Saturday, May 22, 2010

Living the WW life in the real world

This week has been great for me and tough for me simultaneously. As I posted here, I decided to take a hiatus from WW meetings and to go it alone online for awhile. This meant that I really needed to start tracking. So I did. Well, let me correct that -- I tried.

The second half of the week, we had a conference for work where folks from universities around the countries came to our school. It was good, but I want to write about the food and exercise aspects of things as it is the part that is relevant to this blog.

First, I made the commitment to ride my bike both days. It was bike to work week this week, and weather and hip/SI joint problems derailed me during the first half of the week so I was **determined** to get at least one day on the bike. This was tough since the rains we had made portions of the trails I ride to work really muddy (this is a problem when you need to dress up and don't want to end up muddy, or carry another pair of clothes in a backpack because they'll be bulky and get wrinkled). I sucked it up, wore a different pair of shoes to ride in than to work in, and rolled up my pant legs so they wouldn't be muddy. This worked fairly well. Although the biking did mess up my schedule a bit, it was overall worth it.

Now to the main point of the post: food challenges and social stigma associated with food. For this (and many) conferences/workshops/meetings I attend, lunches and dinners are provided. Since one of the main points/benefits of these workshops is networking, it's not really a good option to skip the dinner in favor of a healthy dinner on your own. Although it would have worked in this case, packing is rarely an option since these meetings usually are not in my backyard (instead in other cities). Furthermore, I do not want to draw attention to myself by having different food, or insisting on healthier options, or going ahead of time to get some sort of a different meal option. Maybe that is justified, maybe I've magnified how this would draw attention to myself in my own head but -- in either case -- it's just not something I'm willing to do for now.

Lunch the first day was catered by a local Italian restaurant. The options were salad, lasagna, two types of pasta both with alfredo or a cream based sauce, and cheesecake. Oh, bread too. What's a weight watcher to do? I loaded up my plate with a ton of salad (probably 3/4 of a plate), but there is no way that would keep me full until dinner time. I also had a piece of lasagna and a piece of wheat bread. I had packed 2 apples in case I got hungry, and I ended up eating one for dessert. I also had one later that afternoon.

Around 4:30, I was so hungry. Typically, conferences/meetings like this have several breaks to use the restroom, network, check email and make calls. Usually snacks and beverages are provided. Not the case for this meeting. I ate my second apple. 30 minutes later I was still so hungry, but out of food and there was nothing around except leftover cheesecake from lunch. I hemmed and hawed over what to do, especially since my lunch was much different/more points heavy from a lunch I'd usually eat when I'm counting points for WW. Eventually I decided that the hungriness won, and I had half a piece of cheesecake. It was good, but I wasn't really in the mood for it and it felt like a wasted splurge.

I had to ride home between the meetings and the evening reception (didn't want to bike home after the reception because it would have been so dark), and I had some fruit so I would not be as hungry at the evening reception. Again, the choices were not great. I had some but really tried to tune into my body's hunger signals. I think it worked ok.

The next day, I skipped the breakfast at the conference in favor of cooking for myself (except I did snag one piece of bacon, and boy was it good!). I felt ok about this. Lunch was a build your own sandwich buffet, chips, and some fruit. I had one piece of wheat bread, loaded it up with meat (trying to pick the pieces without fat on them) and vegetables and added one piece of cheese. I did have some chips, and I tried to have a bunch of fruit. I would have given this meal a C+ for healthiness instead of the D- for the previous day's meal.

So...bla bla bla... about the food. What did I learn from this? A whole bunch of things. Things I have been thinking about since they happened.
  1. There are some sacrifices I will not make for weight loss. I am a person who, if I don't eat enough, will get debilitating headaches. They are not fun for me, they are not fun for those around me because I morph into a huge bitch when I get them. They're not fun period. I refuse to eat only salad to stay in my points range if it is going to adversely affect how I feel. Lesson learned: I will eat if I am hungry, even if cheesecake is the only thing available. This is a self preservation behavior, and it is a waste of guilt to feel guilty about this.
  2. Eating is so social. I am not to the place yet where I will go too far out of the mainstream for the purposes of saving points or losing weight. I have no problem asking for dressings on the side or vegetables to be cooked without oil or butter at restaurants. That having been said, I am not willing to pack my lunch when everyone else is eating one thing or from a buffet unless I know them well and/or feel comfortable around them and/or will never see them again. I won't do this at professional conferences where I know I will see these folks again. I want to be "Sarah the researcher who does ____" rather than "Sarah the food fanatic who is obsessive about packing lunches and eating only stuff cooked without butter" to these people.
  3. That having been said, there are things I can do to make these days successful. If I look at everything that is available on a buffet first and then choose, I can devise a strategy and make wiser choices. If I pack apples, I can eat them before receptions to take the edge off (and those are things I can pack in my suitcase easily -- don't need access to a grocery store in an unknown city or anything!)
  4. At receptions and luncheons, I should focus on the real reason I am there: networking opportunities. In the past, such events have been equally about food and networking to me. This shouldn't be how I approach these situations. The food is fuel for my body and to give me energy to network and get around, but it is really just a part of the supporting cast. The main reason I am at events like this is to network, and so this should consume my focus.
So how did I do? I give myself a B+ or an A-. I don't feel like I earned this grade because I ate only healthy things -- in fact, as you can see I really didn't at all. I gave myself this grade because I am starting to reach the place where I feel comfortable that my food, eating and exercising life will not and probably even should not be 100% perfect. I am developing strategies that will help me reach the balancing place between feeling normal and not drawing attention to myself because of what I am or am not eating, and sticking up for myself enough to get choices that I feel are healthy and balanced.

One of the things that was frustrating about this conference/workshop was not feeling like I could pull up my laptop or phone and track things right away. I also didn't feel comfortable checking the points values of all the foods I didn't know in public, so I just guessed what was the healthiest choice, wrote it down on a piece of paper, and tracked it later. It was frustrating not knowing how much a portion was and having to guess. Was a piece of the lasagna at the conference the same size as the peices WW considers? I had no idea, but just assumed it was.

So...that is a reflection on my last few days, and my first days back on plan in a ***LONG*** time. Guess what? I'm down to 237.3 as of this morning. This is only about 8 lbs away from the lowest weight of my adult life, and it marks the lowest I've been on this journey. This has happened during a week when I have been injured and unable to exercise like I'd like. This has happened during a week where eating right was more of a challenge than it usually is. This is a testament to what being mindful of your food choices and what you put in your mouth really matters. And this is proof to me that watching what you eat and doing your best even when it is not easy can actually work. This is something that I don't always believe, so it is wonderful to get this confirmation.


  1. Hey Sarah, I shall heed your words!

    Sensible advice about choosing food carefully but not becoming a social pariah. I am going it alone - the plan is I am mindfully eating, making sensible, healthy food choices and exercising more, and I am at the beginning of my journey. So much of what you have written there makes sense. I have been sorely tempted by food and drink at a glut of social occasions over the last two months (and no, I am not normally a 'socialite' - this is just the way things have panned out.It's most unfair on a fat woman who has just decided to get her act together!)You have been fair on yourself and thought about the choices available to you. I could relate to so much of that post. I face another 'trial by food' on Monday, but I think I'll attend being mindful of the choices available to me, and planning a bit in advance of the occasion. Thanks for the really timely post and well done for successfully getting through an occasion where some of your choices were limited or compromised.

  2. I think you definitely need to give yourself credit for your approach and the lessons you learned that can help you in the future.

    Events and travel are two things that can easily beset my best food plans. I've gotten better about packing snacks, but I still have a hard time turning down unhealthy choices on a buffet sometimes.

  3. hehe. I love that bike ride. You gotta do what you gotta do! Rolled up pants & all.

  4. You did great Sarah! I totally would have chowed down on all the pasta and just assumed the whole event was hopeless... (I would have had salad though... ) You did Awesome!!! I'm so glad it payed off and you saw the results right away! Keep up the good work!!!!


Clicky Web Analytics