#28: Gaining Weight on a Diet
Updated: Nov 4, 2021
I’ve been working with my coach for a month now, so it’s a natural time to evaluate my progress… or lack thereof. I wasn’t putting my best foot forward for the first week, and then I didn’t attempt to follow a plan while I was in Kansas. I re-motivated myself and improved my habits over the last two weeks after forgiving myself, but it was either not enough or too late. I wound up gaining weight when I was trying to lose it, and it’s not the first time this has happened.
When I was in Boston first semester, I was obsessed with trying to lose a few extra pounds, but I gained weight instead. I insisted it was because there was nothing to do other than eat, but after seeing this pattern repeat itself, I think it’s because I felt subconsciously restricted and it caused me to rebel and eat more. I don’t feel consciously restricted right now, but obviously my body feels it more than I realize because I’m taking one step forward and two steps back every few days, which translated into several steps back over the month.
I don’t binge like this when I’m not counting calories, which is another indication that part of me feels more restricted than I realize. I reduced the frequency of overeating by forgiving myself and acknowledging growth, but now I can reduce the frequency more by finding ways to alleviate the feeling of restriction.
Here are some patterns I noticed in myself, but that are probably common:
1. I’m capable of ordering mindfully at a restaurant with friends or refusing dessert when everyone else is eating it in the moment. When I get home and have a snack, I end up going way overboard—much more than if I had shared dessert or ordered what I wanted earlier. When I restrict myself at the restaurant, my subconscious is angry with me and encourages me to overeat later. Earlier this week I tried something different: I ordered a small ice cream when I went with my friends and enjoyed it. When I got home (after the gym), I went right to bed without eating more. It seems counterintuitive, but by forcing myself to enjoy ice cream with friends, I saved myself calories later (and enjoyed the ice cream).
2. Weekends are difficult. I don’t have a routine, I’m less busy and face more temptation. I’m mostly successful on the weekdays because I have a routine for breakfast and lunch, and I’m at the office where I don’t have access to go off track. On the weekend, I have more plans with friends where we go out to eat and more down time to give into temptation at home. I’m still brainstorming the most sustainable solution to this, but I think I need to plan ahead for my meals on the weekend and develop a separate routine.
3. Alcohol. Drinking seems to be the main activity for people in Seattle, especially in their early 20s. I’m always meeting someone new for a drink or going to a happy hour. I’m accustomed to this now—I can plan a drink or two into my calorie budget, although it’s a rough estimate. I struggle most when I come home after having a few drinks and want a snack. Even if I thought ahead and prepared something healthy (but still tasty), I’m not likely to listen to myself. I feel huge pressure to drink with friends here. I feel like I’m judged when I don’t want to go out or have a drink, and I want people to like me. But I’m sick of drinking and the consequences that come with it, so I’m deciding to take a break for a month or so. I’m nervous of what people will say, but I’m also ready to tell them to leave me alone.
This week, I did a “deep dive” (guess where I work) into my diet to understand what went wrong in the last month and get feedback from my coach. She gave me suggestions of what I could do better such as “make a healthy snack before you have a few drinks” and “eat more protein so you feel full.”
Sure, she’s right, but these are things that I already know and theoretically would do if I could control myself. In the moment, I convince myself that it’s okay to eat the bag of chocolate chips. I find 101 ways to rationalize eating and volume of food, even though another part of me knows I’ll regret it nearly immediately. It’s like one half of my brain wants to sabotage the other half of my brain, and it’s all out of spite to myself for being so restrictive. By the time I’m craving something or afraid I might go overboard, it’s already too late. I need to find ways to avoid these situations at all costs.
So how do I avoid these situations? It’s not practical to refuse plans with friends so that I avoid temptation. I’m doing my best to suggest healthier options such as going for a walk or a hike, or going out for poke or sushi—foods I love and can enjoy without pressuring myself to order something healthy.
What about on a Friday night when I’m going out? I’m terrified to go out again because I know this isn’t a good situation for me, but I don’t want to refuse plans with friends for such a silly reason. I want to go, but I don’t have a plan of action for when my friends question why I’m not drinking or want to pick up food after the night. Honestly, I’d work through the next 10 weekends to avoid this situation, but that’s not a practical solution.
Naturally, I googled solutions, and found this SELF article that’s more helpful than I would expect from an internet search. The article is written by a woman that had similar struggles, and she talks about how she overcame them. The general theme is mindfulness. She references a study that found that among people with tendencies to overeat, those who practiced mindfulness were able to minimize instances of overeating significantly. 5-10 minutes of meditation helped develop ability to tune into the moment, especially when eating. This helped them to enjoy each bite of food and realize fullness much earlier. Who wouldn’t spend 5-10 minutes meditating each day if it meant greatly increasing the chances of losing weight? In theory, anybody with a few ounces of motivation left would do this. The trouble is that I procrastinate this throughout the busy day in the office, and by the time I’m home after the gym I want to relax in my own way, not by forcing myself to close my eyes. I do want to get better though. I’ll set a goal to mediate for 5 minutes 3-4 times per week and see how it goes.
The article also mentions changing the language we use around food. I tend to say “I can’t eat that.” Actually, I can eat it. I can chew and digest the food, but I need to remind myself that I’m choosing to eat or not to eat something. IT will take me awhile to fully accept this and realize my power of choice, but I’m willing to work on it.
Thinking back to Sunday brunches and the ice cream run I mentioned the other day, I’m most successful when I order what I want, eat half of it, and offer my food to others. It makes me feel accomplished when I order what I want and don’t totally lose control. I can work with this. I might be making other Friday night plans until I can figure out a game plan. I’m proud of myself for getting to another root cause of an issue for me, but I feel like I’m on the edge of the next time this will come up, and I’m even more nervous a situation might arise sooner because I’m so worried about it. I need to find a way to trust myself, because I don’t. I’m thinking of all of the things that can go wrong. I don’t need to be perfect. If I can reduce feelings of restriction by 50%, I’ll be able to make progress. This isn’t a race, and I’m still meant to enjoy life.