Sunday, August 12, 2012
This weekend I've been thinking quite a bit about various aspects of maintenance. That has translated to more time on the At Goal and Maintaining Team, including a couple of moderately long message board posts there. That took so much time that I won't be able to develop any of the following scattered thoughts fully before I need to go to bed.
Goal Weight: When I started my most recent (and ultimately successful) effort to lose weight, I didn't know what goal weight to set. I picked a weight that seemed aggressive at the time, though it sounds overweight to me now. After I achieved the initial goal, I kept losing weight for a while while learning how to not lose. Then after I thought I'd learned to not lose, I was really losing slowly for a while longer.
I now have about 4 months of a sideways weight trend in maintenance, and I haven't changed my goal weight in quite a while. But . . . my goal weight turns out to be the top of a range, not the middle. I get the idea that goal is a range. Intellectually, I get the idea that a single goal weight makes sense as the midpoint of a range, so that going too far over or under is a concern requiring correction.
I just seem to be really bad at accepting being over goal, whatever goal is defined to be. So while my goal has been defined as 162, I've spent a lot of time in the 160-162 range. Yeah, I get that this is too narrow a range; but that leads me to the next scattered thought.
Weigh-in standards: More that a decade ago, before I started recording my daily weight, I settled on a standard for weighing myself. I weigh myself first thing in the morning, after getting up and using the restroom. I wear undershorts and a tee shirt, because a) they're light, b) that's what I usually sleep in, and c) when I started doing this I would have been too embarrassed to weigh myself nude.
My reasoning was that this standard served two purposes. First, it made the daily weigh-in as consistent as I could make it. Second, the consistency should be at the low weight point of the day, so I couldn't cheat by changing when I weight.
That standard served me well through over a decade of weighing myself and trying off and on to lose weight. I have a decade of history that is reasonably comparable. I can look at trends and remember what was going on in my life at the time my weight was moving up or down.
But now, in maintenance, I wonder. Is it a good standard to have the low weight, or does it unfairly deflate my numbers? Deflate compared to what? I guess compared to some unknown-to-me standard for ideal weight or measuring BMI or something. Now that I put this in writing, it sounds really lame. Still, ever since I read that the Met Life tables standard was weighing while wearing one inch heels and 5 pounds of clothing, I wonder about whether I have a fair standard.
I can compare to the Met Life tables by simply adding 5 pounds to my weight and an inch to my height, but . . .
Part of what has me wondering is that I sometimes weight myself at other times of the day to see fluctuations. When I started weighing myself, on an old analog scale that was only accurate to one pound, I might lose a pound, or perhaps two, overnigh. Clearly water weight. With SP-level hydration, I can lose 3 to 5 pounds of water weight overnight. Perhaps my "accurate" weight would be a pound or two higher than my dehydrated standard?
Maintenance, publicity, and consistency: There's a thread on the At Goal and Maintaining Team about how maintainers don't get much visibility on SP: www.sparkpeople.com/myspark/team_mes
I see that this is true, and I kind of understand why. Or at least, I have a theory that I posted there and won't repeat here.
That thread leads me to another scattered thought: Maintenance needs to happen through all phases of life. Sometimes life is going to throw stuff at me that needs a lot of attention. When this happens, what's important? The important stuff for maintenance is, control what I eat, get some sort of exercise, and get as close to enough sleep as I can manage in the face of the Sedentary Work Hell Project or whatever else life throws my way.
When Life Happens, blogging and reading other people's blogs and reading/posting to message boards and reading SP ads takes a back seat to simply recording food, exercise, and the basic goals I use for self-motivation. I can log on and use the tools, if I have a small amount of time. To do any sort of meaningful participation in the community, I need more time.
So . . . when Life Happens, I may be able to maintain. But while Life is Happening, I'm lousy support for other maintainers or people still losing weight who hope to be maintainers some day. I'm also a poor prospect for marketing.
It may well be that some people get to this point, and never see the need to add back the community time. If I can maintain on 15 minutes a day using the SP site, cutting out most social interaction, what reason is there to add back the community? In my case, the community interaction is both entertaining and useful; but if I weren't particularly amused by it, and it didn't make me think about my own situation, all that would be left would be a moral sense of giving something back. And there would surely come a time when I felt I'd given enough back.
The 5% Standard of Maintenance: An oft-quoted statistic is that only 5% of the people who lose weight maintain the weight loss for at least a year. As I was writing about the publicity topic, I got to wondering how the underlying study for this was done. (Not that I'll go and find the study to critique it!) Maybe there are people who lose weight, keep it off, and never bother to report the fact to anyone who does studies?
Is it like the headline I saw this week, that the average cost of a wedding is $26K? That one, I understand. It's put out by Brides Magazine. The people who are looking for economy weddings are unlikely to be telling Brides Magazine about it, so that statistic almost certainly represents a subset of American society that places a high monetary value on elaborate weddings.
I'll probably never know whether there is similar reporting bias embedded in the oft-cited percentages for maintainers. Even if there is not, that 5% number has been around a while; when was the study done, and does it still represent reality? Maybe the number now should be 10%. Or 2%. In any event, the percentage doesn't do much for me. What matters to me is not whether 19 in 20 people who lose weight gain it back, but whether *I* do.
That, and what I have to do to make long term maintenance a reality. I've got short term maintenance down pat. Now I just have to keep doing it, for the rest of my life. Or perhaps, as some folk say, keep doing it for today. And then again tomorrow. And again the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Now that I've typed this much, I probably won't develop any of the above scattered thoughts into full blogs by themselves. But that's okay. I have time (barely) to get to bed on time tonight. And getting enough sleep is a key for me, personally, to be able to maintain. Everything goes better when I get enough sleep.
Wednesday, August 08, 2012
For most of my adult life, I'd have told you that I Don't Do Fresh Produce. It's hard to understand, you have to go shopping more often, you have to eat it before it goes bad, and it creates awful stinky garbage. I might have had some other excuses, too; but those were the main ones.
A year ago, I would have told you that one of the great things about SparkPeople was that I didn't have to buy fresh produce. I could use the nutrition tracker to just track what I was eating anyway, and adjust what I ate to meet the calorie, carb, fat, and protein goals within the scope of what I was willing to eat.
Tonight I just read a blog by HOT4FITNESS about climbing back on the wagon of buying (and eating) good stuff instead of junk. And I thought about my shopping habits.
Today, for the first time in my life, I bought fresh raspberries. Less than a week ago, for the first time in my life, I bought fresh sweet peppers. Neither the raspberries nor the peppers are going to go bad on me. The raspberries are because Aldi was out of strawberries (something else I never bought fresh before this summer). The peppers were an impulse buy with some SP nutrition articles in mind; they're pretty good on a salad, and I intend to try them in an omelet if I get around to making an omelet before I use them all in salads.
Alas, with a new taste for produce comes the realization that produce has seasons. I discovered a love of navel oranges this spring; now they're more expensive and harder to find. Sigh. SparkPeople has the answer to this for me; buy in season, which means trying more stuff I've never bought before. Hence, the strawberries and raspberries purchased for the first time as oranges become more costly and lower quality.
I don't know that I'll ever become one of those people who look forward to rotating through the seasons to eat different types of fresh produce. But I'm going to make a point to try something that's in season now and then.
Melons are very obviously in season right now. I'm still a bit intimidated by melons. They all look pretty big for one person, and I don't understand how to store part of a melon. But you know what? I might get past that excuse, too.
Stranger things have happened to me. Like, having a refrigerator with fresh produce being some of the most obvious contents. I never would have predicted that.
Monday, August 06, 2012
It's Monday evening. The one day job of replacing the main wastewater drain pipe in my house turns out to be a two day job. Fortunately, I can take tomorrow off work too.
It's been kind of interesting to watch the two guys doing the work. They're younger fellows, and they don't appear to have a pound of excess fat between the two of them. As the work has proceeded, it's pretty easy to see why.
The first thing they did was offload tools, materials and supplies. Tools included two jackhammers, which they had to use to break through the concrete floor of the basement. Materials included a lot of stone that will be the foundation the new pipe rests on.
It's easy for an old fart like me to imagine using a jackhammer. It's harder to imagine keeping it up for a couple of hours on end. It's easy for an old fart who's in shape to think he could pick up two buckets of stone that these guys schlep around. I even proved that I can, and walked a few steps with them. It's harder to imagine doing that for most of a long day and still having the energy to shovel the stone around the newly laid pipe.
I hired this firm for their expertise, and they clearly have it. I'm having a couple of small plumbing problems corrected in the same project, and they've explained what they're doing to correct those problems. Part of that is stuff I could figure out (but not correct) on my own, part makes sense but isn't what I would have ever figured out on my own. The unexpected thing is the sheer amount of physical labor involved in getting this project completed. I could do it . . . maybe three decades ago, with proper supervision from someone who knew what he was doing.
Much of the attention on SP is on nutrition, with good reason. You can't out-train a crappy diet . . . if you have a sedentary job. I suspect that the guys doing the work in my basement could have a truly crappy diet with a caloric intake that makes my rather generous range look puny, and still not gain weight. I'd be very surprised if they pay any attention to the volume of food they eat. They don't need to.
And that's something I need to think about from time to time. My ancestors didn't count calories, and they devised high-fat, high-calorie foods for holidays and celebrations. But they worked it off, because daily living 3 generations ago was far more physically intense than it is now. I'm reminded of a sound bite from a History Channel show on 19th century lumberjacks, that claimed these men ate 8000 calories per day and couldn't gain weight because the work was that hard. Hard work at that level makes exercise for the sake of fitness look like child's play.
For some jobs, daily living is still pretty physically intense. I got to see a couple guys doing one of those jobs today. I don't wish for such a job myself. That type of thing is for young guys; old guys like me break when we try to keep that up.
This really changes nothing about how I need to maintain my nutrition and fitness. But I've enjoyed my glimpse into a world where there is no calorie counting, and fitness is maintained without any formal exercise program. I'll see a bit more of that tomorrow as they finish up, and then it's back to my world of a desk job and people who need to schedule time to get exercise.
Sunday, August 05, 2012
Warning: Long rambling blog ahead, written purely for my own benefit. Feel free to move on when it gets boring.
I've been racking up the fitness minutes pretty quickly lately. I don't notice this while I'm doing it or while I'm logging fitness, but I notice it when Spark Friends like my automatic status updates of receiving a trophy for XXX minutes a month or crossing some number to total fitness minutes. (Why is it that I see status and get likes of status for things like XX,250 fitness minutes when I've checked "every 1000" on my feed settings?)
I feel a bit embarrassed by the Trophies and Likes, because racking up a lot of fitness minutes means (at least for me) that the minutes aren't as intense. For example, I walked 45 minutes this morning. That was 5K, plus an extra minute to get that 9th Spark Point. If I had run the 5K, I would have logged maybe 22 fitness minutes; but I would have worked harder to get there. Okay, maybe I'd get another 10 minutes for the post-run stretching; but that would still be adding up the logged fitness mintues slower for doing more work.
Of course, the fitness minutes aren't supposed to be a competition. They're supposed to be a motivation to get me to actually *DO* the fitness activity. And that works, part of the time. There have been days when I might not have done something active if it weren't for getting those fitness minutes and the associated Spark Points.
That doesn't keep me from feeling a bit like a fraud for having a high number of fitness minutes from less intense activities. In my mind, I know that's not rational; but if fitness and weight control were all rational, there would be no need for SparkPeople.
Having worked through the chain of thought this far, I come to the activities I do that I don't count as fitness. I don't count stuff I would do anyway, like mowing the lawn. I don't count warmup and cooldown for running, or I didn't when I was actually running. I count intentional walks taken for the purpose of getting exercise, but I don't count walks taken as sanity breaks from a desk job.
As my sister is fond of pointing out, reality trumps Spark Points. It also trumps fitness minutes. Reality, in this case, is indicated by how fit I am (a fuzzy measurement, to be sure) and how well I maintain a desirable weight (a jiggly measurement, if less fuzzy). Since the weight is more susceptible to accurate measurement than the fitness, let me think about that for a while.
The last time when I was running 4 days a week, I was eating about 3000 calories per day. I thought at the time I was maintaining; my historical data says I was actually slowly losing weight. If I'd been able to keep up the running, I'd have had to move those calories upward; but not by a lot. I might have settled somewhere in the 3100 to 3200 per day range.
Now, I'm not running because I'm waiting for my right foot to heal properly. My nominal calorie range, 2800 to 3150, is exactly where it was when I was running 4 days a week. I'm actually eating more toward the low end, averaging maybe 2900 calories per day. And the weight is trending sideways.
Clearly, there isn't a huge calorie burn difference between now and when I was running. Given the common wisdom that you can eat whatever you want if you're a runner, how do I explain this?
As a preliminary matter, I don't believe the common wisdom. It's possible to out-eat any exercise routine. You can't out-train a crappy diet. But that doesn't address the base question. Is running 4 times a week, for a total of 12 to 20 miles per week, really only worth burning another 200 to 300 calories per day? That would be 1400 to 2100 calories per week, or 350 to 525 calories per run. The SP fitness tracker thinks those 4 mile runs were worth more, but I don't trust the fitness tracker calculations.
One clue is the pedometer. When I was running, I'd put in 11K to 15K steps most days. Now I'm not running, and I'm putting in 10K to 13K steps most days. The walking steps are cheaper than the running steps, but it looks like I cut back on the cheap steps when I had those running strides. A poster on another forum calls this “compensatory behavior”.
Compensatory behavior cuts both ways. When I was running, I'd do one set of 5 Turkish get-up/windmill combos in the morning, and 2 sets of kettlebell snatches. Now, I don't always get those in; but I might do some dumbbell renegade rows on a day when I don't do the TGUs. And I'm always getting in 3 sets of 60 pushups (worth 19 calories according to the SP fitness tracker) and 3 sets of the the pullup of the day (rotating between neutral grip, pronated narrow grip, chinup, and pronated doorway width grip.) I think I also loaf less without having the runs to loaf after, and that's most of the explanation for the missing steps from the pedometer.
I can't measure my activity precisely enough to explain the calorie burn now versus when I was running. The best I can do is measure my weight, and adjust my calories to maintain. That's what I've done, and that gives rise to the puzzle about activity.
As near as I can tell, it's kind of like filling two identical cars with gas. One of them is driven for an hour in drag races, then is parked in the driveway with the engine idling for 7 hours. The other is driven in normal suburban traffic for 8 hours. Which burns more gas? I'd think that the drag race car burns a lot more gas the first hour, but the normal driving car burns more gas the other 7 hours. Which burns more in total isn't obvious to me without doing the experiment.
So . . . where does this leave me with the fitness minutes?
Not all fitness minutes are created equal, so counting total fitness minutes doesn't mean a lot.
Calories burned by activities not counted as fitness can be significant.
Reality trumps logged fitness minutes, just like it trumps Spark Points.
Since I'm maintaining a stable weight at a desired level, my activity level and nutrition level are in balance.
The point of logging those fitness minutes is that it's part of the motivational game I play to get myself to keep doing what I need to do to keep the nutrition level and activity level in balance.
If, along the way, I can become more fit . . . that's a Good Thing. If I just maintain my current level of fitness, that's a pretty good result too.
If I'm achieving good results, there is no need to be embarrassed at Trophies and Likes just because the fitness minutes weren't as intense as I might otherwise think they ought to be. The calories in vs. calories out result (a.k.a, the weight trend) shows I'm doing it right.
I feel better now, even if I lost all the blog readers somewhere along the way.
Wednesday, August 01, 2012
Today was a disruptive day in my diet. Normally, I eat a standard breakfast, and pack a standard lunch and snacks for work. That leaves a little variety for dinner, before a standard evening snack. Today some of those standards got disrupted.
Yesterday was the dreaded Snack Day at work. I dealt with it by working from home, avoiding the big stack of goodies. I got the email informing me that there were fudgsicles and Klondike bars in the freezer, but it's pretty easy to resist a freezer that's 8 miles away.
Today I was in the office. There was a leftover cake from snack day. It called my name. I had a small slice, I estimate 1 oz. It was delicious, and for a mere ounce, affordable.
Self-awareness moment: I noticed the aftertaste from the cake was prompting me to want more cake. That explains part of why past Snack Days have meant a hard time keeping eating under control; once I start, there's automatic reminders to continue.
I dealt with this one by having an Atomic Fireball. (If you're not familiar with them, that's a hot cinnamon candy. 35 calories, can last me a half hour, and is a regular item on my snack list.) That took away the craving and got me back on a normal track for the morning.
In the afternoon, I got on an interesting phone call and missed eating my normal afternoon snack. So when I headed home, I was hungry. I stopped at Taco Bell (a normal place for me to eat, but this isn't my normal day for that) and ordered my usual. Part of that is a meal deal that includes a 1 oz. bag of Doritos. Normally, the Doritos go home to my cupboard, then my daughter takes the uneaten Doritos home with her after I see her on Friday. Today, I was so hungry I ate them with dinner. What the heck, it's only 150 calories and I missed eating 368 calories of planned afternoon snacks.
That was a reminder why I normally don't eat the Doritos. The initial impression was, gosh those suckers are salty! Really? Doritos? Yes, really. Doritos. It seems all these months of eating first oatmeal and later steel cut oats with no salt added (spices vary from day to day) has made me more sensitive to tasting when there is salt. And I'm not even particularly sensitive to sodium in my diet from a blood pressure perspective.
Got home, and had plenty of calories left to eat in the evening. So I scarfed down the first thing I was craving - a salad. Really? Moi? *Choosing* to eat a salad? Yes, really. OK, it's only a bagged salad of iceberg lettuce, shredded carrots, and shredded red cabbage, plus some chicken breast and a tablespoon of light ranch dressing; but that's the kind of thing I would have said I'd never want to eat. My, how times change.
Still had a few calories left to make minimum (I have a pretty high low end of calorie range to avoid losing weight). What's calling to me? I settled on plain Greek yogurt with some fresh strawberries and an orange. The strawberries and orange added more calories than I'd add by choosing a Greek yogurt with fruit already added; but they are every so much better!
Oh, really? Fresh fruit was another thing I never did before SP. But over the course of my first year on SP, I tried a few things that were supposed to be healthy. I found that some of them were really, really good. And as I ate healthier, it appears that my tastes have changed quite a bit.
Recap of things that happened today that wouldn't have happened, pre-Spark: Stopping after one small slice of cake. Finding the salt on Doritos. Eating a salad as a first choice. Eating fresh fruit as a first choice. Eating Greek yogurt at all.
If anyone who is just starting out is reading this, and you happen to think that all that eating healthy stuff is impossible, give it time. Don't try to change it all at once, but do be open to trying bits and pieces of healthier eating. Over time, those bits and pieces can add up to something substantial.
Now, I'll be the last to claim that I eat totally healthy, even now. Every day, I have some candy. (Usually not very much.) Taco Bell is better than McDonalds, but no fast food is really good for you. And I don't limit myself to just the Fresco Chicken Soft Taco. (Oops. I left ordering "fresco" out of the changing tastes narrative.) But I'm eating a lot more stuff that is traditionally considered healthy, which leave less room for the calorie dense, indisputably unhealthy stuff I used to love. Maybe I'd still love some of it, like that cake. But what I eat is much closer to a nutritionist's recommendations than what I used to eat.
And I might not be done changing. After all, I can't change everything at once.
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