I spent the past month in the British Aisles, splitting my time between the UK and Ireland where each of my parents live. I posted previously about the various and sundry concerns I had about spending that much time away from home, and the impact it could have on my weight loss and fitness achievements. To prevent this from happening, I devised a 10-point battle plan to avoid letting things getting out of control. In this post I am going to review what did work, and what didn’t.
Most of the points in my battle plan pertained to diet rather than exercise for a couple of reasons. First, your weight is 90% diet and 10% exercise. Second, I am an over-eater. My weakness lies in my ability to control myself at the pantry. I am far less concerned about my ability to exercise while I am abroad than I am about my ability to eat clean when I am around all the junk foods and treats that make me feel at home. And I was right to have that approach; where exercise was concerned, I nailed it. Where food was concerned, I didn’t do so great.
1. Priming my family about my diet
This was a mixed bag. On the one hand, lots of concessions were made for me with regards helping me have the ingredients I needed and cook them, and allowing space or time in the kitchen to make my meals. On the other hand, I had to put up with a fair amount of ridicule which was tedious. I also was tempted to eat bad food with lines like “One won’t hurt”, “It’s the holidays”, or “You look great, let yourself have a reward,” and I sadly fell for these lines. It started out as just having a gluten-free AND vegan treat, but that evolved into having a gluten-free OR vegan treat, which in turn became eating the entire package of gluten-free treats, and finally ended up with me eating crappy junk food like Pringles or Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. For the first three weeks, I was within my calorie allowance, and on the last week, I was over, which I justified (rationalized) as being okay because my calorie intake over the whole month broke even. I’ll expand on this below, but for now, I will spoil the surprise and say that this logic didn’t work!
2. Traveling with measuring cups/using MyFitnessPal
This was a great idea! I was able to know how much I was eating and make sure I was within my limits. However, there’s a “BUT”. Giving yourself a calorie limit, and measuring your food is great, and as per the laws of thermodynamics, will keep you at your weight so long as you are honest and accurate when logging your calories. BUT it does not mean you are eating healthily, nor does it mean your diet is sustainable. Toward the third week of my trip, I had an epiphany. I realized I had taken my DDP Yoga nutrition plan and over the course of the holiday converted it to a Weight Watchers plan; i.e. eat whatever unhealthy crap you want, just stop when you hit 2K calories. The problem with this is that I am a Doctor of Biology, and I know better than most how cancer and other diseases can thrive in this diet, and the evolutionary reasons behind it being unsustainable, especially if you are an over-eater like me. And presto, by the third and fourth weeks, I was lying to MyFitnessPal, and underestimating the amount of junk food I had eaten so that it looked as though I was within my calorie limits.
3. Visually reminding myself of my achievements
This worked well when I had to social engagements. Right before we left the house for drinks parties or get-togethers, despite the fact that I was in full make-up and wearing high heels and and a dress, I would drop to the floor and knock out some slow burn push-ups. Then I would do some DR punches, rows and curls. This allowed my body to be in peak condition so that people I hadn’t seen in a while would see how well I had done. The compliments I received and looking in the mirror before I left the house were good reminders of how great it feels to be strong and healthy, and helped curb the temptation to eat the various bowls of chips and finger-foods I had to spend the evening sitting in front of.
4. Dropping a few pounds before the vacation
Here’s the logic on this one: I got down to 142 lbs, and wanted to keep at 145lbs. That way, if I put on 3 lbs, it was okay. This was a stupid idea. First, when you are 142 lbs, you want to stay at 142 lbs regardless of whether it was only meant to be a “temporary” weight loss. Also, as an over-eater I do not do well in situations where I can “let myself go”; letting myself go in the past led to me reaching 198 lbs! The proof of this logic failing me is in the fact that I weighed in at 147 lbs when I got home. Like I have written before, humans always underestimate how much they are eating, and are evolutionarily driven to eat all the high-calories foods they encounter.
5. Planning to do a toxin cleanse when I got back to the US
This was related in logic to the previous point. The last time I did a cleanse, I dropped a few pounds so the idea was to know that cleansing was an option if I gained a couple of pounds. And boy did I need it. Aside from being 2 lbs over the buffered allowance, I was just bloated and gross when I got home. My skin is not as good as it was before I travelled and I had some inflammation in my knees associated with eating crap. While a cleanse is always nice, especially at the start of the year, this part of my plan was bad because it mentally gave me carte blanche to eat crap and gain weight. It is – obviously – healthier and more sensible to not have so many toxins in your system that they need to be cleansed out and not to have your weight yo-yo.
6. Looking ahead to new goals
This was a great idea, and was the one point more-or-less dedicated to exercise. My goals were to get certified as a DDP Yoga Instructor, and to run a Marathon in 2014. For the former, I – remarkably – met another aspiring Level 1 instructor in Bognor Regis, England and we met up to train together a couple of times. For our first training session, we did his Diamond Dozen workout. As an aside, he submitted that workout along with his other materials while I was there, and found out he had become the first certified DDP Yoga instructor in the UK (way to go, Haydn)! The second workout we did together was my Level 1 and Diamond Dozen workouts back-to-back. Knowing that we were going to film those workouts compelled me to practice every evening before we did it. My Marathon training started on the 29th of December, so I went on a number of runs to make sure my stamina didn’t drop. In fact I was so committed to running that I went for a 3 mile run the first day I was in Ireland in an effort to keep myself up and avoid jetlag having being up all night on the plane. It worked! All-in-all I did yoga 12 times and ran 11 times, with only 3 rest days (including travel days).
7. Staying in touch with teamDDPyoga.com
This worked pretty well. Sparky send me a message asking how things were going. My first draft read, “All is great, thanks for checking.” But as I read it, I was forced to examine the veracity of that statement. That caused me to rewrite my reply, and send him a more long-winded version where I explained that I had lapsed into less than GF and DF diet. While writing to him, I examine my eating in general and realized that as much as my eating abroad had nothing to do with the Phase III DDP Yoga nutrition plan, my diet at home was not as committed to the Phase III plan as I was allowing myself to believe. I came to the decision that 2014 was going to be the year I truly committed to my long term health. I essentially tabled all my other resolution plans in favour of making the Phase III happen without any excuses or bogus excuses (I don’t have to obey the no fruit after noon because I am vegan).
Another less tangible but equally important effect teamDDPyoga.com had on me occurred when I nearly made a very bad decision. I had decided to commit to Phase III when I got home, but it wasn’t going to be possible while I was traveling. It occurred to me that there was just too much temptation and jetlag, and that I only had a week left, so I should just give up on all calorie counting, or any component of the DDP Yoga nutrition plan, and spend the week eating whatever I felt like eating. After all, how much weight could I possibly put on in a week. Then I thought back to Slim with his ABMF mantra, and what Arthur would say about sliding back like this, or how Ben Miller would view letting one slip justify coming off the wagon for the rest of the week. And it worked. I didn’t give up. I committed to keep trying. That’s not to say there weren’t anymore slips. Far from it. This was the week I ended up over my calorie allowance so the slips came harder and faster. But I didn’t give up. I kept calorie counting, trying to be vegan and gluten-free, and doing my DDP Yoga. Knowing that there’s a community of people who have invested time and energy in me, who would be disappointed if I disappeared or completely reverted, who in some cases look up to me or are in the community because of my story, stopped me from giving up. I kept looking forward, even when I was sliding backwards.
8. Paying it Forward
I signed on to Ben Miller’s holiday Donate Your Weight challenge. I decided to put my own spin on it to give myself some accountability. I will donate 1 lb of food for every lb I had lost at the start of the holidays. I weighed in officially at 145 lbs the morning of our outbound flight so that is 47 lbs of food guaranteed to the food bank. The accountability twist I put on it was that for every pound I gained over the holiday, I would donate two pounds. I weighted in at 147 lbs upon my return, so that brings the total to 51 lbs. Did this challenge actually prevent me shovelling family-sized bars of chocolate into my face? No. The problem is that I don’t harbour any ill-will towards the needy, and I have zero problem pulling money out of my pocket to feed my fellow human beings as I hope they would me, so the “threat” of having to do so proved to be a mediocre deterrent against my overeating. Nevertheless, the challenge is a good and important thing to do. I plan to do the exact same thing next year and so should you!
9. Making my Own Food
I make my own food as often as possible, whether at home or abroad. Doing so allows me to control what I eat and how much of it I eat. Telling a potential dinner host that I am vegan, gluten-free and calorie controlled tends to be all I need to say to have someone agree to let me cater for myself! My family and friends were more than happy to let me make my own food. The problem with my eating when I was away, therefore, had nothing to do with what others were feeding me. The problem was what I was feeding myself. As I have mentioned, it was a bad mix of being an over-eater combined with a lot of self delusion about my adherence to Phase III.
I planned to tell anyone who challenged me on aspects of my diet that I was allergic to whatever it was that I was being enticed to consume. In actuality, this peer-pressure style of temptation never occurred. Instead, my diet was ridiculed and undermined in other ways, so I will need to think of plans to combat the problems I actually encountered for next time. Always be moving forward!
The trip abroad really allowed me to focus on where I am going wrong. The problem is that I was making excuses and assumptions, and deluding myself. Now that I am home, I have just done a three-day cleanse, and tomorrow morning will be the first day of Phase 3. I took the DDP Yoga guide with me to the store so that I wouldn’t just assume what I was buying was in keeping with the program, wrote out a meal plan and shopped for it. As per DDP’s advice, I logged in what I will eat tomorrow in advance. As per the advice I read in my doctor’s office, I will eat more-or-less the same thing for a week at a time. And I will not give myself any free passes or make any lame excuses.
2014 will be the year of No Excuses! I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday season, and that you will join me on this year’s journey!
2014: The Year of NO EXCUSES