Did you ever have the joy of cleaning a basement or garage that has been accumulating junk for a decade or two? The experience starts with a burst of energy from visualizing the endpoint: you, standing in a pristine basement, all junk thrown away, all unnecessary stuff sold on eBay for a princely sum, and all the remaining possessions carefully put away in such a fashion that someone could rouse you from deep sleep and ask you where the extra can opener is and you would reply instantly “on the shelf labeled ‘kitchen’ in the clear box on the right-hand side labeled ‘Utensils’”.
What you don’t envision is standing amidst the mess, even worse now for you having dumped out several boxes of God-knows-what, seeing no end in sight. Alone with a mess that seems too big for you to ever conquer. You want to curl up in a fetal position on the extra blanket you found (after spilling the kid’s paint set on them, leaving a stain you are not sure can be washed out) and have a good cry.
For many of you out there in InternetLand, this could describe your diet. I understand. I’ve been there, too.
I’m here to tell you not to give up. It is what I tell myself.
Even as an old pro at this, I typically stumble out of the gate. ‘This is easy.” I tell myself. “I’ve done this hundreds of times.” Yet – it isn’t. I love food, love to overeat, and hate to exercise. Additionally, I have a job where I sit on my ass from 8am to 6pm and have a 2-hour commute. Reality doesn’t leave much time for all the other things a person wants to do outside of work – especially if they have a family and other obligations.
It’s also January. For me, it is cold, cloudy and dark. I leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark. Perfect conditions for feeling sorry for yourself and giving up on that diet that seemed all fresh and sparkly 2 weeks ago.
Like that basement, you needed to imagine the endpoint to give you the motivation to go down the stairs. Now that you’re here and the extent of the mess is in your face, to avoid bolting for the stairs and giving up, you need to throttle back your expectations a bit and start small.
I started this with a realistic plan of 1.5 pounds per week in my rational mind, but my irrational mind gets on the scale and says “Am I skinny yet?” and gets frustrated because the impossible didn’t occur. Some of you might say I shouldn’t weigh myself every day, but I’ve concluded that we need to confront these sorts of personal demons and reason them away instead.
At least that how I do it.
The first thing I did, being a bit of a numbers nerd was to hack together the chart above. My weight is the vertical axis, the days from Jan 1 to May 1 is my horizontal and the line labeled ‘goal weight’ shows how much I would weigh every day if I shoot for 1.5 pounds a week. The solid blue part of the chart is my actual weight.
The moment I put this together I felt much better about my progress. As long as the blue is below the ‘goal weight’ line, I’m golden. It is also important to note that this jaggy, bumpy line is what weight loss looks like. It is not a steady downward progression but a trending downward, with the occasional bump up even when you feel it isn’t deserved. You might also notice a downward movement on mornings where you dread looking at the scale because of the amount and type of food you ate the night before – that happens, too.
I’ll spare you the daily totals this time except to say that I am still having a problem getting into the groove in the evenings. It is too easy to grab the kid’s leftover mac & cheese and become one with it before I’m even aware of what I am doing. To try and minimize the damage I am trying to preserve my calories toward the end of the day. This way, if I reach the end of the day not hungry, I can have a large meal and get my proper number of calories. If I overeat in the evening instead? Well, then the damage is minimized because I didn’t consume many calories during the day.
I am a big fan of Fage yogurt – the full-fat kind, hard-to-find. I try to have this as my first meal of the day. I find it enjoyable though it took me some time to appreciate the plain version. I used to add Splenda and cut back little by little so now I eat it plain daily and really, truly, no-shit enjoy the Hell out of it now.
Late afternoon I might have another, and if I’m still hungry I bring roast beef and butter and make roll-ups. 4 ounces of roast beef and 4 tablespoons of butter is 600 calories, so my calories during the day this past week range between 380 – two yogurts and 980, when I have it all.
Evenings are erratic, but seem to slowly be getting better. I had some pretty big cheats this past week: handfuls of brioche with home-made rhubarb/blueberry jam (this was so good!), pasta, cookies, some cake – and a search-and-destroy on some Skittles left over from Halloween.
That being said, the chart above ain’t so bad.
Another chart helps me with my perspective – My Fitbit progress report. The Fitbit , for those of you who don’t know, is a space-age pedometer that connects to the Internet and tracks my activity. The one I own has been replaced with this one , which seems to have more features. As I am perfectly happy with mine, I have no reason to use the new one.
(Note – I have no connection with the company – I bought my Fitbit myself)
Keep in mind – I don’t ‘exercise’. I just stick this in my pocket and live my life – I don’t spend one second thinking about exercise.
Yet, here’s my last weekly report, however – the only feature of the gadget I use:
Who says I don’t exercise?!? It also believes that I burned more calories than I took in. In fact, I just got this message in my email from the gadget this morning:
So maybe ‘exercise’ is something you already do and don’t know you do? Maybe those people who call you lazy and say you don’t exercise need to see how much you actually DO exercise?
So while my week-over-week number isn’t some super-duper weight drop, maybe everything’s OK? Maybe I’ve cleaned just one corner of the basement and just need to continue on?