Half-way point in the Scale Down Challenge

Yesterday marked the half-way point in my weight loss journey with the Scale Down Challenge. How am I doing? Will I achieve my goal? Will I win?

Honestly I don’t know. Winning was never 100% in my control due to the fact other participants are involved. At the four week mark I was exactly in the 25% percentile. I was generally an A student in school, so this was a bit disconcerting.

Moreover, when I went into the contest I had a more achievable and measurable goal. Winning the contest wasn’t a good goal because if the participant pool was too few or unmotivated, I’d win without losing weight. Rather, I set a goal of losing a certain number of pounds.

The good news is while I’m at the halfway point in the contest, I’m also at the halfway to meeting my goal number. On the surface, that sounds great and right on track. Unfortunately, that’s based on average. The first week of the contest I lost a significant amount of weight and my loss continues to slow. If I view the pace of weight loss since the first week, I will NOT meet my goal. That’s disconcerting.

Of course, I can make lots of excuses such as a family vacation, problems with stress, and simply adjusting to this new approach to food and eating. With the nature of my job and the unpredictability, I often have an eating plan for the day, but my client needs take priority. I full expected to have a protein shake, but I found myself at a 3 hour intense service call where a family’s entire picture collection of small business hangs in the balance. Walking out to take a lunch break isn’t appropriate.

In reality though, it is. Everyone I’ve told about my weight loss has been excited and enthusiastic. Clients have noticed the loss and it’s nice to tell them I’m in a contest and I’m doing it to earn money for a charity. One client (jokingly) attempted to take my lunch plate away from me when I said why I was losing weight.

Now that I’m at the halfway point, I’ve revising some of my plans and making new ones.

First, I’ve been slacking on writing things down, tweeting what I eat and taking pictures. I realize I only have to do one and the others will fall into place. If I can record what I ate in my phone, great. If I can’t, taking a picture or tweeting it is fine, because at least I have an idea of where and when I ate and can record the calories later. Not only is the recording important to track calories, but I realize that by taking that extra minute or so before eating forces me to slow down, savor, and enjoy the meal.

Additionally, I realize I can only reduce the calories so much and keep with my fitness goals. I decided when I started I would continue my weightlifting and exercise regiment. I could starve myself completely and lose muscle along with fat. That’s unacceptable. However, if working out is getting easy and too enjoyable, I’m not doing it right. I would bring in some magazines, set the elliptical for 11 and zone out for half an hour. While that made the workout easier and productive (reading trade mags), I realize that as I loose weight and increase my cardiovascular health, that means the same settings from a month ago no longer burn as many calories. Therefore, I gotta mix it up a bit. I’ve read about interval training and my trainer suggested that. While those magazines and zoning out make my workouts easier…the problem is they make my workout easier. When I achieve my goal I can see workouts as maintenance and “phone it in”. Right now, I want to lose weight and win. That means less reading PC Magazine, Macworld and Entrepreneur…and more pushing myself. I’ll also try some of the tricks we tried in high school football: two-a-days [and if you did football, I heard your groan from here]

Two-a-days was a simple concept: you do two workouts a day. Since I’ve now achieved my goal of doing cardio 4-5 days a week and lifting 1-2 days a week, it’s now time to do cardio twice a day. Maybe not two 30 minute sessions, but a 30 in the morning and 15 before dinner or before bed. I’m excited to try the light cardio before bed. Maybe 100 or so calories to get me in fat burning mode before I head to bed. Research on workouts before bed are mixed. Some compare it to a hot bath, forcing a reduction in overall body temp as you get out of the bath, which I know helps me fall asleep. A short 15 minute elliptical session in the basement before I go to sleep and a light shower, might help. These tricks might also jump start my mid-contest frustrations.

I also know what I’m doing wrong at this point. Psychology Today recently reported on the fact that addicts can learn from their relapses and prevent them. Successful recovering addicts sometimes relapse three or four times before finally staying off the wagon (or is it on?).

One of my failures (besides not excusing myself to eat), is keeping healthy food within reach at all times. This means carrying almonds with me in the car and making sure I have a protein shake power and mixer in the car at all times. Of course, I’ll forget to put it in the car sometimes. I shouldn’t be embarrassed to run into the grocery store and buy something. I get frustrated I forgot to pack a lunch and feel like I don’t want to waste the money (and the environment) by buying a single serving of yogurt or a some rice cakes. I need to get over that. Since I’m generally going the healthy route with this weight loss and avoiding any paid diet or supplements, I’ve got a bit of money to work with. So many diets require their exclusive food, I’m way ahead of the game even if I pay a premium in getting a single serving packet of something. And while I know that increases my carbon footprint, this isn’t long term. I must remember this is part of the weight loss, and when I achieve my goals,I will have more options available.

Another failure has been eating out. It’s really hard on a weight loss plan. You want to keep track and judge the calories and ingredients in what you got. For example: did that soup have cream in it? Milk? What percent of milkfat? I don’t want to give the servers the third degree of how much oil was used. Even when they know, they don’t know because items are often made in large quantities and in advance. Moreover, when I take the typical menu item, I often have to tell them to leave a large number of the ingredients off. A few weeks back, I went to a business meeting and the healthiest thing on the menu was a burger. Ok, give me the veggie burger. I want no cheese, no sauce. The sides were all rather unhealthy. I could pay an extra $2.50 for the side salad (hold the bacon, croutons, and dressing on the side). I paid $10 for a veggie patty, a slice of tomato, and a small side salad. I don’t blame the restaurant. The $7.50 for a generous beef burger, tasty fries, and sourdough bun was a good value. But I just was so frustrated paying $10 for nothing, I realized eating out at most places just wasn’t worth it.

Unfortunately, eating out is the glue that often holds together my social life. “I haven’t seen you in forever, let’s get lunch.” I simply need to be confident enough to say “I’m trying to lose weight and would prefer coffee? Do you like Java Break, Z’s or Starbucks.” I’m just embarrassed to do so and I just gotta get over it. This weight loss is for me, and I rarely do things for myself. If a friend can’t understand, are they really a friend?

Finally, I realize I need to stay away from food triggers. Yes, that’s obvious, but it’s really not. I found myself often snacking on healthy almonds while passing through the kitchen on the way to the basement or my home office. Often this was subconscious and it was triggered by having the cupboard open and the almonds facing me. I’d go into the fridge for a cup of yogurt, and last nights leftovers I was going to freeze are looking awfully tasty. My goal for the next five weeks is to avoid food triggers. If at all possible, route myself around them. Either move the food or myself. I’ll try to take the long way…around the kitchen. I’ll inconveniently place tempting food and snacks behind things I don’t like in the fridge. I’m not a soda fan, so I’m putting all the cheese (one of my weaknesses) and any leftovers behind the wall of soda in the fridge. That should be enough to be out of sight and out of mind.

Overall it’s been frustrating. I started the contest with the idea this was like going on a trip and I’ll return someday to a more normal and less structured life. I’m at the point of being homesick on the journey. I feel GREAT that I’ve lost so much weight! However, I’m just exhausted from thinking so much about way I eat, where I eat and how I eat. Keeping in mind the fact that I’m helping myself and others is hopefully going to sustain me through the next five weeks.

That, and the fact that I’m also putting the Humane Society calendar on the fridge.

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