food journaling... a year later

i'm not sure how many of you know this about me, but last year before thanksgiving break i decided to start keeping track of the food i ate in a food journal. it's been a year and i've decided to share my some insights i've discovered about myself in the past year. do you want to hear the end results now or should i save that for later? hmmm, i think i'll save that. you'll just have to read on, i suppose.

so, here's the background info:
i was athletic in high school and college, loved running and playing soccer, and never had to be "careful" about food. i gained weight so very gradually during college and post-college that i didn't ever experience any major "warning signs." i remember taking nutrition class at KSU and keeping a food log for a week and thinking that pastaroni and bagels were healthy foods. what the what?? hahaha! delusions of a sporty-girl addicted to carbs! so, over the course of the 8-10 years after high school i steadily gained weight and found myself frustrated, annoyed, and embarrassed. frustrated because i really did NOT want to inconvenience myself with having to be thoughtful about what i ate or having to workout to maintain weight instead of just enjoying it. annoyed because i could not do what i used to be able to do physically and, as you all know, i'm highly competitive, with myself especially. so that was a problem. and embarrassed because so much of my confidence, what i liked about myself, was my athleticism, my sporty-girl identity, and a high level of activity. i was even a personal trainer, but kept gaining weight throughout the entire time i was employed as a trainer. it was embarrassing.

the necessary kick-in-the-ass:
so last year i was playing indoor soccer 2-3 times a week for a few hours, which i loved. but i ended up with a stress fracture in my hip that left me unable to run or do anything high impact for 6 weeks to several months. i was so discouraged when i discovered this because i was barely maintaining my weight and now i would not be able to maintain my high activity level. it turns out that was exactly the kick in the pants that i needed! i decided to find an online food journal. it was the week before thanksgiving and i felt like a crazy person for starting to track food right before holidays, but i thought, "what have i got to lose?"

the so-laid-back-it-can't-be-mendy-buchheister/hutson's-plan plan:
1. so, for the first week of tracking food, i allowed myself to continue to eat what had become "normal" for me so that i would get an accurate picture of the situation.
2. i set a weight loss goal for myself for the next year that i felt was both ambitious and achievable. i calculated that to lose 30 lbs in a year i would need to average about .6 lb weight loss per week. that is not unreasonable when you break it down that way, in my opinion. but it was crazy to think that in a year's time i would be back to the weight i was in 2002! the online food journal automatically calculates the net total of calories to consume in a day based on my height, weight, and weight loss goal of .6 lb per week. it was not unreasonable, so i was feeling optimistic.
3. i made a rule for myself that i would make NO rules for myself other than to daily log my food. this was big for me, because i'm a rule-follower to a fault and i didn't want to set myself up for devastation by creating a list of food do's and don'ts right before the holidays. in fact the only other rule i adopted was that i was allowed to have a binge day once per week. more on that later.
4. i anticipated the glitches. i knew that perfectionistic me would overanalyze and stress over how accurate the calories were and i just decided to let it bother me for the first week or so and then get over it! i figured that even if the online tracker wasn't 100% accurate, i was still doing something to monitor the food i consume which is better than nothing. i also knew that i may plateau and not have weight loss that looked like a perfect negatively trending graph. i knew that regular exercise was going to be tough with the stress fracture and then the stress of school... all potential obstacles.

the craziest part of the whole experience is how much my anxiety over food/appearance/weight decreased almost immediately. by anticipating glitches it took the surprise attack element away from any obstacle that i encountered. by giving myself a binge day it took away the stress of a "bad" eating day that normally would have turned into a bad eating month for me. i didn't have guilt or shame over a binge day because i had planned to have one. so, the next day i was able to get back on the proverbial horse instead of flogging myself with the guilt! i didn't stress over periods of slow or no progress because i knew that i was doing all the right things and that it would eventually work itself out. i didn't stress about how long it would take me to lose weight because i could relish the idea of the next milestone (i remember thinking, "i can't believe that by my birthday i will have lost 10 lbs!" or "by summer i will be feeling so much better!"). i didn't cut anything out of my diet, still enjoyed eating out, drinking soda, and other favorites, but just didn't overdo it. if you're reading this still, you probably know me well, which means you probably know how big of a stress-ball i am almost every minute of every day of my entire life. so, you understand how big of a deal it was to have all of that ANXIETY lifted off of me. i think that i lost the first 10 lbs in anxiety alone. not using hyperbole, i'm sure it's a scientific fact, sure of it.

from march to may i saw almost zero progress. the stressy mendy would have freaked out, but i reminded myself that it was the most stressful time of the school year which is probably having an impact on the #'s. i told myself that i would reevaluate at the beginning of summer and kick the workouts into a higher gear. so, over the summer i started running a little bit for the first time since the stress fracture, enjoying running trails which kept me injury free, and i swam almost every day at the outdoor pool, which i loved because it was like being a kid again (shout out to manhattan city pool!). by the time the school year started in august i finally felt like i was starting to SEE a difference. after getting back on track with weight loss over the summer, i plateaued again for the first 2 months of school, but i started training for a half marathon again (something i hadn't done in 3.5 years!), and could feel myself getting stronger and healthier. even though i did not lose lbs during that time i really started to notice a difference in the fit of my clothes, so that's fun!

the end results:
i ran my first half marathon since 2008 on november 20. i did not hit a PR by any means, BUT i felt so much more fit from this training than i had for the previous 5 half marathons i had done. i was more disciplined and consistent during this training than ever before. AND i made myself a plan for maintaining the long distances starting the week immediately after the event. always before i was so exhausted after the half that i wouldn't do anything for weeks afterwards, then i'd have to start back from scratch. well, not this time! not only do i feel more fit, but i've had basically no knee problems, no shin splints, no plantar fasciitis, etc. awesome!
secondly, i did manage to lose 25-30 lbs in the last year, just like i had set out to do! i was not sure if i was going to hit that goal or not, but i had determined not to beat myself up over it if i didn't because for a whole year i was faithful to the food journal and i only made forward progress or plateaued, never gained any weight, not even 1 lb. in the end, though, i came really darn close to the goal and am continuing on with my next goal for the next year. so, i'm feeling really pretty good.

i know weight is such a sensitive issue and it's hard not to sound braggy when we talk about our successes. but i'm pretty proud of the progress i've made and feel like i learned some valuable insights about myself. so, i thought i'd share.


Paprika said...

I didn't know you were doing this! What's the site? I like that you set realistic goals and that you were able to be more relaxed about "glitches" and such. Way to go girl! 25-30 lbs. is awesome!

Mendy said...

livestrong.com is the site. i started out using fitday.com, but then over the summer switched to livestrong.
Erika - you of all people will appreciate how UN-neurotic i've been while doing this... it's like the anxiety i normally have about food is just GONE. it makes life so much easier.