Saturday, August 6, 2011

Making Myself Scream

In her excellent book Refuse to Regain and on her website of the same name, Barbara Berkeley has coined the phrase "scream weight" for a previously heavy person's new upper limit - the number which will trigger Full Diet Mode the moment it shows up on the scale, heading off any further backsliding before it gets out of hand.

I like this concept a lot. Setting this kind of limit seems good common sense. But, speaking as someone who's gained back a lot of lost weight over the years, I can also say there's a problem with it: you have to regularly and ruthlessly climb onto the scale to see your Scream Weight in the first place.

This has always been a problem for me. The moment I start to backslide after a successful spell of dieting (excuse me, "lifestyle modification"!), I also start avoiding the bathroom scale - denial is part of backsliding. I'm aware that I'm eating food I shouldn't, I can see and feel that I'm putting weight back on, so it's very easy to talk myself out of finding out exactly how bad things are getting. And if I don't get on the scale and see a number greater than my Scream Weight, then that dietary and fitness "red alert" (cue Star Trek claxon sound here) doesn't kick in.

Usually, of course, once I've eaten my way back into my fatter clothes and my wardrobe options narrow, I do finally force myself to climb onto the scale and assess the damage. By then, though, I've exceeded my Scream Weight by thirty or forty pounds, and it will be months before I get back there, much less below it.

Scream Weight is a great concept for catching a bad trend before it gains traction. But it only works when you have the self-discipline to keep checking your weight, so there's a paradox in play. If you have the self-discipline to do that, you're probably also able to maintain at least most of your good eating and exercise habits, so there's less chance you'll have a Scream Weight crisis in the first place. The people who really need those regular reality checks, though, are also the ones, like me, who are most likely to persuade themselves to let the scale gather dust "just until they get back into the groove" or whatever. And then the damage mounts.

Self-monitoring: it's obviously necessary for long-term success, but it's hard, especially on the days you know you won't like what you see on the scale.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Trench Warfare

Dieting is like trench warfare in World War I.

Obviously, dieting can't compare to actual trench warfare for sheer horror and misery - but there are similarities. Trench warfare was an agonizingly slow process, where one side could spend months struggling to advance only a few hundred yards across a battlefield strewn with barbed wire; then, of course, the other side would often recapture those few hundred yards, equally gradually, and after months of struggle, everyone would be in the same trenches where they'd begun. Even worse, sometimes those soldiers who first advanced, then retreated, lost even more ground.

You see where I'm going with this, don't you? Dieting feels like that to me: months of striving to take off however many pounds, followed by gaining most or all of it back and then desperately trying not to surrender any additional territory beyond that. It feels as though I were back to Square One, but scarier than that is the anxiety that I could end up back to Square Minus-One!

On the other hand, fighting in the trenches is better than surrendering, right?

Friday, May 20, 2011

Call Me Sisyphus

Okay, I'm convinced: posting self-confident blog predictions is a sure way to have those predictions not come true. Tempting fate is always a bad idea.

And so, here I am, right where I was weight-wise two years ago this month. Last fall the wheels started coming off: I completely lost my motivation, first to drop more weight and then even to maintain the loss I'd already achieved. Starting around my birthday in October, I craved all kinds of high-carb foods, and I ate them - always telling myself that I would behave myself "starting tomorrow" or "after Thanksgiving" or "after the holidays" or whatever. But tomorrow did not come, and the weight gain was fast and steady. Worse, I stopped checking the scale, deliberately avoiding the hard numbers which would might have rattled me enough to change my McDonalds fries- and Panera pastries-fueled momentum.

There's not much good news to take from this, except these small consolations:
1. I did manage to get back on the scale last week, knowing that what I'd see would motivate me.
2. I stopped before I exceeded my previous peak weight; it's one thing to gain lost weight back, but it's even more demoralizing to gain back even more.
3. I did do an Atkins-centered grocery run, filling my refrigerator and pantry with the kinds of foods I need to start eating again and throwing out the bad stuff.
4. I started eating those foods again.
5. I do know how to lose the weight now.

On the other hand, it's also discouraging to feel as though not only will I never achieve my 100-pound weight loss goal, but I can also never trust myself not to backslide. Ever.

Just call me Sisyphus.