As I’ve been struggling through what I see now is a true plateau, I’ve been pondering the importance of routine. When things are going well, whether with weight loss or other self-improvement, it is usually at a time when I have a routine that I follow. I have a routine that becomes a habit that I see as just something that I do. For example, tracking what I eat. I just realized that I have tracked every meal and every snack for over a year now. The last day that I missed was August 8, 2013. From August 9th of 2013 to the present I have tracked everything. It is, of course, possible that I may have forgotten a snack here or there and maybe it isn’t always totally accurate and sometimes I have to estimate something, but I really think any of those blips are minor. To my knowledge, I’ve tracked each and every day. I’ve tracked even those days and those snacks when I overate. I have tracked even those foods that I wished I hadn’t eaten. I’ve even tracked when it was really hard to figure out how to record something (a buffet, for example). I don’t even consider the possibility of not tracking. It is simply something that I do.
I went back to Weight Watchers last October. And, since then I’ve missed precious few meetings. Since I started this blog almost 8 months ago, I’ve missed weighing in only 4 times. And, each time there has been a reason for it. It wasn’t that I just decided not to go. Going to Weight Watchers and weighing in is simply something that I do every Friday.
And — for the most part — eating the way that I started out the year wanting to eat has become a habit. When I analyzed my food data from 2013 (I tracked most of the year beginning in March with only a few missed days in the summer), I realized that I was eating some snacks that had no nutritional benefit and that weren’t helping my weight loss. So, I quit buying cookies from the grocery store. I stopped going out for ice cream after lunch on Saturday. (I do think I can occasionally do these things, but I really haven’t done them hardly at all during this year).
I just have a routine now in terms of what I buy at the grocery store and I don’t even have to think about it any more.
Having these routines make it very easy for me to stay on program and to consistently lose weight. When things are going well, it actually seems almost effortless. I find that while individual days may vary in terms of number of points eaten, I’m fairly consistent on a weekly or monthly basis. And, it seems like I will never struggle again. It seems so easy. I won’t buy cookies, I won’t have ice cream desserts, I won’t eat at certain restaurants except once a year, etc. And, I know that when I do these things I lose weight.
And, yet, look at this graph which covers the 4 years from August 13, 2010 to August 15, 2014:
The notable thing is that my current weight is awfully close to my low weight in January 2012 (162 pounds then versus 163.6 pounds now). Look at where I started in August, 2010 and how I steadily lost weight to get to 162 pounds in January, 2012.
I have to say that, in late 2011, I thought I had total control of weight problem. I thought I had solved it all. It seemed to be easy. I did have a plateau in November and December, but then it seemed to resolve and I was losing again. I had a routine and I couldn’t imagine it ever changing.
Of course, my confidence was misplaced as you can see from what happened from January, 2012 until about a year ago. My weight went up and up and up. I occasionally lost a few pounds but I didn’t stick with it. In the last year, I’m back on the downward path again. Just like in late 2011, it has seemed easy. All I have to do is follow my routine.
But, now I have a plateau. I know that plateaus are common. I’ve weathered many of them in the past. I’ve had two weeks where I have lost weight, so it might be thought the danger was behind me.
But, I’ve realized this week that this is actually a dangerous time for me. The reason is that I see that I have gotten out of my routine in a number of ways. The big one is activity. To a certain extent I can justify getting out of that routine because it was due to my leg injury/knee problems. I was on non-weight bearing status for weeks and had to make significant changes in my activity. I had thought I had a good routine for activity earlier in the year — walking outside in my neighborhood (which has hills) in good weather and using a treadmill with incline when the weather doesn’t cooperate. But, doing that at the intensity I wanted led to my trabecular bone injury and my knee MRI revealed my lack of cartilage under my left kneecap. And, that led to my doctor recommending that I find other exercises with less impact.
But it has been 2 months since I’ve been able to theoretically get back to exercise and the truth is that I have lost my exercise routine. I had been exercising 5 or 6 days a week. But, now I am totally out of that routine. I’ve been exercising….some. Let me go look.
My last workout was using the exercise bike on August 5th. I actually exercised 4 days between August 1 and August 5. July? I had workouts on only 2 days. June had a few more, but really I haven’t done much in almost 2 months.
Yes, there are reasons. My husband had shoulder surgery in July and I’ve been really busy since then, since I’ve been doing the driving. And, my mother visited for awhile. And, my son moved into an apartment near school so we were busy with that. There has been a lot going on.
Still. The reality is that let myself get out of the routine of exercising. It has been something I’ve thought of during the last 2 months when the stars aligned and everything was going well. Earlier in the year I simply exercised as a matter of routine. It was like tracking my food. It was just something that I did. I didn’t really see it as optional. Now, I’ve made it really super optional.
I can also see that — as so often happens — when one routine is breached so are others. While I’m not walking in my neighborhood any more, I also am sitting way too much. I’ve gotten out of the habit and getting up from the computer every hour.
And, I can see that I am starting to slack ever so slightly on the food end. I’m eating fewer vegetables. I’m been doing well overall on calories during the last month. The problem has been more lack of activity. I’ve eaten fine in terms of how much I’ve eaten. But, I’ve started to make choices lately at restaurants that aren’t the best. They are OK occasionally but I am doing it more than occasionally.
I find that once I break the routine in one way it becomes easier to break it in other ways. That was the main reason I started gaining weight in early 2012. We were eating out a lot while we were getting ready to move and so I changed that routine (eating out 2 or 3 times a week became eating out once or twice a days). But, I didn’t stop with changing that routine. I started changing all my routines. Eating food that was too high in points. Stopping activity. Eventually, I quit going to Weight Watchers meetings and quit weighing and quit tracking.
I realize that it is so easy for me to get out of my routine. It happens slowly enough that I almost don’t realize it at the time. For example, I knew I had not been as active but I had no idea that I had been as inactive over the last 2 months as my workout records revealed.
So — I need to start patching up my routines. I realize that on workouts I have to change my old routine to something new. And, yes, that is more difficult. But, having a workout routine is very important to me particularly since, without one, I tend to let all the other routines slide.