Wednesday, October 24, 2012
I'm firmly convinced that measuring my food, logging it on the tracker, tracking my exercise and blogging about my experiences are key in keeping me honest and on track on my journey to health. Estimating anything is a sure ticket to making an error in how much you eat and how much you exercise. I know this first hand because I have made lots of mistakes using the approach. About a five weeks ago, I decided to give up estimation in favor of being accurate with measuring. It became glaringly obvious that before I started measuring, I either over estimated or under estimated both what I ate and how much I moved my body. The first step to fixing the problem, was to admit to myself that estimation wasn't working. And guess what? I don't consider myself a failure because I wasn't successful. Owning both your victories and your mistakes and being upfront about it makes you accountable. I do tend to err on the side of being brutally honest with myself, but once I face facts - data that is collected honestly doesn't lie - I can map out a plan, start to make changes and begin to be successful.
The next step in actualizing my desire to change is to write things down on paper. Writing a blog about my personal experiences may help others but it also helps me. It forces me to write down my feelings and take a closer look at my behavioral patterns. (As a retired math teacher, I'm all about patterns!) Seeing diet, exercise and sleep patterns helps me to figure out why I do what I do, so that I can self correct. I also take a look at how I treat myself and how I interact with other people. Since I am a sum of many parts, a variety of issues come into play when I'm analyzing my own behavior. Looking at individual personal patterns and issues helps me to know what needs work but I also need to look at the big picture in order to plan my own future and set goals.
I thought that tracking, facing my shortcomings and blogging about my journey would be difficult and painful. Contrary to what I expected, I found it to be liberating! Adding some structure to my behavior and dealing with suppressed emotions has brought me a sense of satisfaction. I feel like I'm growing as a person!
Tuesday, October 23, 2012
My Weight Watcher's assignment this week was to look at any snacking in which I indulge. I am to record what I eat, what time I eat it and how I feel when I want a snack. All of this information will be recorded on a piece of paper which I will take with me to my next group meeting on Friday. We will discuss our findings at the meeting, but I just wanted to share with others what I've discovered about myself already.
When we were initially discussing the topic of snacking, last week, we listed reasons that people snack. Here are some of the reasons that were mentioned:
Pain both physical and emotional
Because the food is available
Pressured to eat a snack by another person
Because you're actually thirsty
Not eating enough earlier in the day
Not feeling full after a meal
Some nutrients missing from diet
Using food rewards
Eating to take medication
Substituting food for love and affection
The discussion that we had made me think about what my own reasons are for snacking. Writing down my snacks and how I was feeling when I ate them, was an eye opening experience. I eat healthy snacks, during the day, that are planned and that isn't a problem. What is a problem is my evening snacking. I found five things about my snacking habits, that jumped out at me already and it is only day four of my recording. There are occasions when I do others too but the five listed below were reasons that are my most repeated reasons.
First, I snack because I don't get enough fat in my diet. Last night I went through a parade of low calorie snacks before I decided to eat some almonds. Sure enough, as soon as I ate them, I stopped snacking. In my mind, I know that this is nothing new. Putting it into practice is another thing, however. My experience last night made a huge impression and I will now incorporate more healthy fats into my diet. Healthy fats help to make you feel more satisfied and are needed as building blocks for your body.
Second, I snack because I'm fatigued. Right now I'm making a concentrated effort to spread out my activities over the course of the whole day rather than exhausting myself by working out for 2-3 hours in the morning. I'm using a device called an ActiveLink to monitor my daily activity and to help me in this endeavor. I will also head to bed earlier and increase my nightly amount of sleep. Spark People has a great article on what fatigue does to sabotage your good diet intentions.
Third, I snack because my old eating pattern was to eat too little during my day. I've increased the amount that I eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner which has helped tremendously. I also carry snacks with me when I go out, just in case I get really hungry after my workouts.This is an ongoing battle for me since I was raised by a mother who had an eating disorder. As someone who is hypothyroid, not eating enough caused by metabolism to tank even further than was my norm. Tracking my daily food from the time I get up in the morning until the time I go to sleep at night has also been very helpful. Saving up my calories or Weight Watcher's points instead of using them starves my body during the day and is very unhealthy. I'm not going to earn accolades for under eating and I'm not going to starve if I reach the end of my day without calories to spare. I also don't want to force feed snack foods just to achieve my daily calorie and Weight Watcher's point totals. Eating the wrong foods is just as unhealthy as not eating enough. It is time to overhaul my thinking in this department.
Fourth, I tend to medicate myself with food to help me deal with chronic pain as well as emotional pain. This is self defeating and has masked my problems instead of treating my problems. I am now working on activity pacing so that I can decrease my pain without food. Using the pacing to get myself to stop activities before I start to feel pain is also a good way to avoid putting myself in a position where I can do permanent damage to my joints, muscles and spine. I am also dealing with my emotional pain head-on and learning new techniques for coping. My goal is to feel good without medication by using what I've learned and turning things to my own advantage.
Last, using food as a reward. This overlaps with snacking as a habit because using food as a reward has become a habit or an excuse for me to snack. Sometimes I have difficulty separating the two reasons. I have started a non food reward system for myself in an effort to get away from food rewards. At Weight Watchers we have also taken a look at choosing activities that are not food or alcohol based. Celebrating my own achievements without food will go a long way to help me feel good about myself without self defeating behavior. This is a hard one for me to break because I was brought up in a family where food dominated social and reward situations. I can start by learning to love myself as I am right now - without guilt or apology. It's okay for me to share accomplishments with others and accept sincere compliments and attention with grace. I don't need to deny the value of rewards, compliments and recognition to prove that I'm humble or not selfish. We all need to be validated and appreciated. I need to learn to do this for myself. I also need to improve my positive self talk and appreciate as well as celebrate my own talents, achievements and gifts.
Have you taken a look at your snacking habits? Are you using any of the reasons listed above? I would love to have you share your experiences with me.
Monday, October 22, 2012
After plugging in my ActiveLink last night, I decided that I should figure out a way to redo my baseline. I played around with the software and figured out a way to do it - finally! This was a decision made after reading additional data in the ActiveLink material. At the rate I was going, with my physical limitations, this was the healthiest decision for me. I could have stayed with the original challenge but after my first 12 week challenge was over, I wouldn't have anywhere to progress. As hard as I was working out, there were days when I earned no activity points at all. Consequently, I will make a bigger effort to lower my baseline this week even if it means taking off my ActiveLink during the second half of my exercise. I was warned that this might happen but I thought I had cut back on my activity an adequate amount. I was wrong. This time I will get it right.
This is not to say that the whole "first week assessment" didn't have merit. I learned a lot from just looking at the data that was collected last week. What I said yesterday about spreading out my activities over the whole day still stands. That just makes sense to me and will benefit me in the long haul. I've had trouble with activity pacing all along. The new baseline will allow me to feel like I'm more successful because I won't be burning myself out trying to reach an unrealistic goal.
I will make an effort to change the way I've been approaching exercise, once the new baseline is established. This means shorter, more intense morning workouts coupled with a more active afternoon. Using moderation, which has never been my forte, will be key to my own success. As my Spark Friend LITA said, this is just a tool to use to help you. Like using the scale, I won't let a tool define me. It is a tool to be used to help me form new, healthy habits.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Drum roll, please! I plugged in my ActiveLink last night and I was surprised at my level of activity. Unfortunately, I think my baseline is too high but I'll have to live with it. I compared my activity with the Weight Watcher's average of participant's activity and mine was much higher than the average. That doesn't leave me much room to improve without hurting myself but still there is room for some improvement. I will get creative and just a little scientific.
One thing that really jumped out at me was the fact that I do deep water aerobics and water jogging at least 3 times per week. For those of you who are familiar with these activities, they are much more intense than regular water aerobics. The only label available on the ActiveLink was regular moderate intensity water aerobics. I may have to log it as lap swimming to increase the intensity level. That isn't a real big deal. I can live with this.
Another thing that jumped out at me was the fact that I do long workouts in the morning and then am over tired and have to rest later in the day. I think by decreasing the length and increasing the intensity of my morning workouts and doing more afternoon activity, I would see a larger benefit from my overall daily activity. This might increase my stamina over time and help me burn calories better over the course of the day.
The last thing that I noticed was that I do much of the same thing every day. Up until now my activity has been either water exercise or low intensity walking. Whereas both those activities give me a good activity level, I should switch it up at least once if not twice a week to use my muscles differently. Perhaps I could do high intensity walking, ride the stationary bike, do weight training out of the water or do some cardiovascular DVD workouts.
After I got over being disappointed in my baseline for weekly activity, I could see that it actually gave me some very valuable feedback. My 12 week challenge is to increase my daily activity, over time, to 4 activity points per day. On Friday, my activity level was already 4 activity points. I thought initially a daily increase would be impossible since I work out so hard already. I gave it quite a bit of thought and really, all I need to do is tweak my regular workouts a little and do some sort of activity later in the day as well. Once I reached that conclusion, I stopped being disappointed and frustrated. The ActiveLink is supposed to be a tool to help me. I may not like the reality of the data that it generates but it won't help me unless I make the decision to change. If I am honest with myself and look at the patterns shown in the data collected, there are some areas where I can improve. I'm up to this challenge!
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