I missed my deadline last week, but I hope most of you caught Craig Harper's excellent article, The Psychology of Weight Loss. More of my articles in this series have focused on psychological aspects of weight-loss than on the physical, and that's not an accident. While research and observation convinced me that a low-carb, low-calorie plan would be fast, effective, and safe, most people who fail to lose weight fail because they quit, not because they've chosen the wrong level of calories.
I prepared myself by spending nearly a week getting "psyched up," ready for anything, and committed to the end… or so I thought. Last week I encountered a subtle temptation I did not expect: the lure of success. A few weeks ago I dealt with the temptation of failure. "Why work so hard for such meager results?" is the question, and "Because I've committed to do so, and short-term setbacks don't affect my long-term goal" is the answer. The temptation of success is different.
I started with 85 pounds to lose, and that's a lot of weight. Head to your local butcher's counter and try to count out how much meat it takes to reach 85 pounds! Though many people have much more than that to lose, any reasonably large number can seem overwhelming. I didn't know if I could lose all of the weight by November (it now looks like I probably won't, quite), so I focused on other things. I focused on a date, resolved to keep going until that date, no matter how much or how little I lost. But then I realized I had lost 40 pounds, and that's also a lot of weight. It's a big accomplishment, something worth celebrating.
Not with dessert.
Strangely, that's the temptation I faced. To celebrate my weight-loss success by eating things guaranteed to push my body out of ketosis, so I would have to start all over again! Rationally, I knew that splurging would be counter-productive, but irrationally I thought that I could easily lose the weight again. In the end, reminding myself of my commitment kept me on track, but it was a tough couple of days.
Are you prepared to deal with the unexpected? Today I found out that the can of tuna in my desk drawer wasn't tuna at all, but crab meat. I opened the can, then threw it away. Crab meat, at least that can of crab meat, is clearly not meant to be eaten straight. That left me with nothing to eat for lunch! At that point, if you're thinking a coworker could provide sandwich supplies, or Taco Bueno is cheap, you're in trouble. I was planning to drive to a grocery store to buy canned tuna, but my wife mentioned that she had mixed up some chicken salad, so I drove home for that instead. Although I've skipped only one meal in the nine weeks I've been on this diet, and not on purpose, I would rather skip a meal than cheat. I believe that is where you need to be to succeed at losing weight.
Get Plenty Of Sleep
Lack of sleep contributes to weight gain — or slow weight loss — far more than most people realize. I consider sleep "wasted time." It interferes with getting work done, watching movies, listening to music, everything. I've seriously considered odd sleep patterns to try to reduce the amount of time "wasted" each day, and generally don't get enough sleep. This is bad. Don't do it!
This isn't a folk tale. Your body released hormones called "leptin" and "ghrelin" that help to regulate appetite, and when you don't get enough sleep, you end up with less leptin and more ghrelin than you should have. In fact, among male participants in a University of Chicago study who were sleep-deprived for the sake of science, "Their desire for high carbohydrate, calorie-dense foods increased by a whopping 45%." For most people, this is bad news. For people on a low-carb, low-calorie diet, it's catastrophic.
WebMD has some tips on getting enough sleep, but I think I need only one: do it. I know when I have to get up, so I can't stay up until five hours before then and then head to bed without seeing consequences. It would be a shame to pour myself into a diet and then sabotage it nightly by grabbing a few extra hours of reading and movie-watching time.
It has been an odd couple of weeks for me, as I weighed myself on a couple of "extra" days and noted that my continued issues with constipation are having a dramatic effect day-to-day. On weigh-in day this week, for example, I weighed more than I had a couple of days before. Nevertheless, you'll get the official numbers: I lost two pounds during Week 8, and three pounds during Week 9, for five more pounds total. I passed two milestones along the way. First I lost 40 pounds, then I reached the halfway point with 42.5 pounds lost. I'm still one pound shy of my all-time weight loss record. Years ago I lost 45 pounds and kept it off for more than a year, and one more pound will get me there.
I'm continuing with a steady commitment to the gym, even though it's hurting my short-term numbers. I can see improved muscle mass in my arms, for example, which can't be helping my weight now, but will be healthier for me down the road.
In addition to my weight, I've started measuring my waist. I'm not exactly sure where I started, but it was somewhere in the 40s. I try not to think about it! After a few weeks, I had to buy a new belt, and then I noticed that I was drawing it in tighter and tighter every few days. When I bought it, I used the 43-inch notch, but soon I was using the 41-inch notch, and then the 39-inch notch, and soon I ran out of notches! That's the point at which I began measuring my waist weekly with a tape measure. I still haven't poked new holes in the belt, so now I'm sometimes in danger of my pants falling down even with my belt on!
2007-06-12: 250, initial weight
2007-06-19: 236, -14 pounds
2007-06-26: 231, -5 pounds
2007-07-03: 225, -6 pounds
2007-07-10: 221, -4 pounds, 43 inch waist (estimated)
2007-07-17: 217, -4 pounds, 41 inch waist (estimated)
2007-07-24: 215, -2 pounds, 39 inch waist (estimated)
2007-07-31: 211, -4 pounds, 38 inch waist
2007-08-07: 209, -2 pounds, 37 inch waist
2007-08-14: 206, -3 pounds, 36 inch waist, 44 pounds lost total