It’s NOT just calories in, calories out!

From my Biggest Loser Day-by-Day calendar (January 20):

The people who will be most successful at losing weight and keeping it off are those who are open and willing to do whatever it takes to make a healthy change in their lifestyles. They have a commitment within themselves to fix what’s broken and the openness to allow it to happen.

Yeah… so what?

After a year-long plateau/maintenance phase, this has prompted me to think critically about what may be broken, what am I doing to hamper my weight loss efforts.

Hint: it’s more than food and exercise. Normally, I work out 6 days a week (5 days a week during “bad” weeks) and include cardio, strength training and yoga or stretching as part of my routine. With the exception of one free day a week, my meals are very healthy and a balanced plate of lean protein, complex carbs and fresh veggies.

So… why am I not losing any weight?

1. Poor stress management. Although my stress management skills are far more advanced than they were, say, 3 years ago, it’s clear I still need to work on them–especially as I take on new challenges personally and professionally. Impact of stress on weight loss: you can read about the scientific impact here and here. But as many of you have experienced, stress can impact food cravings. And I don’t mean that I’m reaching for the celery sticks after a hard day. I’m looking for french fries, chocolate and other sugar or carb-heavy foods and larger servings of them. The increase in carbs and overall food quantity leave me feeling tired, unenergetic, bloated and apathetic which means I either don’t want to go to the gym or can’t perform as well at the gym. Stress also impacts my energy level and how well I sleep. It creates a domino effect of bad habits that aren’t as old as I hoped.

2. Focusing on little details instead of the big picture. I do a great job maintaining a low-calorie diet and increasing calorie burn in my daily activities; unfortunately, in my head “never the twain shall meet” as Shakespeare would say. I often think of them in their own compartmentalized bubbles, forgetting that they’re actually quite related and what matters is the difference between the two. It’s not uncommon for me to have days when my calorie deficit is more than 1,000. Calorie deficits like that can easily sink my metabolism.

3. Forgetting about my final goal. A while back, I realized that my final goal weight might not be attainable or might be lower than I’d feel comfortable. So, instead of answering 160lbs when people asked me what my goal was, I’d say “I really don’t know” or “I’ll know it when I see it.” I think that’s depleated some of the competition and direction that kept me on track during the year I lost the first 55 lbs. It’s also resulted in me weighing in week-to-week simply hoping for a smaller number instead of having a specific weight I want to achieve.

4. Perfectionism. The abilty to create a finely-tuned plan and stick to it is something that I’m good at but the fall-out from missing a piece of the plan can be disasterous. Typically, I am a person who takes calculated risks and lives a life in moderation; however the realization that a plan “failed” can send me reeling into all or nothing thinking at times.

So here’s the action plan:

1. My official weigh in is now formally changed to Wednesday mornings and my goal is to lose 1-1.5lbs per week.

2. Continue to challenge myself in the kitchen. Each week, I will either create my own low calorie, balanced meal, loaded with veggies and a reasonable amount of healthy fats. I will post this recipe and pictures each week, in order to hold myself accountable and share resources with readers. Those who know me know that I love cooking–there’s nothing as satisfying as a healthy meal that looks beautiful and tastes amazing.

3. Get back to the visuals. I need to create a calendar that tracks my total loss and forces me to set a final weight loss goal. I’m envisioning something like those United Way Thermometers, only mine would increase with pounds loss instead of funds raised.

4. More sleep. This seems to be the constant struggle for me. Part of it is having a boyfriend with a different schedule and attempting to keep up with him. Part of the challenge is recognizing that the 5hrs nightly “nap” I got in college doesn’t work for me anymore–I need 7+ hours. And the final piece of the challenge is not using my time effectively–either reading blogs later than intended or getting caught up in other tasks, hobbies or chores. I’m home all weekend this week and plan to take some time to catch up on chores and plan out my week. This should help. I’m also setting the alarm on my phone to give my a 20-30 minute reminder for bedtime. And, finally, stretching/yoga will happen just prior to bed to clear my head of any daytime stressors.

5. Keep an eye on the big picture, but using the Bodybugg menu planning tool to input my meals for the week on Sundays and allow me to assess what activity I need to do to keep my calorie deficit an even-keeled 750. While slight variations in one’s calorie deficit are allowed and even recommended, huge bounces are not desirable.

6. I will be intentional about recognizing and celebrating the huge strides I HAVE made, especially in regards to perfectionism, stress management, healthy eating and exercise. Just don’t expect that celebration to include candy and party hats. Well, maybe I’ll keep the party hats…

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