The danger zone

You might be wondering if I am writing a blog post called danger zone as a gratuitous attempt to include an awesome 80s video in my blog.

While that sounds like me, it’s not the case today. I’m referring to the food danger zone: that time immediately after a meal when your taste buds are still thinking “nomnomnom” but your stomach hasn’t given the “no thanks, I’m full” signal.

As I’ve been putting myself through the Custom Strength Nutrition Program for the past 3 weeks, it’s become apparent how much of my extra eating happens in this danger zone. I was reminded of this today after having a nice bowl of soup with a piece of toast and some gouda for lunch, a meal that I enjoyed tremendously. Maybe it’s the weather, but that soup really hit the spot. As I put the dishes away, I found myself looking at the loaf of bread and thinking “that wasn’t a very big meal. I should really have another piece of toast.” Thankfully I’ve become particularly conscious of this danger zone, and so I ignored this taste bud trickery. Not surprisingly, within about 15 minutes, the “no thanks, I’m full” signal finally made it to my brain and the feeling passed. Another victory!

The last time I blogged about my fat loss journey was about a week ago, when I shared my plan. You can see it here, if you missed it, or you can start at the first entry, where I talk about goals. This blog is about the other big ticket item in my weight loss approach: tracking progress.

Tracking progress

I can’t stress the importance of tracking. For some reason, we tend to perform better when we know someone is keeping tabs on us. Even when we are our own behavioural police force.  Many nutritional approaches opt for food diaries as a means to keep track and help us stick to our plan. Personally, I think that’s overkill. As I mentioned in the last post, I do think there’s a need for a short term food journal to help set our baseline and understand what it is we are eating. But after that, it’s not the writing down of every morsel that’s important: it’s the notion of keeping tabs on how well we’re doing relative to our goals. Knowing that at the end of the week, someone’s going to either high five us, or look at us with concern or judgement. Odds are the concern will come from our coach; the judgement will come from the mirror. I know I prefer the high-five, even if it is a self-high five. Which feels awesome, by the way, and you should totally try it right now. Even if you’re at the office. DO IT!  It’s also another excuse for a fun video interlude.

No food diary?

Wait – if there’s no food diary, how do I keep track? This is where it helps to have an engineer-turned-trainer in your court. Odds are, she would come up with a cool online questionnaire to submit your daily progress toward your goals in a manner that takes less than a minute each day. It would even export the results to an Excel spreadsheet. Yes, I managed to bring Excel into the process. *Joy*

It makes sense if you think about it. Keep tabs on how well you did toward each of your goals instead of delving into the fine details. If you know your day was perfect except for that glass of wine, why waste your valuable time writing everything out, or entering everything into your app, when you can instead answer a few quick questions and move on?

and then there’s the benefit of this cool online questionnaire when doing this as part of a group: At the end of the week, you can get a summary of how you did, but you can also get a summary of how the group as a whole did. I’m not saying that any of you are competitive or anything, *coughcough*, but I know how a few people will react if they see the pack is sticking to their goals more often than they are.

 

The other tracking: The dreaded scale

Tracking daily behaviour is important, but it is only part of the equation. We also want to keep track of our results. But does anyone like getting on a scale? I think very few of us. And of those that do,  I’m going to guess many have inadvertently moved into I’mObsessedAboutMyWeight town, and measure themselves daily. Or even multiple times daily. Back when I worked out at the YMCA, I would watch in amazement as I would see people weigh themselves multiple times throughout their workout. Like somehow that 30 minutes reading People Magazine on the recumbent bike is going to register; or that the bodybuilder’s bicep is going to be heavier after a set of squat rack bicep curls.

Thankfully the scale is not the only option. There are 3 approaches that I like, and encourage:

  • Before and after photos.
  • A pair of clothing that is 1 to 3 sizes too small.
  • Body tape measurement (neck, hips, waist, biceps, thighs).

Even these have the potential for obsessiveness, so I have a strict once per week measurement rule.

The before and after photos are great for those who are trying to lose the last 10-20 pounds, although for those who are more than 50 pounds overweight, I think it’s a less meaningful approach.

The clothing is a great option, and I encourage it as much as possible. Nothing says “wow, you’ve lost weight” like a pair of jeans that didn’t fit last month but does today.

I like the body tape measure because it provides a quantitative comparison without the judgment we put on ourselves via the scale. ‘I lost 3 centimeters’ this week is specific, but because we don’t really use this measurement very often, we don’t have a sense of judgment associated with the results. This means we can be happy for our progress without judging ourselves on what is left to accomplish. And we get to take advantage of being Canadian: ‘I lost 3 centimeters’ sounds much better than I lost ‘1.2 inches’.

Look for my experience with the first 3 weeks in my next blog article.

 

Elsbeth Vaino, B.Sc., CSCS, is a personal trainer in Ottawa.

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