  I use Thomas’s Whole Grain English muffins, split in two. I mix 1 egg, 1/4 cup almond breeze, and 1/4 cup eggbeaters, with a bit of cinnamon, splenda, and vanilla.  Let the muffins soak for a bit in the liquid, then cook in a pan sprayed with pam.  Top with spray butter, cinnamon splenda, and SF syrup.  I think this is my most ‘processed food’ meal that I eat.  So delicious and filling.  Then I save the egg mixture, and the next day use it to make two flax cakes!
  • Microwave carrots:  I LOVE carrots fixed this way.  Just wash carrots (don’t peel) and cut into approximately equal sizes.  Put in a microwave safe bowl, sprinkle with Mrs. Dash and a little salt, and top with a bit of lite butter.  Microwave for 2-3 minutes and stir to evenly coat with melted butter and spices.  Microwave for another 2 minutes until soft.
  • The flax cake with walnuts and peach topping:  I made the flax cake recipe, but left the blueberries out, and just pressed a few chopped walnuts into the top.  The peach topping I made the same way I make my pear spread.  It worked wonderfully, and I will be doing this with fruit in the future!
  • The froyo on Sunday was not planned…I went to the gym after church, and was so disappointed that the pool was closed.  It was miserably hot, the air conditioning in my car is STILL not fixed, and I WAS hungry.  So I headed to froyo.  The shop in town doesn’t really have good frozen yogurt (2nd time I tried) so I know I would have felt better if I had just gone home and had something healthier.  Oh well…

And last, I want to include a few links that I’ve run across.  They are all written by low-carbers (which I am not,) but they apply universally to all types of eaters.  Loretta left this link to a podcast in the comments on my last post.  It is long, but this woman speaks so well about how the body processes food.  She is not a scientist, but it seems she has done a ton of research.  Everything she said made sense.  And she talked a LOT about “women of a certain age.”  She was coming from the angle of low-carb eating, but everything she said applied to all people interested in losing weight and increasing health.  It is a really long podcast.  But much more interesting and informative than the ‘movie of the week.’  (do they still make those?)

This was a very interesting post, written by a young doctor, about “The Weight Loss Conundrum.”  Again, a low-carber, but again, it applies to everyone.

And lastly, this link, about intuitive or mindful eating.  I think what I am doing now might be my version of mindful eating.

 

 

 

 

Layer upon Layer, A Body of Knowledge is Built

How long have I been doing this?  In January 2013, it will be 9 years since I started this last weight loss journey.  NINE YEARS!!  Nine years of reading and researching how to do it, anything and everything about food and nutrition, various types of diet theories (Weight Watchers, paleo, vegetarian, raw food, intuitive eating, low carb, calories in/calories out, whole grain, you get the picture,) the whole psychological component to weight loss, why some people succeed at maintaining weight loss and what and how they do that, oh, and exercise.  I’m sure I left something out.  But you know.  Its a LOT of information.

And the thing is…all of it is useful.  Even the stuff I have decided is not true for me.

Yes, it is frustrating that there is not more definitive information about obesity, its causes and cures, and weight loss maintenance.  But still, we have an awful lot of knowledge to draw upon.  Layer upon layer, I have added all this to the base of my eating and exercise habits.  When I decided to try The Hunger Game, I did not throw away everything I knew about good nutrition and what works in my favor.  If anything, I am using that information more than ever.

It kind of drives me nuts when people who have been doing this a long time figuratively throw their hands up in the air and act like they do not know anything.  We know a LOT.

Part of what I know is that it is hard work to maintain a lower body weight.  It is hard because as you age, something or other goes on in your body (more efficient?  slower metabolism? hormones?) and your body holds onto weight.  Helen reminded me that you don’t need to eat as much when you get older, and the next day I got an article in the mail saying that women who have gone through menopause need 200 calories LESS a day!  Oh my goodness.

It is hard work to maintain a lower body weight if you have previously been very overweight for an extended part of your life.  That is a theory I believe because of the overwhelming amount of objective information available (evidence gathered by various scientists, and also the testimony of many many people who have lost weight and maintained that loss with varying degrees of success.)

I know a LOT about food and nutrition and how the body processes food.  (Oh, side rant:  I know many of you would be more comfortable believing that the body is a machine–that you can input certain food or exercise and you will receive the same results every time.  I’m sorry, but that is simply not true.  The body is closer to a work of art than it is to a machine. Period.  end rant.)  So at my best, I am easily able to choose healthy, balanced whole foods that will keep me satiated for 3-4 hours.

I know a lot about exercise, and what part it plays in weight loss (very little) and weight loss maintenance (a lot.)  I know that the body gets accustomed to the same exercise and gets more efficient at how it processes that exercise (not fair!) so that it is good to continue to challenge your body with exercise by increasing the intensity or by changing the type of exercise periodically.  I know that it is good for your heart and your mind.  I know that it keeps me from becoming stiff as a board, so I keep doing it!

It took a while, but I do understand very well the part that the mind plays in food choices and eating.  I learned that for me, anxiety was the single largest factor in why I overate.  Just learning that was a tremendous step forward in changing my relationship with food.

So I know all this stuff.  I did not discard one bit of it when I decided to WAIT UNTIL I WAS HUNGRY to eat.  Honestly, it just makes sense to me.  Just one more piece of the puzzle.

100. And Counting.

100.  I swam 100 lengths of the pool!  A mile and a half.  Three-fifths of the way to my goal of swimming 2.4 miles.  I can’t believe I wasn’t shouting this on Sunday night.  Maybe because my arms were too tired to type?  Anyway, on Sunday after church I went to the pool to swim.  I didn’t have a plan to swim 100 lengths.  I was just going to swim for about an hour I thought.  Or until the pool got crowded and I got irritated.  But I did have in the back of my mind that I needed to take advantage of days when the pool was not busy to get some longer swims in.  And it just turned out that the pool was very quiet that afternoon.  So I just kept swimming and swimming.  And I thought about what a nice even number 100 is (like Mr. Monk–the detective, not the dog!)  It wasn’t really that hard while I was doing it, except I got a little cold.

And of course you know I thought about how fun it would be to write that on my blog.  Which brings me to the other part of this post–counting.  Why do we count?  Why do I count?  I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of months, ever since I stood in the store comparing two bags of baked chips, comparing the calorie count and how many chips you get in a serving.  I mean, I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to decide which one was a “better deal.”  (side note–the answer is “neither.”  They didn’t even taste like what they were represented as.)

But that set me to thinking about why I count and what I count.  A lot of the time I count to see what I can get away with.  As in, if I am counting calories and I see that I have not reached my daily quota, I am happy that I can eat something else even though I am not hungry.

I count when I am exercising to make sure I “do the right thing.”  Do the number of reps and sets that are recommended.  Sometimes I count so I can brag about it  (see first paragraph.)

I’m not saying counting is bad.  After all, it is the root of the word “accountability.”  (I made that up, but doesn’t’ it seem like counting and accountability are interrelated?)

But sometimes it seems like I swap counting for common sense.  Stop eating when you aren’t hungry.  Exercise hard but don’t injure yourself.  Stuff like that.

I’m probably not going to stop counting.  I like math.  But I am trying to pay a little more attention to what’s behind the numbers.