Head Games

This morning’s weigh-in:

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Last post I wrote a little about how my mental state plays into the choices I make when it comes to food.  Let’s pull that notion apart a little.  THIS IS GONNA BE A BLAST.

It usually follows the same pattern: some negative emotion arises (for example, boredom, anxiousness, and sadness are my top repeat offenders, in order of most common) and the way I most commonly try to dissipate those emotions is with a routine.  The repetition is like a reassuring hug, it tells me, “you are in control.  Everything is going to be ok.  Everything is ok.”  Pizza after work soothes me.  A cookie after pizza soothes me.  It took me a long time to figure this out.  It took me gaining 50 lbs to look at my food habits and try to discern why I do what I do.

I always felt like I didn’t understand people who used food for comfort, but I thought that without spending any time investigating my own relationship with food. Let’s look at a case study from yesterday.  What a lucky boy I am that I fucked up my food habit that recently!

Yesterday I had a migraine, first in my life.  I went home from work with it after asking my boss if he had ever had a headache that messed with his vision.  It felt like I had new glasses, my perspective was all distorted, and I had this weird numbness traveling down my arm, up my neck & into my face.  That’s happened to me before; usually it coincides with a panic attack.  But this time it felt different.  Thankfully my boss let me go.

I was dog tired, despite having had a good night’s sleep the night before.  As soon as I got home I crawled into bed.  I slept for three hours straight.  When I woke up, I had my good lunch in the fridge that I didn’t eat at work–my salad I have every day.  But I was feeling weird and worried and still had a wee headache I was afraid was going to turn into something worse.  I was feeling anxious.  How do I solve that?  Repetition.  I self-soothe with food.  So I went to Whole Foods and bought a veggie sandwich.  Not bad, right? Yeah, not bad.

But I also bought a box of ice cream bars and ate the whole damn thing that night.

FUCK.

F

U

C

K.

But still, I went to the gym in the morning, and so the damage done by the ice cream wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  I fucked up with the ice cream, no doubt.  But I still went to the gym and I chose Whole Foods over pizza spot.  So I am making better choices.   I’m still in process.  I’m still changing my habits.  This is what the middle looks like between the rewarding before and after comparisons.

So how will I try to change this well worn habit of self-soothing with food?

I don’t know.

I could say I will replace my garbage food with healthy food, but that feels too vague to be effective.  I’ll still try it, though.  I think it’s all part of the process.  I think I have to talk to my therapist about this.  (She’s the appointment I have every Wednesday morning that I skip the gym for.  She’s been my therapist for almost ten years.  She’s awesome.  If you have the means, I highly suggest you find a therapist that works for you, and stick with them.)

I think I’ll have to replace the food with something I find just as comforting.  Maybe an activity. Meditation?  It helps me to calm down, but I can’t say I love it.  What I do love, surprisingly?  Going to the gym.  It’s only been a couple weeks and already I look forward to my time there. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it post-migrane, but who knows?  Maybe I’m wrong.  For now, I’m going to try using meditation and walks (at the Lake or at the gym) instead of food to comfort myself.  I’ll let you know how it goes, and what my therapist says about all this.

I know I’m getting better at noticing when I’m eating out of boredom, though.  And I’m better at noticing when I think I’m hungry but really I’m thirsty.  So there are victories here, imbedded in the setbacks.

XOE

Daddy’s First Fuck Up

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A screenshot from my scale this morning.  Obvi I went up by about a pound and a half.

And I know why. I had it in my schedule that I would skip the gym Wednesday mornings.  I have a standing weekly appointment at that time, and if I’m being realistic I won’t have time for the gym then, so why not avoid the unrealistic gym goal, and build in one day a week that I don’t go?  That seems reasonable.  So I didn’t go Wednesday morning. I went to work, and had my Potbelly’s for lunch and my salad for dinner.

Wednesday is my Friday, meaning I have Thursdays and Fridays off work every week.  I came home at the normal time that night, and I wasn’t hungry, like normal, and I had my fruit waiting for me at home, like normal.

But something happened in my brain in the span of getting off the train and walking down two flights of stairs to the street.  Without thinking, or rather, with a little weak justification and then no critical thinking about those justifications or my subsequent actions, I straightaway went into the pizza place across the street and got a slice and a cookie, my regular after work meal before that got me into this fat pickle in the first place.

And then I didn’t go to the gym Thursday.  Or Friday.  And I ate garbage too.  And I avoided this blog.  I basically laid on the couch and watched shitty tv and ate whatever the hell I wanted.

So let’s figure out what the fuck happened.

I made the following justifications that shoved me right the fuck off the wagon:

  1. It’s my weekend, I deserve some treats.
  2. I haven’t lost much weight yet, and I probably will fail this time like I’ve failed in the past when trying to lose weight so fuck it I’m going to eat an entire pint of ice cream because nothing matters.

And I avoided my goals by taking naps and watching tv.  What’s weird is that I enjoyed my mornings going to the gym*, and I felt better eating better.  I didn’t even really enjoy the pizza, and I felt bad for eating garbage I knew wasn’t good for me.

So what I think is happening is maybe a couple things:

  1.  Old habits die hard, and are going to take time to not only rewire my brain with a new habit, but also, and even before the rewiring takes place, I’m going to have to practice some serious awareness with actions that are so insidious they are nearly automatic.
  2. There is a lot of data out there about how our gut microbiome drives our food cravings, and I think my pizza and cookie microbes are strong, because I’ve been feeding them a lot for a long time, and that’s likely where my “automatic” drive to eat pizza and cookies comes from.

So what am I going to do in the future to try and beat back this bad behavior?

Next Wednesday, I will still skip the gym.  I think it’s good for me to have a rest day at this early stage.  And like I said, I can’t make it that morning b/c of a scheduling conflict anyway.  Also, it wasn’t a problem to eat well during the day.  I just fucked up when I came home after my work week and thought I deserved something for completing that task.  And my need for a reward wasn’t even very strong.  The biggest hurdle was that I wasn’t thinking about what I was doing.

I think the answer is to plan to write a blog post that night.  It will give me something to do and it will force me to use my brain and think about what I’m doing as well.  And if I need a treat, I will bring home some different fruit, so I’m staying within my good eating routine but still getting something special.  I love mango, so I will likely bring home some pre-cut mango slices from work, and destroy the whole container, guilt free, because even a whole container will be well within my calorie allotment.  I think the most important takeaway here is to stay the course.  I fucked up.  I will likely fuck up again.  I just can’t give up.

XOE


*I’m not going to lie and say I enjoyed the exercise, because that’s bullshit.  The exercise is hard because I’m fat and out of shape.  But I do enjoy how I feel after the exercise.  I like the shower and the blogging and the water drinking.  And the exercise isn’t as bad as I think it’s going to be when I’m rousing in bed before I go.

Gym? Rats.

I wrote ever so briefly yesterday about my goal: 140 lbs.

That’s 50.6 lbs. to lose.*  I’m giving myself 5 months to lose it. Ten pounds a month sounds doable to me.  That’s 2.25/week, which by most doctors’ estimates is the upper limit of how much a person can reasonably expect to lose weekly and keep off.  Let’s start counting today: July 23rd.  In five months it will be December 23rd!  Huzzah!  Christmas Eve Eve I will be looking hot af for Jesus’ birthday. My gift to him will be rippling abs.

Let’s go over how I expect to do it.

My methods are not sexy or cool or cutting edge.  I’m looking down the barrel of a lot of leafy greens and hours spent on the elliptical.  I think losing weight is about routine.  Because gaining weight was a routine, too.  A routine is what got me where I am, right? Nightly pizza after work, weekends popping over to the ice cream spot. I’ve been eating like everyday is a 4th grader’s birthday party. How much does a 4th grader weigh? About 50 lbs I bet.  Carrying around this kid’s weight is not sustainable.  Not if I don’t want to end up some fat asshole on a rascal missing a foot.  Diabetes does run in my family.  So let’s forge a new future.

I have some tools I’ve been using that I think are going to be essential in getting off (heh-heh) and keeping off the weight:

-My Fitness Pal, which you can get here.  It’s a free calorie counter, and super easy to use. I used it once to lose weight, and it worked,** so I’m going back to it. It makes me conscious of what I’m putting in my mouth, and how many calories the junk really has in it.  If you try it out, don’t cheat, log EVERY SINGLE THING you put in your mouth.  MFP is the most useful when I’m completely honest with what I’m consuming.

-Fit Bit, the model I’m using can be found here. Or really any pedometer.  While the one that comes standard in your smart phone isn’t as accurate at counting expenditures as a Fit Bit, it will give you a good baseline of how many calories you’re burning daily.  The only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you expend, so just make what’s going in smaller than what’s going out and you will be on the right track.

-Weight Gurus scale, find it here. I referred to my scale in the previous post, and wrote a little about what it can track.  I pair all three apps and they tell me all the things I need to know to lose weight: what I eat, how much I exercise, and my current weight (including my fat %). They are all synced so, for example, my Fit Bit tells My Fitness Pal how much I’m exercising, and I can adjust my calorie consumption accordingly.  But I choose not to take into account my exercise when it comes to calories eaten daily, and instead just count those extra burned calories in my deficit.  The point is to lose weight, not eat more just because I can.

At the gym, I do cardio, not weights, because my doctor told me I have high cholesterol, and that is a thing that was never, ever true about me.  I was a vegetarian for almost ten years, and was routinely told I had incredibly low cholesterol. My grandfather died of a heart attack, so that high cholesterol news scared the shit out of me. If you’re trying to lose weight, I suggest going to your doctor and asking them to be brutally honest with you.  Maybe you’ll get some horror show news that will scare the shit out of you, and light a fire under that ass, too.

So, cardio at the gym will lower my cholesterol and burn some calories and it’s good for my lungs, too.  And it’s good for lowering stress, too.  And it will help me sleep better at night while I’m worrying about my cholesterol.  Six days a week I do 30 minutes/daily, alternating between a fast walk on the treadmill to a steady pace on the elliptical.

Tomorrow let’s talk food: what am I eating and when am I doing it?

XOE

PS: My spacing after periods is all over the place.  You may have noticed, maybe you couldn’t give two shits less.  But I can’t figure out if I’m pro two spaces after or pro one space. I just wanted to acknowledge it so you didn’t think I was just some idiot who didn’t know he didn’t know how to properly type.


*I lost some weight between my last post and this post, which explains the discrepancy in weight from yesterday to today.  Hooray!
**But if I lost weight using MFP once and gained it back, am I sure using the app worked? Yeah. I am, because I stopped using it, and gained it all (and more) back. The complicated reasons for losing and gaining the weight will be discussed in a later post.