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New Strategy: "Eat Whatever You Want Day"

Saturday, May 16, 2009

See, here's the thing: The SparkPeople strategies and philosophies have worked so well for me, that I've not only met my goal and passed it, I'm still losing weight. As of my last weigh-in, I had dropped off the "healthy" lower end of every height/weight calculator I can find on the 'Net, except for one. And on that one, I'm at the rock-bottom end of their recommended range.

While I personally don't think I'm currently underweight, I would agree that I don't need to drop any MORE weight. Seeing the scale numbers drop even lower would be... bad. And I'm completely happy with where I'm at right now. If I can maintain with a "bounce factor" that keeps me between 135 and 140 for the rest of my life, I'd be one healthy and ecstatic camper.

But, despite easing my weekly calorie consumption upward for over two months now, the weight has continued to ease downward. As I'm not feeling "funny" or ill at the moment, I've currently ruled out medical problems as a possible cause. Given my past history, where I ate just about whatever I wanted and didn't gain weight (most all of my excess weight came after my daughter was born, when I started getting depressed, inactive, and ate TOTALLY stupidly), I'm considering the possibility that I'm one of those lucky people that can take in a lot of calories and pretty much burn them all off as long as I stay reasonably active. And I do stay active these days, with a minimum of 30 minutes cardio workout, plus weight training, 7 days a week -- barring insurmountable interruptions.

The daily tarot draws I've been doing for the last several weeks have continually emphasized a need to change my mindset and strategy. But I've been so terrified of gaining back any of the weight I've lost, that I haven't done much other than make the tiniest of adjustments in my SparkHabits. But I think I've finally come up with a more bold approach that might balance my newer eating and exercise habits, which I've really come to love, with my clear need for an actual intake increase. In a nutshell, here it is:

1) Increase my AVERAGE daily calorie intake to 2,000 calories per day, 6 out of 7 days per week.
2) Allow myself one "special" day per week called "Eat Whatever You Want Day", with permission to consume as many calories as I care to, without feeling one whit guilty.

Currently, my daily average has been running about 1,850 calories. SparkPeople's calculator has been recommending 1,940 as a daily "top end" consumption rate for me, with 1,590 on the lower end. So I would think that an adjustment up to a 2,000 daily calorie average -- above SparkPeople's recommendation -- should help a little.

As for the special "eat whatever, whenever" day: I am putting a "catch" into it. Yes, I will eat without minding calories or fat... BUT I will still make mostly reasonable choices, and only allow myself it eat IF I'm truly hungry. No "gee, that looks good" nibbling. I will still be eating to live, not living to eat.

So, with all of that laid out, I did give my "no limits" day a try yesterday. Here's how it went:

I ate a very reasonable breakfast, and had my usual, reasonable mid-morning snack. Next, for lunch, I had my first non-salad-based fast food meal I'd had since October of last year. I ate at Arby's, where I ordered a chicken cordon bleu sandwich, a small curly fry, and a small chocolate shake.

The sandwich wasn't too bad, calorie/fat-wise. I went for the roast chicken instead of the crispy, and I had them leave off the mayo. (I'm not a big mayo fan anyway; I don't miss it at all when it's gone.) So the sandwich was only 368 calories. The small fry was almost that much by itself, at 330 calories. The small chocolate shake (and I do mean "small" -- 10.6 oz, as opposed to the usual "regular" 14-oz or "large" 18-oz varieties) beat both the sandwich and side, coming in at 385 calories. So my whole lunch hit almost 1,100 calories. I haven't had a lunch that calorie-laden since I started on SparkPeople.

The results of this part of the experiment: it was good, but it didn't please me as much as I'd imagined it would after seven months of crossing fast food sandwiches off my list. But it WAS filling... so filling, in fact, that I didn't even want my usual mid-afternoon snack. So what I gained in calories over lunch, I made up for with less afternoon calories. Not that I needed to compensate under my "eat whatever" day strategy... but since the rule was to not eat when I wasn't hungry, I didn't.

I made dinner at home -- yummy and filling, and completely satisfying at just under 400 calories. But then, I took some fudge over to my sister (she's just out of the hospital after major surgery, and had a hankering for something decadent), and shared some bites with her. I didn't eat a lot, but by my rough calculations, with no nutrition info on the package to go by, and an assumption that it was truly the "good stuff", I calculated that I consumed 400 calories pretty quickly there.

Later, back at home, I was feeling a little peckish, so I had some chips and salsa -- that ran me about 150 calories.

Finally, we went to a late movie in the evening, and I let myself have an entire pack of Junior Mints, which ran me another 340 calories. After the movie, I most definitely was NOT hungry, so I skipped my usual bedtime snack... and I usually look so forward to that.

So, the final total intake for the day was: 2,733 calories, 81 grams of fat.

This morning, I was able to sleep a little later, and when I woke up, I wasn't the least bit hungry. I'm starting to feel hungry at last now, but it's almost noon, so it's time for lunch. So yesterday's experiment has already impacted a "normal" day for me, by resulting in my skipping of breakfast.

In any case, my first try at this new idea resulted in several interesting conclusions:

- Fast food is OK, but it isn't nearly as appealing as it used to be.
- As much as I love chocolate, I actually do apparently have a limit now as to how much I really want to eat. I haven't denied myself chocolate since I started on SparkPeople, but I've cut back a LOT, and I really felt like I was still sort of missing the indulgence. However, most of my "splurges" yesterday were chocolate-based, and by bedtime, I wasn't really feeling all that whippy. Since chocolate has always been my biggest downfall, it's kind of an interesting relief to learn that for maximum enjoyment, I actually DON'T want to be throwing myself face-first into giant vats of fudge and chocolate sauce from here on out.
- Depending on how things go today, I may discover that having a guilt-free "splurge" day may not offset my calorie deficit, because if I don't feel like eating very much the next day, I could be back where I started.

Well... that's my story. It's not over, but a new phase has definitely begun. I'll reassess again in a few weeks... see how I feel, how the cards flip, and what the scale and tape measure say. At this point, there's nothing wrong with giving something new a try, eh?

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Member Comments About This Blog Post
    Wow, congratulations. I can't wait to be where you are....I envisage that when I reach my goal, my biggest challenge will be to stop losing, as I love exercise and I'm already struggling to eat my recommended 1500 calories/day....
    2838 days ago
    You will figure it out. Congratulations.
    2965 days ago

    3140 days ago
    Have you tried Jan's suggestions of 2000 cals per day and take a day off from exercise? If that's not working then maybe you should increase your calorie intake to 2100 and see how you fare after one week? Also - keep the "eat anything" day.
    Or maybe your metabolism has changed? Have you checked that out? Maybe there's a combination (formula) that would work better for you such as increasing carbs and fat or protein.
    Are you doing strengthening exercises EVERY day? Cut back to every OTHER day for your strengthening/weight training. It's recommended to have at least one day rest between these sessions. (The cardio is OK every day, though.) Maybe that's part of your "formula" that needs to change?

    Good luck! I'll keep trying to think of other ideas to try.....

    = Mary T.
    3220 days ago
    Fantastic! Another option is to stay at about 2000 calories a day, have an anthing day but healthy anthing and exercise 6 days a week. Take a day off. Worth a try.

    Your success and determination are outstanding. Congratulations.

    3230 days ago
    When I reached my goal, my Sureslim guide told me to eat as I had been to lose the weight during the week, and at the weekends eat pretty much anything I want to.

    I've found this works, and believe me I have a sweet tooth to match/beat anyone else I've ever known!

    One of my biggest lessons has been self-discipline.
    3231 days ago
    Hi Jeanette,

    It's a well thought out plan and a realistic one as well. Hope it goes well and look forward to hearing how it goes over the next few weeks.

    3232 days ago
    Good solid thoughts Jeannette. I remember the first time I hit my WW goal and learned about maintenance. I looked agog at my leader and said "we're supposed to eat MORE?". She laughed and said yes, if you keep going at a losing weight calorie intake you'll eventually disappear. She was kidding about the disappearing, we'd probably all top out at about 87 pounds :)

    I don't know that there are any studies on it but I think the phenomenon of continuing to lose is closely related to the weird plateaus we hit even when clicking on all cylinders on program. I know you are a smart lady and will figure out your balancing point. I'm so proud of you for not eating your brains out during the last 2-3 weeks.
    Hugs, Sharyn
    3233 days ago
    I loved reading your blog! Interesting how we have changed our eating since joining SP. What tasted so good before, isn't that important now.
    I have also started something new, I'm trying quinoa. I just bought it this morning, so I don't know what it's like yet.
    But the key is, we have learned and we are applying it to our lives.
    3233 days ago
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