As I posted in early February, I had a great early February weigh in. I was down below my baseline after my tummy tuck. Things were going great. And, then I crashed and burned. Honestly, the 4 weeks after my weigh in were terrible. I went just really out of control. I did exactly one good thing. I continued to track what I ate. So I know that over those 4 weeks I averaged eating almost 650 calories more per day than I ate during January! I was wearing my Fitbit over this time and it tells me that for those 3 weeks I have a legit 3.2 pound weight gain based upon my calorie surplus (that is the amount that my calories eaten exceeded those burned).
Of course, eating so much more, I ate a lot more carbs and there is fluid retention (eating carbs results in holding on to to more water). So, at the worst my weight was up to 149.8 pounds which was a gain of 9 pounds over 4 weeks! Of course, I know that most of that is not true weight gain. I’ve been on track since last Saturday and I’m now down almost 3 1/2 pounds. So, I’m still up almost 6 pounds, of which I think about half is true weight gain.
This is the worst period I’ve had since I started this blog. By far. I’ve had a few bad weeks, but this was above and beyond. When this happens, there are really only 2 real issues that come up. How to get back on track. And, understanding why this happened. Obviously, understanding why it happened it key to figure out how to get back on track and to stay on track. I’ve thought a lot about this over the last couple of weeks (yes, even while I was still in the throes of it). And, I’ve been back on track since last Saturday. And, being on track for me has basically been doing what worked for me before. Those things still work for me.
So, why did I get off track and stay off track for so long. I was still tracking my food, wearing my Fitbit and weighing almost daily. So, I was totally aware of what I was doing. This wasn’t a situation where I didn’t know I was overeating or I fooled myself. I knew. But, for those few weeks knowing this wasn’t enough to stop me. What happened? It wasn’t one thing. There were many things going on that converged. What were they?
I lost intensity because I was down below my baseline. I had that great high when I weighed in below my baseline. I had worked to get back there after a mediocre holiday period. In the back of my mind, I knew I didn’t have to weigh in again until March so I had several weeks. Now, while I was well below my Weight Watchers official goal I still want to lose a few more pounds (5 to 10 pounds) below my baseline. In the ideal world, I weigh in during March down another pound or two (I lose weight slowly). And, I keep doing that until I’m at around 135 pounds and then I assess again. That was a good plan. And, to do that, I knew I could afford to eat a bit more freely the first week after my February weigh in. And, that isn’t unreasonable on its face. Yes, I want to lose a few more pounds. But, I’m at a normal weight, on maintenance. It isn’t urgent to lose those pounds. I can take a week where I eat a little more. That’s fine….to a point. But, it is one thing to eat all my weekly points (totally fine) during such a week. It is something else entirely to eat an extra 450 calories a day for that week as compared to the prior month. Unfortunately, what I did was the latter.
The problem here for the future is to recognize that I lose intensity in this situation. I get over confident and it can be easy to think I can just do anything for that week and it won’t matter. In reality, it does matter. In this case, 1 week turned into 4 weeks. And, it wasn’t just eating all my weekly points or eating at a maintenance level. It was truly just overeating and eating way off program (although I did track). The plan from now on is that if I want to have a week where I am not in weight loss mode, the appropriate goal is eat at my maintenance level not eat at a level where I will truly gain weight.
I had changes in routine that had a negative impact. I’ve posted before about how I regained 30+ pounds after I had lost over 40 pounds in 2010 and 2011. I went off track when we were looking for our current house and then were immersed in moving and then setting up this house. Part of it was that we were out and about a lot and tended to eat out a lot more than usual. Another part of it was that my attention was focused on house stuff and eating well was just one more thing that I didn’t have time or energy to think about. I did what was easy for me and that was mostly eat out wherever was easy.
And, changes in routine feed on themselves. This can be good when it leads to following a new, good habit. But, the converse is true also. If I am used to eating 1200 calories a day, I have little trouble doing that consistently. But, get me in a situation where I am eating 1700 calories a day consistently, then that tends to become the new routine and the new normal.
And, during February, I had a number of changes in routine. Moving was again an issue. Now, this wasn’t my move. However, our daughter was moving back to this area. And, we were very involved with helping her to find a new place to live and getting everything set up. I was more focused on that than following my usual routine. Also, our son graduated from college in December and is temporarily back at home. That is fine…but is another change in routine.
I do best when I have a consistent routine and follow my habits. When I deviate from those, it is all too easy to get into a routine that is negative in terms of weight loss and maintenance. This is one reason why it doesn’t work well for me to just take a week off and eat whatever. That week off becomes the new routine.
I quit doing many of the things that worked well for me over the past several years. As a overate and wasn’t eating in accordance with the Weight Watchers plan or in accordance with my calorie goal, it became easy to stop doing all of the other things that I did to lose weight and maintain my loss. By far the biggest was in terms of bringing food into the house that I have trouble eating in a moderate fashion. There are certain foods that I find difficult to portion control if I have them in the house. So I eat those only away from the house or if I can bring in a single portion. For example, I don’t buy packages of cookies on a routine basis since I will overeat them. I do occasionally buy a cookie from Subway or Which Wich when I am having a meal from there. That works well for me.
Well, during the 4 weeks, I didn’t overeat cookies. There is that. But, I did bring foods into the house that I overeat. I love potato chips. If I eat at Panera, I will eat a 150 calorie package of potato chips. I will even occasionally buy a single serving bag and eat it. Fine. Well, the grocery store starting selling 150 calories bags of chips in a 12 bag package. These were appealing because they had jalapeno chips and salt and vinegar chips in the package. Usually those kinds of packages have chips flavors I don’t love. So, I bought the package thinking I could eat a 150 calorie bag of chips a couple of days a week. Wrong! Those 12 bags were gone in less than a week.
Even worse was popcorn with chocolate drizzle. I love popcorn with chocolate drizzle. This is usually available only in the winter. During the warmer months of the year, you don’t usually see this. I guess this is because the chocolate might melt in transit. Anyway, Target had some bags of this. Each bag had 4 1/2 servings. A bag was over 600 calories. I had this idea of eating no more than a couple of hundred calories at a time and not every day. Again, wrong! I would measure out a serving carefully and eat it. Then go in and measure out another. And, then just go and finish the rest of the big. I bought several bags of this popcorn knowing it probably wouldn’t be available in a month. And, that really did a lot of damage to the calorie count. There was the day that I ate 2 full bags for over 1200 calories!
I was still not burning enough calories. Now, honestly, this wasn’t the big problem. If I was eating right, the fact I wasn’t exercising would have cut into my weight loss but wouldn’t derailed it entirely. I rejoined the Y in January and still haven’t gotten there. A big part of that was all the changes in routine during February. We were really busy and that went by the wayside.
Still, that isn’t the main thing. For me, if I am exercising and burning more calories I am almost always eating well. I know that isn’t true for everyone. A common problem I’ve seen with some people is that they do burn a lot of calories through exercise and they don’t lose weight because they still eat too many calories. That doesn’t really happen for me. If I’m exercising then I’m eating right. If I’m not eating right, then I’m not exercising. Now, I do find it possible to eat right and not exercise. I can still lose doing that. It is slow and I don’t get the health benefits of exercise when I do it. So, I don’t find that approach optimal. Still, the lack of exercise didn’t help me during February. And, had I started exercising, I think that would have pulled me back into eating right.
Where does all this leave me going forward? I think I mostly need to be aware of these things and watch them when things get stressful. I’ve quit buying the foods that I find it hard to eat at home. I’ve had a good week and one good week tends to build on another. I am back to doing the things that created success for me before. It irritates me that I have 3 extra pounds of true weight gain that I need to lose. That will probably take me a couple of months to do. I hate that. But, I can’t change that fact. I need to move forward and not think about where I could have been had I not gone so far off track.