Holiday Maintenance Mode

In years past we’ve taken “Holiday Hiatuses” and learned to regret them. In fact the last “Holiday Hiatus” we took was the trigger that began our year and a half of being off-plan. It was really difficult to get our momentum going again and I am literally back down to losing the weight I had gained over that six week period of indulgence. I’ve managed to lose most of the subsequent weight I had gained following the hiatus, but I’m still working on the last 7lbs of the 11.6 I gained during the holidays two years ago.

This year? We’re not gaining. Just not gonna happen.

Our first holiday season on Weight Watchers, we did really well, even managing to lose weight. We would love to continue to lose weight this holiday season as well. So far, we’ve managed to avoid any weight gains, and just now encountered our first plateau (a swear word as far as Jason is concerned).

This week:

  • Jason 0.0 (-82.6)
  • Jenny -0.8 (-58.0)

Yep. I managed a small loss, which is why I’m blogging today. Jason stayed the same, which he hates so he’s not exactly in the right frame of mind to write an inspiring blog post. But I think that it’s not a good idea to stay in that mindset. This isn’t a plateau. This is holiday maintenance. So many people believe it’s impossible to avoid gaining weight over the holidays. We’re proof that if you don’t watch it, that’s exactly what will happen. Most people believe it’s impossible to lose weight over the holidays.

And we are doing just that.

True, Jason didn’t have a loss this week, but he sure did last week. We had two holiday dinners and he had a business trip this last week. We weren’t really on plan. But I managed to lose and Jason maintained. That’s good this time of year. This coming week is relatively free of holiday events for us (besides a ladies get together for me, during which there will be treat/recipe exchange – wish me luck, or even better share some of your healthy treats recipes with me!) so it’s a great week for us to focus on staying on our meal plan, hitting the gym (and our dumbbell sets at home) hard, and finding non-food ways to get in the holiday spirit.

We’ve got this – and so do you.

What are your plans for staying on track? Also, I was serious about sharing healthy treat recipes. Give ’em to me!

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Squats Are Evil

Seriously.

Wanting some more competitive scores on Fitocracy (points are skewed very heavily towards weight training vs cardio), Jason picked up a couple of weight sets at the store. Mine is a 3, 5, 8lb set and we got to work Saturday morning. If you’d like to see the details of my first strength workout, you can click here. I basically did up to 10 reps each of squats (10, 6, 6), bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder presses, one-arm rows in each of the three weights.

It felt good and I was confident in what I accomplished, so I told him we should do another workout. But not just another workout, we should do MOAR! We shouldn’t just step up the weight, but add two more sets of each to step back down. That workout is detailed here. I rocked it for a newb!

Until I woke up the next morning.

You see, the most recent experience I had had with squats was freshman P.E. in high school. I remembered nothing about pain. Of course, I also hadn’t done 72 weighted squats in one day in my life ever before that either. I died. My legs wouldn’t work. The most frustrating and disconcerting thing was that not only did it hurt to walk, but my legs kept trying to go out from underneath me. My thigh muscles were revolting to such a degree that they just refused to help my knees go the right direction. I hated feeling like I had traded one successful day for what would end up being four days of hardly being able to function.

I drank water, I stretched, I rested my legs and worked my arms, I whimpered and hobbled a lot.

I knew I was retaining water while I healed, so I was starting to get worried about this week’s weigh-in,  especially since I knew it had also impacted the amount of cardio I had just gotten used to doing. I just put my head down, focused on healing and getting in the activity I could do (dumbbells work on arms/shoulders).

Turns out I didn’t need to worry.

  • Jenny -1.8 (-54.8 total)
  • Jason -1.2 (-78 total)

I have exactly 10 more pounds to lose before I’m back to where I was before everything went haywire in our lives two years ago. It’s my goal to lose it by the end of the year. If I work hard, don’t get too caught up in the holidays and make sure I can focus, I feel like I can meet that goal.

I am happy to say that although I still think squats are evil, I haven’t sworn them off entirely. I’ve started working some body weight squats into my evening strength training (6 last night!) and my muscles have healed enough that I was able to complete my usual morning walk at pretty close to my normal pace. This is very good news, as I am starting to train to participate in a local Holiday 5K Fun Run/Walk (as a walker) to benefit Habitat for Humanity in three weeks. This means starting to get up earlier to increase my walk by 50% since I don’t have time to increase distance where my alarm is currently set to go off. But you know what? I can do this.

What goals do you have for the holiday season?

Getting Swole(n)

Friday has finally arrived (thank goodness!), so it’s time to share the results of our weigh in!

Before we get into that though, I wanted to take a minute to share what’s been going on this week. I usually put results up at the top and then give you the big wall of text afterwards, but this time I’m going to change it up a bit just for the sake of change. *gasp!*

Fitocracy & Getting Swole
Jenny and I decided to take advantage of the time change over the weekend by tricking our bodies with that free hour of sleep to wake up early and go to the gym. We missed one morning due to dogs being stupid-crazy in the middle of the night and waking us up three times, but we made it up that same evening right after work. So we’ve officially gone to the gym every day this week.

*pause for applause*

Jenny went back to her staple of walking around the track at the youth center, and I went with my usually “come up with something on the fly and do it”. For the first few days I went with my own plan, which was cardio for Mon/Wed/Fri and lifting on Tue/Thu. I’m not following any particular wisdom in doing that though, I just got an idea and decided to do it. Since I don’t want to fumble along without making any real progress, I decided to ask the community at Fitocracy.com for some ideas of workout routines that I could use.

I got some good tips on there, and I found a 16 week routine called “Get Swole” by Cory Gregory that I’m going to try my best to stick to. I’m not going to follow the diet portion, and I’m not going to invest in all the supplements, I’m just following the lifting. I won’t go into too much detail about the plan, because this post is about weight loss, not weight lifting. I’ll be happy to share some information if anyone is interested. The workouts are pretty tough, but they’re laid out well and give me some solid direction to follow in the gym so that I’m not standing around trying to figure out what lift I’m going to do next.

We’ve been tracking our progress on a site called Fitocracy. It’s a fitness site that was originally designed for gamers to track things in a fun and engaging way, but the site kind of took off and caught on quickly enough that the developers had to catch up to the community, so now it’s basically a fitness version of Facebook and only loosely tied to it’s gaming origins. It’s still a good, fun way to track your workouts and we enjoy using it.

I’ll drop a couple of links for you here to our Fitocracy profiles in case you want to get on there and take a look around a bit.
Jenny’s Fitocracy Profile and Jason’s Fitocracy Profile

Results
And here we are with our results from last night.

Jenny: -0.4
Jason: -0.6

I’ve been kicking butt at the gym this week, setting a new personal record for completing a 5K on the treadmill and a new time/distance record for cycling, and then doing the first day of Get Swole yesterday (my arms were killing me). I didn’t know what to expect, not because I thought I’d done bad or anything, but because when you introduce new exercise into your routine you never know how your body is going to react. Muscle growth adds weight that may counter-balance your fat loss when it comes time to step on the scale, and your body is going to retain fluids while it tries to repair itself from the damage of your workout.

I knew that regardless of what the number of the scale was this week, I did an amazing job with my exercise and that’s more than enough success for me no matter what the scale showed!

Jenny was in a similar mindset. She even kicked up her speed during her Wednesday morning walk and got some high intensity time in there! After we weighed, Jenny was discouraged at the small loss when she had put in so much effort during the week. But, just like going off plan and eating crappy food for a week might not come back to bite you in the butt on the scale that same week, the results of exercise don’t always show up right away either. Especially when you’ve just started exercising and your body is still trying to figure out whether it’s supposed to go into survival mode and hold onto its energy reserves or if this is just something new.

Her discouragement carried over a bit this morning, and when the alarms went off she told me she was going to stay home and get some more sleep (which would mean we’d have to go this afternoon per our agreement). But instead:

And why did she do that? Because she’s amazing!

Weightloss Super Heroes

I’ve never thought of myself as a Weightloss Super Hero.

A recent experience has me thinking a lot about what it takes to be a super hero. Whenever I think of Weightloss Super Heroes I know, I think of my sister, who is rocking it over in the Fitocracy community, my twitter friend Chelsea who is a crossfit superstar (the girl is a beast, seriously) and my friend B.J. over at Geek Fitness. Each one of them would tell you that they’re still a work in progress (with fitness, isn’t everybody?) but they are leaps and bounds ahead of where I am and they are constant sources of awe and inspiration.

Ok, so this is where I bust out my nerd card. I really started thinking about super heroes as I tried to get to sleep last night. Most of the comic book super heroes (with the notable exceptions of the Tony Starks and Bruce Waynes, who start as billionaires with unlimited resources) start as average, everyday Joes (and Janes) who discover that they have a super power, mutation or fantastic alien genetics. They learn what they can do, try to harness it through trial and error and eventually find a way to help other people with their newfound power.

Like I said, I’ve never thought of myself as a Weightloss Super Hero. I aspire to it. I think maybe I’ll be one in a couple more years, when I have a better handle on this whole health thing. But then a couple of weeks ago, Weight Watchers contacted me via twitter. They had been watching my tweets (blog shares, food photos, meal planning, cheerleading stuff I do all the time) and loved what they saw. They asked for my address to send me a gift. I didn’t expect something as fun as this:

Maybe I had the beginnings of a super hero in me after all. I’ve thought a lot about this over the last couple of days. What did Weight Watchers see in me that I hadn’t seen in myself?

Three years ago, we started this blog as a way to chronicle our journey. We made it public, but I didn’t really think anyone would read it, much less find inspiration here. It was created as a place to be honest about every aspect of our journey, even if we weren’t proud of the results. It was a way to be publicly accountable in a way that just attending meetings and sharing with co-workers wouldn’t give us. Jason and I met online. So much of our identities and connections were here in the ether of the inter-webs. This is where we knew our friends were, where we knew some support could be found.

I never expected as much support as we’ve received. Even through our 18 months of false starts and kitchen remodels. Even through the back-sliding and weight gaining that resulted from it. Even more than the support, the feedback we’ve had on the blog has been incredible and uplifting. It happened again yesterday. Someone told me how much our blog inspired them.

It made me feel like a super hero.

Maybe that’s my Weightloss Super Power. This is an incredibly personal topic and journey. It is often embarrassing to share just how much work there is to do. It’s hard to share disappointment and regret. But I love to inspire. When I was a teenager, I loved being a cheerleader. There was a Freshman squad that didn’t do the tumbling that was required of the JV and Varsity squads. That suited me just fine, because I’ve never really loved athletics. What I did love was getting the crowd riled up and leading the spectators in cheers. I loved the contagious enthusiasm.

The funny thing is that even though the successes we have shared on this blog have been inspiring, I also learned that the honesty we’ve committed to here has also been inspiring. It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. Everyone struggles. If we only shared our successes, this blog would be pretty flat and one-sided. We’re real here. You know I’m Jenny and Jason is my husband and our journey has been far from perfect.

You know you’re not alone.

We don’t present perfection. No weightloss journey is perfect in it’s course. One slip-up or a million, doesn’t mean failure. It means you’re human. Maybe our Weightloss Super Power is Truth, even when it is embarrassing or makes us angry. We share it, and when we share it we find a way to be motivated or inspired by our shortcomings and share that inspiration with you.

Jason wasn’t happy about his weigh in results last night. While I lost 1.6 (making my current total 48.0) he stayed the same with a total of 73.2. He hadn’t tracked consistently this week and he’s so close to a significant milestone, he was really disappointed in the lack of progress.

But you know what he did? This morning, when the alarm was going off and his wife was mumbling about not wanting to get up, that we’d get going really well at the gym the next week, he got up. He is determined to have a loss next week and he knows that he needs to step up his activity to get there. Disappointed, he still got up, put on his gym clothes, tied on his shoes, and harnessed the dogs. He had time for a walk/run with the dogs and still made it back in time to fix our breakfast:

2013-09-28 09.54.35

He was my Super Hero this morning, and not just for the breakfast.

He inspires me.

Life Lessons: Weight Loss Budget

Today I’m going to talk about weight loss in a little bit different light, relating it to another thing that we all have to deal with in our lives, which is money. As I’ve talked to more and more people in different places, both online and in person, this is one of the themes that I keep coming back to in order to help explain how Weight Watchers works and how people can relate that experience to something that’s not quite so foreign if they’ve never looked at Weight Watchers before or if they’re constantly referring to it as a diet.

We’ll take a look at various aspects of gaining weight, losing weight, and maintaining. The purpose here is to help explain the concepts of losing weight with Weight Watchers.

Getting Started: What is a Budget
To start us off here, I’m going to pull a few lines from some websites I found that deal with establishing a monetary budget. We’ll start with this bit from practicalmoneyskills.com, “A budget is a plan for your future income and expenditures that you can use as a guideline for spending and saving. Although many Americans already use a budget to plan their spending, the majority of Americans also routinely spend more than they can afford. The key to spending within your means is to know your expenses and to spend less than you make. A good monthly budget can help ensure you pay your bills on time, have funds to cover unexpected emergencies, and reach your financial goals.”

Weight loss with Weight Watchers is no different. Let me convert that quote into weight loss terms; instead of dollars, you’re dealing with PointsPlus. “You plan for future income (weekly points, activity points, or new daily points) and expenditures (eating). Although many Americans like to think that they watch what they eat, the majority of Americans (and people of other nations) also routinely eat more than they can healthily afford. The key to spending your Points within your means is to know how much you can eat, and do so without over-eating. A good PointsPlus budget can help ensure you lose weight, have the points to cover unexpected food opportunities/surprises, and reach your weight loss goals”

When you get started with Weight Watchers the first thing they’re going to do is have you weigh in. This is what determines your budget. You have a daily budget, which is your Daily PointsPlus Target that is based on your personal metrics and any points left over at the end of the day disappear. You have a weekly budget, which is your Weekly PointsPlus Allowance which is always set to 49 on your weigh-in day for everyone. You also have another weekly budget, your Activity Points, which defaults to 0 and you have to exercise in order to build up those points. Both of the weekly budgets remain open with their points balances for the entire week, but once your weigh-in day rolls around any extra points go away and they reset to their default values of 49 and 0.

The biggest difference between a financial budget and a weight loss budget is that bills are typically handled on a monthly basis where weight loss is handled weekly. Instead of everything being due on the 15th day of every month (or whatever), you have a weigh-in day every week on the same day. Your daily budget is like paying your bills, those are points that you need to spend in order to give your body the fuel that it needs to function. Your weekly budgets are more like your wants instead of your needs.

Living Within Your Means: PointsPlus Values
The key to having a successful budget is making sure that you never spend more than you have available. The key to losing weight is making sure that you don’t eat more food than your body can handle while maintaining a healthy weight. Your body needs food, it just doesn’t need as much as we tend to give it. Just like you need to purchase “things” in order to live, yet we don’t always live within our means as we buy things we want instead.

I’m going to reference that same website above, but I’m going to take little bits and pieces from the article instead of doing a direct quote. If you want to read the whole thing, you can follow this link to Live Within Your Means.

[Begin paraphrase]
If you are like many Americans, you may find that you are spending more than you’re saving and steadily going deeper into debt as a result. This is an easy and common pattern to fall into, and one that requires some planning and discipline to reverse. Once you’ve got a clear understanding of your current budget, your challenge is to find places where you can spend less (or earn more) in order to achieve your financial goals.

Here are some steps you can take toward that end:

1. Question Your Needs And Wants – What do you want? What do you really need? Take a look at the big picture.

2. Set Guidelines – We all have different budgets based on our needs and wants.

3. Track, Trim And Target – Once you start tracking, you may be surprised what you find. Cutting back is usually a better place to start than completely cutting out. Be realistic. It will help you to be better prepared for the unexpected.
[End Paraphrasing]

It also talks about trimming expenses, but to keep it more focused on the weight loss side, I’m going to rewrite it with that in mind. Trimming expenses for weight loss is cutting back on those things that you really enjoy that are just too high in points to be eating them all the time. It could be anything from candy to bread, ice cream to ribeye steaks, sweet tea to alcohol. Different people have different weaknesses when it comes to food, and those are what we’re really focusing on here.

If there’s a food that you really love and it’s high in points then you need to make a decision. Can you live without ever eating that thing again, or can handle eating smaller portions of it? Do you have some self control in relation to that food, or do you have none at all? If you can handle it in moderation, then all you need is a plan and the determination to stick to that plan and you’ll do just fine.

For this example, we’re going to use one of the highest-points desserts in the Weight Watchers database, which is an Ultimate Fudge Brownie from Kona Grill which has a 50 PointsPlus value for a single serving. You love that brownie, it’s your favorite thing in the whole world. For some people, knowing that it’s 50 PointsPlus is enough for them to say, “You know what? That’s a dang good brownie, but it’s just not worth 50 PointsPlus to me, so I’m going to walk away and never eat that thing again.” Some people can do that, and they can stick to it. Other people, just can’t. They need to find a way to work that in.

If you can’t cut an “expense”, or a food that you absolutely have to have, then you need to try to trim it. You can do that by either eating smaller portions of it if that’s an option; this would be things like either ordering only a partial serving, sharing it with friends/family, or if you make it yourself then cutting the portions that you make or that you dish out to begin with. Or, you can go ahead and eat the full portion but cut back on how often you eat it.

Once you’ve identified these foods you need to make a plan and set a goal. Goals should be specific or else you’ll never achieve it. “Eat less brownie” isn’t a goal because you could leave a little spec of the brownie on your plate and say that you ate less of it. Be specific. “Only eat the ultimate fudge brownie once per month,” is an achievable goal. “Only eat half of the ultimate fudge brownie,” is an achievable goal. Both of those are acceptable as long as they fit within your budget. If you’ve got the points, then it’s alright to eat the whole thing. You’re not cheating or failing if you eat something that’s high in points as long as you’re staying within your budget.

Once you have the specific goal you need to make it measurable. If eating half the brownie or eating it once per month is enough measurement for you to stay within your budget then you can stop there. However, what if you had a birthday party and ate cake and ice cream and already used up some of your weekly points, and now the only way you will be able to have that special expensive food is to earn activity points? In that case, you need to update your goal to this, “I want that 50 Point dessert, and I currently have 40 Weekly points but 0 Activity points saved for it.” Now you know that you have 40 of the 50 points that you need. You know how far you have to go (50) and you know how close you already are (40+0=40) so you know how far you have left to go (50-40=10). Now you know exactly what you need to do in order to fit that dessert into your budget and you can plan accordingly. If you have 5 days left until you eat that dessert, then you know you need to get an average of 2 Activity Points per day (10/5=2) and if you know that one of those days you’ll be out of town and unable to exercise, so you need to get an extra 2 points in on the other 4 days that you have left.

Your goals also have to be attainable, it has to be something that you can actually achieve. If you haven’t been doing any exercise at all in forever, and you’ve only got 10 Weekly Points left for that 50 Point brownie on Friday, do you think you’re honestly going to be able to make up 40 Activity points in the next 3-4 days? If your goal isn’t to eat a specific thing, but rather to lose a specific amount of weight, is losing 15 lbs in a week attainable? Not for most people. If a goal isn’t realistic, then there’s no point in setting it in the first place.

Measurable in time. You don’t want to set a goal that has no end date. “My goal is to weigh 110 lbs,” sounds like a good goal, right? How soon do you want to get down to that 110 lbs? By the end of the summer? The end of next year? Before the age of 85? If there’s no time limit set on your goal, then you’ve deflated your motivation. Remember, even your timeline has to be something that’s realistically attainable, but there needs to be a timeline set for achieving the goal. A lot of people trying to lose weight are doing it because they kept putting off eating healthy or getting back into shape. They put it off, then put it off again, and just kept on putting it off because there was no timeline. “Man, I really need to get around to losing some of this weight…” How many times have I said that in my lifetime? I’m not sure I can count that high. I can tell you that about 90% of the times that I said it I did so right before or right after eating something that had a huge Points value, though.

Debt: Gaining Weight
Now that we’ve talked about how the plan overall relates to a budget, let’s take a look at why budgeting is actually important. When you’re dealing with finances, you’re basically looking at how much income you have minus your expenses to see how much you can tuck away into savings or how much you can put towards paying off debts.

With Weight Watchers it’s almost exactly the same thing; you’re looking at how many PointsPlus you have available each day, minus the points values of your foods, to see how much debt you can pay off. You can’t tuck anything away into savings, because your body doesn’t allow savings accounts.

All the weight that you need to lose right now is debt that you’ve built up throughout your life. It’s a debt that you owe to your body, and one that can weigh just as heavily on your mind as it does physically on your body. What happens when you go into too much financial debt and can’t pay your bills? A not-so-little thing we call bankruptcy. When you become too indebted to your body you run into things like gallstones, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and/or triglycerides, coronary artery disease (CAD), a stroke, or sleep apnea. Debt can be a very serious thing no matter how you slice it.

Debt, in terms of weight loss, is the extra weight that you’ve put on over the years that you’re trying now to get off. In weight loss there is no savings for you to build towards, instead you’re either relieving debt (weight gained) or you’re staying out of debt (maintaining your weight). Because weight loss isn’t a single event, you don’t simply lose it and then suddenly you get to live out the rest of your life being skinny. Your body just doesn’t work that way. It’s the same reason why diets never work in the long term. Weight Watchers isn’t a diet, it’s a lifestyle change. They give you the rules to live by to be successful and the tools to do it with. That’s why it succeeds.

Going on a diet is like getting a credit card. It has it’s perks, but if you don’t watch it you’re just going to end up even deeper in debt than you were before you started. Have you ever tried a diet, had success, and then stopped the diet and not too long after you gained back even more weight than you started with? That’s why Weight Watchers will consistently beat out every diet out there. Because it’s not a diet that tells you what you can and cannot eat, it’s a tool that you can use to live a healthy life. It’s the difference between a credit card that you abuse, and one that you actually use wisely and with control. If you use it correctly and establish a goals-based or rules-focused life style around it you can actually get ahead.

Executing the Budget: Meal Planning
I know that last section was a downer, so let’s pick it back up here and talk about how we get out of this debt and build a better life. We’re going to talk about meal planning, and a few different ways that you can handle planning head.

Weekly Planning (Hard, but effective if you can pull it off)
We’ll start off with the method that you tend to hear most often in meetings from your leader, which is to plan ahead for the entire week. Some people don’t have any problem at all planning out a week’s worth of meals in advance. In our experience, every time we tried to plan a week’s worth of meals we failed. We’d either go off plan half-way through the week and then throw the plan out the window for the rest of the week, or we wouldn’t even be able to come up with a whole week’s worth of meals that actually sounded good and then we’d just give up all together. If you can handle planning a week at a time, that’s great. If you can’t handle that much planning, then try one of these other methods instead.

Weekly planning gives you total control of what’s going to happen the entire week, which makes it easier for you to plan how you’re going to spend your weekly points and activity points (assuming that you’re going to spend any of them at all). If you know everything you’re going to eat all week long, you can more easily plan in special treats for events where you know you might not be able to accurately track the foods that you eat. If you know there’s a party on Friday but have no idea what food is going to be served there, then you know in advance that you need to keep all of your other days within your daily points so that you have your weekly points available for that unknown party.

The drawback is that by planning the entire week in advance, you need to be very conscious of your weekly points and activity points or else you will not be able to handle surprises as easily. For example, if you have already planned out your entire week and today at work your best friend invited you to a BBQ at his place tonight, then you might not have the points available to do that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t go, it just means that you’re going to have to go back and re-plan the rest of your week to allow for that surprise.

Semi-Weekly Planning (Easy-Medium, but very effective and easier to stick to it)
This is the method that we’ve adopted over the last couple of months and has been a huge success for us so far. Instead of planning out a full week worth of meals, we now break it up into one plan for Monday-Thursday, and another for Friday-Sunday. Our weigh-in day is Thursday, so right after the meeting we head to the grocery store and eat at the deli there and then do our grocery shopping with our minds still focused on the meeting and making the right choices. We shop to get us through the weekend and then on Monday we do the same thing, minus the Weight Watchers meeting. Since our meetings are on Thursday, we consider that the start of our weight-week so even though we plan on Monday and Thursday, Monday is actually the second plan of each weight-week with Thursday being the first.

Doing this, we know that if a surprise does come up, we still haven’t planned the second half of the week, so we can set aside weekly points if we need to and we still have time to earn activity points if it’s something that serious or if we’ve already spent some of that budget on a planned event earlier in the week. Since our first planning of the weight-week is on Thursday, and most “surprises” often happen on the weekend, surprises are usually much easier for us to handle.

So far we haven’t run into any drawbacks for semi-weekly planning. It has worked out incredibly well for us so far, and we plan to keep it that way.

Daily Planning (Easy, can be effective as long as you’re tracking diligently)
If you just don’t have the time to plan out your meals for any portion of the week in advance, then you can plan for a single day instead. You need to be careful with weekly and activity points this way, as it’s easier to give into impulses and temptations when you haven’t bothered planning for the days ahead. We have had success doing this in the past, but if you look at the chart of our weight loss during these time periods you’d think it was a 4 year old’s drawing of a mountain range from all the up and down that we went through because of poor planning and not thinking ahead. Overall it more or less worked in the end, but it wasn’t very effective and certainly wasn’t efficient.

Single Meal Planning (IT’S A TRAP!)
What you want to avoid if at all possible, is not planning ahead at all and always focusing just on the meal you’re about to have. If you don’t plan ahead at all, you’re leaving yourself vulnerable to both surprises and temptations. If you already know in advance what you’re going to eat for the entire day, then you know whether or not you have room for temptations. If you just wing it and give in to a temptation because “I’ve got weeklies for this” and then there’s another temptation and “I’ve got weeklies for this” those little temptations are going to catch up with you. That’s why tracking is so important as well. If you’re tracking everything then you will know for sure whether or not you have the weekly points for things.

With this method it’s easy to find yourself in situations where you had little or no breakfast, a big lunch, and then come dinner time you have a fairly low amount of points but plenty of hunger. In the final section below I’ll talk about this a little bit more, but basically if you find yourself in this situation then you are significantly more likely to give up on the plan either for the day or the whole Weight Watchers thing all together, and you’re more likely to give into temptations. You’ll be more likely to spend your weekly points and less likely to track spending them which could lead to thinking that you have more points that you actually do later in the week and end up spending points that you don’t actually have.

A Little Psychology
Alright, this part doesn’t really fit within the scope of the rest of the article here, but it’s something that can help you understand impulses that I talked about in the section above. The following information comes from an article called Your App Makes Me Fat from seriouspony.com. The article itself is actually about how developing complex user interfaces can be a really bad thing for your users, so it doesn’t completely apply to our topic, but it’s the study that’s mentioned there that’s important to us here.

I’m not going to post the whole article here, but let me summarize the important parts for you.

Back in 1999 a study was done on some grad students where they asked half of them to memorize a two digit number and the other half was asked to memorize a seven digit number. After the memorization task was complete, they were told that the experiment was over and each of the students was offered a choice of snacks: either a bowl of fruit or a slice of chocolate cake. Their findings were that the students who had to memorize the seven digit number were 50% more likely to choose cake over fruit. (We’ll talk more about this in a minute.)

Another experiment was done in 2010, this time using dogs instead of people. They had half of the dogs sit inside their kennels for 10 minutes before letting them out to play with a puzzle toy that was rigged so that they couldn’t actually get to the treat inside. The other half of the dogs were commanded to sit and stay for 10 minutes before being allowed to play with the same, rigged puzzle-toy. The findings this time were very similar, the dogs that were left in the kennels and had nothing else to do gave up on the toy after about 2 minutes of not being able to get the treat out, while the ones who had to sit there and focus on remaining obedient gave up in less than 1 minute.

What these tests concluded was that our brains use the same resource for self control and problem solving. If you focus all day long on solving problems at work, then you don’t have as much self control at the end of the day because you’ve used up all of your resources on solving problems at work. Similarly, if you’ve spent all day resisting temptations sitting in your kitchen, then you won’t be able to think as clearly at night because once again you’ve already burned up those resources.

That’s why planning ahead plays such a key role in overall success. If you already have the day’s meals planned out in advance, then you don’t have to worry about giving into temptation for the meals themselves. The more you do throughout the day, the less control you have over yourself in the evenings. That’s just how our brains work. If something makes you think, then it’s draining the same resource that allows you to say “no” to foods that don’t fit within your budget. It doesn’t matter whether the problems you face during the day are work, taking care of your kids or pets, or if you just watch TV and play games on your cell phone, you’re always burning those resources.

Planning ahead is how you avoid those dangerous situations and find lasting success.

We Survived Vacation!

It’s really difficult sometimes not to let a vacation turn into a free-for-all food wise. I know that it has happened to us before and you have to then spend some time making up for it afterwards. Usually, we don’t mind because when we’re on vacation, we just want to enjoy ourselves and not worry if we have enough points available for that little treat or to try something new where we have no idea what the point value is.

The trouble is that this time, we had such great momentum going into the vacation, I didn’t want to come back and have to “catch up”. So, while we didn’t track and we weren’t exactly good, we certainly weren’t terrible. It also helped that we attended a festival in a hilly part of the mountains south of Denver and ended up (according to my FitBit) climbing the equivalent of 14 flights of stairs and ending up with over 7,000 steps that day without hitting the gym.

So we didn’t expect great things on the scale this week (after all, we weren’t exactly GOOD), so we were quite pleased with these post-vacation results:

  • Jason: +1
  • Jenny: -0.2

Neither of us has a ton of weight to “catch up” on and I even managed to have a tiny loss. Not bad for a fun vacation where we didn’t track and enjoyed a few indulgences. Now to make sure we stay on track pretty strict this week so it doesn’t catch up with us next week!

Guest Post: Exercising Right During Cancer Treatments

Today’s post is brought to you by one of our readers, Melanie Bowen, a blogger at Mesothelioma.com

There is no denying the many benefits of exercise, many of which people do not realize the extent they can be helpful. Exercise is not only great for people who desire to shed unwanted pounds, build their muscles, and develop more lung capacity; it is also very beneficial for cancer patients. Many health care professionals encourage cancer patients to exercise each day.

Mesothelioma and other forms of cancer are very aggressive; however, exercise can even help patients who are battling these diseases. As cancer patients undergo treatments, exercise can help to decrease the possibility of dying from the disease. Also, exercise will allow these patients to become stronger, and once they become stronger, the length of their recovery period will decrease. Cancer patients should strive to exercise because they will see improvements in all of their daily functions, including their motor functions, their level of energy, and their overall strength.

One of the most beneficial types of exercise for cancer patients is aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise allows the patients to increase their bod’ antioxidant levels. As the antioxidant levels become higher, their bodies will be able to fight off the cancer cells more aggressively. Once cancer patients begin their treatment procedures, they should begin practicing some form of aerobic exercise. Although there are many different forms of aerobic exercise, the best types include cycling, walking, and swimming. However, the patients should be sure to engage in light workouts. If patients participate in more strenuous types of exercise, they can cause more harm to their bodies.

In addition to aerobic exercise, patients should also engage in strength training exercises. Cancer treatments will cause the body to become very weak and fragile. Unfortunately, when their bodies become weaker, they will be more likely to have fractures or torn muscles. However, if the patients engage in strength training exercises, their muscles and bones will become stronger, and their chances of experiencing fractures or torn muscles will be decreased. Also, once the cancer treatments begin, the patients will experience a lot of fatigue, but if the patients are gaining stronger muscles, they will have more energy to handle the treatments.

Exercise also has emotional effects that can help cancer patients cope with their disease. Exercising releases endorphins throughout the body, which boost the mood and increase relaxation. Endorphins help combat depression, which is common with a cancer diagnosis, and help you have a deeper, longer sleep. Regardless of the many benefits of exercise during cancer treatments, patients should always talk with their doctors before they start any type of exercise.

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