Can you give up tracking?
One of the strategies I used, fairly religiously, when I was in the weight-loss zone was tracking my food. It had become a daily habit which kept me honest and accountable. There was rarely a day or a meal that didn’t get logged. Though laborious, I got so used to the process that it became like brushing my teeth or putting deodorant on; it was just something I did every day.
Several years ago, I went through a similar process. I focused on the nutrition numbers, tracked everything, made sure I was hydrating and exercising, and the weight slowly came off. Trouble was, at some point, probably around this time, I gave it up thinking that I didn’t need it anymore. I’d lost the weight, I was eating well, and doing everything I needed to maintain. Lots of the weight crept back over time, but since I was busy and active, and the gain happened slowly, I didn’t really take much notice; until I went to my yearly endocrinologist check.
I see an endocrinologist once a year as a check in, since I had my thyroid removed in my twenties. I’m one of the few people who my doctor is happy to see, since I’m not going in for some metabolic disaster like diabetes or Graves disease. Just a vitals check, blood work, and a discussion of how things are going. Oh yeah, and a weight check. My doctor has been reminding me that it would be best for me to lose about 10 pounds because at my age, as I get closer to…ahem…menopause, my hormones will become my enemy, slowing my metabolism down and making it almost impossible to prevent weight gain due to being an aging woman.
This was the wake up call. When he said my ideal weight would be 165 (bringing my BMI just into the “normal” range) I almost choked. I’m a tall chick. At 5’7 1/2″ (I lost a half inch somewhere along the line) I haven’t been that weight since maybe college. The best I had ever done as an adult was 168, and that was a lucky week that I never saw again. How I would get to my target weight and stay there was beyond me. It was time to re-think things with the nutritionist. We made a plan and I stuck to it. (You can read more about the plan in episodes 1, 2 and 3.)
Back to tracking…
For five months, I was a tracking beast. Then December and January hit, the and between the crush of the holidays and time off from the schedule of work, my senses were overwhelmed and the daily habitual practice waned. I definitely loosened the reins on my food allowances and I definitely saw the difference on the scale. It was a couple of pounds, but there’s a direct relationship that I could see right away. I was sort of curious if I had the ability to maintain my weight loss without it, or if I would just be permanently relegated to writing down every morsel of food that I consumed. I was going back to work in person; we had been back to remote learning for a prolonged mold and asbestos abatement in our building (Read Shifting back to remote and Education’s worst nightmare to learn more about that debacle). I wondered if I was well-trained enough to get rid of the few hoiday pounds and then do the maintenance without the crutch of the tracking app. There was only one way to find out.
I have become very mindful of the decisions that I have to make from moment to moment when I consider food options. For example, sometimes I go over to 7-Eleven in the middle of the workday to pick up a quick cup of coffee so I have a little caffeine boost for the second half of my day. I happen to be a rewards member so that I can get a free cup of coffee every once in a while. Every so often, they randomly plunk down a blueberry muffin for free as part of my rewards program. Of course I look at the muffin and think I could eat that right now, but something stops me. I really don’t want to go back to the labors of tracking. So, I walk back to the school with my cup of coffee and muffin and decide that a student probably would enjoy (and appreciate) that muffin even more than I would. Surprisingly, it’s a tougher decision than you would think, given all of the months of careful food choices that I’ve been making. It still takes some significant willpower to make the choice to let it go.
The food tracking was a valuable tool to get me in a new mental habit while my body adjusted to eating differently and kept me honest with what I was actually eating. It gave me an accurate representation of what my macros were, how many calories I was actually consuming, and helped to space my food throughout the day so I didn’t go too long without fuel. My nutritionist keeps reminding me that I should never go more than 3-4 hours without having a carbohydrate serving to keep my energy and metabolism at its peak. The logging practice was a bit of a Zen one – prepare some food, track it, and eat, which would get me the right amount of fuel.
Despite that, I kept relaxed about tracking, but continued my morning weigh ins. At least I would be able to see from day to day what I was doing and how it was affecting me. Data can be a helpful tool. Fortunately, the practice of tracking trained me well. The newly-established mental habits seem of have stuck. Knowing that there are natural weight fluctuations that can happen up or down in any given day, I can be mindful as I monitor the scale and make adjustments: a little less salt, a little more fluid, cut down on some fat. The calculus must happen on a moment to moment basis. Maintaining a balance is tough, like walking a tightrope, and the key is MINDFULNESS. Not obsession or compulsion, but being attentive to the delicate nature of preserving our precious homeostasis.
For now, I am content in leaving my tracking app in the background. I may have to pick it back up at some point in the future, as a reminder of things I may forget, but while I am seeing 162.8 on my scale multiple times in a week, I think I am in a good place to coast for a while. My goal is for my endocrinologist to notice all of this progress in August. That will be a nice post to write.