Since I am above my goal weight and having to pay at Weight Watchers, I wanted to really look at where I have gone wrong. Yes, yes, right now I still have swelling and water retention from my surgery (liposuction tweaking post-tummy tuck) in May and I think that adds a couple of pounds. Without that, I probably would not have had to pay at my meeting yesterday. But, even so, I have gained weight over the last year and I wanted to really look at my data to see where the rot set in. Thankfully, I have a lot of data.
What the Data Tells Me
I keep a lot of data on my weight loss efforts. I have a spreadsheet where each day I record my steps, calories burned (per Fitbit), calories eaten (recorded in MyFitnessPal), and calorie deficit (or surplus). I also have a scale that records my weight and body fat (body fat percentage is not very accurate but overall gives an idea of whether it is going up or down over time). I usually weigh on a daily basis. I have these numbers going back for years. I’ve kept the spreadsheet of steps, etc. since the start of 2014. I have weight loss data from my scale going back a few months before that.
So, I have a lot of data. Looking at it, things became much clearer. In 2014 and 2015, I was in weight loss mode until I got back to goal in July, 2015. At that time, I weighed in at Weight Watchers at 145.8 pounds. During 2014, I ate an average of 1189 calories a day and ate a little less during the first 7 months of 2016. Once I got back to goal, I started eating a little more. I ate an average of 1269 calories a day for the rest of the year. At my early December 2015 weigh in, I weighed 146.6. I had gained .8 since getting back to goal.
That date in December 2015 was significant because that was the month that the Beyond the Scale program started. I lost 1.9 pounds in December on my home scale (note that weights on the weigh in page don’t always correspond exactly with what I weigh at home due to differences in weighing at home versus weighing at Weight Watchers) and another pound in January. At my February weigh in, I was at 144.6 pounds. My actual lowest Weight Watchers weigh in was 142.8 pounds in April, 2016 (which was 142.6 pounds at home with no clothes — my home scale weighs heavy by about 1 pound). That was the lowest weight I had weighed in over 20 years. Great.
Then in April, 2016 the bottom fell out. In fact, I posted about my terrible month. I had my worst eating month (by far!) since I started this blog. It was awful. And, it showed up on the scale when I weighed in during May and up 3.4 pounds. This was right before I had my facial plastic surgery.
Looking back on 2016 as a whole, I basically ate too much food the whole year. I averaged 1389 calories a day. This was about 200 calories more per day than I ate when losing weight and 120 calories more than I ate per day in late 2015 after I got to goal (and was slowly gaining .8 pounds). We won’t even talk about how much I was in the hole on SmartPoints.
What was even worse was that I went from being active to inactive. Now, this wasn’t me deciding to be a sloth. I had been walking regularly and going to the Y for personal training 2 days a week. So, activity-wise I was doing pretty well. But, I had to stop all of that when I had my plastic surgery. After 6 weeks, I was allowed to start walking, but no strength training for 12 weeks. And, that was about the time I was to have my tummy tuck and breast lift (mommy makeover). That second surgery sidelined me even more than the facial surgery. Basically, the rest of 2016 was a loss as far as strength training. That said, I could have been walking or using the exercise bike during the last quarter of the year. But, I didn’t. I just never got back to it.
So there I was during the last half of 2016 eating too much and not exercising. I maybe could have maintained on what I was eating had I been exercising, but I wasn’t exercising. And, to an extent I think my gain was masked by the fact I had surgery. When I had the tummy tuck and breast lift, the surgeon removed 6.362 pounds of tissue (call it 6.4 pounds). At home, the morning of surgery I weighed 147 pounds. So, my new “baseline” was 140.6 pounds. That was great. In fact, in the first month after surgery I did well. I weighed in at Weight Watchers in late August at 139.8 pounds (my low at home was 138.9 pounds). So, I was a little below my baseline.
But, then I started gaining. Over the rest of 2016, I gained back about 3 pounds of what I lost. It was often hard to see this because then I also had swelling and water retention post-surgery. So my weigh ins at home fluctuated so much. But, overall I did gain about 3 real pounds. And, I can look at my records to see why. I had a calorie surplus of a little over 100 calories a day. So, I gained weight.
I did recognize this and started getting back in control in December. I was a little more active and ate less. January of this year was a great month and for the first time in months I ate less than 1300 calories a day. And, in February, I weighed in at 141.6 pounds. On that day, I was at 140.7 pounds at home so I was back at my post-surgery baseline. Great. I had lost the 3 pounds I had regained.
And, then the bottom fell out again. I weighed in on February 4th. During February, I ate an average of 1676 calories a day and March didn’t start out well either. I posted about that bad period as well. I ended up having to pay for the first time in April. According to my home scale (which I like to use for this as clothes don’t play a factor as they do at Weight Watchers weigh in), I gained 9.7 pounds over February and March! Wow.
So, I had gained back the entire 6.4 pounds surgically removed. Actually, it was even worse than that. I weighed 147 pounds at home the day of surgery. But, 3 months before that I had weighed 142.6 pounds at home. If I had had 6.4 pounds removed then, my baseline would have been 136.2 pounds. The bottom line is that from April 2016 to April 2017, if you take out the 6.4 pounds removed during surgery, I gained 16.3 pounds!
I hadn’t really put that together before. Now, after April of this year I did lose some of that. My lowest at home was 146.3 so that would mean I gained 10.1 pounds. Well, the liposuction in May that I had removed 1.2 pounds so the actual gain without surgery would be 11.3 pounds. Better than 16.3 pounds, but still terrible.
So what I have learned from all this? What went wrong?
I’ve been eating too much. January of this year was a good month. April was OK. I have been eating more than I can eat and maintain, let alone lose weight. I wanted to be closer to 135 after surgery. I got down to 138.9 but then started gaining rather than losing. Even when I was 140.7 pounds in February, I was up a bit from last August, but still needed to working on losing 5 or 6 pounds not gaining them.
I haven’t been burning enough calories. Yes, I had a legitimate reason for not exercising for a lot of 2016 after I had surgery. That said, I could have been walking during the last quarter and I didn’t. And, this year, I could have been doing strength training again. We rejoined the Y and have been paying every month and haven’t gone even once. Yes, it has been a busy year with a lot going on. Still, I just haven’t done it. I have a treadmill and exercise bike here at home. I could be using them. I haven’t. There is just no excuse for my lack of activity. It has not served me well.
I should have reset my goal weight after surgery. I have always felt it made sense to set my Weight Watchers goal weight at the top of my range. Why risk having to pay if you go over your goal weight more than 2 pounds but are still in a healthy weight range? Economically, it makes sense to set the goal weight the highest you can.
But, I realize now that really doesn’t work well for me. With a goal weight of 146, I didn’t have much sense of urgency as long I was weighing in still as a free lifetime member. When I would go over 146 but was still under 148, I would pay attention and be more careful. But, if I was at or under 146 I was fine. But, after I had surgery, it was way to easy to creep up and gain back what had been removed. I gained 3 pounds of it back before I starting working my way back down to where I was when I got out of surgery.
But, think about the time before surgery. In April, 2016, I weighed in at 142.8. That was great. But, the next month I was up to 146.2. And, I wasn’t concerned since I was still free lifetime.
At a minimum, I think I should have lowered my goal weight when I had surgery. Maybe set it to 141 or 142. Then, it would have concentrated my mind when I weighed in at 142.8 in October, 2016. If I had had to pay then, would I be where I am now? I don’t think so. This is my chart of average deficit per day for each week this year)(using Fitbit calorie burn data less food eaten data).
There is an interesting pattern here.
I weighed in 3 times during January and had a calorie deficit during all but week. I weighed in February 4th and had a calorie deficit of an average of 151 calories a day during the week before. My only week in March with a calorie deficit was the week ending March 10th which was the week before I weighed in on March 11th (I was up 5.4 pounds given the 4 bad weeks before that one good week). I weighed in April 29th after having my best deficit week in April. The first week in May, I had a bad week with a calorie surplus and didn’t weigh. The next week I had a deficit of 224 calories a day and weighed in the next day. Again, in June, I had my best week right before I weighed in on July 17th. That was followed my 2 terrible weeks. This was when I got sick and started eating too much and started have serious post-surgery swelling. I did have a deficit the first week in July and did my July weigh in.
So. I have gotten into a habit of having a good week the week before I weigh in and that eating badly for the next 2 or 3 weeks. Then, I get back eating well when I am about to weigh in.
What to do? Weekly weigh ins even when I don’t have to do them can help. I did pretty well in January and weighed in 3 times even though I didn’t have to. Since then it has been monthly weigh ins. That said, if my goal weight is 146 pounds and I weigh 144 the first week in the month and then weigh 145 pounds the next week I know that the 145 pounds doesn’t really matter since I only have to weigh monthly. However, if I weighed 144 pounds and that was my goal weight then a 145 pound weigh in would concern me.
What I Plan To Do
Data only helps you if you take action based upon what you learn from it. It is not enough to just know what went wrong. It is important to use that information to move forward. So, here is what I plan to do:
Eat Less Food – I have actually had 3 good weeks. This whole year I hadn’t put together several good weeks since January. It has been more like I would eat well the week before weigh in and then eat too much the next 3 weeks. That ratio doesn’t work. I need to eat well every week. I know how to eat less food and can do it, I just haven’t been doing it.
Exercise and Get More Overall Activity – Honestly, I haven’t been active at all. I’ve been below 3000 steps a day for months. I live in a one story house and am home most of the time and like to use my computer or read. None of that gives me steps. My Fitbit does remind me to get 250 steps each hour if I haven’t gotten them by 50 minutes after the hour. Even so, I need to do more. I’ve downloaded an app to my phone and set a reminder every 30 minutes to move. I am also starting to use the treadmill again. I need to keep doing that.
And, we need to go to the Y and start strength training. I want to try to do it on my own without a trainer. I worked with a trainer for a year and know how to do what I need to do. I will see if I do it. One advantage of a trainer is that I had to go each week. I had paid for sessions and couldn’t just not go for frivolous reasons. I would prefer to save the money and just go on my own. We will see if I do.
Weigh Weekly – Since I got to goal, I’ve mostly gone to weekly meetings. We would occasionally miss but except when I was recovering from surgery, I would go to the meetings. Most of the time, I didn’t weigh. Part of that was convenience. I could wear anything wanted to and could eat or drink something before getting to the meeting. When I weigh in I wear light clothes and don’t drink anything until after I weigh in. Still, the pattern is clear. When I don’t weigh in weekly, I tend to get off track. Maybe I “shouldn’t” need that weigh in to keep me on track but I think I do need it right now. I especially need it when I am trying to lose weight.
Reset My Goal Weight at Some Point – I wish I had reset it to 141 pounds or so when I had surgery last July. I think if I had done that I wouldn’t be where I am now. I would still be fighting the post-surgery swelling but that really only accounts for a couple of pounds of my gain. Most of my gain since then is just actual weight gain.
There is perhaps a case to be made to reset to 141 pounds now. But, I just weighed in 149.4 pounds above my goal weight of 146 pounds. I still don’t particularly want to pay any longer than I have to. I think I will get back to my free lifetime of 148 pounds soon. Maybe not this next Saturday. We are going to a birthday dinner the day before. I know what I am going to eat and I’ll be fine on calories, but sodium may get me. But, I should be back to free soon. But I think when I get below 146 pounds, maybe when I get to 144 pounds, I will reset my goal weight a little lower and will keep doing that as I move down. I think if I couple that with weekly weighing I may be able to slowly set my goal weight lower. I do want to slowly do it, since I am not sure what weight I can really maintain.
Get My Metabolism and Body Fat Tested Again – In September of 2015 I had my metabolism tested and had body composition testing. The metabolism testing told me that my resting calorie burn each day was about 100 calories a day less than Fitbit was using. Fitbit used a formula that didn’t use body fat. So, my Fitbit was always telling me I was burning more calories than I was clearly burning. I knew that as my actual weight loss was quite a bit below what would be predicted from Fitbit and my food data. The body composition testing told me I was skinny fat — normal weight, but high body fat. Bodies that have high body fat don’t burn as many calories as someone of the same weight who has less body fat. Fitbit doesn’t let you change your resting calorie burn directly. What I did was go in and change my height in Fitbit until my resting calorie burn matched what I got from my metabolism testing. After that, my predicted weight loss from Fitbit has much more closely met the actual.
I did have my body fat retested in December, 2015 and even though I was doing strength training and eating protein to try to increase muscle there was no real change. That was very discouraging. I do not build muscle easily unfortunately. And, now I have not done any strength training for a year. But, I haven’t had any testing since then.
I think I want to go and retest to see where things are and make sure what is in Fitbit now matches the actual. I am going to wait until sometime in September to do this. My surgeon said I will have on and off swelling until 3 to 4 months after surgery. I had surgery on May 22nd. So, I want to make sure the swelling is no longer a factor, before I go and redo the testing. But, I think it is long enough I want to know my current data.