I've written before about the steps I see taking place when one falls off the wagon. I'll paste them in again here.
#1: For the first couple of weeks of said fall I might actually still be exercising now and again. I read somewhere that it only takes half the work to maintain fitness gains as it took to obtain them in the first place. So, if you're only doing 1/4th of what you used to do you're still maintaining something.
#2: Most of my meals are probably still relatively healthy. These first two reflect that I don't fall off the wagon in one heavy thud, right? I slowly lose my grip, slowly slide down to the edge, and my good habits slowly fall by the wayside.
#3: The metabolism remains high for a while. It's not like I lose all that good, hard-earned muscle overnight. I continue to burn through the calories at a higher rate even though my exercise might not be regular anymore.
#4: The reverse of the old muscle weighs more than fat line. As you lose muscle and gain fat your weight stays the same. Evil. Your clothes might be getting snug but the final arbiter, The Scale, tells you all is well. And since we've conditioned ourselves that The Scale Knows All, we fool ourselves into listening to it again. Like I've said many times before, the scale only tells part of the story.
#5: And then...I'd say I've been in #4 lately, eating too much and feeling some of my clothes get snug but comfortable in the fact that the scale is still saying everything is ok. Until it didn't. Yesterday morning I got on the scale and my weight was 142.4 pounds. That's 2.4 pounds over where I'd like to stay, which is under 140. Why under 140? Because that's a weight that was easy to maintain when I was exercising and eating a healthy, balanced diet (not a strict diet, a balanced one). Easy, you might ask? Yes, easy. I was not battling with myself to maintain that weight.
The weight gain starts. And when it does it's usually too late. I've fallen off the wagon entirely and it's gone on down the road without me. I can't even see it anymore. And the weight gain is gradual, it's a 1/2 pound here, a pound there. I start adjusting my acceptable weight standards. This really helps with the denial, "160 is still pretty good,"... "165 isn't bad,"... "170? I guess I can live with that." Right around here is where I might stop weighing myself altogether. Bigger denial. This isn't happening, I am not gaining weight.
Anyway, under 140 is my happy place and 145 means sound the alarm, time for drastic action. In my case drastic action = tracking. And I do not want to track. So 142.4 pounds got my attention. I started asking myself the tough questions, "What are you doing?" "Why all the junk/crap food?". No good answers but I don't need answers to change my behavior. I'm gently nudging myself back to the way I was eating before the impulsive candy bar and chips behavior started, before I fell into a habit of before-bed snacking. I reviewed in my mind how I was eating before this re-visiting of old behaviors and envisioned or imagined myself eating that way again now.
That was helpful and gave me a bit of a boost in motivation. Because sometimes the scale going up is not motivating but instead is disheartening and can make me want to give up. I have to be careful to use the feedback of a higher number as just feedback and not a moral judgment against me. As I've said in the past, at least the gain is directly tied to my behavior and not to a frustrating mystery.
Some of you might be thinking, "Why all the panic over a measly 2.4 pounds?". In fact I've had more than a few people say things like, "I wish I weighed 142" or "Try not to stress about it, you still look great" or "You're worried about 2 pounds, really?". But that's how it starts! And that thinking, the idea that this small gain is not a problem, that it doesn't warrant my focused attention and intervention - that's what allows one to move the bar of acceptable weight, after all 142 is not bad. And I'm still under my initial goal weight of 145. And I'm still wearing mostly size 4s, some 2s even. Some are getting a tad snug but I can still wear them just fine. But it's not about size, or scale weight - it's about the behavior. And the lazy thinking behind that behavior. Neither of which are good. Not. good.
So if I were to keep this up I'd be 146 before too long. Still wearing normal sizes, only a pound over my goal weight, still good, right? And then 151, and then 157...you get the idea. So I choose to make this a big deal, to intervene now, to focus and intervene and do what I can to get my thoughts and behaviors back to a healthy place, which will lead to the scale moving back down. I'm working on it, ever present of not being too hard on myself. If you want a strong fighter in your corner, don't beat that person up before you put them in the ring. My eating still has room for improvement but things are getting better.
I was buying and eating candy bars at random times, one time eating two candy bars plus a chocolate truffle in one evening. I was buying chips and snacks and anything else that seemed good and eating them as if I've never had a weight issue. I was eating before bed - dinner rolls (with butter), cereal, candy - whatever I felt like. And it's not that I was gaining an immense satisfaction from these foods, not truly enjoying them, rather just eating them out of some...some what? Who knows, and I don't need to know right now, I just need to stop.
I'm moving in that direction. I skipped most of the junk snacks (including cake!) at a birthday party yesterday. Later I barely had any wine at a wine tasting so as not to interfere with my planned afternoon run. And while at our neighbor's house for dinner last night I made health(ier) choices. But when the option to eat an It's It bar came up I ate it. I've never been about maintaining the perfect diet and I'm not going to start now. And I engaged in some before-bed eating but instead of candy and junk it was a corn-on-the-cob and some cantaloupe. Progress, not perfection.
So I'm having to use a bit more mental energy to keep my eating on track, partially because my body has quickly gotten accustomed to eating more. My stomach is sending me hunger signals before meal/snack times, "Can we eat now...how about now? Is it time to eat yet? Now?". So I'm hydrating and reminding myself that things will settle down after a few days. The body adapts so quickly, it's amazing! And the hunger = bad thing started but I'm working on going back to hunger = neutral, a much more realistic place to hang out.
Ok, a quick exercise rundown before I wrap this up. Friday was a gym day. My back was sore from some of my core work on Thursday but I still managed to get my run on the treadmill. I did 25 minutes, the first five at 6.0mph and then intervals between 6.4 and 7.4 the rest of the time. It was tough, tough, tough, but I am tougher. After that I did back/biceps/core, skipping back extensions until the soreness in my back goes away. Saturday was a much needed rest day. Yesterday I ran for an hour. No idea on distance or pace, just running. Still tough but what should I expect? I've been putting junk into my body and asking it to perform well. Today I'll hit the gym after work for a spin on the upright bike and then legs/shoulders/core.
So there you have it. My foray into old behaviors and my methods and motivations to slowly back away from those old behaviors. I want to write that I have total faith I'll have this buckled down in no time but my confidence just isn't all that high right now. What I do know is I won't give up, I'll be here fighting the good fight. It's not always easy, but it's always worth it.
ps - I got two bits of positive feedback from random strangers. First, a guy at my gym commented, "you work out hard!" after being on the elliptical behind me on the treadmill on Friday. Yep, that's me. And second, I was chatting with Glen at the gym and a fellow gym-goer that I didn't know. He stopped and said, "Hey, are you the woman in the poster?" (gesturing to my larger than life poster in the window). Yep, that's me. "Well, oh my, it's nice to meet you." IronSnoopy (a no less than three time Ironman finisher!) commented on a recent post of mine saying she wished I could see myself as others see me. I wish I could too. Hopefully I'll get there one day, but until then the positive feedback sure doesn't hurt.