I’m a few days away from 8 weeks since I started my fitness and weight loss plan. I’ve lost 9 lbs as of today and am still really, really happy with the plan. I feel that this is something I will be able to sustain over the long term, and even if I slip up a bit I will have the tools and the know-how to correct that.
It has become interesting to see how my approach to food has changed. Tracking calories seems to naturally result in the development of a “calorie economy”, where choices are made based on your daily budget, much as you might choose how to spend money. You consider 1) whether you can afford it, 2) how long it will take to “pay if off”, and 3) whether the price is worth the reward.
Sticking to a budget and having a goal really helps with the first point. If the calories aren’t available, I don’t eat. Of course, you have to make sure that you are not starving yourself or hungry at the end of the day. With practice I have learned what meals are satisfying and what leaves me hungry soon afterwards. I generally eat a light breakfast and lunch so that I can enjoy a filling dinner and I usually have room for a small treat in the evening. By divvying up my calories this way I don’t “run out of money before the end of the month” and still have room for what I want.
With regard to the second point, it is possible to overindulge one day if you are willing to underindulge the next. For example, on a couple of occasions I’ve gone out and eaten rich meals at restaurants (we had relatives visiting from overseas) and had a high calorie day as a result. But the next day I found that I wasn’t very hungry and it was easy to eat lighter. How long you have to eat lighter will depend, of course, on how much you overindulged. But by tracking calories it is easy to figure this out. Of course, it is not easy to sustain a lighter-than-usual intake so I make sure that my overindulgence can be made up for within a day or two at the most. As with credit cards, you can pay it off in installments if it only takes a month or two, but eventually you will want to buy something else and if you are still paying off the first item it will lead to trouble (note: this is just an analogy; I don’t believe in carrying a balance on my credit cards!).
In terms of the third point, like every savvy shopper you make a decision as to whether the purchased item is worth the price. I was in Starbucks the other day. I just had tea with a bit of milk and sugar, but I grabbed a couple of “nutritional information” pamphlets and perused them while I sipped. I was floored, absolutely floored, by how calorie-laden their food is. And it’s not even tasty! I find their food dry and stale most of the time, which is why I rarely eat there. I do, however, like their ginger molasses cookies and have, on occasion, indulged in one thinking “how bad can one cookie be?”. I could not believe that it was almost 400 calories for one of those!!! I eat less than that at breakfast or lunch! Imagine trading an entire meal for one cookie, and not even being the best cookie you’ve ever tasted! Definitely not worth it. I will likely never eat one of those cookies again. I’d rather bake my own – far more tasty and far less calories!
Sometimes the treat is worth the price. In another example, I love chocolate covered almonds. Every now and then I would treat myself to a bag. A couple of weeks ago I was in the grocery store craving them so I decided to buy a bag – I’d been good and reached a new low that week. I ended up eating the whole bag, and yes it was quite delicious and satisfying. But it was also over 1000 calories, which is about 2/3 of my daily goal. Over the next couple of days my weight went up a bit and then back down – it took me about a week to recover from that indulgence. I don’t regret eating them, but I know that it will be a rare occasion when I will indulge in such a treat again.
My original goal was to lose 15 lbs. I am past the halfway mark now and am fitting into clothes I couldn’t comfortably wear before (I also had a pair of shorts almost fall right down in the grocery store; I now need a belt with them). I could have lost more weight by now if I had never “overindulged” at all, but because I don’t have much to lose, relatively speaking, it’s not slowing things down too badly, and it’s a price I’m willing to pay for the right occasion (Dim Sum!). Mostly I feel like I have control over my eating and my weight, and it is very much like the control one feels when one is budgeting their money. You can indulge in the occasional treat knowing you have accounted for it and the lack of guilt makes it that much more enjoyable!