My body wants to be thinner. My brain? Not so much.
July 19, 2011 4:40 PM   Subscribe

I know the scientific hows and whys of losing weight. Please hack my brain to get it back in the right head space.

I've read every diet/weight loss thread on here a number of times. I like the advice that's given both in general and on my previous two questions in this area.

In the past ~ 9 months I've gotten a lot of practice maintaining. I'm happy that I haven't regained the weight but I also seem to have stalled. It's less body adjusting, need to change things up and more head fell out of the game. I know what I need to do to lose weight, I don't know how to stay on program. It's not a question of trying to maintain an impossible lifestyle change, but more "hey brain, I know eating a 12-16 oz bag of candy isn't a good thing and you're probably not hungry, but I'm going to anyway. Signed, mouth." I see diet/weight loss as kind of like smoking or any other change you want to make - you have to want it before it will work. March 2010 I wanted it and I found staying OP manageable.

So what are your tips? How do you make yourself keep on your diet plan of choice? Note: I'd prefer this not derail into a Calories In/Calories Out / Taubes says carbs must die / eat only fruits and nuts debate. Let's please operate under the theory that our bodies aren't machines and different methods work for different people. What do you do when you struggle? Is there someone's advice you find helpful? What I've done in this recent effort to start losing again is go back to the food(s) I was eating when I first started. I'm using a combo of SparkPeople and the old WW program. I do not like the new one. I weigh daily (not an issue - fluctuations don't bother me) and am seeing progress. At the same time I send to slip back to "well I didn't regain when I was eating candy so do I have to really eat X?" It's frustrating.

Ruled out: Healthy weight (nope. I'm still ~ 15 lbs above the top of my range and 20-25 from where I want to be. Not muscular so not really issue of BMI being wrong). Thyroid (just tested as regular doc visit. Well within normal).

posted by TravellingCari to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Two big questions: How is your sleep? and how is your mood? I find it much harder to eat the foods that I know will make me feel good when I'm sleep deprived, but I also find that my mood is much, much better when I do eat sensible portions of nutritious food. It may be that you need to find another metric instead of or in addition to weight in order to keep yourself motivated.
posted by KathrynT at 4:44 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: 1) Social commitment:
a) Diet with others with a similar goal.
b) Make sure your family and friends know your goal.

2) Track your inputs as well as your results. If you really really need to eat that bag of candy, do so, but log it; later in the day seeing that in your log might give you the extra bit of will-power needed to skip the second helping of dinner. And at the end of the week, you won't wonder why you haven't lost anything when the "almost" in "I almost never snack" actually adds up to 500 calories a day (and more importantly, you'll know what to target as your worst hidden sources of calories).

3) For exercise, unfortunately, you just have to start doing it; But once you do start, and get into a routine, it gets so easy to maintain that you'll feel "off" if you skip a workout.
posted by pla at 4:48 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: What do you do when you struggle?

1. I weigh myself every AM.
2. I drink water and/or eat something healthy first, before an indulgence.
3. I eat the thing I really want (if 2 didn't work) slowly and enjoy every bite. And stop when I start feeling full.
4. Really avoid alcohol.
5. Plan for exercise and go easy when restarting a demanding exercise regimen.
6. Get enough sleep.
7. Journal activities and food intake.
8. Rejoin an online community like Health Month and check in daily.
posted by bearwife at 5:04 PM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Try exercise first priority, diet second priority? They really are inextricably linked, anyway.
posted by trevyn at 5:04 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: Oh, and p.s. -- plan all meals in advance, including taking lunch and snacks to work.
posted by bearwife at 5:05 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: Couple of things...

1. Don't stock the "bad food" in your house, ever. If someone brings a bag of chips over and leaves them there, throw them out after they leave.
2. Plan your whole eating schedule. Plan at least the next 1 or 2 days in advance, if not the whole week. Eat only what you planned. I think your whole day of eating is already pre-determined, you will be way less likely to "cheat". I did this pre-planning for a long time until eating right just became routine and I don't really plan as much any more.
posted by jclovebrew at 5:08 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks all - not threadsitting but couple comments:

Two big questions: How is your sleep? and how is your mood?

Hadn't thought about those. Honest answers? Bad and eh. 6 hours of sleep is a good thing. combo of insomnia due to stress, heat and life. Mood, is improving I think. Nothing clinical that could be treated - just stress.

Nice to see repeated comments on tracking/planning. One of my baby steps was to get back to honestly tracking. Even if it wasn't pretty - and it often wasn't - I knew why.

Fitness is the easy part for me, knock on wood. The gym has AC and it's good for clearing my head even when it's currently too hot to walk outside. I track my mileage on MapMyFitness and I like challenging myself to do more then the previous week/month. I think it's part of why I haven't regained despite some lax food choices.

I definitely need to get back to planning as well as participating on threads on WW. I think that joint push helped. I liked the kudos when I lost and the tips from others struggling.

Thanks again all. Love the advice here.
posted by TravellingCari at 5:28 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: Fake it 'til you make it.

Track everything you eat, just for informational purposes, with no intent to actually diet. You'll find it subtly changing your behavior for the better, even if you don't plan your meals and wind up buying some crap. The mere necessity of putting it into something like Livestrong will force you to pay attention to serving sizes, which leads to measuring, which leads to only taking a single serving, etc., etc.

If you do this for a week or so, you'll probably wind up eating just a little less, which will in turn lead to a tick down on the scale, which will provide more encouragement and incentive to keep going...Virtuous cycle.

I decided to make a rule to track what I eat on Health Month this month (join the MeFi team!) and I'm down three pounds since I started. Even though I hadn't planned on actually reducing calories/carbs yet at all. I haven't weighed this little since before I got pregnant with my second child, who will turn five this fall. O_O

--I see you're having trouble with sleep and mood? I highly recommend cutting out caffeine, gradually if you have to. It's done me a world of good.
posted by Andrhia at 5:33 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: OK, if your sleep and your mood are both crap, try this: keep a sleep diary (if you have an iphone you can use Sleep Cycle to record it for you pretty well) a mood diary, a calorie diary, and an exercise diary. Don't try to make yourself conform to a standard, just honestly record everything. Then see if you can spot some correlations. For me, it was way easier to pass up that donut knowing that if I ate it I'd be exhausting and screaming at my kids in three hours than it was knowing that if I ate it I'd get incrementally fatter.
posted by KathrynT at 5:35 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My motivation strategies (many mentioned above already):
1. I got a bodymedia fit device to help monitor my calories in/out. I don't think it's exact, but I imagine it is consistent with itself. Every morning, I plug it in and see where I am for the day before (it also monitors the quality of my sleep-important for weight loss). My goals are 10,000 steps per day, 1 hour of moderate activity, 30 minutes of vigorous activity. I don't meet it everyday, but it's a great daily ritual to start the day off with my goals in place. (I plug the thing in to sync & charge. Other than that, I use an app on my phone to monitor my daily calories. It was amazing to see how many calories I burned sleeping!)

2. In a similar vein, I graph my weight every morning in a google spreadsheet. I know people recommend against that, but I am an ostrich-type person. My urge to bury my head and avoid dealing with problems (like going off the diet track) is important for me to deal with. I understand fluctuations, so I don't let an increase get me down. I also try to beat the linear forecast that the chart projects. Slight competition with myself makes it more fun.

3. Complete and full support of my significant other. He even gives me surprises to when I reach my mini goals. The best one so far has been Zumba for the Kinect; I love love love that game. (finally found fun exercise!) There's also no more beer, wine, chips, etc in the house. We make fancy Popsicles (sugarless for me) and kale chips to meet our sweet and salty cravings.

4. Mini-exercise as often as possible. I used to avoid walking the dog, now I volunteer. I walk around the neighborhood instead of driving. I walk around the nearby golf courses or local outlet mall during my lunch break.

5. I browse the goal sections of weight loss forums. I particularly love the photo albums of people who reached their goal/mini goal.

I guess the gist of all this is that I've made weightloss a part of my life everywhere. I was worried when I started that I couldn't keep it up, and I've had bad days (hello 4th of July), but I've been making great progress. I suspect I am going to have to keep up this mindset forever (to a lesser degree) to keep the weight off, but right now I feel so good that I am ok with that. (Our diet basically cuts out carbs; it has been effective for me, and my husband's lost weight without even trying!)
posted by Kronur at 5:56 PM on July 19, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: It’s all about forming habits that slowly lead to permanent lifestyle changes. This is done by increasing your consciousness or awareness of what you’re doing. For example, having a picture of some vegetables on your wall where you see it everyday, and tracking your progress increases your awareness tremendously. Asking yourself simple questions at the end of the day or week about your progress in a No Shame, No Blame attitude also increases your awareness. Such as, Were my meals and exercise this week leading to a healthier lifestyle? Keep the questions simple and focused on your values, beliefs, and purpose. You are discerning truth from fiction. That is, you are observing what is actually occurring from what you perceive is occurring in a nonjudgmental way. Your mind plays tricks on you, don’t fall into it’s trap.

Some random habit forming resources that I Googled just now:
-ZenHabits: Two Simple Ways to Form New Habits Without Really Trying
-18 Tricks to Make New Habits Stick
-Being aware is all about being Mindful, even though your mind is built for planning, strategizing, thinking about the past, planning for the future, etc. These things served a major purpose back in the caveman days, but not for 90% of daily living. Its about using those things when they are needed, and putting them aside when they are not (which is most of the time).

Remember to start small and be mindful of only 1-3 simple things for a month. Don’t over do it! This is a marathon, not a sprint. For example some simple goals to slowly incorporate one at a time are: drinking more water, eliminating soda and juice, add more fiber to your diet by buying "100% whole wheat bread" and other whole grain options (make sure the package says "100% whole wheat" since that's the required phrase by law), wait 20 minutes between second portions, eat a piece of fruit a day, eat 1.5x the amount of veggies you would eat during a meal, etc. etc. Slowly over time these small goals add up and become second nature.
posted by Mr. Papagiorgio at 6:28 PM on July 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Really never thought about the sleep piece that so many of you have suggested. I'm going to put that on my list of things to monitor.

Lots of good food for thought here. Yes, pun intended. Going to think about how many I can incorporate as I try again to get back on track. Feel free to add suggestions. I'll be keeping an eye on the post.

posted by TravellingCari at 7:06 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: Do you have a friend who could act as an objective observer, maybe someone who knows about diets and fitness? For me one thing that's helped at times is setting up a little arrangement with some friends where I send them stats on my diet/workouts. A level of external accountability, from a person who's not gonna get assholish if I slip up but at the same time will provide some attitude adjustment if I'm slipping up too often, seems to help me.

Also, when you're eating right and exercising right - try to pay attention to how your moods are, and how your energy is. When I'm honest with myself I realize that after exercising, I feel good, - a sense of accomplishment and progress. That's despite the fact that before I exercised all I felt was "I'm tired. I don't wanna. I need a nap. I worked out yesterday, I'll do it tomorrow. wah, wah, wah." I think if you find that exercise and eating healthy make you actually feel better, and you pay attention to those feelings, it can help when you're in the blahs. "Oh c'mon, I did cardio yesterday, eating a bag of cookies today won't hurt"- "yeah, but having a nice apple instead will feel so much better afterwards!"
posted by dnash at 7:34 PM on July 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Keeping my head in the game is the hardest thing - but the book Switch has been invaluable. It's about why changing is so hard, and what you can do to make it happen. Just so you know, most of the anecdotes are about instituting changes in the business world, but the authors apply the same framework across the board (including personal goals).

To boil it down, they outline a strategy to shrink the change you're trying to make (starting to losing weight again), down to it's most essential components. They believe your inner 4 year old gets freaked out and resistant every time you try to institute something new, and their strategy keeps that kid from freaking out so you can move forward.

There's more to it than that, but I have to say - it has been life changing for me. It might help you.
posted by jenmakes at 8:27 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: One tip that I got from the 4-Hour Body was to take pictures of everything you eat.

I haven't tried it yet myself because I not terribly concerned about my diet at the moment, but I have recorded all of my meals for an 8 week period about a year ago. Keeping a written record of everything helped tremendously, but it was a pain in the ass. If you've got a cell with a camera in it (even a crappy one), then it just takes a second to snap a photo, and you'll be more aware of what your eating and how much.

You could either keep the pictures in a folder scheme such as "year>month>day", or post them online in a online forum (I did this, with a written record, using the Men's Health forum). The more I think about it the more I like the idea; I remember struggling to remember the specific times at which I ate, since I wrote my log at the end of the day, but with pictures you'll have a time stamp in the metadata to refer to.

I also recommend recording your weight every morning before eating. Weight shouldn't be your only metric for measuring progress, but it will help you stay conscious of your desire to get in better shape.

Good luck!
posted by Homo economicus at 8:42 PM on July 19, 2011

Best answer: Exercise has done a lot for me.

I've been doing hour long kung-fu/qigong for the last couple of months and while my weight stopped dropping after I lost 20 lbs, the stable weight seems to be an equal loss of fat to muscle gain- it's a notable difference to myself and folks who know me. It seems like a light-moderate workout, but it's been making a big difference for me.

I think a good plan would be finding something fun for you that you will stick with. It may not feel like a big workout, but over time, it'll pay off.
posted by yeloson at 9:52 AM on July 20, 2011

Best answer: I've blasted through more than one of these plateaus by adding muscle (I'm a woman, I don't look muscular). I've also tried to be mindful with the eating and ask myself what I really want when I think I want candy - usually it had to do with wanting to treat myself because I felt bad about something.

Also, repeating my answer to another recent thread, but letting go of weight loss as my primary goal and making the goal increased fitness has helped me to focus on overall good nutrition instead of deprivation.
posted by ldthomps at 10:39 AM on July 20, 2011

Best answer: I'm kind of in the same place as you. Well, plus 50 lbs. But I just got a fitbit, which is nice because it shows me all calories in and out (I track my eating there, religiously, also) which is great. You eat less than you burn. That's all. There's no wondering how many calories to eat a day. Just eat less than you're burning. (It even counts calories for just breathing. It's constantly counting your calories burned.)

So I'm eating better. And then I joined a bootcamp at the gym. High intensity exercise. For six weeks, three times a week, so hopefully that will result in a visible change in my shape. And the instructor asks you to turn in a food log, so I'm now accountable to someone else who might judge me for spending part of my daily alotment of calories on Nutella. So that keeps me straight too.

Food and exercise. That's all it is, isn't it? That's what they say. We'll see.
posted by pyjammy at 12:04 PM on July 20, 2011

Best answer: I think sometimes it's easier to just eliminate something from your diet rather than try to eat less of it. I find that the more sweets I eat, the more I crave sugar, so I just don't eat sweets any more (for the most part--Xmas tends to mess me up on this!) I don't buy them, I generally don't make them, and I now see myself as someone who doesn't eat sweets. To me, it's easier to just say no to the first bite than to stop partway, if that makes sense.
posted by WorkingMyWayHome at 2:18 PM on July 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: thanks all. Some really good things for me to consider. I'm having a good week so far. Hoping I can keep on the right track. Couple notes

I think sometimes it's easier to just eliminate something from your diet rather than try to eat less of it. I find that the more sweets I eat, the more I crave sugar

That's my issue exactly. When I first started Wweight Watchers I went cold turkey on it because I didn't trust myself to stop at one serving. I'm now trying to go back to that.

Had no idea fitbit took it down to that level. I have an HRM and will look into fitbit. @pyjammy - I was me +50 a year ago. If I did it, you can too.

Thanks again -I'll check the thread periodically. And maybe my next WL post will be goal? Hey, a girl can dream :-)
posted by TravellingCari at 3:28 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

I would recommend listening to Bethenny Frankel's audiobook, The Skinnygirl Rules. I've done all sorts of things, followed all kinds of diets, but find her approach the most logical. It's not a diet, you don't need to count any calories, and there's no recommended exercise regimen... it's more of an explanation of how a thin person thinks and eats, and how every person is in fact naturally thin if they could just stop letting "food noise" guide their decisions.

If you don't feel like buying the audiobook, then a couple of good pointers from it are: don't eat while watching TV, don't multi-task during your meals. Also, breathe between bites... we think we do this but often we don't. Doing these things can help you to realize when you're full, not doing them usually leads to overeating.

Good luck!
posted by seriousmoonlight at 7:54 AM on July 26, 2011

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