Archive for the ‘ On Motivation and the Mental Side ’ Category

Setbacks and Forward Movement

Libra graph

So, this is my Libra graph for the past week, and the primary reason I’ve even silent. There’s a couple things going on here.

Last Saturday morning I felt pretty good. My weight was at an all-time low and it was Cheat Day! 😀 And boy did I cheat – McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A, and sautéed soft shell crabs at dinner for my Mom’s birthday. The next day I weighed myself (I actually brought my scale to my Mom’s with me), and was a bit shocked. My weight had gone up 5 pounds. Now, I’ve always gained weight after cheat day, and according to Four Hour Body, water weight gain is to be expected. Plus, the weight is lost over the next 48 hours. Except my weight didn’t go down like it has in the past.

I have a couple of theories on what may have happened:

  1. Hormones

Without getting into details, my hormones were definitely in flux at about the time that I had my cheat day. Estrogen and testosterone have direct effects on how the body metabolizes glycogen (something I learned from Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes, which I’ll talk about in more depth after I finish it).

  1. Exercise

I’m not sure what effect all of the exercising I’m doing has had on my fat loss. Why We Get Fat hypothesizes that exercise can actually hinder fat loss because it increases appetite. I’m not sure how much I buy that, but I will say I’ve been quite the food monster lately. It’s a little strange to go from someone known for never finishing her food to someone who cleans her plate with no problems. (More on this in a minute.)

  1. Proper Bingeing Techniques

In Four Hour Body, there’s a Chapter called “Damage Control”. It’s about how to binge without putting on fat, and I haven’t implemented any of those strategies on Cheat Day. Up until now, I honestly haven’t needed them. I can’t do the supplement stack yet as I lack funds (next week though, it’s on), but I can do some of the other things: consuming citrus juice and caffeine, eating more slowly so my glucose doesn’t spike, and doing low level exercises before and after meals that will encourage my body to use the extra glucose for that instead of sticking it into my fat cells

I’ve done a lot of thinking this week, and came to a few conclusions.

First, I’m sticking with Slow Carb. I’ve looked around at a few other diets (this one in particular…which I can’t do and still tri train, but I may come back to it after training is done), but honestly I haven’t been on this one long enough to really judge whether it works or not. The other thing (something I picked up from here is that I really need to just do the Slow Carb program the way it’s written. No substitutions, no varying, no nothing. Maybe when I’ve reached my first goal I can look at changing some things up. And honestly, I haven’t had any issues eating exactly the way that’s outlined in the book. I guess it’s just a part of my nature to fiddle with things, but that’s coming to an end.

Third, and in direct opposition to what I just said, I may consider splitting my Cheat Day into two Cheat Meals, or at least going from dinner to lunch instead of all in one day. It’s a strategy I first read about in The Fat Yogi as a way to build some flexibility when there’s a special meal during the week that you don’t want to miss. This week I went to Bad Decisions for their Beer ‘N Bacon Happy Hour, and I knew it would be nigh on impossible to limit myself to Slow Carb friendly dishes. So I went ahead a cheated (and it was TOTALLY WORTH IT). I ended up deciding to just keep the party going, and had a cheat breakfast and lunch the next day, with a Slow Carb dinner Friday night. And the thing is I didn’t put on any extra weight. I ate what I wanted – alcohol, white rice, pancakes, sliders, barbecue sauce – and my weight stayed pretty steady. And as of this morning, I’m down almost 3 pounds in 2 days.

Lastly, I realized that if I have to choose between triathlon training and weight loss, I’m choosing triathlon training. The first week of training didn’t seem to effect my weight loss, and as I said earlier, I’m not sure how much it had to do with my week long plateau. But I realized that completing this triathlon is extremely important to me – more important than losing weight. It surprised me a little. I’ve wanted to be thinner/lighter for so long, and tried so many times to do it, and now that the goal may be in my grasp I may be choosing something else. I figure that a) as Tim Ferris says in a later chapter on building muscle: even if you gain a little fat while building your physique, you can always switch back to Slow Carb and lose it later and b) I won’t be training forever. I have my eye on a couple of Fall races (assuming Iron Girl is as awesome as I think it’s going to be and I actually want to do it again), but after that I will take a break from  training and concentrate on other things. Right now I have no plans on being a professional triathlete, so I know that as long as I maintain my fitness level, I’ll be able to pick things up again in the Spring and get ready for the new season.

Relatedly, I’m taking a hard look at my eating as it relates to my training. The beans I eat seem to provide enough carbs for me to complete my workouts without too much trouble, but I know that I may need to start adding small amounts of high quality carbs back into my diet in advance of some of my heavier training days (such as when I have a “brick” workout scheduled, which is when I do two out of three events back-to-back). It may be as simple as consuming meal replacement shake or glucose gel. Also, though Slow Carb doesn’t require calorie counting, I think some amout of tracking is inescapable if I want to be sure I’m getting the right amounts of macronutrients that will keep my body properly fueled. I’ve got to figure out an easy way to do that, as well as not overthink it (which is why I quit doing it in the first place). [Sidenote: there are so many approaches to this seemingly simple question!! I’m guessing I’ll just have to experiment and find what works best for me.]

So here I am, once again rededicated to my cause. There’s a strength training workout in my immediate future and posts about my training, what I’m eating, and a few other things. If you read this far, then thank you! 🙂 I can’t promise I won’t hit another speed bump (and subsequent blogging silence), but I can say I’ll try.

Measurements and status tomorrow!

Extinction Bursts and Not Getting Derailed

One of my favorite blogs is called You Are Not So Smart. They write about human nature, psychology, and in particular the ways we tend to sabotage ourselves. As I’ve begun this whole fitness thing, there have been a coupe posts that have really helped me get a clear picture of what motivates my behavior.

They’re running a contest for way to illustrate the concepts they discuss, in celebration of a book deal. The very first entry they posted shows a fan who lost 30 lbs in 3-4ish months, and was submitted to illustrate “Extinction Bursts“. And much like that fan, reading their post about the phenomenon helped something click in my head, and makes it a lot more likely I won’t go through this again.

What’s an extinction burst? It’s a Class A Freak Out that your brain pulls when you go cold turkey on any behavior that it enjoys (warning – here be oversimplifications. For a much better breakdown on how this works, see the post). Over time, we become conditioned to rewarding ourselves through high fat, high sugar, high calorie foods. And those foods are good. They taste good, and after eating them we feel satisfied and content. It becomes our routine, and our brain gets used to all that wonderful pleasure.

Until we change it up, and eat healthier, exercise, and stop partaking in all of those behaviors that served our ancestors so well but only make us fatter and less healthy. And like any parent of a toddler knows, when you deny a reward that we have become accustomed to having, a tantrum is imminent:

Just before you give up on a long-practiced routine, you freak out. It’s a final desperate attempt by the oldest parts of your brain to keep getting rewarded.

And despite knowing all of this, I’ve fallen for my brain’s deception countless times. Hook, line, and sinker.

My backsliding last week was an example. First I had just one coke, but one became two, and then two a day, and by the end of the week I was scarfing rosemary garlic fries and beer (at The Brewer’s Art) and telling myself that I’d make it up later.

This week I’ve been a lot more successful. I’ve found that being aware of what’s going on goes a long way toward ensuring I don’t fall victim – much like the contest entrant above. Yesterday morning I had the most intense craving for orange juice I think I’ve ever had, and there’s definitely some generalized carb craving going on. But I recognize all of it for what it is, and remind myself: on Cheat Day, you can have all that and more!

[“Woot!” says carb-craving me.]

Another good way to deal is with a strategy I was reminded of by a recent post from Get Fit Slowly. I look at every opportunity to deviate from my diet as a single choice. At that specific moment, what’s more important: the fleeting pleasure of whatever it is I could be eating (and the potential for a further slide if I’m not careful), or sticking to my committment and meeting my goals?

And sometimes? I go with Door Number 1, which is the other part of it: one lapse doesn’t kill a diet (or a dieter for that matter). I can have a drink (which I have had this week), I can limit it to just the one drink, and the next day I’m right back to the same meals I’ve been eating all week.

I honestly can’t wait (weight, ha!) for Monday. I’m excited. I want to see the results. If they’re good, I’ll be ecstatic! And if they’re not so good, then I’ll have a starting point to make some changes. Either way I’m moving forward, and that’s an awesome feeling.