This goal is so cliched I cringe to even mention it. Oh, Heather wants to lose weight this year? How original.
Let me start by saying that I don’t hate my body. I’m pleased and proud to have done as well as I have with my BMI over the past 6 years despite prenancies and bedrest and all that mommy stuff that hijacks you physically. I’ve been much happier with my body since I stopped nursing and started doing Insanity.
Still I’d like to get back down to my 2009 weight. Maybe not my gym challenge weight which only happens with low-carb, a diet plan which I find untenably miserable. I love using low-carb in the short term for when you really need to look hot. However, when I’m on low-carb, the painting in my attic gets horrifically gruesome and hateful. I become a ravening beast without dairy.
Like most women, I have years upon years of experience trying various methods of weight control. I’ve read enough to know the most useful methods for the average American woman are 1) food journaling, i.e. calorie/other nutrient counting, and 2) support, but I also know what works best for me, and what I like and do not like well enough to sustain. As I get the stitches removed from my foot tomorrow and get back on the wagon, I thought it might be useful for me to rate some techniques on how well they work for me as well as my level of loathing on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Calorie Counting. Effectiveness 10. Loathing 9. One of the great benefits of calorie counting is that it forces me to be honest about exactly what that cupcake means in my life. “Really? This frigging cupcake is 450 calories?! McKayla is not impressed.” I realize my brain can write it off, but my body won’t. I just use an excel spreadsheet and sum the calories for the foods I’ve eaten that day. When I do this, I absolutely see progress. I just HATE doing it. I shake my fist at the sky and demand, “Am I really going to be logging my calories for the next 60 years? Inhumane!” I’ve done WW online before and counted points, but I disagree with their caloric valuing, and I end up sabotaging myself by gaming the imprecision in their system. You can get the same number of points for a day with a difference of up to 300 calories. That’s a huge problem, imho.
- Privately Weighing In. Effectiveness 7. Loathing 6. I find it most effective when I weigh in every couple of days so that I don’t get that “party for 4 days, starve for 3” mentality that goes with weekly weigh ins. I tend to postpone weigh ins, then skip, and finally abandon them when it’s just me holding myself accountable, hence the lower effectiveness score. We used to be told not to weigh ourselves more than once a week so we wouldn’t get discouraged, but that advice has been under attack from new findings that weighing in frequently, even daily, can double the amount of weight you lose and that one of the three most common strategies employed by people who maintain weightloss for a long period of time is frequent weigh ins.
- Public Weigh Ins. Effectiveness 10. Loathing 1. By public I mean reporting to a friend or trainer. Reporting my progress turns my inate competitiveness, neuroticism and self-consciousness into weight loss super power! The only time it didn’t work for me was when I got reassigned to a flat-affect, halotosis-ridden trainer at the gym who was–what’s the politically correct term?–dumb. If you know less about physiology than I do, how can I respect your opinion and fear your judgement enough to try to lose weight to impress you? Come on.
- Exercise. Effectiveness 10. Loathing 7. I really do love exercise. I have missed it terribly with this minor surgery on my foot.
- Overexercise. Effectiveness 5. Loathing 7. I have to be very careful about overexercise. When I get too crazy on stuff, I get exhausted and immediately start overcompensating with eating. I also tend to think “I can eat whatever I want as long as I exercise it off, so if that means working out four hours a day….” I don’t have time for that anymore. Besides, expending so much of my self-discipline on forcing myself to exercise that much leaves little will power left for eating right. And it is too tempting to overestimate workout calories and underestimate food calories which brings me to my next method:
- Exercising without counting calories. Effectiveness 0. Loathing 0. I love to exercise, but if I don’t keep track of what I eat while exercising, I overcompensate and go the exact wrong direction.
- Eating curfew. Effectiveness 2. Loathing 1. I don’t mind doing this, but I immediately compensate by eating way to much in the hours that are not verboten. I think this gimick is popular with me and others because it has such a low loathing factor, but it really doesn’t work any miracles for me either.
- Cutting out sugar. Effectiveness 5. Loathing 10,000,000. If I feel like I may never be able to eat Chocolove again, first off, I find every compensatory loophole in my diet thereby dragging down the effectiveness. Secondly, I hate everyone and everything. I find abstinence so restrictive that I abandon it pretty quickly.
- Moderating sugar. Effectiveness 9. Loathing 9. It works best for me to have a treat to look forward to on Wednesdays and Saturdays. I can make it a couple of days without treats if I know I’ve got one coming to me. I also tend to make it a good one instead of protesting the injustice of a sugar-free world by devouring a cup of peanut butter and chocolate chips.
- Free Day. Effectiveness 4. Loathing 4. This is one of the first things I always try because I don’t hate it that much. I don’t hate it because I don’t make it very effective. It is so easy to compensate for a few days of virtue with a day-long orgy of vice. Besides which, I too often stretch it to a free weekend, or a free long weekend. Not good.
- Cooking. Effectiveness 8. Loathing 9-4. The loathing is on a curve from 9 to 4 because I hate it when I start out, but less so as I get more used to it. Counting calories is the opposite: I don’t mind at first, but the resentment builds. I love to cook elaborate gourmet meals for my adult friends, but I hate to put food on the table every day–especially when it means spending my precious baby-nap time cutting onions. On a related note:
- Limiting restaurants. Effectiveness 8. Loathing 8. I do not like fast food, but I love not going home, hauling the babies upstairs, feeding them in highchairs, cleaning up all their mess and hauling them back to the car in the middle of the day. My weight is easier to manage when we eliminate fast food, but that adds a non-trivial amount of frustration and inconvenience to my day. Kent would like to take the family out to eat or go pick up food for every meal on the weekends. He is not a left-overs and sandwiches kind of guy. He is a Founding Farmers for breakfast, SmashBurger for lunch and Famous Dave’s for dinner kind of guy. We do well when we limit restaurants to one per weekend.
- Eliminating Food Porn. Effectiveness 8. Loathing 9. I do so much better when I stop watching any Food Network shows (and Top Chef) and nix all reading of recipes on Epicurious or Pinterest. It makes me sad, though. I love food. I love to look at it and think about it. I do even better when I replace those with motivational shows like The Biggest Loser. The problem is Top Chef is a far superior reality elimination show with ingenious challenges, tense competition, often very compelling characters, and Tom Colicchio that moves 100 times faster than The Biggest Loser. TBL is hour upon repetitive hour of fat people exercising/crying while someone yells “Last chance workout!” or psuedo-psychoanalyses them in phony-bologna profound and sincere voice. And I’m almost always disappointed by the reveal show. “Still fat. Still fat. Almost okay. Still fat.”
- Concrete Incentives and Deadlines. Effectiveness 7. Loathing. 3. I don’t do much without a deadline. The boys’ birthday in May is the obvious candidate. Winning something in a competition is the most effective motivator for me, but winning pre-established prizes competing with only myself also works.
- Accountability/Support. Effectiveness 7. Loathing 3. Like a public weigh in, having to report my progress in whatever form to my friends works well. The more we slack in holding each other accountable, the less effective, obviously. I want to really commit to the weekly emailing, monthly meeting accountability sessions we started (ill-advisedly) just before the holidays.
I’ve probably forgotten some important ones. I know it’s scary to comment, but I would love to hear any additions to or responses to this list.