How quickly the pounds creep up when you stop paying close attention.
After my last post about how wonderful and successful I had been at keeping the weight down and under control, I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s giving myself more “allowances” than usual. I also got pretty lackadaisical about tracking, which is a strategy that has time and again proven to work for me when I stick with it consistently. That week demonstrated just how important the routine of tracking is to keep me…well…on track.
The Tuesday before the new year, we took a little road trip to Pennsylvania to drop off my daughter at a friend’s house and stopped at a place to eat. Cracker Barrel, to be specific. I don’t think I’ve ever eaten at a Cracker Barrel, so I figured we’d give it a try. I’ve been doing very well over the last several months, and one meal of “yikes!” wasn’t going to do me in.
Cracker Barrel is a southern country restaurant; a kitchy place, where you walk in and you are suddenly immersed in the gift shop, an experience which I liken to the exit of a Disney ride. Only at Cracker Barrel, they get you coming and going. You can’t escape it. They sell everything from cast iron cookware to clothing to 10-pound Hershey bars to sparkly things, and then some. If you want something you’ll never actually use, shop at Cracker Barrel.
We all sat down, excited to be dining with friends in public, and looked at the menu. I decided to have the Sunrise Sampler, a full breakfast, with eggs, hash browns, grits, a ham steak and sautéed apples. It was WAY more than I was used to eating for breakfast, but I knew it was only going to be one meal and I felt like a little indulgence. When the meal was served, plate after plate was laid out on the table. Plus, a basket brimming with biscuits and corn muffins for the table to share. I knew I was walking into some trouble. I took a breath and promised myself that I’d pull back over the next week or so and reset myself into the good habits to which I had grown accustomed.
We also visited that same Cracker Barrel five days after the first visit when we picked up my daughter, only this time, I decided to have a much more sensible broiled trout, string beans and turnip greens, supposedly a ‘healthy choice” at about 400-ish calories. I now know that I’ve avoided restaurants like Cracker Barrel with good reason. If you look at their menu, even though they offer those lower calorie “healthy choices,” they are so laden with salt that the fat content that is missing is replaced with sodium, making your body retain every possible molecule of H2O for days to counteract the sudden imbalance in your blood. I took one bite of the “healthy” greens and I thought I was consuming a salt lick. According to my nutritionist, when you have a heavy salt day, it can take over two days for your body to overcome that. If you are not used to drinking eight cups of non-caffeinated fluids per day, I imagine it can last even longer than that. On the scale, it can also add about three pounds of water weight to your system.
Problem is, when you give yourself allowances without carefully tracking them, you tend to forget what you’ve put into your body. You also tend to fall into a pattern of mindlessness and entitlement that leads you back to where you started. I was allowing myself a pecan bar for dessert for several nights, because I made them for Christmas Day and we had some left that I didn’t want to go to waste. I made them, and I knew what was in them, but they were small, so one small dessert wasn’t going to do much damage, right? We also went to a New Year’s Day dinner, where there were lots of finger food, appetizers, main meal and dessert. Since that food is so good, and you don’t want to insult the host, you eat the food. And don’t forget the wine – several glasses worth.
See where I’m going with this? The “allowance” for one meal was actually a series of “allowances” over the course of an entire week.
Four days after that second visit to Cracker Barrel, I visited my nutritionist. Even though I had gone back to my healthy habits, I knew it wasn’t going to look good, so I told her that the week between Christmas and New Year’s was a tough one for food choices. My weigh-in was 170. I was disappointed in myself, but I went through that week knowing what I was doing. Mindful-mindlessness. I also knew that when I returned to work that Monday, I resumed the the diligent tracking. I weighed myself on Friday morning, and the scale was back down to 164.6. Seemed odd, a five-pound difference in just over 12 hours, so I checked in with her. She confirmed that if I had a higher sodium intake in the last 2 days prior to the elevated weight, there can easily be a 3-pound swing. Yikes.
This is how sensitive our bodies are, especially as we get older. If we can understand how our individual bodies interact with the food we eat, as well as the natural cycles we go through, we can come back from a week of indulgence. I will likely never step foot in another Cracker Barrel; as good as the bad food was, it wasn’t enough for me to endure another disappointment of a significant backslide.
So now, I’m back to snacking on fruit and air-popped popcorn, which sounds…dull, but is actually more comforting to me, because I know that in the end, it will keep my heart healthy and my weight in check. I see the big picture, which is important to be able make good choices. I’ve trained myself, over time, to know how to be successful in getting to and staying at a healthier weight. I’m glad I navigated this slightly bumpy road; it was a good test of how I handle that kind of temptation.