Lapses and the “Happy Jar” :)

As part of any effort to eat more healthily there will always be lapses. I am getting a bit better these days at going easy on myself when I slip up (maybe because lapses have become so commonplace for me these days!) I have always heard/thought/believed that having self-compassion and going easy on myself when I have a lapse is a better way of handling them (as opposed to the, “Oh well, I’ve stuffed up, the day/week is ruined now so I may as well just eat whatever”).

I had an interesting thought the other day though: How can I go easy on myself when I have a lapse, while still making progress towards my weight loss goals?

Weight loss requires a level of discipline and self-control, but what do you do if you find you are falling off the wagon more frequently (like me!)? If you go easy on yourself won’t that just perpetuate the cycle? Like a parent going easy on a disobedient child, and the child eventually becoming unmanageable because they haven’t ever been disciplined or punished?

But then I thought of another way.

Showing self-compassion and “going easy on yourself” doesn’t have to mean letting go of your goals. By taking it one decision at a time, I realised there may be a way to use positive reinforcement to build positive behaviours that, when performed time after time, for a long time, will ultimately lead to reaching my goals.

Hence, this week I have started a “happy jar” (I thought of other names like, “habit jar” or “goal jar” but “happy” was the first thing that popped into my head and, to be honest, it just makes me feel, well, “happier” than the other names!…I know right? Who would’ve thought?)

It works like this: Every time I make a decision or do something that is in line with my weight loss goals I place something in this jar. At the moment it’s a small piece of scrunched up paper, but I’d like for it to be something a bit nicer that I can display, like pebbles or beads. I like the image below with the candle in the middle too and I’ve thought that this could be part of the process, where I light the candle and take time out to reflect on my week.

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So in practice, I might earn a pebble (for want of a better expression!) for staying within my calories/macros/points etc for the day, or going to the gym. But it might be for something as small as wanting a biscuit, but knowing it’s not within my calories for the day, and deciding not to have it.

Once the pebbles  reach a certain mark I’ll reward myself – like get a manicure or something nice. This way I focus on rewarding my good behaviours and make sure I don’t focus on the negative ones, I just let them slide and wait for the next opportunity to add to my jar (because, let’s face it, our day is literally FILLED with decisions, many that relate to food or exercise).

The more I’ve thought about this idea the more I like it. In the past I’ve rewarded myself for reaching weight loss mini goals, but because my “happy jar” rewards actual behaviours, and not the end result of behaviours (i.e. weight loss),  I feel like it gets right to the source of what will make or break a weight loss journey – the day to day, tiny, repeated decisions and behaviours -the habits.

The other thing I like about this is that I will never take pebbles out of the jar for lapses – just like how a whole week of good decisions is not changed by subsequent bad ones. Yes, if enough bad eating decisions are made, the weight lost in that good week may come back, but it still doesn’t change the good decisions, because they are in the past.

I’ll be sure to post further on how this is going!

 

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Reflections

It’s been over 6 months since my last post and a lot has happened. In late March I felt a slight twinge in my lower back, spent the next 6 weeks seeing a chiro, then ended up seeing my old physio, who told me my sacro-iliac joints were unstable. So to cut a long story short, for about 5 months my training has been compromised and my goals have shifted to recovery.

In this time though, my diet has also suffered. Due to a lack of focus I have become complacent many times. Currently I am about 4.5 kg heavier than I was when I started my body recomposition journey in January this year.

I started this blog as a personal tool to reflect on my weight loss journey: my progress, successes, and challenges. In neglecting my blog for the last 6 months I have neglected my own progress to an extent.

I believe that reflection is a powerful tool in learning. In the context of a health/fitness and weight loss journey, reflection allows for a greater understanding of your actions, habits, beliefs and motivations surrounding food, training, health and self-image/body-image. I feel that only by having a deeper understanding of these things will I be able to maximise my potential for self-growth.

There are some indisputable facts right now:

1. My goals have lacked the clarity they had before;

2. I have slipped into many old unhelpful habits with eating lately (ones I thought I had left behind);

2. I am recovering from an injury, which impacts my training;

3. I am ultimately in control of my actions and therefore, my health and training outcomes.

So with these in mind, I have some questions to answer for myself. What do I want? What am I prepared to do in order to get it? How important is it to me?

I feel that some of the things I want are at odds with each other though. For example, wanting to have a lean body (especially my tummy), but have a healthy and relaxed relationship with food. This is because in order to obtain the lean body I am after I am fairly certain I need to restrict food more than I am currently, and track religiously. But I believe that to truly have a better relationship with food I need to let go of tracking and learn to eat intuitively, healthily, but not restrict foods that are enjoyable.

I know that Weight Watchers and the flexible dieting protocol I have been trying to follow this year are both touted as means by which to do the above (without restricting foods), but really when you’re living it, trying to lose weight (especially when you’re already small) it’s tough. There are no two ways about it, by virtue of the fact that you’re trying to lose weight, it IS restrictive.

Nevertheless, deep down I still feel like my priority is to get leaner (back to where I was earlier this year), while making do with my relationship with food for now.

But what am I actually prepared to do to in order to achieve this? This is the sticking point for me. If I’m completely honest, I’m getting tired of dieting (trying to lose weight/trying to get leaner/whatever you want to call it)! But I have considered that maybe I’m just tired of dieting half-heartedly and not seeing results (fancy that, doing something half-arsed and not making any progress?!!) So perhaps I just need to refocus, map out my path a little more clearly, and then knuckle down and get excited to see the results I’ve been wanting.

Results = consistency over perfection

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In my time with Weight Watchers, and possibly even more so now tracking my calories and macronutrients, I have gradually learned that the most important thing is consistency, rather than perfection.

Having said that, I am naturally a “Jekyll and Hyde” dieter: if I’m following a program I’m following it to the letter, but if I fall off the wagon and stop tracking what I’m eating I eat much worse than normal. It’s like I’m totally out of control, an “all or nothing” approach.

I’m posting this now because I think it’s time I started making a conscious effort to break this habit. First though, I want to explore the reasons why I think I do this self-sabotaging “all or nothing” dieting in the first place.

WHY DO I HAVE AN “ALL OR NOTHING” APPROACH TO DIETING AT TIMES?

I like control. Well, maybe that came out wrong :\ I like to be in control of my life, my diet and its outcomes. Therefore I typically thrive on tracking what I’m eating, measuring and weighing foods so I know exactly what to track and can be sure that I’m accurately accounting for what I’m eating (because let’s face it, if you’re going to go to the trouble of tracking, it might as well be accurate!) I think this comes from my science background as an Audiologist and researcher, wallowing in numbers and wanting to control for all possible variables.

I am also a bit of a perfectionist…ok, a LOT of a perfectionist!

This can be problematic though. I really don’t like seeing that I’ve exceeded my daily calorie target for example. I used to be similar with exceeding my Weight Watchers Pro Points, however it was a little different there, because I always had my weekly points to dip into if I went over on a given day. My current program doesn’t have anything like this though so I find I have to be a bit more careful and plan better (which is both a good and a bad thing I guess).

The perfectionist thing also means that if I’m doing something (no matter what area of my life) I want to do it well. Dieting is no different. So if I feel like I’m not doing it well (e.g. if I have a bad day or eat something or too much of something that doesn’t fit into my daily calories) I have this tendency to want to “write it off” and start again the next day. Anyone who has ever had this mindset though will know this can be very dangerous territory! Starting again tomorrow turns into next week, which turns into next week if you’re not extremely careful!

Finally, being constantly in control can be tiring: tracking, planning, measuring, and always thinking about your food choices. It’s weird because obviously I said I like being in control, but at the same time I think it builds up and sometimes I just need to break out and feel a bit out of control. I actually think I crave it sometimes.

MY STRATEGIES FOR AVOIDING THE “ALL OR NOTHING” APPROACH TO DIETING:

I believe the strategies below are what will really help me to have a more balanced approach to dieting (and let’s face it, healthy eating in general).

  • To be okay with exceeding my daily calorie target. This means that if I have a bad, or even just a “not perfect, but not bad” day, to continue to track what I’m eating and accept it for what it is. I’m human, I’m not a robot, and I will not always do things perfectly. But THAT’S OKAY. Let me say it again for myself. IT. IS. OKAY. NO, INEVITABLE. TO GO OVER YOUR DAILY CALORIE TARGET!
  • When I do exceed my daily calorie target I will not beat myself up. This only leads to more negative self-talk and potentially to bingeing. And that’s not healthy.
  • I will allow myself to stray a little (within reason) within the program. This might involve having the odd bite or taste of something and not tracking it (but not feeling guilty about it). This is somewhat contradictory to the Weight Watchers principle of tracking all the little LBTs (licks, bites and tastes!) but I know myself well enough, and feel I am experienced enough at dieting now, to make an exception here that suits my personality better. For me, I think this is important.

So even though I have achieved fantastic results so far there is always room for improvement, if nothing else but to have a better mindset and attitude towards food. Now I just need to stick to these strategies and be kind to myself 🙂

What’s your danger zone?

 

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Twice this weekend I’ve found myself deep in the danger zone. What’s the danger zone for me? Being at home with the kids when my husband is at work, especially on the weekend!

I’ve always found this situation particularly challenging because I’m alone (the kids don’t count in this case), bored (yes, looking after kids can be mind-numbing at times), and most of my friends are spending time with their husbands and families so aren’t free for catch ups. Add tired to the equation and the pantry is calling…frequently.

I’m not trying to be negative though, I think it’s important to know your triggers, as these can steer you off course on your journey to better health. Sure, recognising what’s happening doesn’t always mean you can stop yourself from self-sabotage in the form of eating all the things you would usually exercise much more self-control over, but it’s a start.

For example, yesterday when I found myself looking for food simply as something to do I did end up eating things that I wouldn’t usually, but I made sure I tracked them. The moment I stop tracking is when I completely let myself off the hook. It’s one of my other challenges but I know if I track what I eat at least I can attempt to get back on track the rest of the day. And I’m happy to say that yesterday I still managed to stay within my calories and macros for the day (well I did go slightly over on fat but hey, it could’ve been so much worse!)

Once I realised I was eating out of boredom yesterday I also made myself do some housework to keep me occupied. It wouldn’t have been my first choice for something to do but at least it was productive and kept my mind off the kitchen!

What are your triggers and do you have any tricks for getting around them? Feel free to post in the comments 🙂

Body Recomposition Training and Diet – First Impressions

After only 2 weeks of this new diet and training plan I have lost 3cm around my waist! I really was not expecting results this fast. I have been sticking to the plan pretty much like glue though, tracking everything, weighing and measuring food, and recording all my training sessions on a summary sheet.


Here’s a bit about my experiences over the first couple of weeks.

I TOTALLY underestimated how tired I would be with the training component of the program. I expected my muscles to be sore and fatigued, but for the first week I felt really tired (on top of the muscle soreness and fatigue!) To the point where I felt like I couldn’t make it through the day without having a nap! (And having two children, I am accustomed to being tired).

However, the second week has been completely different.

I have now run through each of the three weekly training sessions twice and I feel great. What’s more, I look forward to the sessions to try to better my efforts, which is quite motivating. I quickly learnt that I need to stretch well before and after each session in order to recover and minimise soreness, which I think has made all the difference this second week. I also believe that my body is past that initial, “What the hell are you doing to me?!” stage.

As far as eating, I have been meeting my calorie and macro targets nearly every day! This has also been motivating, as each day I meet them (and don’t exceed my calorie target) I want to keep going and make sure the next day doesn’t set back my efforts so far. I am cautious though not to be too inflexible with it and not to beat myself up if I don’t have the best day.

I have made a point of including some sort of ‘treat’ each day so that I don’t feel deprived. In many cases this has taken the form of a Lo Carb Mini Protein Bar or Atkins Endulge range of small low carb bars. I have mixed feelings about this. They certainly fit well into this way of eating because they are low calorie, have a reasonable amount of protein and very low carbs. However, they are also artificially sweetened and I’m sure are loaded with all sorts of unnatural ingredients. For the moment though they are meeting a need. As I gain more confidence with my food choices over the coming weeks and months I will probably try other ways of satisfying my chocolate/treat fix without too much artificial stuff but for now I’m willing to let this one slide.

The other thing I should mention is that I have been eating quite a lot of food. On a good day especially (which I define as one in which I consume mostly whole and natural foods like chicken breast, fish, veggies, eggs, yoghurt and fruit) it’s amazing how much food you can actually consume and still maintain a calorie deficit.

So as first impressions go, I’ve been very happy with following this program. Not only with the results so far, but with how manageable it has been to follow. It has also been easy to fit in with my family’s needs because, like when I was following Weight Watchers, I am preparing healthy, nutritious meals that are as good for my boys as they are for me. Finally, fitting in 3 gym sessions has been quite easy because of the creche facility at the gym (and my view of this time as “me time”).

Feeling positive.

Building sustainable habits for success

Now that I am tracking my macronutrients (“macros”) and trying to reach specific targets each day for my protein, carbs, fat and fibre I’m finding that I quite like how specific this is. However, the protein requirements for this type of eating and training are significantly higher than what I have been used to (my personal target is 115g/day).

This means that if I am to meet my daily protein needs by eating whole foods (rather than processed sources like protein shakes) a bit more planning is required. To put it into perspective, one 150g (raw weight) chicken breast has 42g of protein.

I have searched through the app My Fitness Pal to find out how much protein is in some of the foods I commonly eat (or would be happy to start eating more). For example 2 medium whole egg have 8.5g of protein in total, one small (65g) tin of tuna in spring water has 16g of protein, one 170g serve of plain Chobani yoghurt also has 16g, and 150g (raw weight) of rump steak has 30g.

It’s certainly doable. But doing it day in and day out consistently can be challenging. That’s why I have taken to cooking extra chicken breast on top of our family meals and freezing it in 60g (cooked weight) servings in snap lock bags that I can simply grab and take to work or have at short notice for lunch at home (along with some mixed salad or on a piece of toast for example). I also love smoked salmon so once a week or fortnight I’ll buy a pack of this so it’s also ready to go for lunch (because with 2 kids to chase after I often don’t have much time to prepare lunch!)

Luckily for me, my journey with Weight Watchers so far has meant that I have already adopted many good habits for healthy eating. For example, I love my bread and find it easy to overdo it, so instead of having 2 slices I’ll just have 1. I also try to be conscious of just having bread at one meal rather than say, toast for breakfast and a sandwich for lunch.

I also don’t buy biscuits. They have always been a weakness for me, so I just don’t keep them in the house. My parents often have them at their place so if I’m round there that’s usually where I’ll have my fix of biscuits (but I have to say that as I’ve been practising this habit now for probably 12 months I’m finding it much easier).

So while I am at the start of this next journey and it is reasonably easy to find the motivation and energy to make sure I’m meeting my macros each day, I am VERY aware that it is my habits, and not my motivation, that will ensure my success in the long term.

 

Body transformation: “Phase 2”

In the last few weeks I’ve been preparing for my next big challenge. If you’ve read my previous posts at all you’ll know that I haven’t quite reached my final weight/body composition goal and have hit a bit of a wall in the last 6 months or so. This is both due to losing the motivation to eat well consistently, but also because there has been a growing doubt in my mind that Weight Watchers alone will get me there.

Finally I really feel like I have the answer! In the last 6 months 3 of my acquaintances have competed in female bikini/bodybuilding competitions and look AMAZING. They have all been lifting heavy weights and tracking not only their food/calories,  but also their macronutrients: protein, carbohydrates, fat and fibre. Now, I don’t have any plans for competing, but what these ladies have achieved is exactly the sort of transformation and body recomposition I’ve been after.

I’ve been doing quite a lot of research on this and really believe it is this combination that will get me to my ultimate goal of having a toned, flat tummy and lower body fat percentage,  making me look and feel leaner, stronger and fitter all over. In the past I have lifted heavy weights but haven’t tracked what I’ve eaten closely, or I have tracked what I’ve been eating, but not in those proportions.

So in the past couple of weeks I have taken a number of steps in what I like to think of as “phase 2” of my transformation (phase 1 being my journey to this point with Weight Watchers, without which I would not  be within touching distance of my  ultimate goal!)

I sought out the trainer one of the aforementioned ladies worked with (Hattie Boydle). To be honest though, her training packages were just out of my budget and too far to travel to make it work consistently. I did however, get some basic macro and calorie goals for my height, weight and level of physical activity from her and started implementing these into my diet straightaway. 

Next I joined a gym (a beautiful open, airy one with floor to ceiling windows and outdoor training areas, AND a creche for the kids to give me fewer excuses!) I have now had 4 sessions with a personal trainer (Robbie Frame) who has competed in body building competitions and is well-versed in the above method of stripping away fat. He was very quick to caution me on the dangers of trying to do this too quickly though, and instead recommended that I consume as many calories as possible while still seeing results. In our 4 sessions we have established my goals and program for getting there and had 3 instructional sessions on safely performing all the exercises with proper form.

Now I have run through 2 out of 3 of my weekly weight training sessions on my own to gauge where I’m at. My body is still screaming, “What the hell are you doing to me?!” as I roll out my quads on the roller after a hot bath. But I know from past experience participating in sports where you suddenly work a group of muscles heavily in a new way, with time and repetition this process will get easier.

So, sore as I may be, I am actually really excited to be embarking on this new challenge, as I’ve experienced this feeling before: a feeling of resolve, clarity and determination to reach my goals. And all the times in the past when I’ve been so sure I will achieve what I set out to achieve, I always have.