Tuesday, April 27, 2010

On Failure

I’ve been thinking a lot about failure this week.

Part of my preoccupation is certainly my impending law school exams. In my effort to become more fit and healthy, I frequently neglected classes or reading in favor of eating a calm, balanced meal or getting some exercise. There’s no excuse for this, really; I made my choices. I could have done it all, but it would have been harder. So I picked the thing that mattered most---my health---and let the other chips fall where they may. As long as they didn’t fall in a nearby bowl next to some salsa, I figured I was good.

But now it’s the end of the semester and my lackadaisical academic attitude is catching up with me. And instead of buckling down and studying for 20 hours a day to prepare for my first exam on Friday, I’m not changing much. I’m doing some reading, but I am so paralyzed by fear and urgency that I am doing little of the work I should be doing, and I’m simultaneously freaking out about how hard my classmates appear to be working. Bad combination.

Add to this the fact that the last two weeks on Weight Watchers have been a struggle, and you’ve got yourself a perfect storm of depression and self-doubt.

I mentioned last week that I switched from points-counting to a different method of tracking my food called the “Simply Filling Technique” (SFT). SFT deserves its own (more positive) post, because truly it rescued me from some pretty dangerous thought processes I was beginning to develop while trying to stretch my 20 daily points.

Cliff’s notes version: Weight Watchers offers two ways to follow their plan. The first is “points,” in which you get a certain number of points per day, and 35 per week, and then whatever extra you “earn” from exercising (you get 1 point for each 100 calories burned). All foods have point values (which is a function of calories/fat/fiber---calories and fat increase points, fiber decreases points), and you eat what you want as long as you stay within your range. The basic idea behind SFT is that you eat from a (LONG) list of “filling foods” to satisfaction. Anything not on the list, you deduct from your standard 35 weekly points (or activity points). You don’t get daily points.

I bring SFT up now because I am just beginning my fifth week on this new technique, and I can’t help but feel like a monumental failure:

Starting Weight: 136.6 (current goal is 135, but I’m thinking of moving it to 136...more on that another day)
Week 1 on SFT: +0.4
Week 2: -0.4
Week 3: +3.4
Week 4: ?? Weigh in is tomorrow at a WW center (at 7pm, with clothes on), but my home scale is showing me +.8 from last week’s at-home, in-the-morning, in-the-buff weight.

In all fairness, week 3 shouldn’t even count. I went COMPLETELY off the program that week, ended up -40 points in the red (unheard of in my personal history) and it was all on purpose. But I expected to see a loss this week as I began to eat normally and that weight came off. I am terrified of the fact that I may still be gaining weight...I’m afraid that I won’t be able to make SFT work...I’m worried that I will have to switch back to points and perhaps go back to the unhealthy/unhappy mindset I developed towards the end.

So, in an effort to have more success this week, I’m identifying a few of what I think may be my weak areas and discussing how to address them. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

  • Ultimately, I know I’m overeating. I have a hard time eating to “satisfaction,” instead eating to “full.” I have a VERY difficult time leaving food on my plate. Even if I’m satisfied, my tendency is to finish the portions I served myself, especially if there are only five bites left. But those bites add up, and I need to break the habit of eating when I don’t need more food.
  • As a corollary to the first point, I think I need to cut back or stop eating my activity points. On the points system, I was able to eat all of my 35 weekly points, plus all of my activity points, and still lose weight. I suspect I may not be able to do that on SFT; probably because I am eating enough filling food to be satisfied, and I only ever spend my points on junk food like ice cream.
  • Nighttime eating has become more of a problem on SFT than it was on points. The accountability of points meant that whatever I ate during nighttime snack attacks was deducted from my points, and I ate correspondingly less food throughout the week as a result. On SFT, I can have a few nighttime snacks that are “free” on SFT, and then I don’t have to adjust my eating throughout the week. I’ve been in the process of setting an eating curfew for myself, but I seem to snack a lot in the 45 minutes or so before curfew hits.

My goals for this week are to:

  1. Pay more attention to my hunger signals. (This is so hopelessly vague. How can I make this goal more definite?...Require verbalizing my emotions before going for food? (i.e., saying out loud, “I am hungry” or “I am bored” before eating) ...Write down my feelings before sitting down for food?)
  2. Following Martha Beck’s advice from one of my new favorite books, The Four Day Win, I will leave food on my plate at the end of each meal to get used to the idea (as long as I’ve eaten to satisfaction of course).
  3. Continue with the establishment of my curfew. It’s set at 10:30pm for the next few days. On Friday, it moves back to 10pm.
  4. Stay off the scale. All week. I am getting easily discouraged by what I see day-to-day, and it’s affecting my attitude.

Anything else? I feel a bit adrift.

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