Healthy and Sane

Identifying challenges and setting up solutions

January 11th, 2011 · 49 Comments · weight loss struggles

For the past 12+ months, I’ve been unhappy with my weight – thinking, talking and blogging about it over and over. I feel like I have all the right tools to lose the weight. I already love healthy food and exercise and I am usually very driven when it comes to goals – it should have all fallen into place by now. But it hasn’t. So the question is WHY?

I’ve been struggling with staying within my Points Plus allowance on a daily basis. I’ve been ending the nights with too many snacks. I’ve been giving in to the “last supper” behavior. I’ve been doing things I’m not only not proud of but that have been taking me further from achieving my goal.

In an effort to be kind to myself and not beating myself up for “failing” at yet another attempt at a healthy day, I’ve decided to try something a little different. I’ve been digging a little deeper and trying to really understand why every morning I have all the intention of sticking to the plan and yet every night I wish for a do-over.

So I’ve taken a closer look into what foods and situations prevent me from accomplishing my goal. Here are a few I’ve identified – this list is definitely a work in progress!

Challenge #1: No easily accessible healthy food that I actually want to eat.

I plan my dinners on a weekly basis so I thought I was following the experts’ advise on this. What I discovered over the last 10 days is that I often plan for meals that I don’t actually crave. A dish may have good nutritional stats, or another blogger mentioned she really enjoyed it. There is a chance that despite my apprehension I may love it but the problem is that I’m not motivated to make it… even though I have all the ingredients already purchased! Sometimes that means that take-out or a random throw in a bowl-type dish is snacks seem more appealing. This also sets me up for failure the next day because of lack of leftovers.

Solutions: Listen to your gut. Plan meals that you crave!

Challenge #2: Planned meals are too ambitious.

I feel like if I have no after work plans, I should be able to make a “real” meal that I can blog about later. The problem is that sometimes on such nights I actually feel like I finally have a minute to breathe and relax. Or that I at least deserve one! This makes me rebel against my ambitious plans and want to nix them.

Solution: Have a few meals planned that require no real cooking. Sandwiches and pita pizzas are perfect for nights like this. Make sure you have the right ingredients to make them still appealing and healthy!

Challenge #3: Morning rush followed by the need to come home for lunch.

I already talked about my need to start going to bed early. I’m still working on that – this is a very tough habit to break! What I realized is that living across the street from work is a blessing and a curse. I feel like I can just come home for lunch and make a “real” meal. The downside? After my real healthy lunch, I want to keep lounging on the couch for the rest of the afternoon, eating bonbons (ok, maybe nuts straight out of the bag).

Solution: Pack your lunch and your gym clothes and take them to work! No stopping by the house mid-day unless it’s an emergency!!! This will prevent unnecessary snacking mid-day and will make the workday a lot more efficient.

Challenge #4: Too many or too few baked goods around.

I’ve realized that if I have delicious baked goods around the house, I want to finish them off so that they’ll be gone and I can be “better” tomorrow. My solution for this past week was to stop bringing them into the house (or making them). This reduced my sweets intake for a few days but I’m now going through withdrawals and have started filling in the gap with other less desirable foods. I’m munching on nut butters out of the jar, on bars of chocolate that are still in my house (it’s very different from a baked good for me though!) and even chips with hummus or bean dip or nuts (don’t ask me how a void of cookies can be filled with chips… I’m just stuffing whatever looks good into my mouth!). I’m trying to fill the void that can only be filled in one way.

Solution: ???? Maybe buy 1 cookie a day and save it for after dinner? This won’t really fall into my Weight Watchers plan but neither does all this unnecessary night time snacking.

What about you? Do you have any trigger events or foods that are preventing you from moving towards your goal?

Any advise for me on that last challenge?

PS – Don’t forget to enter the Better Butter giveaway. Smile

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49 Comments so far ↓

  • #1 - Lauren at KeepItSweet

    I’ve definitely experienced all of the above! One of my biggest challenges is having enough protein in my lunch and your number 2. Both of these mean I need to plan better. It is hard, but I am trying!

  • #2 - maria @ Chasing the Now

    Consider making a batch of cookies and immediately FREEZING them after they cool. Take one out when you really want it and let it thaw. They still taste great, but you won’t have them in your face all day.

    I did this with Mama Pea’s dough balls and it was a good tool.

    • #3 - Lauren

      I agree! After cooling, I wrap more than half of whatever baked good I’ve made and store them in a ziploc bag in the freezer.

      I also suggest making healthier versions of cookies, bread, muffins, etc. I have successfully “trained” my sweet tooth to be satisfied with less sugar – I typically cut out at least half of the sweetener called for in a recipe, and use less-refined sweeteners as well.

      • #4 - Elina

        Unfortunately the freezer hasn’t stopped me yet. It does if I forget I have them or am seriously in control, but when a hard day comes and I remember I have them, forget about it. Even if I wrap them one by one (although that sometimes slows me down). Actually the individual wrapping isn’t the worst idea. Hmm.
        Lauren, I like that you were able to train your sweet tooth to be satisfied with less sweet things. I enjoy them too but after a few days still feel like it’s now time for the real thing. I wish someone was my sweets keeper and gave me individual daily servings!! lol <--actually I'm only partially kidding 😉

  • #5 - Carly

    God you sound like me with the “I’ll be better tomorrow” attitude. I hate to disagree with Maria above… but the freezer is NO deterrent for me with cookies. I actually enjoy them frozen or microwaved to thaw.
    I also get stuck on #2. There are many nights where I have an awesome, healthy meal planned but no energy to cook when I get home.
    I think what helps me is that I LOVE to exercise. Granted I still have gained weight recently despite this. However, I can only imagine how much more it would be if I didn’t exercise on an almost daily basis. Spinning and weights are my best friends :)
    Have you tried to find a buddy to stay accountable with? Someone that you can almost compete with to be healthy? This could be a new motivator – I am SO motivated by “competition”. But this kind of competition benefits all involved!

    • #6 - Elina

      Yup, I’m with you. I can eat cookie dough straight out of the freezer and the microwave is my friend for defrosting. *sigh*
      LOVE the idea of friendly competition. I need to find my victim now. Mwahaha 😉

  • #7 - Lindsey

    Your challenge #4 sounds just like what I go through. If I have sweets around, I eat them quickly so that I can be “better” at eating healthy later. But when I don’t make them, I’m more likely to eat too much of another unhealthy food. A good idea could be to make a batch of your favorite cookies and freeze individual dough balls so that you can break that out of the freezer and bake it when you feel the craving. That way, a plate of cookies isn’t out in the open. Good luck!:)

    • #8 - Elina

      I think it’s a good idea but I rarely actually bake cookies when i have cookie dough in the freezer. Maybe one day I can work up to it :)

  • #9 - MelissaNibbles

    I’ve been in all these situations. I found that the only time I was successful in weight loss was when I stopped making excuses for myself and just did it. That didn’t happen until I was finally ready to put the effort into sticking to an exercise and healthy eating routine. Something just clicked inside. Maybe that’s what’s going on with you. Maybe it just hasn’t clicked yet? I hope your new solutions work out well!

    • #10 - Elina

      You are so right, Melissa. It just hasn’t clicked. I’m trying everything to get to that point but it’s just not working. I need to figure this out because dissapointing myself daily just isn’t fun.

  • #11 - Sami

    I hate that I’m always away from home and can’t always cook meals for myself. I think I’d be a lot better off if I could just slow down and come home to make a nice dinner as opposed to always eating out of a lunch box. Not to mention, the prep worK (chopping veggies, cooking extras, etc) and clean up (washing 103948092384 tupperware containers) are much more of a hassle.

  • #12 - Sarah

    Plan your evening snacks. I am in the exact same boat as you….last night I actually planned to eat a piece of toast with a bit of PB and an orange after supper. I actually stuck to having just that with a glass of sparkling crystal light. It gave me the “something” I look forward to snacking on atfer supper, but it was planned so amazingly it didn’t end up in a binge episode!

    • #13 - Elina

      Yup, I need to do this. I definitely agree that if I eat something a little more indulgent but it was planned, I’m much more ok with it… and usually can prevent going overboard. Thanks for the reminder!

  • #14 - Cara

    I can totally relate about the meal planning; it can feel like such a double-edged sword. I really have to take a step back and convince myself that I don’t need to make something brand new and utterly impressive every night just for the sake of being able to blog it, you know? It’s more important to keep my time balanced and make meals that I really want to eat – and lately that might include recipes from my blog that I made a long time ago and could stand to be re-photographed. I’m trying to think of a way to “re-feature” these recipes, especially since I seem to have a bunch of new readers lately.

  • #15 - Michelle

    I’ve been doing a carb and sugar cleanse this month and it has drastically reduced my appetite. For me, my struggle is to remember that just because it is in front of me, it doesn’t mean I need to eat it. Good luck with your goals and solutions.

    • #16 - Elina

      Yessssss, I’ve been actually good about reminding myself this at work but the couch with a container of cookies in tow is a lot harder to resist.

  • #17 - Katie @ Health for the Whole Self

    I can certainly relate to your second point. Free evenings are rare for me these days, and I always THINK I’m going to want to cook some elaborate, healthy meal…but then when I get home, I’m exhausted and just want to relish the few moments I have to do NOTHING. I think I’ll take your suggestion and make a list of no-cook dinner ideas, so that I can eat something healthy and nourishing while still getting the relaxation I’m craving.

  • #18 - Kate

    I overcome my sweets cravings by keeping fruit and nothing else in the house and letting myself eat as much of it as I want. If that means I eat a pound of grapes in one sitting, so be it–it’s still never going to be as many calories as a couple of brownies or cookies. And for those really tough times, I have a secret stash of expensive truffles that I break into maybe once a week–they’re only 50 calories each, but so decadent that I can’t eat more than 2 (mayyyybe 3) at a time–again, less calories than a cookie.

    • #19 - Elina

      Hehe, secret stash – who is it hiding from? This is basically what I’ve been trying these days but I still want cookies. Damn cookies.

  • #20 - Bridget

    I also have a severe love for baked goods (way more than candy/chocolate), so I agree with others about making a healthy baked good! I can be just as satisfied with a yummy muffin as I am with a cookie. Or make something similar to those supercharge me cookies! I like the idea of freezing half the batch too (I need to do that!). Packing food definintely helps because once its gone, its gone…if I am somehow home for lunch I love it but I definintely snack more before/after my meal. Sometimes a cup of hot tea in a “sweet” flavor helps me in the afternoon…I have this “Nilla Nut” tea, its like a hazelnut/vanilla flavor, it’s not sweetened, but it smells sweet and tastes delicious and since it’s hot I have to drink it slow. Doesnt cut it all the time but I usually try it out first!

    I need to be better at meal planning. Although I do find myself repeating recipes more when they dont take as long :) and I LOVE having leftovers for lunch the next day so I always make extra!

    • #21 - Elina

      I love tea! It’s actually one of my “tools” during the day. Like a mid-afternoon treat that makes me all warm and happy. :)

  • #22 - Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    Maybe you can bake your cookies and keep them in your freezer, taking out one a day as your snack.

    Or maybe treat your sweet snack like a real meal. Sit down to eat it and eat it on a plate.

  • #23 - Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic

    Challenge # 4 is probably my biggest challenge. And it’s not necessarily baked goods (because I always make it a point to bring cookies/brownies to the office) but just dessert in general: chocolate, ice cream, more chocolate 😉 My advice might sound silly but it is something that works for me: I look at those kinds of sweets as part of my everyday routine, so I can have a little bit each day. That way, they aren’t “forbidden” (which makes them more tempting!). I am not tempted to finish the whole tub of mini peanut butter cups or the whole Lindt bar or the whole pint of ice cream, because I know I can have some more tomorrow… Good luck with everything!

  • #24 - Tracy

    Hi Elina,

    I’m wondering how much of your craving is physiological and how much is psychological? If it’s the former, a couple days of sugar detox will cure you, but the latter requires a different answer than the perfect number of cookies.

    Are you maybe frustrated from not seeing the results you want from WW? When I was properly dieting I felt like I was putting in so much effort but not seeing the (unreasonably instant) results that I wanted. I’d ask myself how much longer I would have to go without my favourite foods and then eventually, in a moment of weakness, fall into a last-meal type binge!

    For the past 3 days I’ve been on a PSMF diet of 90% protein and have lost 4 lbs already! Even though it is mostly water weight, seeing that number on the scale drop keeps ALL cravings away!

    Lyle McDonald has written some really great books about dieting and I’m following the plan in his book “The Rapid Fat Loss Handbook”. No mambo-jumbo, all science. Other people have raved about his “Ultimate Diet V2.0” and “A Guide to Flexible Dieting”. Consider browsing his site! He has some great (free) articles about the science of dieting.

    Good luck, Elina! Please keep us posted :)

    • #25 - Elina

      Tracy, while I think that I definitely have a sugar additiction, I think my cravings are mostly psychological (why else would I reach for salty chips when I want cookies? It’s obviously not just sugar that I’m craving!). I’m not dissappointed by my results on WW because I haven’t been able to stick to the plan. I KNOW I’ll see results (thats I’ll be happy with) if I actually do it.
      Also, I’m against drastic cleanses or extreme diets (which is why I’ll be ok with a slow loss if I see one). I think that those of us that have food issues need to deal with them on a deeper level (and work on setting ourselves up for success by planning… and avoiding traps and triggers) – those extreme diets won’t solve the deeper issues.

  • #26 - kellyB

    So I was going through this exact same thing. I would start a week tracking and because I would write it in pencil, as the day got worse, I’d erase the whole day and say oh I screwed up today, I’ll try it again tomorrow and each day would occur like this.

    Last week I finally logged into eTools and spent an hour or two putting in my foods and meals (i typically eat a lot of the same things) and now I logged into it with my phone and I’ve been more motivated this way and have found at the end of the day I need to eat something to eat up all my points. I lost 6 pounds since the 2nd.

    I cannot have baked goods in my house. I now have lots of fruit in my house, since I don’t have to count points for them and I love veggies. I plan on making 2 meals a week, and the rest of the week I eat what I crave within budget.

    You should bring your lunch and snacks to work, if I went home everyday I wouldn’t be able to stay on program at all. I also don’t have anywhere to be able to quickly pick up a baked good as well, so I’m safe there. Good luck, its hard.

    • #27 - Elina

      Yay, congrats on such amazing results. So glad that etools is working for you! I’ve been using it as well… well for the first part of the day at least. I need to start seriously sticking to it. Period.

  • #28 - katecooks

    i definitely agree with melissa. maybe part of the problem is that it hasn’t clicked yet, but i think also you might be putting too much pressure on yourself. i know a certain amount of pressure feels important otherwise it feels like you will just go haywire and eat whatever you want and keep gaining. that said, i find that when i am not planning, stressing, or thinking about food 24/7 is when i am happiest with my body. otherwise, i get obsessive and ironically gain rather than lose. it’s all about mindset at that point. i think if you are thinking about other things besides food, you wont be planning out every bite and getting mad at yourself if you stray from the plan. when you were at your favorite weight (not necessarily the lowest, but when you were happy with your body and your life), what was working for you? if you can get back to that mentality, i think it will all fall into place!!

    • #29 - Elina

      Kate – I can remember 3 times in my life when I was happiest with my weight (getting actually close to my goal weight) – in college when I was an exercise machine and dieter (bleh), right before the wedding when I was cooking healthfully, exercising and counting calories (it all felt right) and in 2009 when I was training for a half marathon. I was running so much that I felt like intuitive eating (probably with too many splurges) was working for me. I wasn’t at my lowest weight but I was pretty happy with what my body could do. I don’t want to rely on running to get me to my right weight so I definitely need to work on the food. I DEFINITELY agree that freaking out and obsessing about it is not the way. It leads to the last supper mentality which is never healthy! Thanks for your comment :)

  • #30 - Kelly

    I think the very act of identifying some of the things that trip you up is so helpful. Your solutions sound very reasonable. I 100% agree with you on making food you crave. A lot of times I read about ultra healthy recipes but then realize I am just not into them. So lately I’ve been all about making food that I crave so much so that even though I’m doing WW and feeling very successful, I’m not sure anyone on my blog would know I’m cooking differently.

    I think it’s been about being honest with myself. I could eat ultra clean, ultra healthy 100% of the time but the reality is it’s not me.

    • #31 - Elina

      Right – it’s really important to stay true to yourself. That’s what I’m trying to work towards and the reason why different strategies work for different people. So glad that you’re successful with ww so far! :)

  • #32 - alicia

    i’m going through the same thing! i want to lose about 15 pounds and it shouldn’t be so hard! just a few months of hard work and diligence…but somehow it’s not that easy. my biggest downfall is having snacky/carby things like cereal and granola around…so i try not to buy them, but if i do, it’s a few days of nonstop munching and guilt until they’re gone. and i totally do the “last supper” thing. life is rough!!!

  • #33 - Corey @ the runner's cookie

    I went through a phase of trying to make every meal as healthy as possible, disregarding what I actually wanted, and once I went the other way around and asked “What do I WANT?” and THEN “How can I make that at least mostly healthy?”, there was a huge shift. For me, if I don’t eat what I want, I will probably still be hungry after.
    As for the baked goods thing, I can relate to wanting them around but not a ton. Have you thought of freezing a batch of cookies and individually wrapping them? This works great for me. Or you could bring them to work and put them in the work kitchen.
    Looks like you’ve done a great job being aware and figuring out how to overcome your obstacles!

    • #34 - Elina

      Corey – freezing them doesn’t help. I think individually wrapping them may do the trick on most days. I think I’ll bake a batch of something yummy this weekend and see how they hold up. :)

  • #35 - Julie (A Case of the Runs)

    I try to save all the stuff like “cookies” for the nighttime, and by then I don’t want them. Although, cookies aren’t the go-to for me… mine is cereal. 😉

  • #36 - Allison

    Freezing cookies doesn’t work. They are just as good cold. For whatever reason, Sundays are my downfall. This weekend, I made a delicious loaf of healthy bread and by the end of Sunday, finished it off so it would be gone. Ug. I know perfectly well that that is flawed logic. I think I struggle because of the lack I’d structure on Sundays. My main problem is that I am fully aware that I eat to relax. I crave carbs and in a weird way, I find binging relaxing. I am fully aware that this is aterrible copying mechanism and I have even made lists of things I can do instead. But in the end, reaching for food is so automatic for me and I don’t know how to break the habit. I start before I ever realize it and once I have started it is hard to stop. ” Last supper” mentality.

    • #37 - Elina

      I know what you mean about knowing in that moment the right thing to do but still falling into the trap. If you’ve identified the lack of structure as a binge trigger, you’re half-way there. Create structure!! It can still be a day full of fun activities but have a schedule :) The mantra I keep trying to remember… If you want to change, you need to change!! Change your Sunday routine and hopefully it helps! It still won’t be easy but you have to work at it to make real progress. Good luck!!!! 😀

  • #38 - Meghan@traveleatlove

    It might help for you to create a nightly ritual for yourself. I brew a giant mug of Trader Joe’s sleepy time tea, prop myself up with pillows in bed, and watch something totally mindless on TV. The tea is my signal that it is bed time and I am done for the night. And that I can’t have any more wine, even if I have a bottle open :) It’s relaxing and feels like a treat.

  • #39 - Not the absolute healthiest but absolutely delicious

    […] Identifying challenges and setting up solutions […]

  • #40 - G

    Hi, I’ve been in funks like this before- they come and go in the seasons of life. Recently, i’ve been doing “No S” (google it). It’s great, it seems like i’m a normal eater again. XO

  • #41 - Lauren

    Hi Elina,

    I have been reading your blog for a while now, but I don’t think I ever commented.

    I love how honest you are with your weight loss struggles, it is the number one reason I come back to your blog. I want to see you succeed and I want you to be happy with your body.

    I know how frustrating it is to see weight creep on and then to not see it budge. This has happend to me in the past and the number one thing that helps me feel better about myself is exercise. I know it is hard to find time to exercise, but this has got to become a priority in your life, especially because you seem to love it.

    You love food, we all do, and I agree that life has less meaning if you are eating salads with a lean protein everyday for every meal and eating no desert, but if you want to lose weight you have to severely limit your intake of sweets and eat as much fruits, veggies, and lean meats as possible.

    Good luck with everything, I will be reading!

    – Lauren

    • #42 - Elina

      Lauren – I agree – I have to make exercise a priority; got reminded of that yesterday when I had a completely different attitude after a post run high. It’s just hard when other “more important” things seem to pop up.

  • #43 - Lee

    I do the same thing with baked goods/sweets. I want to eat them all so they’ll be out of the house.

    I feel like you and I are in the same situation. I think we even weigh the same amount and are trying to get to the same goal weight. It’s so hard when you know what to do, but knowing and doing aren’t the same thing. Good luck to you. Good for you for identifying some of the problems.

  • #44 - Rachel

    Hi Elina,
    As a previous commenter mentioned, I think its really interesting to look at the emotional reasons why we eat sometimes. I’ve really enjoyed Geneen Roth’s book “Women, Food and God” as a jumping off point to reflect on my relationship with food!

  • #45 - The scale dilemma

    […] Identifying challenges and setting up solutions […]

  • #46 - Shannon

    yeah, it’s those damn emotions! lol. i have no restraint with things in the house right now, so i’m trying to take some time w/o them. hopefully i’ll get it back, but for now it’s ok…

  • #47 - BB

    I can totally relate to all your struggles in this post. Thank you for being so honest about food issues. I know that for me it helps knowing that I am not the only one who feels/acts this way. Its tough feeling that I am the only one who has to deal with things like lack of self control- or going to the 2 extremes- all in healthy or all out the other way with the “today is a bad day, i’ll start my diet tomorrow” mentality. I have struggled with food issues my entire life, and until I started reading blogs I honestly didn’t know how many others were going through the same exact things…down to specific behaviors… So i just wanted to say thanks for sharing and thanks for your honesty. Hopefully it helps you (not just your readers) getting it all out there. I am sure you will find a place where you are happy and healthy :)

  • #48 - Laura

    Hi Elina!

    So cool to come upon this blog in searching for info on sugar detox. I am also Russian and also from Moldova!

    In terms of your weight loss journey, thanks so much for the honesty. For me, I have found that the solution is not so much physical or psychological as it is spiritual. When I repeatedly set nutrition/exercise goals and was unable to stick to them for years, I realized that there were some seriously deep-rooted issues there.

    If you are open to exploring the spiritual aspect of this puzzling behavior, a great book to read is “A Course in Weight Loss” by Marianne Williamson. It really examines the underlying reasons of why we eat, and though it does mention God a lot, I hope that won’t thwart you.

    Would love to hear more from you. You can e-mail me anytime.


    • #49 - Elina

      Thanks for the book suggestion, Laura! So cool you’re from Moldova too… we’re a rare breed. lol
      Working through the emotional issues is definitely key. Food is only part of the equation!