Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Weekly weight-loss: week 16, return from vacation

So I've been out of town for two weeks. Far away in the Middle East. I was excited for this trip and wanted to enjoy it fully. At the same time, I didn't want to do too much damage to the weight loss efforts I've made over the past three months. So I was hoping to strike a balance of not going hog wild, but also not missing out on interesting foods during our travels. Instead, I decided to plan carefully how I would handle eating on our journey. Seemed foolproof, but as is often the case, there ended up being a major difference between what I planned to do and what I did.

What I planned:
  • I brought several Jenny Craig cereal packets and non-frozen meals (a combination of the tuna/chicken lunch kits and the southwestern chicken and rice, for any Jenny Craigers who are reading) because I figured I could fit them in occasionally over the two-week trip as a way to limit some of the calorie onslaught of eating out for two weeks straight.
  • I packed my workout clothes and running shoes, planning to work out at the hotel gyms every day that it was possible.
  • I told myself that I would not eat at buffets because they tend to cause me to overeat. I would order off of a menu and just have a reasonable portion of whatever my choice was. If I needed to eat at a buffet, I would choose one or two items after looking at everything first, and keep my portions reasonable.
  • I told myself I would only eat when actually hungry and that I would try to make healthy choices.
Sounds good, right? Might have been, if I had actually done any of it. Instead...

What I did:
  • I never ate a single morsel of Jenny Craig food the entire journey, instead carrying all that food around two countries and then bringing it back home again. I just couldn't bring myself to eat it when there were so many interesting foods around, to be honest. 
  • I exercised exactly once, running on the treadmill at our first hotel for about 20 minutes. Otherwise, we did do a bit of walking some days, and the last several days we played in the pool daily with Magpie, but I wouldn't call any of this strenuous.
  • We ate buffet food for at least two meals every day (usually breakfast and dinner). So many choices!! So delicious!! This was mostly because Magpie only had a limited length of time she would sit quietly and waiting for someone to prepare a meal, especially when they weren't very speedy, typically meant she was done with sitting by the time the food arrived. Lunch was often ordered off of a menu, and some of the dinners were entertainment/business dinners (each of these a multi-course food extravaganza at which I was forcefully encouraged by the hosts to eat more! and have another dessert!).
  • Many times I ate when I wasn't really hungry because there was so much tasty food around and I wanted to try it, or Will and Magpie were eating, and seeing all the food was too tempting.
Needless to say, all signs pointed to my diet being, at least temporarily, doomed.

The divergence between my plans and my actual behavior became apparent pretty much immediately. I quickly opted to just surrender to the process. I didn't want to be obsessive or miserable or feel deprived, and so I decided to just accept that I would likely gain weight while we were away, and I would deal with it after we returned home. I hoped not to gain too much, because I knew it would be frustrating to come home more than 5-7 pounds heavier, but honestly I had no idea how far over I was going. I just told myself I would let myself have a good time (yes, including daily Middle Eastern treats like kibbeh and umm ali) and then get back on the wagon diet-wise when I got home.

But darned if despite the food intake - which I'm telling you, was not insubstantial - my clothes felt looser by the end of the trip. And in a continual absolute craziness of events, when I went in to Jenny Craig on Monday night for my weigh-in, I somehow actually lost weight on our trip. I have no idea how this is possible, but according to the scale at Jenny Craig, I lost a whopping 4.8 pounds.

Weekly Weight Loss
Starting BMI just after Thanksgiving = 25.2 (officially overweight)
Week 1:     - 4.4 pounds (back into normal BMI territory, less than 25!)
Week 2:     - 0.8 pounds
Week 3:     - 3.6 pounds
Week 4:     out of town so no Jenny food and no weigh-in (Christmas travel madness!)
Week 5:     - 4.4 pounds since last weigh-in
Week 6:     - 2 pounds
Week 7:     - 1.6 pounds
Week 8:     - 1.4 pounds
Week 9:     + 0.4  pounds
Week 10:     -4.2 pounds  
Week 11:     -0.2 pounds  
Week 12:     -3.0 pounds 
Week 13:     +1.2 pounds
Week 14:     away in the Middle East
Week 15:     away in the Middle East
Week 16:     -4.8 pounds (what the???!!!)
Grand Total: 28.8 pounds lost (BMI = 20.4)

Total surprise over here. A very happy surprise!

Color me pleased but bewildered. At this point, I think I've given up on trying to figure out the fluctuations on the scale. Several weeks here at home, I've measured every single bite, eaten the Jenny Craig recommended 1,200 calories a day (which is not much!), and lost almost nothing or gained a bit. Then I travel, eat multiple sizable buffet meals a day (with bread! oil! sugar!), and come home almost 5 pounds lighter. It's incomprehensible. My Jenny Craig consultant is convinced I underate while traveling, but that is really not what my perception was. I asked Will for his impressions, since he was there too, and he said that not only did I not undereat, he thought I indulged myself, without going totally overboard into binge territory. So it's weird. Good weird, but weird. Obviously, water retention, hormones, etc., have a lot to do with the ups and downs the scale shows, but I guess I didn't think it would vary this much.

So we'll see what happens in the next week or so as my body readjusts to the time change, being home, etc.. I'm more than half expecting to see a big apparent "gain" next week, just because this apparent "loss" seems so precipitous, and not in line with the food intake. 

But as long as things stay reasonably stable, it appears that I'm just about done with losing weight and am close to or have arrived in maintenance land!!! If I lost 5 more pounds I would weigh what I did in high school. And if I lost anything beyond that, I think I'd look scary. So somewhere around here seems just fine. 

Of course then the trick will be (no small feat) to figure out how to keep things in this same ballpark weightwise, plus or minus 5 pounds. From everything I've read, it seems that maintenance is the most challenging part of weight loss - how to keep the weight off for the long-term.

But for now, yay!!!! I really can't believe how far I've come since December! And what a fantastic surprise to find out that our two weeks away didn't equal weight gain! 


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  1. Could be that they may use a lot less sugar in their food? I haven't been the middle east but when we were in Hong Kong the food had very little sugar so I think it was less calories than we would have guessed or would have consumed eating out in the US. Either way not too shabby :)

  2. that's an interesting idea. i hadn't thought of that. it's definitely possible... on the other hand, when i drank my AM tea and coffees there, they was no splenda available (or skim milk for that matter), so every day i i was adding extra sugar that i wouldn't have had back home.

  3. Your metabolism was stepped up, and probably your activity level. What a gift! Just enjoy it.

  4. Anonymous, Such a gift - you are right!

  5. When we visited Thailand, we ate TONS (TONS!) but we lost weight, I think because we walked a LOT every day compared to mostly sitting behind a computer daily here... and the food had huge portions of veg with every meal. And lots of fruit for breakfast.

    Of course, Malaysia messed all that up - very fatty food compared to how I normally eat so it evened out somewhat once we got back.

    Still AWESOME for you!!!!

  6. Thanks, Marcia! I wish I could say I ate lots of fruit and veg or walked a lot during our trip... Magpie did both, but I was not so good. Well, whatever the explanation, I will accept with gratitude : )

  7. Haven't read your entire post but I did guess you would have lost weight! I'm sure it's the lack of processed foods! Throw out those Jenny Craig meals and go mediterranean ;-)
    BTW, which countries did you visit?

  8. We experienced the same thing every time we traved to Scotland. And we have been 5 times in the last 10 years. And for the last 3 times we rent a cottage on the Isle of Skye so we even are doing some of our own cooking. And each time I have lost weight. Doesn't matter that I have indulged in their amazing chocolate, eating out or do not follow my diet. I always lose weight. I have read that there is some about how our beef is raised and how our grain is grown that is very different than in other parts of the world. This sort of thing makes me wonder if it is true.

  9. This seems to be counterintuitive, but I generally find I gain weight if I let my caloric intake get too low.

    I think my metabolism starts slowing down to compensate for the reduced caloric intake; I don't count calories, so I can't give precise numbers, but for me, something like 1200 calories a day would probably have me gaining weight, whereas closer to 1400 or 1500 would be a good maintenance amount. I wonder if you're experiencing something similar?

  10. However it happened, congratulations on a wonderful trip and wonderful experience of weight loss! So glad that you're back and sharing all about it!

  11. That is awesome. I'm still doing Jenny (6 weeks so far) and down 10 lbs now. half way yeah.

    Thanks also for the tips on traveling overseas with a little one. Nicole

  12. Anonymous/Nicole at 4:08 - that's great!! Congrats!

  13. obviously if maintenance gets tough you just need to take a trip, preferably to an exotic locale!


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