Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Lessons from the Weight Loss Front & a Bit of NaNo

NaNoWriMo

I'm not going to come close to making 50K, especially since I haven't been writing for at least a week. I talked a bit about why in my last post. This story wasn't thought out enough. I lost interest because it didn't have enough depth for my taste. And then I ran out of time. Next year maybe I'll give it another go and do something else. We'll see. Between now and then, I'm scheduling writing time. The main thing I learned from this year's NaNo is how much I miss writing and even if it's just a little bit every day, I need to write.

Weight Loss Lessons

Lesson one: I was sitting in the booth at The Cheesecake Factory perusing their menu, and their nutrition information. California now requires chains with a certain number of locations, I believe it's 20, to make available certain nutrition information. The Cheesecake Factory puts the calories and saturated fat and the amount of carbs, but not the total fat content or the grams of fiber, both of which you need to calculate points for Weight Watchers. What I do is take the average calories per point, which is 50, and divide it into the total calories to get the points. Most of their stuff is in the "this is a whole day's worth of calories" category. So I was feeling really discouraged at trying to choose well. I flirted with just ordering anything and writing the meal off. I really didn't want to do that. So, I decided to eat no more than 1/3 of whatever I ordered. I ended up with a reasonable number of points for the day.

While I was trying to decide how to manage the situation, I thought about how far I'd come and what the consequences of writing the meal off would be. First, it could start a pattern of writing off difficult situations. That's the way back to my previous weight and I don't want to go there. So, that idea was totally out.

Second, I thought about the consequences of what I decided to do. I could give up, probably gain weight, and start the gradual climb back up. Or, I could do my best and at least stay where I am. And, by making the best choices I can in every situation I'm confronted with, I can keep moving toward my goal because I'm maintaining the good habits.

The AHA! moment was when I started thinking about how we as a culture think about weight loss. Because we gain weight so easily, we think that if we're not losing, we must be gaining. We think in that dichotomy--weight loss or weight gain--and ignore the third option--maintaining our weight. I wonder if that mind set isn't part of what gets us when we reach our goal. We don't want to lose any more, so we assume that gaining is what will happen--and it does. We get tired of doing the things that got us to our goal and gradually relax the vigilance and the weight does creep back on. But if we can change our thinking so that we think loss or maintain, maybe we can more easily get to goal because we're being consistent in our choices and by building that pattern of consistency, we'll be more likely to stay at our goal.

That reminds me of a related issue--perfectionism. We often think that if we don't follow our preferred program perfectly, we won't lose weight. Not only that, we'll automatically gain weight. That's another attitude that doesn't work. If we're faced with situations where our choices for healthy, low-calorie food are limited, we can make the best choices we can and not stuff ourselves. The worst that will happen may be that we don't lose weight that week. Or if we do gain, it won't be very much. Remembering that it's not one meal that causes weight gain helps. It's when we decide that meal makes us a total failure and we top it off with more meals that aren't the best choices that we usually see a gain.

Lesson two: I'm facing a Thanksgiving holiday that is not my first choice, not even close. I'm not cooking. If you've read very much of this blog, you know that's unheard of. But the last two weeks have been full of other obligations and I haven't had time to make a menu or grocery shop. My family wants to celebrate on Friday at a favorite restaurant. With all that happening, my husband and I made reservations at LB Steakhouse at Santana Row for Thanksgiving day.

I started thinking about the "holiday season". We start at Halloween now and go through New Year's and think of it as all one long "season" with lots of good food and parties and so on. That can lead to disaster for people who are trying to lose weight, or even to maintain their weight. I realized it's an attitude problem. Lumping it all together makes every day seem like a holiday. If every day is a holiday, we tend to overeat because we're celebrating the holiday or even if we don't eat too much, we may make less healthy or higher calorie choices.

It occurred to me that when we're thinking about food, exercise, etc. and this time of year, we might be better off to think of it as "holiday days" inserted in between "normal days". It's thinking of the whole season from Halloween to New Year's as "difficult" or "challenging" or a "time when we struggle" that makes it harder than it needs to be. Instead, we could look at each day separately. On the normal days, we would do our normal routine. And on the holiday days, we choose what we want to do to celebrate the occasion.

That's not to say this time period isn't more challenging than the rest of the year. We often do have more restaurant meals and meals out with friends and family. We have more parties and holiday concerts, pageants, etc. to attend, usually with a sweet-treat laden reception afterward. A strategy that works if we're not thinking of every day between Halloween and New Year's as a holiday is to ask ourselves if this is a substitute for a regular meal at home and eat the way we would if we were at home. Bringing food along and getting a beverage at a coffee place is another alternative to high-calorie restaurant eating I've used when I knew in advance I wasn't going to be home. If it's a celebration, then we can use whatever our celebration meal strategies are, including saying no to treats that aren't worth the calories. Just because it's a party or occasion doesn't mean we have to eat something.

Other Stuff

Since I now have two jobs, I'm not going to survive until New Year's without a good solid plan. So, that's my goal for the weekend. I have from Thursday through Sunday off. I'm spending part of that time with my calendar putting everything on it that needs to be done. If I don't, I'm going to go nuts because I'll be trying to do too much in a day and not leave enough time for recharging the batteries. I have to consider Christmas in there, too. I haven't thought beyond Thanksgiving. My budget will be small, but at least I'll have one this year. It's nice to have both of us working and we can celebrate. I love holiday celebrations and it's always hard when your income doesn't go beyond the basic necessities. I'm grateful for having those, but I also like to have a bit extra to get gifts and make a special meal and so on. Since I couldn't cook at Thanksgiving, I'm going to plan something extra special for Christmas.