I need to just admit it: I have a fairly stressful life and not only is parenting difficult, but the particulars of parenting my children – fabulous and wonderful though they are – proves challenging on a day to day basis. You know the stresses if you’re a parent, thinking simultaneously of the moment and of the long-term perspective on things. I’ve written before about get-through-it moments versus fix-it moments, but what I don’t tend to mention is how stressful and emotionally taxing these experiences can be.
For better or worse, my drug of choice when I’m stressed out seems to be food. I don’t drink, I don’t do drugs, I don’t even indulge in the now-legal recreational marijuana here in Colorado. When I’m feeling like things are really difficult, I have something sweet. Add to that my predilection for carbs, whether a sandwich, bagel, pasta or some pizza, and it’s no wonder that I’ve put on a lot of weight in the last few years.
It’s weird because as a kid I was too busy being active to worry about my weight and the photos I have of myself as a teen are all of a slim fellow, almost verging on a bit scrawny. Somewhere along the way that definitely changed and it was a bit more than two years ago that I approached the team at Nutrisystem to see if I could try their controlled meals and really lose some weight. And it worked really well, with me dropping over 30 pounds in just a few months. You can see that in this weight chart:
My starting weight in late Feb, 2013 was about 268 pounds. Now before you have visions of me as overly rotund, it’s worth knowing I’m 6’3″, so I can carry a reasonable amount of weight and am never going to get below 220 pounds, even if I was on a complete starvation diet for the rest of the year. Oh, and that starvation POW diet? Possibly a bit more extreme than I seek anyway.
The graph speaks volumes, however, because I finished up on Nutrisystem back in late 2013 and since then it’s been a steady uphill climb to my current weight of 269.6 pounds, a BMI of 33.5%. Not good. Certainly I’m heaver than where I feel comfortable and healthy.
Fortunately, when I circled back to the Nutrisystem team, they agreed to sponsor my trying out the new program, starting with the Fast 5+ box ‘o food for the first week. Things have definitely changed in the program for the better – it’s easier to work with – and the Fast 5, which you can pick up in retail locations, really is a no-brainer way to have a week’s worth of food.
Now it’s not a lot of food for a week, as you can see in the photo below, but it’s also a big recalibration for my body to remember what it’s like to eat maybe a few less calories than I need each day rather than a lot more:
Red is dinner, orange is lunch, blue is breakfast, and there’s a morning “energy zing” shake with caffeine and an afternoon “craving crusher” shake for later in the afternoon. Both are easy enough to deal with. And after dinner? Nada. Time for me to readjust.
Having gone down this road before, I know that there are a couple of secrets to success: lots of veggies on hand for snacks (the program encourages you to eat non-starchy vegetables, of which carrots and celery are the easiest), spacing the foods to eat every few hours (so mid-morning and mid-afternoon shakes), gym visits (I already go 5+ days/week), lots of water (they recommend 64oz/day) and distractions. That last one will be my great challenge because it’s late at night after the kids have all gone to bed that is my greatest danger period, when I’m bored and trying to alleviate some of the stress and tension of the day with a sweet. But not for now. Not for a few months.
One of the greatest challenges with any sort of pre-packaged diet program is eating out and Nutrisystem now has a small book included with the program that talks about just that, recommending menu items and portion management to help make smart choices when it’s just too awkward to ask if the restaurant has a microwave for your tiny little tray of prepared foods while everyone else is enjoying a gourmet repast.
It’s also darn handy that I have a slick Withings Smart Body Analyzer scale (see pic on right) so I can get weight and BMI data that’s automatically stored online so I can see trends, as shown in the graph above. If you track your physiological data, an Apple Watch (I have one! Read my review of the Apple Watch) or Fitbit might be a good way to know your heart rate and steps exerted, but the Withings is the best scale I’ve ever used in terms of tracking weight across a long time period, and it can even differentiate between family members and automatically store their data separately too.
The real challenge of the next few months, however, is going to be what’s going on inside my head. And I’m not alone with this challenge, lots of people hear “comfort” and automatically associate “food” with it. And that’s what I’m really going to be working on through the summer and beyond, so that 18mo after this journey with Nutrisystem I’m not back up to a point far above my desired weight range but have found a happy medium where I manage portions and still have an occasional indulgence too.
I’ve half-heartedly tried to lose weight for at least the last six months, even setting myself a New Year’s Resolution of dropping back below 250. The weight chart speaks volumes about how well I did at that. To be fair, there have been some exceptional stresses in the last six months, including my Dad passing away late in 2014 and, closer to home, with both my teens and our collective struggle to help them make it through high school and matriculate to the college of their choice, but life is about those tough periods, it’s not just what happens when everything works smoothly. So it’s my challenge to overcome.
I also have friends whose voices I can already hear in my head as they sneer at the pre-packaged boxes of food from Nutrisystem and talk about just eating less and exercising more. To them I say that I already hit the gym 5+ times/week and that this is how I’m going to move further in that direction. I appreciate either their support or them leaving me alone for a few months while I proceed, thank-you-very-much.
And so it goes. Day one. A blueberry muffin for breakfast and, in an hour, my first Energi-Zing shake.
Wish me luck and, please, don’t send any snacks or sweets to tempt me! 🙂
Disclaimer: Nutrisystem is sponsoring me being on the program for three months without any cost as part of the Nutrisystem Nation Blogger Program. Darn helpful.