It's funny that, after getting some relatively good news on the health front on Friday, the next day I went basically hog-wild eating. Making it even worse was the fact that the good news was that my weight dropped below 230 lbs at my last weigh-in on Friday. Yes, I celebrated making a milestone of losing weight by over-eating. Can you say "ridiculous"? Of course I also experienced this morning what I like to call a "food hang-over", which is this kind of sickly feeling from over indulging in the food department. You would think that I was smart enough to avoid this kind of thing, but I've learned that bad food...and bad eating...are habits that are incredibly hard to break. These kinds of things are instilled in us from very early ages, and they don't change easily, if at all during our lives.
All is not lost though, as (unfortunately) I have reams of experience in the "falling off the wagon food-wise" department. I've gotten myself up today, figuratively dusting myself off, and promising that today I will avoid the two big things that did me in yesterday:
1. Failing to accurately count the calories I consumed
2. Failing to eat reasonably sized meals, which in turn cased tons of snacking
There is no excuse for either, other than being human. I'll do better today.
The counting of calories is interesting. I see all of these weight-loss products and gimmicks on the market today, but in my experience, the concept behind weight loss is pretty simple: consume less than you need and you lose weight. The "less" part is calories. You can also increase the amount of calories you need by exercising, therefore increasing your weight loss when you eat less. Trust me, I know that the actual implementation of this stuff is far more difficult than the theory...this is something I live and struggle with every day. What helps me is that I have a ritual associated with counting my calories. Seriously, it does. Rituals are important because they are this kind of stylized form of habit building. My calorie counting ritual has a few facets to it...
- I buy a nice looking, small bound book for counting. One with heavy-weight lines pages and a ribbon place-holder. Believe it or not, I have found that if simply having a nice book to write this stuff in actually motivates me to do keep up with it.
- I format each day the same...on the left hand top of the page is the day "March 28, 2010/Sunday"; if I weigh myself I put that on the top-right of that same line. Note that I normally only weigh myself on Monday and Friday and even then there is a ritual: I only do it after exercising and taking a shower, I only do it wearing the exact same thing, I start the scale off at the same spot each time and move it down until I reach my current weight.
- I have set rules for counting calories...I use labels or "The Calorie King Calorie, Fat & Carbohydrate Counter" book to find the calories in what I eat. When I count, I list the food I eat chronologically and by type...B for Breakfast, S for Snack, L for Lunch, D for Diner. I round calorie counts up the nearest 25. Why? It simply makes the math easier for me and it gives me something of a fudge factor in case I low-ball a portion size.
- I reduce my calorie count (with negative calories...or calories burned) for the day if I engage in "dedicated" exercise. This is activity that I engage for the purpose of losing weight. At work I use the elliptical machine for anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes per day. On the weekend I may go for a walk of anywhere from 2 to 4 miles. I don't generally reduce my calorie count for common/everyday activities.
To date I've lost about 25 pounds in the go-around of weight loss. This is the second time I've had what I consider to be a significant weight loss in my life. The last time was about five years ago, where I lost about 35 pounds doing pretty much the same thing as I am doing now. What failed that required a second round of this? Simple: I failed. I fell back into bad eating habits and I forgot the single most important thing about weight loss: It's far more of a mental than a physical exercise.
Yes, I'm convinced that for many people, being over-weight is more of a mental problem than it is a physical one. For me that's definitely true, as I've noted on previous blog entries. Now I know that there are folks with genuine physical reasons why they suffer from being over weight, and I really do feel for them. However for me, it really just is in my head. I can boil it down into a simple statement:
When I am mentally well I tend to be physically well.
When I am mentally well, I care about my body and how I treat it. I don't over-indulge, I exercise and I eat better foods. When I am down, depressed, stressed, etc. my attitude is one of not really caring about how my body feels.
In this current iteration of weight loss I am hoping to drop another 5 pounds or so and then try and find some system of maintenance to keep my weight stable. I know I will never be skinny, but once I get down to, say about 225 pounds, I will be comfortable. I'm still thinking this through, but "maintenance" for me is going to consist of continuing to count what I eat and (hopefully) finding some kind of support mechanism. The later is really, really important. One of the reasons why I failed to keep weight off last time was that there is very little in my environment that encourages healthy eating. My family, which I love dearly, simply could care less what I stuff in my face. Maybe they shouldn't care by the way, as it's my face anyway. Regardless, I need some kind of way to network with people having similar struggles.
In the end though, we do difficult things in our lives because we know that the truly important things are seldom easy to achieve. I want to be healthy into my 50's and beyond. I want to live a long life, one that isn't punctuated by preventable health problems. I want to be both mentally and physically active and healthy. I do this for the most tangible of reasons: me.