May 31st, 2012
Summer is here again. It’s that time of year when you rotate into the clothes that suddenly dispel any ambiguity about what kind of shape you’re in. At the same time, you’re stuck at home with the kids, hour upon hour, day after unemployed day, just a quick grab away from endless quantities of tempting carbohydrates. Such a magical time. Well, why not make the diet blog a regular summer activity?
I see that it has been almost a year since I posted here, and that my weight when I stopped was pretty close to where my scale says I am right now. This particular scale, for what it’s worth, is not reliable; yesterday it said 142.5, and today, 147. Repeatedly, in both cases. So, damn the scale. But the clothes don’t lie: I know I’m in a little better shape than I was at the end of last summer, but only a little. I’ve been in and out of regular exercise over the past year. My standard is around twenty minutes of yoga and pilates first thing in the morning; sometimes treadmill instead of the yoga. I haven’t put in more than twenty minutes at a time on on the treadmill for several months, mainly because last summer, when I was on the treadmill four nights a week for four miles at a time, I never saw any results. Even after three weeks of daily work with a personal trainer. My endurance went up, over time, but I didn’t lose weight.
The failure to lose weight last summer, I think, comes down to a few things. One is that I never really gave up sugar and alcohol; I cut back, but I didn’t eliminate them entirely. The other is that I was going off of Prozac at the time. I really did bust my bumpus at the gym and at home, and I really did cut back on food quite a bit, so I think that if I hadn’t done those things, going off the drug would have resulted in some weight gain. Yet, I’m still looking pretty much like how I looked last year. I look at pictures of myself from last summer, and I think about how hard I was working at it, and it’s very discouraging. I doubt I look much better now. My muscle tone and posture are better (and my hair is longer) but I’m wearing the same clothes, so I don’t think I’m looking much better in reality. I keep one of last year’s vacation snapshots on the fridge to remind me that I need to step it up if I’m going to see results this year.
What’s on the slate this summer: I’m one week into a month-long effort to eliminate snacking. That seems like a small thing, but it’s such an ingrained habit that I am putting some effort and strategy into stopping it. I’m using techniques I picked up from Charles Duhigg’s The Power of Habit: each day I write up a little table and I make a mark every time I put something in my mouth outside of meals and scheduled snacks. I make a mark in a different column every time I am tempted to eat something but do not. In a third column, I make a mark when I put something in my mouth that is a vegetable. (This is inspired by somebody’s standup routine (or was it the Onion?) that suggested Americans could benefit from eating a goddamned vegetable every now and then: when you want to eat something, instead of stuffing your face with cookies, you stick a goddamn carrot in your piehole. This struck me as sound advice.) That column doesn’t have as many checks in it, for what it’s worth. But in any case, I’m making progress; I’m breaking the habit. Duhigg argues that it takes a solid month of consistent work to really change a habit, and that it’s self-defeating to try to change more than one at a time. So, this month I’m working on not snacking. I’ll check in on how that goes.