Monday, November 23, 2009

Can You Take a Break?

A very common complaint of dieters is that they get so sick of having to be aware of everything they put in their mouths and constantly counting calories or points. They want to be able to eat “like everyone else” and not have to work so hard at this. They’re particularly jealous of thin people who seem to be able to eat whatever they want and still stay skinny.

This is definitely a complaint I’ve thought, felt and said through the years. I’ve gone so far as to say I’m going to take a break from keeping a food diary and stop obsessing about how many calories I’m eating. I’d often do this for a vacation, a business trip, a holiday or just whenever I needed a break.

The problem with this was that my old, bad habits were waiting to embrace me with open arms and I almost always gained weight. Whenever I went home to Connecticut for the holidays or vacation, it seemed like open season on overeating started as soon as I hit the airport. The smell of Cinnabuns or Five Guys would call my name so strongly that I’d kick off my trip by eating almost my whole calorie allotment for the day in one sitting.

I don’t want to do this the week I’m in Connecticut for Thanksgiving or later in December for Christmas. I’ve thought long and hard about how I can prevent this. I don’t plan to count points/calories on Thanksgiving Day, but I do plan to do that on the other days I’m out of town.

There have been previous trips home for Thanksgiving when I did not gain weight, and that was when I got a travel pass for the gym and worked out at a local Gold’s while in Connecticut. I got my travel pass yesterday and plan to work out both in November and late December.

My accomplishments on my journey to become healthy have inspired my Mom to go back to Weight Watchers and my Dad to try to lose weight. I know my Mom and I can encourage each other to be good starting Friday. I plan to go to a Weight Watchers meeting with her after Thanksgiving to put a stop to the holiday.

To further counterbalance the fear that I’ll gain a lot of weight at home – something that I could obsess over too much and let ruin my vacation – I’ve also given myself credit for what I’ve accomplished this year. I have changed a lot of my bad habits. I just can’t eat as much as I used to. Even if I could, there’s no way I could regain 30 pounds in one week. The stakes aren’t that high.

Furthermore, I’ve paid attention to my “thin” friends when they were eating enough the past couple of years to realize that I typically ate more than them at any one sitting. For the most part, they practiced much better portion control and balanced their calories in and calories out better than I did. This allowed me to stop being so jealous of how easy it was for them to be thin because I realized that they weren’t thin because they hit some genetic jackpot. They were thin because of healthy behaviors.

Realizing this allowed me to concentrate just on myself and what I need to do to change my life in terms of diet and fitness. I can finally say that I am on a lifestyle change and not a diet. There is no break from that. Even if I do gain weight while home for Thanksgiving, I’ll lose it once I return. I really am changing my life here and a blip here or a blip there is not going to keep me from continuing my journey to becoming and staying a healthy writer.

Do you take breaks from your efforts to become healthy? Do you have any good strategies for not allowing a break to keep you off track? Do you have any strategies for not gaining weight while on vacation or during the holidays?


Elise Hayes on November 23, 2009 at 8:08 AM said...

Hey Michelle!

What you're saying about the holidays makes a lot of sense to me. People do eat more at Thanksgiving. That's why it's called a feast. But we can balance that with exercise and--the following week--eating a bit less.

I definitely up my exercise around holiday times, to help make up for the extra calories I'm consuming. The fact that it's a holiday also makes that easier. On a weekday, I only have 20-30 minutes for exercise in the morning. But on holidays and weekends, I can turn that into a 40-minute run.

The exercise time can also be a nice bit of "alone" time during a family holiday. I do love spending time with family and friends, but I need a little time alone to recharge my batteries, too. So the exercise does double-duty for me :)

Happy Thanksgiving!

Michelle Butler on November 23, 2009 at 10:23 AM said...

Thanks, Elise! It's good to hear how you have learned to balance it all. I was finding myself just obsessing over what would happen in the next week in terms of possible weight gain, and I had to work it out before I left town.

Theresa Ragan on November 23, 2009 at 2:35 PM said...

Thanks for the blog, Michelle. I have been thinking way too much about what i will and/or will not eat on thanksgiving day and through the holidays. I can't stand how difficult this is for me. I LOVE candy and I know if I don't set some rules for myself I'm going to gain back weight that took me a long time to take off. After a trip to Nepal I was sick and I lost 10 pounds. I've gained every pound back and I'm mad at myself. I really thought I had found the magic pill...water from India...but I was wrong. If it comes off fast, it comes back even faster. Darn. I really really want to lost that last ten pounds, but I really really like pumpkin pie and mashed potatoes. I exercise a lot and I don't eat that much but I eat enough to keep those ten pounds from leaving my thighs. It bugs me that food has so much control over me. I ate cookies this weekend and while I was running on the treadmill this morning, I was thinking, "were the cookies worth it?" The answer is no, but I don't have any tips to share except that I think your plan and attitude is inspiring and I'm going to do some planning, too, so I don't gain weight over the holidays.


Michelle Butler on November 23, 2009 at 3:46 PM said...

Thanks, Theresa. Have you read Kessler's book? He really does talk about food obsessions.

I would say that you may want to allow yourself some mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie at least once. If I were to try to deny myself both over the next week, I might break down and inhale a big chunk of pie in one sitting because I felt so incredibly deprived.

Best of luck! You can figure out something that will work for you.

Michelle Butler on November 30, 2009 at 2:30 PM said...

Update: My strategies worked! I went to a WW meeting with my mom this morning, and I lost half a pound this week. What an accomplishment!

My mom lost too.

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