Archive for the ‘maintenance’ Category

Learning to listen (and to trust)

Some days I can live quite easily by the six small meals a day rule – you know the one, eat every two or three hours, something small, between 200-300 calories. In fact, that’s usually my preferred manner of eating.

But other days, it just doesn’t work for me.

Yesterday, in case you’re wondering, was one of the days that it just didn’t work out.

Let’s start at the beginning; why should we learn to listen to our bodies when it comes to food?

To put it simply, the body knows what it wants when it wants it. If you listen to your body (and not your emotions, the clock, your social calendar, or your friends) very rarely will you be led astray in terms of food. The trick is, distinguishing what your body wants from what your mind, your emotions, and the culture say you want.

When your body sends you a clear message – even if it doesn’t jive with the “expert” advice – listen to it. If not, you’ll be more likely to feel deprived, throw in the towel, and decide that the so-called experts don’t know much of anything. In fact, some of the experts know quite a bit, but they don’t necessarily know you. Not like you do. So if your body is telling you that it wants a certain amount of something or a particular something and you’ve done everything else right – drank some water, took a fifteen minute walk, took three deep breaths, ate some carrots or some other super low calorie food – then you should go ahead and have it. Because once it becomes a must in your mind, it’s too late. Have it, get it out of your system, let it go, and then move on.

As I said above: yesterday was one of those days.

Looking at my food diary for the last two (almost three years) it’s clear to see that my preferred intake of calories is between 1,500 and 1,800. When I’m trying to release weight – or if I’m just calibrating before or after a big dinner or a week with my parents – I tend to purposefully drop my calorie intake down to around 1,200. Some days it’s lower than that (closer to a 1,000) though sometimes it’s higher (closer to 1,400).

It’s rare that I have a day over 2,200; but it’s happened.

Yesterday I was starving. I’m not sure why. My calories the day before had been low, but not that low. Maybe it was the fact that I have moved back to my school schedule and have been getting up at 5:00 instead of 6:30 or 7:00. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time out in the world lately, whereas I have spent most of the summer at home.

Regardless, I was ravenous. And even trying to do everything “right,” I still had polished off 1,100 calories before noon! (For those of you who aren’t good at math, let me help: that’s 73% of my preferred daily calorie intake – all before lunch.)

As it turned out, I actually had a pretty good food day despite the rough start. And when I went to bed at 10:30, I had actually only consumed 1.442 calories. You might be thinking, 342 calories isn’t all that much for twelve hours! And you might also be thinking about how the body goes into starvation mode when it hasn’t had anything to eat in over three or four hours. And you’d be right.

But in the spirit of listening to my body, I wasn’t hungry again until 4:30, when I had a medium braeburn apple and some carrots. Then, a few hours later, I had a bowl of lentil soup (massive protein and fiber hit) and a glass of petite syrah.

Then, after a couple of more hours during which I consumed a couple of cups of herbal tea, I went to bed and started over today.

Today, I have been back to what the experts recommend. It’s almost 4:00 and I’ve had four small meals.

I had my normal breakfast (255 calories), one of my normal snacks (240 calories), an apple (80 calories), one of my typical lunches (280 calories). And, notably, these have been spaced out every couple of hours or so.

The moral of this story: if you have a “bad” day, go ahead and have it. It’s just a day. Trust your body to know what it wants when it wants it. But also trust yourself to know that tomorrow is a new day and you – more than anyone else – know what you need to do get back on track.

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Scale-less dieting

I realized the other day that I haven’t been on a scale in two months. Actually, the last time was June 17, so technically it’s been a little over two months. That’s the longest time I’ve been off a scale in years! Does that mean I’m not dieting or watching my weight or maintaining (or whatever you want to call it)? No; it means I am dieting/maintaining/releasing without being tied to a meaningless number!

Given that most people who are actively involved in monitoring their own or others’ weight either propose weighing once a day or once a week, why would I choose to do it without a scale? More importantly, why would I suggest that you try it as well?

Practical whys first:

  • I don’t have a scale. I always used one at the gym. When I started working out at home this summer, I decided that it just seemed silly to waste the gas and the time to go to the gym just to weigh myself.
  • I also didn’t want to buy a scale, because I know that the one at the gym – which I have used diligently for the last five years – is at least consistent! I also have to wonder how many scales find themselves either being used as a doorstop or at the bottom of a landfill!

Once I got past the weirdness of not weighing myself, I found myself looking for other markers of success. Did my gut look bigger in the mirror? What are my measurement? How are my clothes fitting? Was the yoga easier or harder today? Was my heart rate up or down since the last time I did this workout DVD? How many days out of the last 7, 14, 21, 28 or even 100 did I have a calorie deficit (I may have stopped weighing, but I love counting calories; I am a total calorie geek)! When was the last time I had a high fat, high sugar dessert? How many weeks in the last 3 months have I had wine two nights in a row? How many times last month (I am also a big proponent of keeping track of exercise) did I do weight training in addition to cardio? Once I stopped focusing on the one number – which fluctuates like a demon depending on what I eat and the time of day, not to mention the time of the month! – it opened up space for me to also realize what really matters.

So, onto the quasi-theoretical whys:

  • Once I gave up the scale, I was able to get real on what mattered and why. Does it really matter if I weigh 145 pounds instead of 140 or 135? Not really. What really matters is whether my clothes fit and the degree and frequency I am putting junk into my body. What also really matters is that I continue working on being as fit and flexible as I can possibly be.
  • Giving up the scale makes it easier to forgive yourself when you make choices that don’t necessarily support your goals. That doesn’t mean that giving up on the scale automatically signs you up for a crash course in self-acceptance (as my post earlier this week revealed), but it does force you to seek out signs of progress, rather than setting your sights on a single number, which may or may not be attainable in a week or even ten days!

So, how do you diet without a scale? Easy. If you have a scale, toss it. If you don’t have a scale, don’t get one.

Now, I realize that if you’re going to Weight Watchers or some other organization that requires weekly weigh-ins, you have to weigh. But have you thought about asking your leader to write it down without telling you and leaving your card at the meeting place? Or could you trust yourself not to look and to put the booklet into it’s plastic sleeve (do they still even have those) and chuck it into your glove compartment?

I remember doing this when I was at Weight Watchers as a teen – mainly because I couldn’t stand it if I gained weight. I hated it and I hated myself (more on the dangers of self-loathing later). And, not surprisingly, when I was in that emotional space it was easier to want to give up.  It was also easier to self-sabotage, because even though it was me I was talking about, why would I want someone I hated to actually succeed?  Further, during the weeks that the weight was climbing no matter how rigorously I stuck to the plan (and there were many of those during my 90 pound weight loss if for no other reason than the body is very smart and extremely efficient at adapting to dietary changes and – you guessed it – storing fat!) there was something powerful (and not in a good way) about seeing the numbers – usually written in indelible ink – steadily rising. There was something about actually seeing the numbers get bigger that led me to believe that that’s just the way that it was.  The plateaus seemed more real somehow. More insurmountable.  But I digress.

So, once you’ve figured out how to be scaleless (if not in reality, than in consequence) pick the outcomes you really want to achieve. Do you want to consistently use more calories than you consume? Do you want to improve the quality of your skin? Do you want to add muscle mass and get stronger?  Do you want to look good in your clothes or wear a different size? Do you want to be healthier or have more flexibility? Do you want to be able to walk up the stairs without being winded or to turn heads when you walk in the door? Do you want to get off of your high blood pressure medication or lower your risk of type II diabetes?  Do you want to have a better hip to waist ratio?  Do you want to run a half maraton – or a marathon – before your 40th birthday?  Or do a triathlon before you turn 50?

These are the things that are important.  These are the things that matter and therefore the things that will keep you on track!  The number on the scale?  That’s just cultural conditioning.

What’s really more motivating, weighing 135 or having the energy to chase your grand kids (assuming you have grand kids) around the park?

Then do what you need to do in order to meet the goals that matter to you.  It may be counting calories, it may be consistently exercising.  If you’re already dieting, just try taking a break from the scale.  Don’t take a break from the diet, just ditch the scale for a while.  And pick things that matter as your new source of accountability and motivation!

So, last Sunday, I told you that I’d tell you how bad it was  – that is, my own diet detour into Mendocino County.  You might be thinking, how the heck are you going to do that if 1) you haven’t been on a scale in two months and 2) don’t have access to one?

Easy.  My gut looks smaller than it did on Sunday.  My KJ Jr.  size 16 girls Lands End pants are tighter than they were when I left.  My sixes still fit so it can’t be that bad; however, to be honest, I haven’t bothered with the fours.

My American Eagle short shorts with a 2 (maybe 3) inch inseam still look like crap (so nothing new there).

I just bought a super cute form fitting Ann Taylor dress at a consignment store to wear to my cousin’s wedding.

My yoga routine was pretty darn good this morning and my heart rate seemed to be a little bit lower today during my cardio workout than it was on Monday.

And, yes, I told you I am a calorie junkie, a quick glance at my food diary tells me that out of the last 21 days, 17 had calorie deficits that ranged anywhere from -13 to -1016!  Not too shabby!

I had been thinking about this post for a while but I held off from writing it because I thought, no one is going to throw their scales away!  But then I bought this amazing book (title withheld until I have finished it) where the woman starts off with a pretty simple message: Get rid of the scale!  I thought, awesome, I like her already!  Her thing is that it’s not about losing weight fast, it’s about keeping it off for a life-time.  As it turns out, this book seems to be full of little gems, many of which resonate with my approach, but many of which seem to supply the missing pieces that I’ve been looking for.

Once I finish it, I’ll review it and probably end up recommending it!  It’s fun, it’s easy to read, and it’s only $27.00!  And in terms of the quality of information?  I got my money’s worth in the first three pages alone!  When was the last time you could say that about a book?

So, off to read and I’ll keep you posted on how it goes!

Regaining momentum (and finding my focus)

Maintaining positive momentum is absolutely crucial when you’re trying to achieve or maintain a goal.

When you have positive momentum, it’s just easier to do what’s right. It also tends to easily and effortlessly override both internal and external sources of resistance. You know the ones, the little voice that says, ‘Well, you’ve already blown it, why not?’ Or the well intentioned friend who offers you a brownie to help you ‘feel better.’

Further, when you have positive momentum, you know deep down inside that you will be successful. It’s not a matter of if, it’s just a matter of when, which is in and of itself an incredibly powerful personal resource. It really is as simple as that.

What’s equally simple, though it doesn’t seem like it when you’re in the thick of it, is that the opposite is also true of negative momentum. So if you ever find yourself in a back slide situation (or a tail spin) such as the one that I was in night before last as my vacation wound itself to a close, it’s crucial that you put on the brakes, turn it around, and pick up speed (heading in the opposite direction, of course) as soon as possible!

One way you can put the brakes on negative momentum and start creating (or rebuilding) your positive momentum is to focus on the positives, while keeping the negatives in perspective.

For example, it is true that while I was on vacation I picked up a few bad habits: I got sloppy with my food diary, I started taking small bites off of MJ’s plate (“just to taste”), and I found myself with a glass of California red wine in my hand on more days that I didn’t! I also didn’t get nearly enough sleep! Now any one of those transgressions has the potential to undermine a maintenance program, let alone a program designed to actually release weight! But add all four of them together? It’s no wonder that my clothes are a little tight!

But that said, there were also a lot of things that I did right. And given that I have a 10 hour travel day yesterday, my goal for myself was to set forth an honest accounting of all of the little things that I did right as well as the relatively small number of pretty big things that I did “wrong.” And my definition of wrong here is that they simply derailed my health and fitness goals. And, I can tell you right now that the list of rights overshadow the “not quite rights.” But it was important to include both so that I can remember what I need to keep doing as well as what needs to get ditched or modified now that I am back home.

As my mother is so found of telling me (and I am even fonder of ignoring), life (and any other important transformation) is really about the journey as opposed to the destination. That may be true, but I’ll tell you one thing: I’ll be much more appreciative of maintenance once I make my way back there! Because despite my earlier post, maintenance is looking (and feeling) pretty darned sexy, in comparison!

Just one more note about forward thinking, positive momentum, and focus. Peak performance coach, Anthony Robbins often tells a very funny – and profound – story about his experience learning to drive Indy 500 cars. My relative lack of charisma aside, the gist of the story is this: when you lose control of your car and you start heading toward the wall, whatever you do, do not look at the wall. Allow me to repeat:

DO. NOT. LOOK. AT. THE. WALL.

If you look at the wall, what happens?

Simple, you hit it!

So, when your momentum starts to slip, put your attention where you want to go (i.e. I am a firm, fit fabulous, four!) and just know that eventually, with enough sustained, positive momentum (which, of course, may mean changing tracks on occasion of you find yourself in a rut) you will get there!

I’ll post my list of rights and not-so-rights later on just to give you a better idea of the types of things I consider to constitute success. Did I have any “perfect” days in the course of the last two weeks when it came to food and exercise? No, not really. But I did have thousands of successful moments and, after all, isn’t that what vacations are for?

Don’t maintain – transform!

I have never liked the idea of maintenance. For starters, I can’t spell it! It usually takes about three tries before I can get rid of the automatic spell check line! But the real reason is that it’s not motivating, at least not for me!

So, why is maintenance, other than being hard to spell, not motivating?

I am a goal driven person. I like to make progress and to achieve my goals. It’s literally how I get my kicks. But it’s hard to view maintenance as a goal. You don’t achieve maintenance, it’s just something that you do. Much like housework, which I also dislike intensely, maintenance is undervalued. It’s not sexy. It’s not fun. It’s not awe-inspiring. In fact, most people don’t even notice that you’re doing it…that is, until you stop! Did you ever notice how housework is invisible until it doesn’t get done? It’s the same thing with maintenance. It’s typically overlooked until you start routinely setting it aside in favor of brownie hot fudge sundaes with Kahlua infused whipped cream.

If you’re like me and you think that maintenance is somewhat of a bum goal or you just don’t like doing it for whatever reason, I challenge you to change your perception of what it means to maintain your ideal weight (or whatever weight at which you find yourself currently if you’re stuck at a plateau). Don’t think about it as maintenance; instead think of this as an opportunity to transform.

Transformation. Now, that’s sexy. That’s motivating. You can set some goals around transformation. More importantly, the goals that you set around transformation are going to be a heck of a lot more compelling than, well, another week down, another 2,240 to go (assuming, of course, that you plan to live for at least another forty years)!

So, what types of transformation goals can you set for yourself while you’re either at your ideal weight or in the middle of a plateau?

  • You start working out with weights or adding a couple of pounds to the weight with which you already working
  • You could start doing yoga, which would improve your balance and flexibility
  • You could stop eating processed food, which would improve your digestion
  • Similarly, you could start incorporating more live, raw, or super food into your diet
  • You could start drinking more water, which would help return the elasticity to your skin
  • Similarly, you could moisturize
  • You could start a daily meditation practice, which would help you become more comfortable in your body and in the moment
  • You could change your exercise routine to work different muscles
  • You could stretch more, which would help your muscles rebuild after workouts
  • Similarly, you could take a day off
  • Or you could simply chose to get more sleep

For goal-oriented people who love to strive, the idea of maintenance is about as motivating as coffin! So shift your mindset and transform your body! Heck, don’t just stop with your body. Why not transform your entire life while you’re at it?

Finding the “Why”

The other day someone asked me why I was so motivated to maintain my weight release (or, using more conventional terms, weight loss).  Now they didn’t come out and just say, “Why do you want to not regain your thirty pounds?”  It was more along the lines of, “Why are you so committed to exercising, when you’ve already reached your goal weight?”

I sat there for a moment stumped, because I really hadn’t thought about it in a while or, to be honest, ever! I used to have a really good list of reasons why when I first started changing my body three years ago, but I hadn’t really given it much attention – if any – since I had achieved my goal.

Before I tell you what you what my “whys” are regarding my body, let’s spend a couple of minutes on why the “whys” – no matter who you are or what you’re doing – are critical.

When you have a clear reason why you’re doing something the following are true:

  • You’re more likely to accomplish it.
  • You’re better able to garner support from those around you.
  • You feel better about sticking to your goals, which, subsequently, boosts not only your self-confidence, but also your self-esteem!

When you don’t have a clear reason why you’re doing something, the converse it true:

  • You’re less likely to accomplish your goals
  • You encounter more resistance from those around you who don’t understand why you’re doing what you’re doing.
  • You become resentful about the ongoing discipline being successful requires, which undermines not only your progress, but also your self-discipline, your self-esteem, and your day-to-day mood!

The point of this being, it’s just as important to know why you’re doing something as it is to know what you want to accomplish, because the why is the motivation, the fuel, the justification, the reason you’re doing what you’re doing.  Knowing the why and being able to articulate it to others, as well as to yourself, is crucial because recent scholarship in teaching and learning suggests that 30% of the population are why learners.  This means that 30% of your potential sources of social support tune you out if you start with the what.  So, if you say, “It’s really important to me to drop this weight,” and someone says, “Why?”, you need to be able to tell them.  Because if you can’t, they won’t hear anything else you have to say about you and your weight and fitness goals.  And just imagine what might happen if you yourself is part of that 30% that needs a compelling motivation before they can learn (or act)!  Trust me, find your why and learn to articulate to yourself, as well as to others!

So just to give you an idea of how to get serious about finding the why, let me tell you how I rediscovered mine.

Basically, I waited until I had a chunk of time with no distractions.   I got a blank piece of paper and a pen (I chose this method as I tend to self-censure if I’m typing in a way that I don’t when I’m writing by hand!) and wrote at the top: Reasons Why I Want to Maintain My Current Weight and put the date on it.  I sat there for a moment, looking at the blank sheet of paper – and actually drawing a blank – until I came up with a reason.  And let me just say, as soon as the ink hit the paper, it was like a dam had broken.  In less than 10 minutes, I had come up with over thirty reasons – some of them better than others in the cosmic sense – of why I was truly and unequivocally committed to maintenance.  (Interestingly, I also gleaned some insight into why I don’t like the term “maintenance’, but that’s another post!)  And, just in case you’re wondering, since I’ve done this, my commitment to maintain has gotten stronger and I’ve been able to marshal more support from my already super supportive partner, MJ.

I’m not going to write out all thirty, but I’ll give you a few examples just to give you an idea.

Reasons Why I Want to Maintain My Weight (July 21, 2009)

  • To avoid re-injuring my knee
  • To have more energy
  • To be healthy
  • To get  compliments (sad, I know)
  • To be a better role model for my Little Sister
  • To feel good about myself
  • To succeed
  • To wear fun clothes
  • To be able to wear whatever I want
  • To not have to re-buy all of the clothes I’ve gotten rid of

You get the general idea.  As I said, some reasons are better than others, but I put them all down.  Notably, and somewhat ironically, this list isn’t that much different than the one I had made three years ago entitled “Why I Want to Lose Weight.”  What does that tell you?

If you’re trying to accomplish something – anything! – and you haven’t gotten real on your whys, I highly recommend that you sit down with a sheet of paper (or at the keyboard) and do this simple exercise.  It’s easy.  It’s quick.  And it is guaranteed to get you where you want to be.  Or, if you’re in my position, it’s guaranteed to keep you there!

Let me know how it goes!

The little things and the unexpected shows of support

I had lunch today with two delightful young women.

One of them ordered her dessert first (so she’d have room for it), then took half of her seafood paella home! It was classic. The waitress blinked: You’re starting with the ice cream sundae?

Ah, to be in one’s twenties again! But I digress….

At the end of the meal (I skipped the sundae and stuck with my typical wood-fired vegetable spinach salad with salmon), they presented me with a small box.

Much to my delight, they had a necklace made for me, touting a message (or touchstone) that I had mentioned in a previous post: never more than today.

There’s even a four leaf clover charm for good luck, as “they couldn’t find one of a beet!”

It was a perfect gift. I absolutely loved it. But more importantly, and unbeknown to the givers, it came at a good time — a time when, for whatever reason, maintenance is becoming something of a challenge and I am having to rely more on alternative markers of success –that is, resting heart rate, the fit of my clothes, and tape measures to chart my progress.

So, thank you ladies, if you’re reading this. You couldn’t have given me a more perfect and motivating gift. I will cherish it always and do everything I can to live in accordance with its ideal.

Men’s Health

Every year, MJ comes home with a “popular magazine” as his way of tuning into what’s going on in the world. Last year it was Cosmo (which we read together on the couch and laughed so hard we couldn’t take it anymore)! Thank God mother never let us have that in the house. Harlequin Romances, yes. Cosmo, no.

This year, it was Men’s Health, which, as it turns out, is the male version of Cosmo. Seriously, it was all about sex, nutrition, and exercise. And, more to the point, the headlines were almost identical: 125 Best Foods for Men, No-Diet Weight Loss Plan, 30 Red-Hot Sex Secrets, Strip Away Stress, 7 New Rules of Money & Women, Great Abs Made Easy, Melt Away Pounds! 15-Minute Fat Burners, Look Your Best Now! Interestingly, they also have a number of “Short Order Cook Recipes.” They’re obviously designed to impress a date, but they look pretty good. There are also a couple of other random tips in there that I may pass on later.

But the most interesting thing in there by far was an article — that looks like it be part of a series — called, It Works for Me: Master Your Domain.

This segment, or this month’s feature, was on actor Tyrese Gibson.

“Tyrese Gibson, star of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, gained weight and lost motivation. To right himself, he first had to change everything around him.”

On Maintenance:

“He lost his sense of consequence, he says. It’s easy to do: Accomplish something and your attitude can go from I’m working hard for this to This is mine. Do that and you’ve already failed. A boss doesn’t promote you because you did work hard. A woman doesn’t love you because you were devoted to her. They want you in the present and future tense. They expect you from here on in to work hard, to be devoted. Start coasting and you roll backward.”

On Modeling:

“We men have to put our pride and egos and just say, ‘You know what? I need help,'” Gibson says. “Bring something to the table. To somebody who has the keys to whatever door you’re trying to go through, say, ‘Look, man, I have five keys of my own, but I’m trying to figure out how to get these other keys.’

Think of of it this way: Every man is surrounded by better men. A man who’s more financially secure than you are can teach you something, and chances are he can learn something from you. So approach him. Collaborate. Successful men aren’t symbols of your inferiority; they’re examples worth engaging.”

On Upgrading Your Peer Group:

“The five people you spend most of your time with will dictate how far your life and career will go. Slobs will make you a slob. Gibson loved fried calamari, and he had friends who bought it for him all the time. But if you’re friends work hard and eat right, you’ll be embarrassed to eat fried anything around them.

It isn’t easy to switch friends. Gibson knows that. It took him months: less time with this person, more time with that one. Scoops of fried calamari gave way to scoops of tuna on lettuce, now his regular lunch. Guys at the gym taught him new exercises. He runs five miles a day on a treadmill. He lifts regularly.”

I liked this for a number of reasons. One, it reinforces things I already know, which is always good. But, two, this series also gives us a chance to model someone who has been there. As embarrassing at it may sound, something tells me that I may have to start spending more time at Borders lurking in the magazine section!

A month of maintenance

Yea!!!!

I am happy to report that I have maintained my goal weight (within a 1.5 pound +/- spread) for the entire month of May!

For those of you who know me well, you’ll recognize this as the accomplishment it is!

For those of you who don’t actually know me, in the past, I have been very good at reaching goals, but less successful at maintaining them! As a wise woman once told me, “You’re a striver, not a thriver.” In other words, I’m very good at striving, but less good at thriving — and, unfortunately, this applied to all areas of my life! In terms of weight-related goals, it meant that the one or two times that I even got close to 140 in the past, I only stayed there about one minute (the first time) or in the case of the second time, three days!

That I’ve been here for four weeks — in the midst of work-related hell and selling a house — is saying something! Truly, the thought of it makes me smile — at the very least — and want to jump up and down! I definitely think it’s time for a non-food related celebratory gift. Maybe I’ll finally succumb to all the direct marketing I’ve received since purchasing k-b slim and tone on line! I have to admit, it looks fun. It sort of reminds me of the bosu at the gym! But I digress.

Back to maintenance.

So, what’s it been like?

Sadly, for everyone who wants to be able to lose 10 (or 20 or 30 or even 90) pounds and then jump head first back into their favorite foods, it doesn’t work that way. Maintenance is just like dieting, you just get to eat more calories. Other than that, nothing has changed.

I still weigh myself regularly to make sure that I haven’t dropped too low (hasn’t happened yet, but it might!) or gone too high. When I’m up, I reduce my calories for a while. When I’m low, I add them back in.

Through repeating this process again and again, I’ve figured out that I can pretty much eat between 1,200 – 1,500 calories a day when I need to drop a pound or so and that I can maintain while eating between 1,500 – 1,800 calories a day. (This, of course, assumes that I exercise between four and five times a week!) Just knowing this little bit of information about my body has made a crucial difference in my ability to maintain my weight.

Now, does this mean that I just sit around and eat 1,500 calories worth of veggies everyday? No. In fact, just last week, I went out with friends and ended up eating 2,200. When that happens (and it will again), I automatically drop back down to 1,200 – 1,500 for a couple of days until my body stabilizes. It’s been great. And, importantly, it’s been easy!

One of my skinny friends — a woman who rarely exercises and is someone that I never would have assumed ever even thought about her weight — asked me what the difference has been for me this time. I told her and she said, “That’s exactly what I do! I can tell when I’m up. Or when I’ve eaten too much at a meal, I’ll cut back for a few days. And when I know I have something coming up, like a party or a holiday, I cut back a couple of days beforehand.”

Notably, she doesn’t count calories like I do (and I still do, religiously), but she does know what she eats and, perhaps even more importantly, what it does to her body.

So maintenance — it’s really nothing more than a diet with more calories. You still watch what you eat. You still make daily adjustments to your calories. You still weigh yourself regularly. You still — or at least I do — avoid those foods that make you crazy!

This is why, I suppose, that people always say that it’s not about being on a diet, it’s about changing your lifestyle. Because if you think about it as a diet that you can quit when you reach you’re goal, as opposed to a lifestyle that you’re committing to for life, you’re setting yourself up for failure or, at the very least, a lifetime full of diets.

Celebratory Dinner

I went out with friends to celebrate 1) the sale of my house in a downward market — the check that I took to the closing was larger than the one the buyer brought! — and 2) the one year anniversary of my tenure decision.

I ate like a pig, and was it ever glorious. A couple of glasses of prosecco with olive and goat cheese to start. Then a glass of red. Salad. Whole wheat penne with tomato, onion, garlic, and spinach for dinner. And then some sort of chocolate mousse! Yum.

The conversation was great; the atmosphere was chic, yet fun. The food? Well, I haven’t eaten that much — or that richly — in a while.

So, am I kicking myself? Absolutely not.

So, what does this mean for my “diet”?

Nothing, other than the fact that I’ll reduce my calorie intake back down to 1,200 calories tomorrow (and probably the next couple of days as well). But that’s fine! I’ve been trying to gain a couple of pounds for the last month as it is — and something tells me that tonight I may have very well succeeded.

“Why would I be trying to gain weight?” you ask. Well, it’s actually quite simple.

For every five pounds I lose, I try to gain three back.

While this approach may seem counter intuitive, it actually creates a stair step pattern that keeps my metabolism from tanking. More importantly, however, it also helps me better track the true number of calories that I can eat in a day and not gain weight.

Since I’ve been doing this, I’ve actually had a harder time gaining the weight than losing it. It’s an interesting problem to have and –by the way — not one that I ever thought I would have.

A 1,200 calorie day in my world

Over the last few days, I have found myself being asked: Well, what do you eat?

My very simple weight loss pan (now maintenance plan), was to lose five pounds — eating 1,200 calories a day and exercising moderately. When I lost the five, I would gradually increase my calories to 1,500 – 2,000 a day, trying to ascertain the point at which I stated to gain weight. When I gained three pounds, I would drop down to 1,200 a day until I lost another five, and so on.

Whenever I tell people this, their first question is usually: Can it be 1,200 calories of anything? Mmm, probably not — especially if you want it to be sustainable.

So, just to provide an example, here is my typical 1,200 calorie day:

March 24, 2009 (taken from my food diary):

Breakfast:
Shake, 270 calories

Snack:
Apple, 80 calories

Lunch:
Pita Bread & Hummus, 130 calories
Salad, 65 calories
Tabouli, 100 calories

Snack:
Orange, 64 calories
1/2 cup soup, 39 calories

Dinner:
1 cup Brown Basmati Rice, 150 calories
Lentil Dal, 173 (recipe)

Dessert:
1/2 cup Soy Ice Cream, 130 calories

Total : 1201 calories

As you can see, I’m a healthy grazer. I eat about every two to three hours. Not bad work if you can get it!

Why a calorie isn’t just a calorie

Another great tip from my colleague! Thanks, Misagh!

Defining Success

After an hour of aerobic conditioning, I stepped on the scale: 143.2! I had gained 2.2 pounds! Ouch!

“That was fast,” my little voice snarked. “I knew it wasn’t maintainable!”

Ignoring it, I quickly ran through a little checklist:

Had I put anything in my body that was not serving my goals? No.

Had I put too much of anything in my body that was not serving my goals? No.

Had I continued doing what I know works? Yes.

Had I had anything salty for dinner? No.

What date was it? Bingo!

Given the nature of bodies (especially female bodies), not to mention the inconsistencies of measuring devices, I have decided to define success–that is, successful maintenance–as staying within 3 pounds of my target weight (either way).

In other words, like any good statistician, I have given myself a margin of error. As long as I stay within that six pound spread (which is a pretty generous spread) I’m golden.

No why would I do that? Because weighing alone is not reliable. Having an acceptable range (as opposed to number) will prevent me from freaking out or defining myself as a failure and then, either tacitly or explicitly, giving myself permission to quit.

This way, when I hit that upper three pound threshold, I simply know that I need to reduce my calories again. When I go too low, I know that I need to add in more calories of the type that I had been eating when I was losing–that is, fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, etc. This does not mean that I just get to start adding in junk. And this most certainly does not mean that I get to dive head first into a jar of peanut butter!

So, I am at the upper end of the threshold; does this mean I need to stop eating or go back to the gym? Does this mean I should quit and see if I can get those 10s back from Talbots? No, it simply means I need to reduce my calories by about 300 a day and see that tomorrow brings.

I’ll keep you posted.