Happy Holler-ween

As the sluttiest of all holidays, Halloween is a great time to enjoy those weight loss results.

Here is what I look like now:

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neanderthal

And here is what I used to look like just a few years ago:

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yikes!

Just in case you think I’m particularly strong in the willpower department, I can assure you that I’m not.

I’m also not particularly hard-working, never deny myself chocolate, and NEVER exercise unless I actually want to (that said, I enjoy walking).

I’ve struggled with weight for a long time, and it took me a lifetime to figure out what works for me. For me, it boils down to three things:

  1. Keeping bad stuff out of the house;
  2. Setting myself up for success (ie.. understanding the reality of willpower depletion, and knowing my own weaknesses);
  3. Eating mostly veg, and a little bit of everything else

This is not just about looks.  It’s about empowerment mental health, and also physical health.  It’s about being a version of yourself that you are genuinely proud of.

Living a lifestyle that allows you to feel and look your best is not easy, but it’s also not that hard.  Every person deserves to look as beautiful and vivacious on the outside as they feel on the inside.  You just need to figure out what works for you. And never give up on yourself.  Past results are NOT binding! 

If you find yourself in a bad place now, just know that I’ve been there, and so have my friends and co-contributors to this blog. I don’t mean to say you’re not good enough as you are, but rather that you should live the full life you want to live.

You don’t have to lose a billion pounds this week, and you don’t have to run a marathon today.  Just make one small change and stick to it this week.  Next week, try another.

If I can do it, then anyone can do it.  Put in the effort now, and make the small changes.  By next Halloween, you’ll be strutting your stuff with the best of them 🙂

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How a Blank Calendar Can Help You Lose Weight

Dun Dun Dun! Introducing, one of the most powerful (and understated) weight loss tools in the known universe. A blank calendar for the month of November 2016.

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The Power of a Blank Calendar

You might have read my earlier post about the fresh start hypothesis.  If so, you know that a clean slate (for example, a new month or week) can either help or hurt your weight loss efforts, depending on your own circumstances.

The blank calendar is mighty.  Why?

  • It’s a great way to leverage the positive psychological benefits of “starting fresh.”
  • It forces you to break a large daunting goal into smaller, more immediate goals (which translates to a higher rate of sustained motivation and success).
  • The concrete action of writing your goals down might alone be enough to keep you sticking to them
  • It can serve as a visual reminder of the bigger picture, which helps when motivation starts to wane
  • It’s effectively free! (Provided you have access to a computer and printer).

How to Use a Blank Calendar for Weight Loss

Step One. Find a printable blank calendar (I googled “blank calendar 2016”) and print said calendar
Step Two. Choose an achievable weight loss goal for one month (for example, 8 pounds). Subtract this goal from your current weight, and write your new goal weight the last day of the month.
Step Four. Create weekly weight loss goals, and write each new weekly weight at the end of each week.
Step Five. Surrender to the blank calendar (optional).
Step Six. Tape the calendar somewhere visible.
Step Seven. At the end of each week, reevaluate your goals. If you lost more than your weekly goal, you can change your next weekly goal post to reflect your current weight. If you lost less than your weekly goal, you can do the same. The key is that you can keep adjusting your goals as you get closer to the end of the month. (For more details, see this post.)

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Your calendar might look something like this.

But How Do I Actually Lose Weight?

Obviously, the calendar itself is not a weight loss plan.  It’s just a tool to help you stay organized and to improve your stick-to-itness.

As far as losing the weight itself – there are plenty of different ways.  The right way will depend largely on your own circumstances and preferences, but removing processed foods and focusing on a plant based diet will likely go a long way.  In any event, you need to do what works for you.

Additional Uses of the Blank Calendar

In addition to using the blank calendar to plan your weight goals, you can also use the blank calendar to plan concrete actions on specific days to help you reach those goals.

These actions can be related to food intake or to exercise. Just remember to keep your actions achievable.

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Example of calendar with concrete behavioral actions

Also, keep in mind that missing one day doesn’t mean you should give up on the rest.  In fact, you will be better off if you plan for failure.

Rewards.  You can also use weekly or monthly rewards for making your goals (mani-pedi, anyone?).  Just remember not to be too hard on yourself if you miss a week.  Weight is weird, and it’s not the best measure of fat loss. On my own weight loss journey, I found that I lost weight 3 out of 4 weeks.

If you try this method, let me know how it works out for you.

If you have any thoughts on modifications, I’d love to hear those also.

Happy calendaring 🙂

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Dream Big, Plan Small

Sandwich with avocado and poached egg

Regardless of how you plan to get into shape, there is one psychological trick that I believe will be helpful to most.  You have to dream big, and you have to plan small. 

By dream big, I’m referring to your ultimate goal. Visualize it, taste it.  It can and will be yours, no matter how far away it seems right now.

You don’t have to write it down, you don’t have to meditate on it.  In fact, now it’s time to  (for the most part) throw it away. Because it doesn’t matter how big your dream is if you aren’t able to break it down into smaller parts.

By plan small, I don’t mean anything specific. But here is the general idea. Imagine that your “dream big” goal is to lose 50 pounds. Realistically, you think you can do that in 5-6 months. Assuming you’re starting in November, you should safely be able to hit that goal by May (losing 8 – 10 pounds a month).

Now – imagine yourself in the springtime, 50 pounds lighter and feeling so free. Wonderful! But in order to get there, realize that right now, 40 of those 50 pounds don’t matter. What matters is that you lost the first 10 pounds. The prospect of losing 10 pounds is much less daunting than the prospect of spending the next 5 months trying to lose a total of 50. So the last step is to forget the rest, and plan small.

Your “plan small” goal is now to lose 8 – 10 pounds in the month of November.  How are you going to do that? I don’t know. There are a million different ways. But here are a few tips that might be helpful:

It might be a good idea to plan even smaller. Forget 8-10 pounds this November, how about 2 pounds this week?  How about .3 pounds today?

One Small Caveat

Planning small is great, with one caveat.  The smaller you plan, the more you need to realize that fluctuations will happen while still losing fat. This is especially true for females as we go through our cycle.

If your goal is to lose two pounds a week, realize that you might do everything you can but still not lose those two pounds in any particular week. Assuming you are doing everything right, you might lose 1 pound one week, and 4 pounds in another.  This is the nature of attempting to measure fat by  using weight – it’s far from perfect. So you have to be sufficiently psychologically healthy that you will survive apparent disappointments (which really, are not disappointments at all).

My Method

When I first decided to lose weight, I printed out a blank calendar for a period of one month. I subtracted 10 pounds from my starting weight, and wrote in that new weight on the last day of the month. I knew I had 60+ pounds to lose, but unlike any of my previous efforts, I decided to just focus to the here and now.

In order to reach 10 pounds by the end of the month, I’d have to lose 2.5 pounds a week.  So I subtracted 2.5 pounds from my current weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the first week. I then subtracted 2.5 pounds from that weight, and wrote it in on the last day of the second week. I did this one more time, and voila – I now have 4 weeks and 4 goals.

I realize that 2.5 pounds is a lot of weight to lose consistently week after week, but because this was my first month – I figured I’d be losing a lot of water. I decided that even if I only lost 8 pounds by the end of the month, I’d consider it a huge success. In fact, any weight loss would put me in a better position than I’d been in at the beginning of the month.

In any event, I’d now start out on my first week, not thinking about the three weeks to come. My only goal this week is to lose 2.5 pounds.  When I reach the end of the first week, I’d write my new weight down.  If I lost exactly 2.5 pounds, I’d leave my goals as is. If I lost less, I’d adjust my goals to only 2 pounds per week. If I lost more, I would adjust my goals so that they reflect 2.5 pounds per week starting from my new weight (but still only until the end of the month).  Even if I gained weight, my new weekly goal is just to lose 2.5 from my new weight.

The effect is that no matter what, my goal is always “lose 2.5 pounds (or 2 pounds) this week.” The month is not important, and the goal re-sets each week.

Here is what I found. Three out of four times, I met or exceeded my weekly goal. Usually about once a month, I lost slightly less than my goal, and very rarely I gained.

Over time, this method worked for me.  My mind is overcrowded, and I’m sure yours is too. We want to fast forward to the future, but things just seem to work out better when we try our best to focus on the here and now.

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Falling into Fatness

8t8r2rr

As a basic millennial of the female type, I am under enormous pressure to enjoy Fall.

Yes, I’m white. Female. Twenty-something.  I understand well what my obligations are.

Boots are cute, everything is orange, and all the pumpkins have features carved into them. I get it. And I don’t mean to distance myself from my cohort, but I just don’t enjoy Autumn.  (Except, of course, for all the dogs in costumes.)

Fall makes me cold, and when I’m cold I want to eat creamy delicious things called “food.” When the leaves drop off, my body begins to sense that Winter is coming. This bodes poorly for my upper arms.

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my only consolation

In Summer, hot long days bring me joy and food barely crosses my mind.  During Fall, I sometimes find myself wondering how the fella adjacent to me on the subway would taste drenched in Nutella.

Speaking of which, I had a rough weekend.

I ate a jar of Nutella – the whole jar. (In all fairness to me, it happened over a two day period. But also, I ate it with buttery crackers).

This is what happens in Fall. Bad bad things. Bad chocolatey things.

I don’t consider eating a jar of Nutella a setback, actually. And I’m not “Falling” into Fatness.

My former self would ruminate, and to be perfectly honest – my current self is doing some of that also. But my current self also has a sense of proportion: Nutella happens, life goes on.

Fall is an easy time to put on weight for me, as I suspect it is for many people. But the key, I think, is to allow yourself to let go a little and remind yourself that not every decision needs to be a great decision.  The important thing is that you regularly make good decisions.

There is no such thing as falling off the bandwagon. There is no such thing as “all or nothing.” To the extent these things exist, they are products of your own imagination. Products of my own imagination, and I’ve lived with them for years.

This weekend I ate an entire jar of Nutella. With crackers. But today, I’ll eat eggs and veggies. I love eggs and veggies, and I’ll enjoy the contrast.

I don’t think weight maintenance should be such a tricky thing. It’s hard as long as you make it hard, and for me, it’s harder in the colder months.

My simple tricks are these:

  1. don’t freak out;
  2. don’t keep tempting caloric things in the house;
  3. don’t avoid the scale (catch problems while they’re small)
  4. exercise if you want (long walks are nice)

I’m also going to try a bit harder to find joy in the colder months. Starting with cute new Fall boots, and MAYBE (just maybe) a new fitness regimen 🙂

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