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The Secret to Breaking Through My Plateau

Sunday, January 13, 2013

My week got off to rocky start.

This time last week, I wrote about maintaining my weight through the month of December. And how I saw that as Good News.

But since I'm still a long ways from my weight goal, maintaining my weight would not be Good News for much longer. After a high calorie day last Sunday followed by a super-high calorie day on Monday, and the predictable consequences of seeing the scale numbers go UP not down, I knew I needed to do more than blog about my intentions. I needed to take Action.

Here's what I did last week:

* A Conscious and Deliberate Decision

Starting Tuesday, I made a conscious and deliberate decision every morning to eat within my calorie range that day. On that first day, my decision took the form of tracking my meals in advance. I needed to do that to reset my mindset. It all came back to me so quickly, I didn't need to track my meals in advance. I have enough of a food routine, that once I returned to my eating patterns, I knew what I could plan my meals without calculating them in advance.

* Tracking Everything. No excuses.

I tracked what I ate Every. Single. Day. Most days this was easy. As I noted, I have certain food habits, foods and meals I eat frequently enough, with some variation to avoid the boredom of routine. So I used the Groupings and Favorites feature on the SparkPeople tracker to find my favorite foods quickly and easily.

On Friday, my tracking ran into a bit of a snag. First, I met a friend for lunch. I'm not one to skimp when I eat out. I still need to work on viewing eating out as an excuse to overindulge. As if eating out is a special occasion. Which it is when I'm meeting a friend I haven't seen in a year. But meeting a friend is not an excuse to overeat. I still need to learn to enjoy the company more than I do the food.

The other thing that's wrong with how I think about eating out is that because it's so hard/impossible to track accurately what I ate, I almost immediately think, "What the heck. Since I can't track it accurately, why track it all? And if I'm not going to track it, why bother worrying about the calories?" I can't believe that at my age, I still buy into the childish logic of my inner 5-hr-old. But there you go.

It so happened on Friday that I was also attending an all-day business seminar. At one point, the seminar leader talked about what he calls his "1 Demandment": Track your numbers properly. He also said, "The truth is the truth. Even if you answer No to your daily intentions, tell the truth. A No is not a negative. Life happens. But if you consistently see Nos at the end of the day, you'll be able to see at a glance why you aren't meeting your goals."

I immediately connected his "demandment" with tracking my calories and fitness minutes.

Lucky for me, this part of the seminar occurred right before lunch. So I had this ringing in my ears as I entered the restaurant to meet my friend. I ordered a Cobb salad, the one item on the menu that I knew I would enjoy AND was within the range of healthy, made note of the ingredients, and ate the whole thing while turning 100% of my attention over to my long-distance friend. When I got home, I did my best to estimate what I'd eaten and considered whether to eat dinner.

Second, my book club was meeting that same evening, where I knew there would be wine and small nibbles. I always feel left out when I can't enjoy what others are having, so I skipped dinner and saved my calories for the evening. Here, I looked at everything that was offered, made my choices and mental notes about what and how much I was eating and drinking. When I was finished and wanted more, I asked the hostess for a large glass of water. And then turned my full attention to the discussion and the company of friends. Later, I searched for comparable items in the food tracker, and tracked everything to the best of my ability.

By tracking everything, and I mean everything, to the best of my ability and with utmost honesty, my calories eaten for the week averaged out to a few calories over my range.

* Drinking Water

Another thing I did this week was recommit to drinking 6-10 glasses of water every day. I'm now on day 8 of that SparkStreak.

This week, I'll be adding a new Streak: 10 minutes of exercise every day. I wear a Fitbit, but since I'm having problems with my left knee that even walking aggravates, I don't really count my Fitbit steps as exercise. And I certainly don't get anywhere near 10000 steps. So I need to do Something Else. My rebounder, SparkPeople videos, kettle bells, Jillian Michaels (God Help Me).

* Reading a SparkPeople Member Blog

Finally, I read a blog post by SparkPeople member, CATS_MEOW_0911. Back in June, she wrote, "Getting Ready to Stay the Same: Considering Maintenance While Losing." This is probably the most articulate article I've ever read about when to be planning for maintenance: DURING weight loss. I'm beginning to view all my other weight loss efforts from this perspective. They were all practice runs for weight loss. I was doomed to regain because I never once considered maintenance. I fell into the trap of thinking that weight loss was its own reward. Well, I'm done with that thinking. Thanks to CATS_MEOW_0911 for helping me see the light.

Although my week got off to a rocky start on the scale, by taking the actions I've detailed here, I'm happy to report that the results showed up on my scale. Even without exercise, even with a couple of high days early in the week. Deciding, tracking, drinking water, and reading were the actions that made the difference for me and turned the corner from maintaining to losing.

The secret to breaking through my plateau is that there is no secret. I had to return to doing what works. After all, the truth is the truth.

Here's to a new week!

Photo by Alaskan Dude on Flickr

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

GALINAZ 1/15/2013 12:42PM

    great analysis I just read an SP article on The Truth About Exercise and it pointed out some of the same things you do here. The universe is telling me something!! Thank you for taking the time to share this.

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MNJONES2 1/15/2013 11:32AM

    You will be successful - best wishes for a healthy new year!

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How I Got Through the Holidays

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Today I weigh exactly the same as I did on December 1, 2012.

That's both bad news and good news, depending on how you look at it.

To see no overall change in my weight in 5 weeks could be bad news. And any other time, I would see no weight change as very discouraging.

But I'm choosing to see it as good news. More than that, I'm declaring it a victory.

I don't know about you, but for me, the period from Thanksgiving to New Year's is the most challenging time of year. Not only are those weeks a nonstop food feast, but there's also the depressing combination of colder temps and shorter days. All I want to do is cuddle up in my blankie and wait for spring. Making it worse this year is a knee that seems to be rebelling after a season of running.

Most years, the holiday season is when I fall off the wagon in a major way and have to spend the first 2 months of the year re-losing weight. If I'm not so discouraged and disgusted that I bother at all.

This year, I decided to do something different. I decided to be realistic about the holiday season. I set a goal to maintain my weight. To weigh no more at the end of the holiday season than I did at the beginning. I let myself off the hook tracking every bite or even every day. I gave myself and my knee a break from exercise. I didn't weigh myself as often.

I approached the season as an opportunity to practice my maintenance skills.

And maintain I did.

Now, after a few weeks of relaxed behaviors, I'm ready to go again. I spent the morning creating a new weight journal spreadsheet for 2013. I have a pantry and freezer full of healthy food. My water bottle is at my side. My rebounder is set up in front of the TV and DVD. I did a 20-minute cardio workout on it with no knee pain. I switched my SparkCoach program to plateau-busting to remind me of the basics and jumpstart my January.

Happy New Year!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    very nice! And I love the wallpaper!

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MNJONES2 1/8/2013 11:23AM

    TADA! Your sensible plan and your action on the plan worked well. Best wishes for a happy healthy 2013

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MPLSKEN 1/6/2013 9:14PM

Maintenance over the holidays is always a victory in my book!

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LESLIE871948 1/6/2013 6:27PM

    ok this blog is great and Me too on no December gain, but of course what I want to know is how do you put those cool graphics into a blog..

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SEABREEZE64 1/6/2013 6:20PM

    I use Excel spreadsheets to track a LOT of stuff.

Good job maintaining!

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CHERIONE 1/6/2013 5:52PM

    Way to go! Happy new year!

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    I can ABSOLUTELY relate to this blog and to how you feel about the holidays!!! I feel my challenge begins in October, however. To top it all off, my birthday is December 12th. One trap after another from October to New Years Day for me.

I did gain a bit of weight this past year and am currently 2 pounds over goal. I'll get back there, I'm not worried about it.

I have to rethink my way of thinking next Fall/Christmas and I'm really not sure how to approach it. This year I made it through Halloween and thanksgiving okay with little to no weight gain. Christmas was another story.

That's GREAT you didn't gain any weight during the holidays; I'm so happy for you! Pat

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SLIMTHICK2 1/6/2013 4:31PM

    I absolutely love your plan emoticon

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All or Nothing Thinking vs. Sustainability

Friday, October 19, 2012

I like to think of myself as a flexible person who easily adapts to change.

I also know that I'm a pretty decent liar. The person I lie to most often is myself. About all kinds of things. For instance, the lie that I'm a flexible person who easily adapts to change.

The truth is that I resist change. Even when I know that change is good for me (maybe ESPECIALLY when I know that change is good for me), I resist it. My internal committee loses no opportunity to inform me that we like things just the way we are.

So what do I do to overcome my resistance to change? I try to bully my committee into silence. I throw myself headfirst into the challenge. I go all-out with everything I've got. I dive into the deep end of the pool, sink or swim. And it's because I approach making change in that gung-ho way that I've convinced myself that I'm flexible and adaptable.

What happens when I dive into the deep end, sink or swim, is that I usually do start by being a success at swimming. Swimming hard. Swimming fast. Swimming as hard and as fast as I can. I make really good progress. Wow, look at me go!

Eventually, though, whether it's a week or two weeks, a month or two months, I start to get tired. Or something interrupts my hard and fast swimming for a day or a week. Maybe it's a vacation that causes the interruption. Or a health emergency with a family member. Or a work deadline. In the downtime of that interruption, I realize how exhausted I am. When the interruption passes, the energy required to jump back into that deep end is more than I can muster. So I quit. And my internal committee is right there letting me know I'm a failure.

What I forget each and every time is that such attempts at change always fail, without fail. I forget that for change to last, it must be incremental. Whether it's shining my sink every night for a month as the first baby step to having a clean house. Or learning to crawl before I stand up. Or practicing standing before I attempt my first step. It's in our human DNA that all change, all learning, happens in steps, and is the result of the accumulation of practice and knowledge, not by leaping tall buildings in a single bound.

The reason I've failed to reach or maintain my goal weight each and every time over the last 4 decades is that I keep diving into the deep end. I keep thinking that this time, my single leaps over tall buildings will get me and keep me where I want to go.

It isn't the diets I've chosen that have failed me. It's my own thinking, the lies I tell myself, that have failed me.

This time, my journey to weight loss and my determination to maintain has to be more about changing my thinking than changing my habits. Sure, my habits have to change. No question. But I already know how to make healthy choices. I've had years and years of practice making healthy choices about what I eat and how I exercise. What I don't have any practice or experience with is taking baby steps, of fitting these healthy choices into the way I live, or of knowing that the only way to make lasting change is one day at a time, one meal at a time, five minutes at a time.

Diving deep isn't required. Nor is do or die thinking. What is required is letting go of all or nothing thinking.

Changing my thinking is actually a lot harder than losing weight. The first step is to stop lying to myself about how flexible and adaptable I am when the opposite is closer to the truth.

In an effort to change my thinking, to learn to let go of the stinkin' thinkin' of sink or swim, all or nothing, I've reset my weight loss goals. Instead of racing to lose 2 lbs a week, I'll work on being content to lose a lb or less every week. I'll enjoy eating with friends instead of missing out on their companionship because they don't eat what I eat. I'll enjoy slow, leisurely walks in the woods in addition to my timed runs.

If it takes me a year to lose 40 lbs, maybe I'll even find out just how flexible and adaptable I can be.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CANDOSUE52 10/27/2012 7:33PM

I really enjoyed this. I am a very "black or white" thinker myself, and it gets me in trouble time and time again. I am also incredibly resistant to change. I hate it.
Moreso, I just feel as I can't cope with it.

Flexible, and adaptable. I like your goals. I will be rooting you on ALL THE WAY.

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DIANER2014 10/20/2012 7:36PM

    Great blog! Hang in there! emoticon emoticon

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BROOKLYN_BORN 10/20/2012 5:01PM

    Oh Linda, come join me in my turtle life. I've been told I don't push hard enough, in races or in this healthy eating thing. It took me one whole year to lose 25 lbs. Talk about baby steps! 6 whole months to train to run a 5K. No quick solutions for me.

The life of a turtle isn't so bad. 151 maintenance weeks and the turtle is my icon on the ticker. I know I didn't have as much to lose as many and my rather dull journey is not what makes headlines, but slow and steady has its advantages. Hang in there!

Comment edited on: 10/20/2012 5:02:49 PM

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LESLIE871948 10/20/2012 3:25PM

    this is a goodie. :) no, not that kind, a great blog

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MPLSKEN 10/20/2012 11:53AM

    This post is so awesome and well written. Thanks for sharing! It's weird when you know the truth about something, but still need to read it over and over to connect with it. I reached and maintained my health and fitness goals via baby steps and doing exactly what you talk about here. Unfortunately, I struggle to use the same methods to reach other goals. It's strange when you can drop the all or nothing thinking and "deep diving" in some aspects of your life, but not others. This post reminds me of how I succeeded in regards to my health and motivates me to push on in other aspects of my life.
emoticon emoticon

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FATBASTICH 10/20/2012 9:34AM

    Excellent post - I struggle so much with this very same sort of thinking. Good for you for not falling prey to it this time.

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KANOE10 10/19/2012 5:14PM

    That is a great blog. You are right...the one day at a time meal at a time ..small steps will build into success. I was also a victime of the all or nothing approach..would be very successful..lose weight and then gain it back and give up.

I think it is great you are going to enjoy being with your friends and have reset your goal. You can do it!!!

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WILLOWBROOK5 10/19/2012 3:59PM

    Love this blog. Losing weight has never been hard for me though the plateaus can be frustrating. My biggest stumbling block has always been finding and keeping my motivation. Starting with small and even incredibly vague goals allowed me to make those baby steps, build on success and hold on to my motivation.

Good luck!!!!

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CHERIONE 10/19/2012 2:27PM

    You sound like me. A lot. Thanks for reminding me of what I need to hear on a regular basis. We can do anything, baby steps are still steps! emoticon

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Goals from a Position of Possibility

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Last weekend, after a mini-vacation to my favorite spot in the whole world, followed by my 59th birthday, I fell into a deep funk. If I'd taken a depression assessment, I'd be on Zoloft right now. But with the support and encouragement of dear friends in an online group, on Monday I got myself up and out of bed and resumed my running.

I've taken another look at my goals and realized that I've been focusing too much on the numbers. As much as I'd like to think otherwise, I'm wired to think in all or nothing terms.

Then yesterday, in SparkCoach, SparkGuy Chris Downie talked about being stuck in the diet mentality. He said: "A diet is all about NUMBERS--the number on the scale and the number of calories you eat and burn. Success is defined in terms of how well you stick to your numbers. Sure, these things do matter and need to be tracked for weight loss, but a true lifestyle change goes beyond the numbers. It's about YOU. It's about lining up your eating and physical activity with your real goals and desires. Success is defined in terms of how these changes make you feel about yourself and help you achieve even more things in life."

Here's the truth: I give lip-service to this being a lifestyle change. Deep down, I know that my all or nothing thinking keeps me in diet mode.

Today in SparkCoach, Dr. Birdie Varnedore continued the message by talking about people who approach weight loss from a position of pain, nagging and berating themselves, and expecting nothing less than perfection. "Guilt, doubt, shame, and self-punishment are tools of the trade." Bingo! Then she delivers a challenge: to think about goals not from a position of pain but from a position of possibility.

Both of these messages from SparkCoach dovetail with a book I'm reading now by Brene Brown, "The Gift of Imperfection." (Check out her TED talk videos.) She's done a decade of research on shame and vulnerability. You can tell from her book title that she considers imperfection to be a gift. A gift?!

How can I apply that to my weight loss? How can I stop with the guilt, doubt, shame, and self-punishment? For starters, I'm going back to what SparkGuy said about defining success. Not success for it's own sake, but for how it makes me feel about myself. If success puffs me up, and makes me feel important, that's not success in my book. That's insanity. But if success means that I'm upright and moving forward, connecting with others, living a life of purpose and meaning, then that's the kind of success I want.

So I've reset my weight loss goals to a much slower rate. I've reduced my fitness goals to a level that will still be a stretch but not out of reach. I plan to enjoy eating, instead of viewing food as the enemy. (Except for sugary foods. The years of sugar abuse have taken their toll.) I plan to enjoy discovering the things my body can do in this phase of my life, instead of viewing exercise as a form of torture as in "no pain no gain."

Streaks are fine. But for me, they seem to set me up for all or nothing thinking. I have days when I pass the test for zoloft. Days when "do it anyway" isn't enough to get me going. Rather than wallow in shame, thinking myself unworthy, I want to continue to turn these occasions into opportunities for connection, as I did when I reached out to my friends and said, "help." My vulnerability didn't scare them away. They reached back and lifted me up.

That, to me, is success.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CRISSA1669 10/18/2012 12:53PM

    What a precious blog! I understand about the All or Nothing mindset...that is one big reason I failed for the last 25 years in my weightloss. It's completely different this time...yes, for now I am doing the numbers thing for my own structure to get to my "goal" but in my real life I eat healthy food, drink lots of water and exercise regulary...I don't make excuses for myself anymore...I don't justify anything...nothing is off limits to me except the things that I just don't eat or rarely eat(sugar is the devil!!). This mind change has netted me 100+ pounds lost in 18 months...don't get me wrong, it's A LOT of work but the stressful part or the beating myself up because I ate a dessrt is GONE!! This looks like a wonderful restart to what you have been diligently been doing...glad you are back running!!! :)

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TRAVELGRRL 10/18/2012 12:44PM

    What a powerful blog! It spoke to me on so many levels. We are very similar in so many ways, especially with the all-or-nothing thinking. I too am all about the numbers, giving the "lifestyle change" lip service. I'm ALWAYS "full in" or "full out".

Thank you for sharing. I'm going to look for the book and explore the Spark Coach. I am such a professional dieter I couldn't see what it had to offer me. I see from your blog it may have a GREAT DEAL to offer! Thanks so much. emoticon emoticon

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Day 48 - Completed Week 12 of Running: Getting Started

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Today I completed Week 12 of Jeff Galloway's Running: Getting Started. That book, and Galloway's run-walk-run method of running, has transformed my life.

Here's why. In the Galloway Running Journal, there's a quote whose wisdom applies to much more than running, as I'm finding out: "The momentum of one step leading to another is more important than the pace."

It doesn't matter how fast I lose weight. The momentum of one good eating decision leading to another, one pound lost leading to another, one day on track leading to another is more important than how fast I lose.

It doesn't matter that I didn't find out I want to be outrageous 3 weeks before my 59th birthday. The steps I take to discovering what that means for me, of having the courage to live a life true to myself, is more important than how long it took me to get here.

The air temp was chilly this first morning of autumn, and felt even colder with the brisk 19mph wind at my back. My body took a whole mile to get warmed up. So my running time was slower than it's been, my mileage a shorter distance.

None of that matters. I burned more than 400 calories. I ran-walked-ran for 60 minutes.

In two weeks, I'm participating in my very first running event, the TC 10K as part of the Twin Cities Marathon Weekend. On event day, my pace won't matter. What will matter more than anything is the momentum of one step leading to another, one week leading to another, and crossing the finish line as a runner for the very first time in my life.


  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

SWEDE_SU 9/23/2012 7:37AM

    it really is a matter of one foot in front of the other - how fast just isn't important, it's doing it!

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SEABREEZE64 9/23/2012 7:24AM

    I love the quote, "The momentum of one step leading to another is more important than the pace." It is true for everything in life that I can think of.

Glad to have met you!!!!

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CRISSA1669 9/22/2012 3:26PM

    Whooo Hooo!! Outrageous is the WORD!!! You are right, it doesn't matter how fast you run or how fast the weight comes off...the day to day choices, when they are good ones will begat the rest!! Keep on going! :)

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LESLIE871948 9/22/2012 2:56PM

    that is just exciting

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