Weight Loss

Created by MyFitnessPal - Free Calorie Counter

Monday, April 7, 2008

I'm back

Spring break was brief, but great. I am back at school now, and we had A&P today at 8am. During the break I found it impossible to study, and now it's still hard to tackle my to-do list, which includes studying (for all my classes) and non-school items.

I ought to change my ticker; I am one pound higher than my ticker says, but that is better than the 4 lbs I gained and lost. (Water? Who knows?) I'm just happy to be back in the 170s, though, and now the daily restaurant dining is over, so it should be easier to get back to my losing ways. I can't decide if my fill is adequate or not. Some days I feel like I can eat everything, or I get hungry quickly, but in the last few days things have seemed sort of okay. I haven't made another fill appointment yet (my last one was about 3 weeks ago I think) but I will soon, I think. In theory I only have 2.5cc in the band now, but I'm curious to see what is left in there with the next fill. As for exercise, I did manage to go to the gym 5 times during my week in Portland, which is great, even though I only did weights one day. Today I did my full routine back at McDonaldland (aka the Spokane Valley Y) including my full weight routine, and running for 17 and 9 minutes, a total of 26 minutes of running with only 2 minutes of walking in between. And my training heartrate is getting lower...my resting HR remains 84, but my max after running for 17 minutes was 162, which is lower than it used to be. I'd like to get my speed up (I'm only running 12.5-13 min miles right now) but I'm aiming for longer periods of running, ideally getting up to doing 30 minutes consecutively, first.

I caught part of Talk of the Nation on the radio today before going to the gym. The topic was willpower, and specifically, the relatively recent finding that willpower is a finite thing, and that essentially we have a "budget" of willpower to spend. When one is exerting willpower to stick to a reduced calorie diet, for example, it is often much harder to stick to a seemingly unrelated task, such as staying on a budget. The show was based on an op-ed piece in the New York Times, called Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind, which highlights research by several scientists in recent years.

This topic stirred up a number of thoughts. A lot of us (myself included, sadly) who lose weight find ourselves shopping more than we should. I'm sure there are many reasons for this, including the pleasure-reward aspects (rewarding ourselves for our weight loss, and being able to fit into smaller, cuter clothes; the neurochemical "pleasure" response that we are no longer getting from overeating or eating food that is now restricted; positive reinforcement; simple desire to show off our successes) and probably others (that I can't think of at the moment...ummmmm). But I would imagine that this could be another aspect: we are continuing to exercise our willpower in sticking to a new eating plan, and perhaps (hopefully) an exercise plan, and find it difficult to resist this other thing that requires willpower.

Yet, there are a couple of flaws there. For one thing, doesn't the amount of willpower required actually change over time? Is it easier or harder to stick to the new eating plan after a year or so of fairly continuous adherance? I think there might not be a simple answer to this. In some ways it is pretty easy to continue what I have been doing for the last 13 months. It's habit, and I have a few tricks in my bag that make it easier. But I still have to remind myself WHY I want to do it on a nearly daily basis. There is still a daily mental game happening that is at least partially willpower. How about exercise? For me, it takes far less willpower to exercise now than it used to. At least once a week I do have to force myself to GO to the gym, but 100% of the time, once I am there it is purely automatic to dress down, and once I do, I am in the mood to work out. And usually, there is no forcing myself involved: I feel better when I move, and I look forward to it. So this doesn't seem to siphon much from my willpower budget. But the other flaw might be more in how I read the article: it mentions that willpower is something that can be exercised and increased, and that "[f]ocusing on success is important because willpower can grow in the long term. Like a muscle, willpower seems to become stronger with use. The idea of exercising willpower is seen in military boot camp, where recruits are trained to overcome one challenge after another. " So perhaps initially, this urge to shop can be attributed to depleting the willpower budget early in the process, but after a while (like, ahem, 13 months) it should be easier to resist, for that reason at least. Of course there are other reasons for continued shopping too, like actually needing smaller clothes.

Another thought I had was about all the willpower-heavy things I am doing right now: new eating plan, exercise, sticking to a budget (self imposed, but still necessary), and studying, of course. Studying proves to be the most difficult for me. I can always find 100 things I'd rather do than study, and I find myself getting started later and later in the day. I start out the day with great expectations for myself, and a nice to-do list filled with school-related tasks, but just getting started on them is hard to do. Yet I have no problem eating sensibly and exercising, and even most of my shopping involves no purchasing. Perhaps I just need to "exercise" this particular ability a little better. One suggestion, off the top of my head? Don't try to study at home. I do much better at the library.

The link to the episode of Talk of the Nation in question can be found here.

No comments: