A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Taking a week off from tracking

on March 10, 2014

For the first time since I started with Weight Watchers in July 2012, I got this message while I was in Florida:

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That’s right, I, the big believer in tracking, took a vacation from tracking. That was a huge decision for me and so I thought it was worth talking about.

A big goal in overhauling my diet was not just to lose weight, but to establish a healthy lifestyle that I could maintain forever. That means not only making choices that I don’t mind making every day forever (my biggest piece of weight loss advice!), but also building the psychological skills that will help me manage my food choices. I have struggled over the years with binge eating and stress eating, as well as minimizing the unhealthy choices I’m making and overestimating the “good” things I eat. I think many of us struggle with those issues, so I’m certainly not unique in that sense. The tracking that I do with Weight Watchers has really helped with the latter issues, as far as being honest with myself about what I’m eating. Looking at the patterns in my eating has also helped me identifier stressors that affect my eating and work on new ways to deal with those things.

As valuable as tracking has been for me personally, and globally in medical literature, I do wonder if I will have to track for the rest of my life. Honestly, it has helped me so much that I’m okay with tracking forever if that is what I need, but I think like everything else about this journey, it’s a question I need to re-examine frequently.

For “normal” people (i.e. those without a food relationship as dysfunctional as mine has been), they can go on vacation, make some splurgier choices and know that they’ll just get back on track when they get home. Last time I went on vacation at DisneyWorld, I ended up feeling horrible about myself because I felt bad about my food choices and my big goal with this vacation was to end the week feeling good about myself, regardless of what I ate or didn’t eat and regardless of the number on the scale.

I actually ended up putting the question up to discussion on weight loss Facebook support group (We Can’t Do It Alone) as I was trying to decide if the best way to meet my goal about feeling good about my food was to track everything like normal or to take the week off of tracking and pretend to be “normal” for the week. I honestly do not feel like I’m ready to stop tracking all together, even though I’m so used to eating my usual home and restaurant choices that I stay in my point range without much thought. I do, however, feel like I might be steady enough to take a little break for vacation. With input from the group and my husband (who worried which would make me more neurotic – trying to track on vacation vs trying NOT to track on vacation), I decided to take the week off of tracking for our vacation.

In making that decision, I set some boundaries.
– I would track up to Saturday morning, the first full day of vacation, and start tracking again the following Saturday morning, when we started our trip back home.
– Not tracking does not mean I was throwing my healthy eating plans out the window. I decided to essentially stick to the cruise ship rules I’d established last year: a) my usual healthy breakfast, thanks to the oatmeal packets I’d packed and the fruit we ordered from Garden Grocer; b) a healthy choice for lunch (and the sugar free dessert option if I was having dessert); c) fruit/veggies/Fiber One bars for snacks and d) whatever looked good for dinner, as long as I had some veggies, plus any dessert/drink I wanted at dinner.

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– The day of the half marathon, I could eat whatever I wanted. ๐Ÿ™‚ 13.1 miles earns a girl some latitude.
– Before the half marathon, I needed to focus my eating choices on optimizing race fueling in my food choices. For me, this was actually something I had to consciously do as I tend to default to low-carb eating when I’m in restaurants and that wasn’t
optimal coming up to the half marathon.
– I did not care what the scale said when I got home. I knew it was impossible to regain the 110 pounds I lost in a single week in Disney World and it was okay if I gained some weight while I was there. It would come back off when I got back home to my normal routine.

So how did I do?
– I confess that I started tracking one thing a day just to stop that annoying WW pop up, because I didn’t want to lose my long streak of tracking. However, I tracked just one piece of my breakfast fruit a day and nothing more.
– I did well with sticking to my dietary guidelines above. Even on the breakfast we did as a characater dining experience, I stuck to healthy choices of fruit, oatmeal and yogurt. I feel like I got to enjoy my desserts once a day (and my drinks – yum) but I didn’t go overboard and made healthy choices overall.
– If I didn’t love something, I tasted it and left the rest of it on the plate. You do not have to clean your plate (yes, I told myself that a lot).

Of these, I only ate all of the lemon tart.

Of these, I only ate all of the lemon tart.

– More than anything else, I did lots and lots of self-talk. I reminded myself that my goal was to practice a healthy lifestyle without the structure of tracking. It was okay if I gained weight. It was okay to eat the lemon tart (Disney does those well) but it was not okay to use my snack credits every day on ice cream. Most importantly, it was not okay to beat myself about my choices. If I ate all of that sugar free brownie even though it wasn’t very good (true story), I needed to let that go rather than beat myself up about it. I will say that this part got easier as the week went on and I found myself needing less and less reassurance as I went through the week.
– As a family, we ate so much better on this trip. My husband and I were talking on the last day or so about how we hadn’t used any of our snack credits on Disney treats like Mickey-shaped options from the bakery or candy shop. The things O would point out that he wanted to eat were from the fruit carts or water more than anything else. It helped a lot that we had some many of our usual snacks with us, like apple slices, yogurt pouches, bananas and fiber one bars. We really have adopted much healthier habits as an entire family, which is a beautiful thing.

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– One of my concerns was that it would be hard to get back to tracking after vacation. I know I’m not ready to be completely “off leash” and I was worried I’d put off getting back to “normal” or feel constrained when I got back. Honestly, I didn’t feel either of
those things. I started tracking on Saturday morning as I tracked down some oatmeal somewhere in the Orlando airport (and honestly tracked the 7 points that McDonald’s oatmeal cost me, even though I knew my usual oatmeal would have been just 4
points). Once I got back “on the horse” with tracking, it helped my brain shift back to normal eating as well and get out of vacation mode. The real danger in vacation from your healthy lifestyle is not the vacation itself, but rather the fact that we never let
the “vacation” mindset come to an end.

Ultimately, I appear not to have gain any weight over the week thanks to the buffering effects of the many, many steps we were taking on, allowing for those extra splurges. At least for the first two days after we got back, my weight was exactly the same as it
was before we left (then I went on a streak of eating Chinese food & sushi, so some water retention from those led to a little gain – or at least I think that’s what was going on). I’m back to tracking normally and eating normally and don’t feel constrained by that after a week off. The day may come when I can stop tracking unless my weight gets outside of its target zone. I’m not there yet, but this little experiment gave me hope that one day I will get there.

Have you ever taken a break from tracking? How did it go?

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9 responses to “Taking a week off from tracking

  1. I tracked my calories every day for a very long time. I’d say for about a year. Eventually I felt as though I was knowledgeable enough and also that I was mentally prepared to leave my calorie book at home. I have been able to maintain since then. I’ve had splurges, and vacation-eating moments but when I’m at home it just doesn’t seem too hard anymore honestly. We make a list going grocery shopping and never buy anything that will be so overly tempting that it’ll be gone in a day which helps a lot! You’ll get to the point where you don’t need to track anymore – just do it when you are ready or maybe just take breaks (even when you’re not on vacation) from counting to see how you do. I think you’ll do great! :0)

    • I’m thinking about trying to go off tracking one weekend a month (once I get back to running so I have a bigger activity buffer!) to try to ease into a normal life a little more. It should be interesting!

      On Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 7:26 AM, A Little More Each Day wrote:

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  2. Good for you! It’s really hard to keep healthy eating habits on vacation, especially on a cruise ship. You did it.

    • I don’t know if I was good, but at least I was happy with myself at the end of the day and sometimes that’s all I can ask of myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

      On Mon, Mar 10, 2014 at 7:43 AM, A Little More Each Day wrote:

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  3. leannenalani says:

    I enjoy not tracking because it’s one less thing to worry about. It is hard, though!

    • I enjoyed the break once I got over feeling like I was doing something wrong. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m thinking about institute a weekend free of tracking each month to practice “normal” eating.

      On Thu, Mar 13, 2014 at 2:04 PM, A Little More Each Day wrote:

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  4. […] month, I talked about consciously taking a break from tracking while I was on vacation and accepting that I might gain a little weight as a result of that. I was […]

  5. […] for Easter and before I’d regained 5 pounds, I was planning on just taking the weekend “off” and trusting that I’d get back on track after they left on Monday. I still think that I could […]

  6. […] and saving my “weekly bonus points” for true splurges and special occasions. I took a week off tracking when we were at Disney World in February for the half marathon but otherwise haven’t missed a […]

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