Maintaining

Last week was not as successful as I might have hoped, thanks in large part to poor sleep hygiene. I ended up overeating and not getting in the walking goals I set for myself, and on top of it I wasn’t the most pleasant of people to deal with. As a result, I had absolutely no change in my weight from a week ago.

It could have been worse, of course.

This week, thanks in large part to my wife helping me realize that I really need to, I’m going to be focusing on actually going to sleep at a reasonable hour. Eight pm, to be specific, which sounds utterly unreasonable until you remember that I get up at 3:45 am to get ready for work. My plan is that more sleep will allow me to do crazy things like have the energy to get my walking in and to resist the fatigue-based carb loading that I tend to do.

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Fending Off Discouragement

It is so easy to give up.

I had a really good week last week – I ate within my calorie budget (except Sunday) and hit my walking goals, and lost some weight. Then, yesterday, things were a little rough for… well, for a few different reasons. Fatigue, for one. As a result, I overate (3,027 calories out of my 2,500 calorie budget) and didn’t get my walking goal in.

Now, objectively, this wasn’t all that big a deal. I mean, I was only 527 calories over goal and I still walked 4.68 miles according to my FitBit. It wasn’t the best of all possible days, sure. But I could have done a whole lot worse. Nevertheless, my brain – the same part that tried to tell me that losing 1.4 pounds in a week wasn’t “enough” – is telling me that I failed and I may as well eat a triple whopper with cheese garnished with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for lunch today because I’m a failure.

I mean, wow. You’d think my own brain would be on my side.

So, how do I deal with this negative voice? By using a trick that I started practicing decades ago (wow, that makes me feel old). When other negative memories are dragged up, I consciously ask myself why I’m suddenly thinking about that. What benefit is there? What lesson can I learn right now from that memory. And then I thank myself for the lesson. It really does work, too. Kind of like the negative part of my brain gives up in disgust and stomps off to sulk in the corner.

So, what lesson can I learn from this feeling of failure about my current health program?

First, I can learn that these goals really are important to me. I wouldn’t feel guilty about not hitting my goals if I didn’t actually care about them. Second, I can learn that self-care is important. The urge to lay around and carb load doesn’t come from sheer laziness, after all. It’s a warning sign that I’m tired and that I need to make sure to rest and take care of myself.

So, brain, thank you for the lesson. I’m still going to hit my goals, but I’ll also make sure that decent sleep and that me to read are part of those goals. Thank you for the lesson.

That Was Wierd

Stress. It’s a thing that happens to everyone, and we all need to learn to manage it. Sadly, my default stress management technique is eating. Well, that and getting moody and sullen and bitchy and withdrawn. I have bad stress management techniques, is what I’m saying.

So, I’ve (finally) started researching the topic. And I discovered something strange: as soon as I typed “stress management” into Google, I started feeling anxious. Seriously. I felt that uncomfortable gnawing sensation in the pit of my stomach that you get from being nervous, and it didn’t go away until I started making notes.

It was an interesting realization but, in retrospect, not a surprising one. Way back in the day, I’m pretty sure I write about how it took a health crisis to force me to acknowledge that I had a serious problem and needed to start being serious about my weight and health. It was, to be honest, part of a general trend in my life. I often feel like I have to be perfect to have any worth, and as a result I tend to hide from or ignore my problems. I tell myself that, if I just work a little harder, everything will be fine. But that always ends with fear and stress-induced paralysis, and it never works.

So, I read the articles and took some notes. And I discovered that there’s nothing surprising in what I read. As I work through it, I’ll share my plan here.

Stress over learning about managing stress. Who’d have thought that?

Sleep Is Good

I noticed something interesting. Sunday night I got a good night’s sleep, and I hit my goals hard. I stayed within my calorie budget, I got all my walking in, I did everything. But then, on Monday night, I slept badly. Like, “tossing and urning half the night” badly.

What happened? I’ll tell you what happened. I ate a bunch of sugar and missed my walking goal by a mile and a half because I was too tired to even want to try.

There’s an important lesson there, I think. All of these efforts at improving my health and changing my life are contingent on getting decent rest. Fortunately for me, I managed that last night. So, let’s see how it works out.

I Sense A Trend, Here

Clearly, exhaustion is a cause of overeating. I think it’s because I crave sugar and carbohydrates when I’m tired, as the rush of quick energy helps to perk me back up. And I have been tired, recently.

I blame allergies. It’s hard to sleep when you wake up because of sinus drainage, and I’ve been waking up a couple of times a night with no idea why. But then, when I get up, I’m coughing and choking and generally feeling stuff oozing down my throat. Quite unpleasant, really.

So last night I went through a hay fever regimen – pills and sprays and all, and then arranging to sleep with my head elevated. The results weren’t perfect, but I slept better than I have in about a week. Now, I just need to see if that translates into more willpower about staying on my calorie budget.

Fun. Not “routine”.

So. It’s, uhm, it’s been a while. For pretty much all my goals, not just writing this blog.

What happened?

Not much, really. I just got reminded that, once you get into a routine, it’s hard to break that routine. That can be a good thing or a bad thing, really, depending on the routine. Sadly, for me, it’s kind of a bad thing. Because of this, I’m going to try and shake things up a little.

Some of this was my wife’s idea. She reminded me that I’m most likely to keep up with my goals when they’re fun. When I enjoy what I’m doing, instead of treating it like a chore. That’s why I play Pokémon Go, after all: to add a gaming component to my exercises. So here’s what I’m going to be trying to do this summer:

1. Stay on m calorie budget. This one really isn’t fun, but I have a plan. I promised my son that once every two weeks we’d make dessert at home. Ice cream, or cookies, or brownies, or whatever. Something. The rest of the time, desserts will be fruit or cheese or something healthy. That way, we start treating sugary snacks as a special treat instead of a regular thing.

2. Walk. My walking isn’t going away, obviously. But we’ll be doing more family walks, and more Pokemon hunting. And since I managed to set my son up with his own Pokémon Go account (on my tablet, using my phone as a hotspot to get an internet connection. Now he’s super excited about walking. Also, the Cincinnati Nature Center has a Hike Fir Your Health program my wife and I want to complete over the summer, so I need to get back in practice!

3. Contact staff instead of weights. I still need to do some crunches, to help with my belly, but the weights will be going on the back burner for the moment. Instead, I’ll be getting back to practicing my staff spinning tricks. It’s a significant workout, after all. And it’s a whole lot more fun than weights.

4. Swimming. Lots and lots of swimming. The pool will be opening in my complex this weekend, and my son is already planning to live there. And chasing a seven year old around the pool is always good exercise. Good, fun exercise.

So, there I go. I think it’s a good structure, and that I’ll be successful doing it and that I’ll have a lot of fun doing it as well.

Danger, Danger!

Sometimes, the trick to being at all successful with a diet and exercise program is to recognize the signs of impending trouble. Sadly, they don’t all come in the form of 1950s cinematic robots shrieking “danger, danger”. But, with practice, they become recognizable.

Case in point: I didn’t get up to go exercise this morning because I was tired and had a headache (which could have been caffeine withdrawal or, based on the way my mouth and throat felt, dehydration). And then I discovered I was nearly out of gas and had to drive all over creation looking for an open station at 5 am because the two 24-hour stations near my house were closed. So I grabbed breakfast at a drive-through and arrived at work utterly frazzled. And going through my mind was the thought “Well, my calorie budget is off to a bad start, so I may as well buy some M&Ms.”

Now, I didn’t buy them. Because I don’t need them in the slightest. But I had to argue with myself, and point out to myself that while I dented my calorie budget, it’s still recoverable. And even if I go over a little, I don’t need to go big bag of Peanut M&Ms over.

The temptation still lurks, if course. But this time I recognized it for what it was, and didn’t give into the impulse. Now all I have to do is remain aware, and be conscious of my decisions for the rest of the day.

Oh, and get to the gym after work. I still need to do that.