I’m Calling Myself Out!
I am calling myself out! This has gone on long enough. I am getting fat again, and it has to stop before it gets out of control! In a prior blog post, I recounted my tale of tipping the scales at 270 pounds back in 2016. It was a low point for my physical and mental health. On a ride home from a family vacation, my wife and I decided to make changes in our lives. Since then, we have lived a more mindful and intentional life that resulted in me losing 70 pounds.
As with all weight loss journeys, I have had my ups and downs. At one point, I had gotten down to 225 pounds. A few months later I weighed in at around 245 pounds. I got back on track and made it all the way down to just under 200 pounds. Sub 200 is a little low for me, so I decided to be happy between 200 and 205 pounds. That is where I have been for the past year or so and I was happy with that.
Over the past few months, I knew I was slipping, but the scale didn’t change much, so I chose the ignorance is bliss approach. It was bound to catch up to me, and now it has. Over the past few weeks, I have consistently weighed in at 210 pounds or more. I can no longer ignore what is happening. I am getting fat again! Luckily, because of my other habits of mindfulness and intentionality, I feel as though I caught it before I ballooned out of control. To get back on track, I am laying out the 6 reasons I got fat again so that I (and everyone I know) can hold myself accountable. Also, by listing them all, I can create actionable solutions for each one.
The low hanging fruit is snacking. Unfortunately I am not actually snacking on fruit or I would probably not weigh so much. My snacking has been the biggest change. For a few years I taught myself to eat only when hungry. In fact, I learned to embrace hunger. Lately, I have been habitually snacking meaning that I am snacking with a pattern.
I snack when I get into a car, when I watch TV, when I first get home from work, at work on my longer days, later at night, right before and after dinner, and when I arrive at certain locations such as my parent’s house. Hunger is not dictating when I eat. Cues are. I have allowed certain times, locations, events, and other cues to trigger an eating response. In his book Atomic Habits, James Clear describes the habit loop: Cue, Craving, Response, Reward. To change my snacking habit, I need to be mindful of the above cues/triggers and then avoid them or create a new response.
Action Item: Be mindful of my snacking cues/triggers. Avoid the cues/triggers that I can. For the cues/triggers that I can’t avoid, I need to create a different response. An example of this would be to drink a big glass of water or seltzer when watching TV instead of grabbing the chips.
Loss of Will Power at Night
James Clear has also taught us that willpower is like a muscle that will fatigue the more we use it. The more decisions we have to make during the day, the more fatigued that muscle gets. My day-to-day life involves a lot of decisions. I am a healthcare worker who sees 15-20 patients daily, each requiring numerous decisions, and I am also the lead PT at the clinic responsible for day-to-day operations. Additionally, I coach 2 baseball teams, run the organization for those teams, serve as the VP for our town league, write a blog, and have a podcast. That is on top of being a dad of two boys and husband to a very patient and understanding wife.
By the end of every day, I have probably made hundreds of decisions or more, making nighttime a very vulnerable eating time for me. By the time I get home from work or practice, I am hungry, and my willpower muscle is tired. The snack cabinet becomes an easy decision in those moments. Even though I know it is happening, I have a tough time stopping it. To fix this, I will need to pre-make these decisions and create boundaries for myself.
Action Item: Pre-plan (meal prep) what I will eat after work or after practice. Some days that may mean eating before practice if I will be getting home late. No eating after 8 pm, no matter what. I will brush my teeth at 8 pm every night to signal to my brain that I am done eating.
This can happen when you reach a goal. I reached all of my goals for weight loss, and then I got complacent and lazy. I recently read a book by Simon Sinek, The Infinite Game. This book is mainly about business leaders, but I think it can be applied here. In applying it to the “game” of health and weight loss, the book teaches us that there is no end to the game, the rules often change, competitors come and go, and there is no ultimate winner or loser.
In my case, I reached what I thought was the “end” of the game by weighing in at 200 pounds (my goal). This was a finite way of thinking, and I realize it now. There is no end to this game. The rules change as my life and body change, I am competing with different versions of myself, and I will never win or lose. Health and wellness is truly an infinite game, and my Just Cause, as Sinek also mentions in the book as a key to great companies, is to optimize my overall physical and mental health.
Action Item: To fight complacency, I need to remember my Just Cause of health and wellness optimization and play an infinite game.
Not Working Hard Enough at the Gym
I have been mentally weak and physically lazy during my workouts. My co-workers, who I work out with, have noticed, and so have I. In this blog and on our podcast, we preach the concepts of doing hard things and getting better every day. Over the past few months, I have been a fraud. No more!
No more 8 reps instead of 10, skipping sets, not tracking and adding weight, missing days, and coasting through workouts with the mantra, “something is better than nothing.” Just listing those things makes me really angry. It is time to be accountable to myself and start to push harder to be better. My friend Peter (You know him as Peter B. on this blog) is always saying “better than the last time.” It is about time that I start making that my mantra.
Action Item: Make my new mantra “Better Than The Last Time.” I will track my workouts to progress them as I do with my money and calories. I will be accountable to my friends and co-workers for doing all reps, sets, and workouts.
Have you heard of lifestyle creep? Lifestyle creep is the concept that as people earn more money, they tend to increase their spending proportionally. Well, this has happened to my nutrition instead of my money. I was very disciplined for a few years with what I ate. For the most part, I reduced my carb and sugar intake substantially, avoided Diet Coke except for on pizza night, ate smaller portions, and limited treats and snacking. These changes were responsible for my substantial weight loss.
Over the past few months, I have reversed that trend. Once I reached my goal, I started added things back in because I could. A little bit of this here and there wouldn’t matter, right? That’s what I told myself, at least. The problem is that a little bit here and there led to a lot and all of the time. At the time of this post, my diet had reverted to resemble what I ate when I was 270 pounds. I still track calories, so it is not as bad, but what I am putting in my mouth is close to what it used to be. If I want to get back on track, this clearly has to change.
Action Item: Focus on “what” I am eating and not just “how much.” Significantly reduce carbs, sugars, beer, and Diet Coke as I did before. Use my tracking App to hold myself accountable.
Cheating the App
Speaking of my tracking app, I figured out how to beat it! I use the Lose It app to track my calories. It basically works by taking your age, height, lifestyle, and weight to determine your base metabolic rate (i.e. how many calories you need/burn just to function day to day). Once it has that info and rate, you tell it how much you want to lose and over what length of time. The app then spits out how many calories you are allowed per day to achieve that goal. Easy enough.
Over time, I found subtle and not no subtle ways to cheat the app. Here are a few:
- Entering food at the end of the day instead of after each meal. If I end up over calories, there is nothing I can do about it. Oh well. I tried.
- Eating shitty food but staying at or under calories.
- Not entering all of my food or “guestimating”.
- Allowing my workouts to sync with the app so I gain “extra” calories.
When I first started tracking, I didn’t do any of those things and I had amazing success. Over time, as complacency set in, so did my cheating. I am embarrassed by this list.
Action Item: Use my app the way it was meant to be used. I will enter meals as they happen and focus on quality calories. I will not sync my workouts so that I do not get “extra” calories. No more guessing. All calories entered have to be accurate.
The final reason that I am getting fat again is common for many, portion sizes. As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have largely stayed under calories. I also mentioned that I cheat the app. Clearly, if I were under calories all of the time, I would not have gained any weight, and I have (read an earlier blog post about weight loss/gain). My portion sizes have gone up and I am fully aware of that. I would love to blame Jess for this, but it is my fault.
To give a few examples, taco night has gone from 3-4 tacos to 6-8 tacos. Pizza night went from 4 to 6+ slices, and so on. I still do intermittent fasting, so breakfast is not an issue for me. My wife meal preps my lunches and is really good about keeping the portions appropriate for me. The problem for me is dinner time. Not only do I snack around dinner, but I also eat too much at dinner. In addition to losing weight, eating less at dinner will help me sleep better and wake up with more energy.
Action Item: Eat less dinner. Taco and pizza night will be cut down to where they were. No more second helpings during the week. Accurate tracking on the app to ensure compliance. Go to bed a little hungry.
Mindfulness & Accountability
Ultimately, all of this boils down to being more mindful and accountable to my health. I have laid out 7 reasons that I got fat again, along with 7 action items to help me get back on track. I put them here to make sure I stay accountable to it and let my circle of friends know so that they can keep an eye on me as well. It is always easier to make changes when written down, and you tell people about it. Here it is!
This is my story but I bet it is similar to many of you reading this. If it is, please share what steps you took to optimize your own health and wellness in the comment section below.
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