Thursday, May 16, 2019

Getting Things Done with Google Keep

An updated post about my GTD methodology using Google Keep, focused on the setup instructions. This is just my setup, feel free to customize.
  • Set up labels for high level categories. I use emojis to make my labels more fun. I have labels for:
    • "Todo" for todo lists, including a monthly list, a future list, bucket list, new year's resolutions, and project lists like packing for a trip, grocery shopping, weekly chores, etc. Basically anything with checkboxes. For recurring todo items (weekly chores, birthday planning, etc.) I set up a recurring reminder in my calendar.
    • "Travel" with travel plans, notes about trips, etc.
    • "Recipes" with cooking recipes (with pictures!).
    • "Work" with misc. work related notes.
    • "1:1" with my checklists for things I need to talk about with people who report to me or with my manager.
    • "Personal" with misc. personal related notes.
    • "Focus" is a duplicate label for the following key notes. Using the Focus label lets me focus on what's important and not be distracted by the clutter of other notes that aren't important right now. If warranted I can add other notes to the label for things I'm working on.
      • Monthly (current) todo list
      • Monthly journal (personal)
      • Monthly snippets (work journal)
    • "Journal" contains my monthly personal journal note (a note with one entry per day of what is going on in my life) and my work snippets (notes about what I'm doing at work, for sharing with my manager).
    • "Projects" contains one note per big project that I work on, to track what is going on, meeting notes, etc.
  • Set up color coding. I use:
    • Red for work notes
    • Blue for personal notes
    • Purple for a mix of the two (I try to avoid this but sometimes lines are blurry, like for my todo lists)
  • Set up main notes. The minimum that I recommend is:
    • A todo list for the current month.
    • A todo list for the future (these get moved to the "current month" list each month)
    • A journal note to track daily goings-on.  I use one note per month, sometimes two, depending on how much I write.
    • Project notes: I set up one note per project I work on, both for work and personal. Projects might be big work projects, or fun things like a vacation I am planning.
    • I make my notes fun (and easy to find) by putting a relevant image on each note. Usually just some image I find on Google search, like an image of a checklist for my main todo list, or a picture of a bicycle for my biking to work prep checklist.
  • Archive frequently. Whenever a note is no longer "current", it gets archived. That keeps my Notes section clean and current.
  • Pin the important stuff. My current todo list, current journal, bucket list, and new year's resolutions are pinned.  If I go on a trip, I'll pin that note as well for the duration of the trip.
    • Android Widget: On my Android home screen, I put the Google Keep widget and specify the "Pinned Notes", with my current todo list as the top note, so that I have easy access to the note, and can see at a glance of my phone what I need to work on today.
    • Pin vs. Focus: I use my Focus label for a subset of Pinned notes.  Pinned notes are notes I want to keep at the top of my mind and not forget about (e.g., bucket list, new year's resolutions) but aren't things that I need to actually "Focus" on a daily basis.  I scan over my Pinned notes at least once a week to see what is relevant, but I use my "Focus" label daily.
  • I keep a flat hierarchy, using only the labels above. I can search for anything and find it easily, and the color coding helps keep work and personal separate.

Podcasts

I think podcasts are one of the best ways of learning new things, keeping up with trends, and making use of otherwise dead time (like while driving to work).  These are the podcasts I subscribe to (note: I don't listen to every episode, I pick and choose what interests me to listen to). Favorites are bolded.

  • 1A from NPR
  • 99% Invisible
  • American Scandal
  • Amicus
  • Ben Greenfield Fitness
  • Body Science Podcast
  • Broken Brain
  • Bulletproof Radio
  • Commonwealth Club of California
  • Crimetown
  • Criminal
  • Embed
  • Every Little Thing
  • Freakonomics
  • Fresh Air
  • Heavyweight
  • Hidden Brain
  • How I Built This
  • Invisibilia
  • Lore
  • Make Me Smart
  • Nancy
  • On The Media
  • Planet Money
  • Pod Save America
  • The NPR Politics Podcast
  • Pop Culture Happy Hour
  • Radiolab
  • Reply All
  • Reveal
  • Science Vs.
  • Serial
  • Money with Felix Salmon
  • Snap Judgment
  • StartUp
  • Talks at Google
  • TED Radio Hour
  • TED Talks Daily
  • The Manliest Podcast
  • Doctor's Farmacy
  • The Dream
  • The Indicator
  • The Lighter Side
  • The Moth
  • Tim Ferriss Show
  • The Upgrade
  • The West Wing Podcast
  • This American Life
  • This Week in Google
  • This Week With George Stephanopolis
  • Valley of Genius
  • Making Sense
  • 40+ Fitness
  • The WW Bro Podcast
  • RichRoll
  • Model Health
  • Inside HQ
  • Fat Burning Man
  • The Dropout
  • Wendalicious At Goal
  • Diet Doctor Podcast
  • Dr. Berg's Healthy Keto & Intermittent Fasting
  • The Intermittent Fasting Podcast
  • Good Girl Gone OMAD
  • The Warrior Health Show
  • 2 Keto Dudes
  • Intermittent Fasting Stories
  • Obesity Code Podcast
  • Good Life Project
  • The Daily
  • The Pen Addict

What Is My Why?

What is my "why" for wanting to stop binge eating?
  • Health: My fasting blood sugar levels are in the prediabetic range
  • Health: Extending my healthy functional lifespan
  • Happiness: Being happy with my body aesthetic
  • Relinquish mental anguish, anxiety, and preoccupation with food for other more enjoyable pursuits
What is your "why" for the changes you want to make?

Attempts At WW

I have tried several approaches to weight loss (keto, intermittent fasting, whole foods), but I kept coming back to Weight Watchers because that was the only method that actually resulted in me losing weight. I have made several attempts at Weight Watchers over the years.

Attempt 1: Five Days to Failure 

In 2016, I tried WW for the first time. I lasted five days. On the fifth day, I exceeded my points for the week, got discouraged at my failure, and cancelled my membership.

I later learned that this type of “all or nothing” view of diets never leads to success: The goal is not 100% compliance; the goal is progress.

Attempt 2: Achieving Goal, Failing Maintenance

A year later, in March 2017, having reached an all-time high weight, I gave WW another try. Mostly out of desperation to find a program that would work for me. I was attracted to the gamification of weight loss (daily points! weekly points! points to earn from fitness and spend on food!), integration with my FitBit, and the prospect of eventually using the more lenient Simply Filling plan (now discontinued) to achieve a successful transition from weight loss to weight management. I was hopeful that the points system would help curb my bingeing and sugar addiction.

WW taught me how to lose weight, still eat good quality and tasting food, and achieve my fitness goals. My first month I lost 10 pounds, my clothes got looser, my belt needed to be tightened another notch, and I could see the change in the mirror. And although I had a few bingeing episodes, I ate much less sugar, junk food, and fat than I had been before. By my second month, my total cholesterol had declined to a significantly healthier level than I was able to achieve with prescription statins. I managed to lose twenty-five pounds and came within one pound of my goal weight. Then I sabotaged my success.

By July 2017, I relapsed. I had nearly achieved my weight goal, but my old habits crept back. I felt the points system to be too restrictive. By December 2017, I had regained all the weight I lost, plus more.

Attempt 3: Work In Progress

By March 2018, I set a new weight high. I realized once again that sugar was the key part of my problem, and tried various attempts at low-sugar diets (including keto), with limited success.

By August 2018, I returned to WW. I was exactly the weight when I started WW the first time in March 2017. This round took a bit longer for me to reach goal (which I achieved in November 2018, losing 32 pounds), but I eventually made it and entered the six-week maintenance window, and then achieved lifetime status (maintaining my weight at or below goal for 6+ weeks). I credit the Freestyle food plan, which was introduced for 2018, as helping me stick with WW and not feel that SmartPoints was too restrictive.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Vacations

When I go on vacation, I do my best to stick to my weight loss plan. But my goal on vacation is to maintain weight, not lose.

Having said that, I have gone on vacations that are food-heavy, where I did not want to feel guilty about indulging in delicious foods, and for those I put WW on pause (I stopped tracking). I resumed upon my return from vacation, guilt free.

I have gone on cruises while on WW, and found that the cruises offered WW-friendly foods, like egg-based breakfasts, vegetables, chicken breast, and fruit desserts.

Now that I am following a Food Plan, I will always maintain that plan while on vacation.

What To Eat

I try to be strategic about eating. Viewing eating as an opportunity to further my progress to my goals helps me keep a positive relationship with food and not resent the program I am on. Sticking to meal routines (same food for most breakfasts/lunches) reduces opportunities for slipping up.

I rely a lot on Freestyle foods. Especially chicken breast, eggs, fish, and beans. I typically eat 3-4 servings of fruit a day, and as many servings of vegetables as I can. I developed some go-to meals that are healthy, low(er) in points, and reliable foods for me to seek out when I am hungry or eating out: Freestyle foods; eggs and egg whites for breakfast (or any meal); salads with black beans and soybeans, apples, bananas, berries for snacks; Subway chopped chicken salads with mustard for dressing (1 point!); Starbucks Reduced-Fat Turkey Bacon & Cage Free Egg White Sandwich (5 points); tom yum chicken soup at Thai restaurants (2 points per cup); sashimi or tofu stew at Japanese restaurants; tofu kimchi soup at Korean restaurants; and poke bowls without dressing.

I had been a long-time heavy drinker of diet soda (2-3 cans a day). I know it was not great for me due to artificial ingredients and the possible link between artificial sweeteners and metabolic disorder due to insulin sensitivity. When I started WW I decided to continue drinking diet sodas. I felt making too many changes to my food routines all at once might cause me to fail in my goals. Once I achieved my goal weight, I made reducing my intake of diet soda a priority, and stopped drinking diet soda entirely soon after making Lifetime.

Book: The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America

I recently read The Elephant in the Room: One Fat Man's Quest to Get Smaller in a Growing America, by Tommy Tomlinson. It's a book about a 460 pound man's quest to lose weight. He is very up front about his battle with binge eating, dieting, and exercise, and the obstacles he faced as he tried to lose weight. Many of his stories about eating resonated with me. I highly recommend this book

Old Spaghetti Factory

Is it possible to eat at Old Spaghetti Factory while on a diet? Yes! Old Spaghetti Factory is one of my favorite restaurants. The bread, garlic spread, salad with Thousand Island dressing, and delicious spaghetti with meat sauce ... and of course the spumoni ice cream. Well, I do not eat any of that any more.
Chicken Marsala with Broccoli
After scouring the menu, I decided that chicken marsala, substituting broccoli for the pasta, is entirely within my healthy eating plan. I also had a cup of minestrone soup.

WW SmartPoints

I use the setting for eating my weeklies but not my FitPoints. I eat all my dailies, use my weeklies for overages / special occasions, and I do not eat any of my FitPoints. On average, I eat all of my daily and some or all of my weekly points, and none of my FitPoints.

Blue dots on the app's calendar signify days when I ate within a healthy range of daily points. My goal is as many blue dots as possible. If I do not get a blue-dot day, I do a postmortem on what happened and try to learn from that.

Trigger Foods List

[Trigger warning: List and photos of unhealthy foods]

One of the techniques I implemented to divert my focus from binge eating was to keep a diary of my craves, at the time I crave them. I realized this had become a list of my trigger foods.

Writing down foods during a crave helps distract my focus from the crave, and reassures myself that if I put the craving out of the focus of my mind, I can come back to it later (perhaps for a special occasion, or in moderation, or never!).

Here is my list:
  • Warm chocolate chip peanut butter cookies or brownies
  • Spaghetti with meatballs and garlic bread
  • Chinese food with big dumplings
  • Pizza buffet
  • All you can eat Korean BBQ
  • Really good cheeseburger, fries, and chocolate milkshake
  • Little Debbie cookies (oatmeal cream pies, brownies, frosted Christmas tree, peanut butter wafers, etc.)
  • Cake with thick frosting
  • Girl scout cookies (Thin Mints, the coconut ones, and peanut butter patties)
As I read that list over, I do not crave any of those. But I know at times I have very strong cravings for those foods. Knowing they are written down somewhere reassures myself that they will still be there in the future, I do not have to eat them right now.

At work, we have snack drawers, and although most of the snacks are not too appealing to me, they were a target of many of my binges once I got triggered. Recently the snack drawers got a different rotation of snacks, and I absolutely know that prior to implementing my Food Plan, I absolutely would have been bingeing on this. But now when I look in the drawers I remember my food plan and my period of abstinence and that gives me tremendous strength to walk away.



Abstainer vs. Moderator

Gretchen Rubin taught me that I am an abstainer. When I see a box of cookies, I have a binary choice of eating either no cookies, or bingeing on the entire box. In contrast, moderators can have a few cookies and walk away from the rest. I know this is also true of alcohol and drugs, not just sweets. I am an abstainer (all or nothing), not a moderator. Knowing this has helped me to have the power to walk away from temptations (sometimes), knowing that if I have one, I will have all.

Abel James did a podcast about this topic in an interview with Gretchen Rubin. I recommend listening to the podcast, or at least reading the transcript.

Integrating Exercise

I know that a Food Plan is, by its very name, a plan for food. But I feel I also need to make a commitment to a minimum level of exercise per week. Otherwise I do not hold myself accountable to a minimum level of high-exertion activity.

I think that measuring exercise by a certain number of minutes of high-exertion activity is the best way to do this, and gives me the flexibility to determine how I want to spent those minutes (cycling, running, swimming, elliptical, etc.).

My smartwatch tracks time spent on high-exertion activity, on a 1:1 basis for moderate activity and a 2:1 basis for high intensity activity. I'll set my goal at 60 minutes a day, or 420 minutes a week. Based on past experience that should be easily achievable as long as I do cardio many times a week. I will integrate this into my Food Plan as an "Always" behavior.

Dieting While On A Cruise

I have gone on cruises while on WW, and found that the cruises offered plenty of WW-friendly foods, like egg-based breakfasts, vegetables, chicken breast, and fruit desserts. Below are some comments on how to approach a cruise while staying on WW.

Mindset

When many people plan a cruise vacation, they think about the food: Buffets, piles of chocolates and cookies, unlimited ice cream, delicious steaks. And yes, many cruises offer all of that and more. Mindset is important: Are you really paying thousands of dollars to go on a trip for food? If so, cancel the trip and just go to your nearest buffet restaurant. Change your mindset so that your vacation is about experiences that do not involve food. The food is there to sustain you to give you energy to do the things you want to do, but this is not a "food destination" trip. You can absolutely continue to make healthy eating choices on a cruise ship, just as you would at home, and not lose any experience at all. If you see something delicious, don't deprive yourself, but do ask yourself: Is this special, or is this something I can get at home? Because if you can get it at home, it isn't worth the indulgence.

I am going to say something controversial here: I do not think the food on most cruise ships is exceptional. This is definitely true of the lower-end cruise lines (Carnival) and even the mid-range cruise lines (Royal Caribbean, NCL, etc.). Even on the Queen Mary II, I was completely unimpressed by the food offerings, compared to good restaurants I frequently eat at. Most of the food sits frozen on the ship for weeks. It is prepared in bulk. It is usually not made from fresh, expensive ingredients, the way a 5-star restaurant food would be.

When you get on the ship, board with the mindset that you are not there to eat. You are there for the experiences. Any food you pass over you can get at home (and probably better quality) if you really want it later.

Breakfast
  • Breakfast is served in both the cafeteria (buffet) and the sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria includes a lot of fruit and egg options. 
  • The sit-down restaurant usually includes fruit plates and omelettes.
Lunch
  • Lunch is served in both the cafeteria and sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria is usually easier to navigate for low-point offerings because you can control portions, and focus on vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. 
Dinner
  • Dinner is served in both the cafeteria and sit-down restaurant. 
  • The cafeteria is usually easier to navigate for low-point offerings because you can control portions, and focus on vegetables, fruits, and lean proteins. 
  • Most people want to have dinner at the sit-down restaurant because it is a multi-course meal, usually fancier, and often seatted with other cruise guests. 
  • My tips for dinner is:
    (1) Pre-eat zero-point vegetables at the cafeteria if you need to, or eat low-point food at the cafeteria for a late night snack if you exercised portion control at dinner and are still hungry.
    (2) there is usually a lean protein dish offered (like chicken breast with steamed vegetables) at the restaurant menu, with a appetizer salad or broth soup, and a fruit plate for dessert.
  • You can ask your waiter to customize your dishes for things you don't want. 
  • Do not even think about eating the dinner rolls - they aren't that good and not worth the points.  
Specialty Restaurants
  • Cruise ships have specialty restaurants where you pay an additional fee for a formal; sit-down multi-course meal. These are often ethnic foods (Asian, Latin, etc.).  You can decide if they are worth the price and points, I think it is good to splurge once on a cruise to experience the specialty restaurants, but going for every dinner will not be point-friendly. 
  • Before you spend money (and calories/points) at a specialty restaurant, look at the menu and decide if this is really worth it. You may find that you have similar restaurants at home, and the restaurant on the ship is not really that special.
  • Most cruise ships have less formal specialty restaurants, like a hamburger and hot dog stand, or ice cream parlor.  You have access to these at home, there is no reason to indulge in this (unhealthy) food on vacation.
Snacks & Desserts
  • Fresh fruit is always available as a dessert option. Go for that, unless you pick one dessert to indulge in once. And then as yourself if it was worth it (the answer may be yes!).
Drinks
  • Water, tea, and coffee is free on ships. Soda and alcohol costs money. You can buy an unlimited soda plan for a fixed price. Consider using the cruise as an opportunity to break soda habits and abstain. 

Give Yourself A Gift

This mindset helped motivate me:

You've been carrying this problem around with you for a long time, perhaps years. In my case it was literally decades. It causes anxiety, depression, frustration, angst .... so many emotional issues. 

Think about how much "freer" you will feel if you have this problem off your back. Just not having to think about it every day, beating yourself up, freeing up your brain to focus on other more fun things, just not having to deal with it every waking moment.

Give that gift to yourself.  You are giving yourself that gift today. It's the best gift you can give yourself, better than any "thing".  Yes, the first day is tough. And the first week you might remember how "good" a binge feels. But remember how bad it feels after -- physically and emotionally. And remind yourself that you're giving this gift to yourself so that you don't have to carry this around in your brain any longer... and use that to get through one evening at a time. Use that time to read a book, or watch a movie ... something to distract yourself.  And once you get through a few days, it will get easier. Because you will recognize that you're freeing yourself of the baggage, and that's something only you can give yourself. 

Exercise

My experience with physical fitness came later than for many, since I was successful in completely avoiding gym class in high school. When I was in graduate school, I needed something to help me deal with stress, so I would jog around the block a few times. That was about it. 



Running (2000-2001)

When I started working full time, I kept up the jogging, sometimes on a treadmill at work. That led to me running several 10k races from 2002 to 2005.

Strength Training (2001-2002)

One day when I was on my way to the gym at work, I ran into Lance. Literally - he knocked me down. He apologized profusely. I asked him to teach me about weight lifting in the gym, and he did. He explained the importance of doing 3 sets of 8-10 reps, to failure. And taught me about major muscle groups: Chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs. He showed me how to use the bench press for chest exercises, etc. Now I was able to mix some basic strength training into my workout program. I used the dumbbells and exercise machines at work regularly.

Gym (2002-2009)

In 2002 I changed jobs to a company without an adequate gym in the building, so I joined 24 Hour Fitness. I paid around $950 for a "lifetime" membership (annual renewal is $50 per year). That turned out to be a good deal - over the past many years I've paid very little per year for my gym membership. The gym gave me access to a greater diversity of equipment. I developed a routine, and changed it every 6 months or so to keep things interesting. But it was built around the same framework of repeating sets of reps of fundamentally the same exercises.

P90X (2009-2012)

In 2009, I had abdominal surgery and had to discontinue my gym-based workout regime for several months. That winter, I was laying in a bed in a hotel room in North Lake Tahoe watching infomercials at midnight, and I saw an infomercial for P90X. I have never bought anything before based on an infomercial. But a friend had told me about P90X, so when I got home, I bought it on Amazon.com for $140.

The box came a few days later: A nutritional booklet, an exercise guide, and about 12 DVD's, each with its own exercise program. The exercise guide contains a detailed, day-by-day, 90 day plan. The nutrition plan is equally detailed, but can be summarized as "low carb, low calorie, high protein". The only equipment needed are a pull-up bar (i.e., one you can put in your doorway easily), and a simple set of weights.

I started P90X in March of 2010 with a pull-up bar installed in my closet, and a set of BowFlex adjustable weights.

I thought my gym routine had been pretty good, but P90X was transformational. I completed the 90 day P90X program, losing 10 pounds, decreasing body fat by 5%, and increasing lean muscle mass.

Many people choose to stop P90X at the end of the 90 day period. I understand that - it's hard! But this had become a much more efficient use of my exercise time than going to the gym. So I chose to continue with a modified form of P90X. I tracked my progress using a spreadsheet, and viewed it as a long-term commitment.

When I was doing P90X I kept a blog about it, which I've consolidated into one (somewhat hard-to-read) post.

5x5 (2012-2018)

In Spring of 2012, I was still doing P90X, but I had heavily modified the routines so that I would not get bored. Despite the modifications, I was quite bored. It had been two years, and change was needed.

One day I was surfing around on the internet and read How I Got Ripped at 500 Startups (and the follow-up Entrepreneur's Guide to Fat Loss). The simplicity and minimalism, combined with effectiveness, attracted me. I set about creating a new workout routine, and started tracking points on fitocracy.com. My routine was built around alternating days of "A" exercises and "B" exercises, three times a week:

Routine A: Squats, Bench, Pendlay, Chinups
Routine B: Squats, Shoulder Press, Deadlift, Chinups

No cardio. I just ate less.

Back to Cardio

In spring 2018 I participated in Bike To Work Day, and really enjoyed biking to work. Throughout 2018 I biked to work once a week, which is 30-40 miles round trip. It was great exercise, and I plan to do that again in 2019.

What If Your Trigger is Time, Not Food?

What if your binge eating trigger is not a specific food, but an event, like time, or a feeling, like stress?

I have read that people who aren't food-specific make their limits time-specific, to eat three meals per day, where each meal has a start and a stop point, and you do not eat other than during those three eating periods. Coming up with some rule to follow (whatever the rule was), was important because I can operate well with rules ... as long as I know what they are and they're targeting my problem.

Focus on the time you are usually triggered. When you get triggered, what can you do to not eat?  Go to bed early and read a book (so you stay out of the kitchen); promise yourself to just get through ONE evening without bingeing... just ONE. Focusing on how proud you'll feel tomorrow morning to have gotten through ONE evening. Forget points, weight, etc... your mission is to go to sleep tonight proud of yourself, and tomorrow when you get up you can eat all the healthy stuff you want.

Take a compulsive urge hour by hour and just get through one day. Forget about the bigger issues. You have to take it one tiny step at a time. I even set a timer on my watch or phone to look at and say "hey, I've made it 8 hours since my last binge... good job me... let's keep that streak going."

Your accomplishment at first is not that you've lost weight, but is "I haven't binged for ___ hours."

Pre-plan what you're going to do today, and visualize what gets you to success. If what you did yesterday worked well, do that again. But you have xx hours of success behind you ... you're just going to keep that going through today. Be aggressive against anything that might break your rules ... if you feel a temptation, be aggressive against it and tell it "nope, not today. maybe some other day, but not today..... I'm doing this for me!"

Get through 1 hour of not eating your trigger/binge foods. Then 2 hours. Count them. 12 hours. 24 hours!! 2 days.... you'll have cravings and urges. Eat everything else! Not the binge foods. A week will feel like an eternity. Just take it one day at a time and celebrate each day. I literally count the hours and days and pat myself on the back.

Book: Food Rules: An Eater's Manual

One of the first books I remember reading about food and eating was Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. It was very impactful to me because it is a simple read, and presents a very simple formula for eating healthy:

1. Eat Food
• Real, whole, unprocessed foods in their whole/raw state or ingredients that were whole foods
• 5 or fewer ingredients
• No additives, sugar, or sweeteners

2. Mostly Plants
• Especially leaves
• Meat is a special occasion. When eating meat, eat meat that has itself eaten well (grass-fed)
• Fermented foods: Yogurt, kimchi, kombucha, etc.
• Whole grains only (whole grain bread, brown rice). No white foods.
• Limit saturated fats (whole dairy, fatty meats)

3. Not Too Much
• Intermittent fasting
• Calorie restriction
• Stop eating before full
• Eat only when hungry, not bored
• Eat slowly
• Eat lots of first bites, but not many second bites. Most of the flavor/enjoyment comes in the first bite.
• Eat meals - Don't eat in between meals
• Limit snacks to unprocessed plant foods: fruits, vegetables, and nuts
• Treat treats as treats (special occasions)

WW Implementation Tips & Hacks

Choice of Plan

I have used both the Online and Workshops plans. Access to the mobile app and website has been most valuable to me, meetings have been of limited use to me, but each person has a different experience. The meetings I attend are at my workplace, which is convenient and fosters a safe and trusting environment.

I set my goal weight based on the mid-point of the healthy BMI range for my height.

Weighing

My weigh-in day is Monday. I weigh myself every day, and on Mondays I record in WW the average weight of the preceding seven days. This makes my weigh-in more representative of the past week, and less prone to fluctuations due to water retention, etc.
Exercise

I connected my Fitbit (and later my Garmin watch) to track FitPoints. I walk, run, bike, and swim a lot, so I earn a lot of FitPoints (20-25 a day). In settings, I selected a goal of 140 FitPoints (20 x 7). I believe success on a diet is 90% diet, and 10% exercise, so FitPoints does not have an oversized importance in my strategy. Focus strength training on the most effective compound lifts: bench press, squat, and deadlift. I never eat my FitPoints.

Connect

I use Connect (social media for WW) to follow along with other members’ celebrations and successes, and follow some people who post useful content.

Through Connect I have also found a few YouTube and podcast channels from WW "celebrities" that I enjoy listening to: The Skinny on Weight Loss and Whys Advice.

Bingeing

I have accepted that I have binge eating disorder, and will always struggle with my relationship with food. I have definitely had binge eating days while on WW. I have learned when these days happen that I need to follow a set recovery procedure:
disrupt the cycle and stop bingeing;
track everything I ate to be accountable;
do not beat myself up emotionally about what happened;
just get right back on the plan the very next meal.

When I do have binge eating days, I get right back to tracking and staying within my points budget (including weeklies and FitPoints), and I maintained or even lost weight on those weeks when I did have a binge eating day.

Bad eating days can create a negative feedback loop of overeating->restricting->overeating. Break this as soon as it is identified by just resuming the plan of staying within points. Do not restrict. It is important to break negative feedback loops with disruption and immediately resume to the normal plan.

Adopt a positive framework. A binge day (negative) is a spike day (positive). Spike days happen with any diet, and are healthy for metabolism. They key is to be strategic about them, choose food as wisely as possible, and not go hog wild on junk. An example of a strategic spike day is when you go on vacation and know you are going to have a day where you go over points. Plan for it and enjoy the good food without the guilt of points. I have had enough spike days to know that weight loss is still very much possible by resuming the plan immediately.

Maintenance

Once a WW member reaches their goal weight, they enter the maintenance phase. The goal of maintenance is to maintain at goal weight, plus or minus two pounds, for a six week period, at which point the member achieves Lifetime status. The six week maintenance window is designed to learn how many points are needed to maintain weight. The “plus or minus two pounds” test is at the end of the maintenance window at the six week weigh in, in order to achieve Lifetime status.

Switching from a weight loss goal to a maintenance mindset can be a difficult transition because many people feel that losing weight and seeing the scale drop is the reward for the hard work, and in maintenance mode the goal is to maintain weight, and not lose any more.

In the WW account settings, the default Focus is “Weight loss and healthy habits”, which establishes the daily and weekly points for the member. There is another setting, “Healthy habits”, which raises the points slightly to stop weight loss and maintain weight, while encouraging eating healthy foods. The daily and weekly points can be changed by the member (within a range) to accommodate what number of points results in maintaining weight loss for that individual. It is not clear when a member should switch to “Healthy habits”, but my experience, and the experience many have shared on Connect, is that the best time to make this switch is when the member achieves goal and enters maintenance phase. This allows the member to use the six week maintenance window to figure out what number of daily and weekly points best result in maintaining weight. I kept the defaults, but I will evaluate this as I go through maintenance and then into Lifetime.

Lifetime

After maintaining goal weight (plus or minus two pounds) at the end of the six week maintenance window, the member achieves Lifetime status. The main benefit of Lifetime status is not having to pay for WW meetings or eTools. Members do not lose Lifetime status. But members can lose the perks of Lifetime status (free meetings/tools) if they stop weighing in at a meeting at least once per month, or if their weight increases beyond two pounds above their goal weight. Members can go below their goal weight without losing Lifetime status.
Attitude

Even on the days or weeks when my weight loss is not as successful as I would like, I keep in mind the following:

I am eating vastly healthier than before WW. There is almost no comparison of my current healthy food intake vs. what I was eating in the past. More often than not, I *am* achieving my goals. Our bodies do not respond in a linear fashion to calorie restriction. When I do veer off course, refocus on increasing water intake, accurate tracking, and being mindful about what I am eating (hidden oils, etc.).

Research Notes Summary

Summary of research notes compiled from various readings over the years, including:
1. Diets, including WW, may be effective for weight loss, but maintaining weight loss using a diet program is nearly impossible, and virtually everyone rebounds to their body's "set weight".

2. The key to long-term weight loss, good general health, and disease prevention is maintaining lowered insulin levels. This requires:

a. Avoiding high insulin levels by eliminating sweetened foods: Foods with added sugar and artificial sweeteners, and refined carbohydrates.

b. Reducing insulin resistance with breaks in between eating: Eating defined meals (i.e., lunch and dinner), eliminate snacking between meals, and periodic intermittent fasting (e.g., skipping breakfast, or longer).

3. Avoid binge eating by eliminating trigger foods by following the above rules (namely, abstaining from sweets), but not restricting eating of otherwise permitted foods.

4. Exercise for general health, not weight loss. Weight loss through managing food intake is vastly more effective than exercise alone. Target heart rate of 180-44 = 136. Resistance exercises are best: Push-ups, squats, chin-ups, overhead press, plank, burpees. 7 minute workout (repeated 3x) is also effective.

5. Sleep is very important. Go to bed early.

6. Shop for: Fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen), Oatmeal, Nuts and nut butter, Beans, Greek Yogurt (unsweetened, no fruit), Seafood, Meats, Eggs, Fiber supplement.

Dr. Robert Cywes Podcast

 Dr. Robert Cywes was interviewed on the Diet Doctor Podcast in May 2019 (best link I can find to the episode). This was one of the best podcasts I have ever listened to about food addiction and recovery. Some of the podcast is about surgical intervention, but the parts about sugar and carb addiction were extremely applicable to me. A few notes:
  • Disconnect "food" from "carbs".  Carbs make us gain weight and are addictive. Food does not.
  • I am addicted to carbs because it makes me feel good. Eating carbs releases endorphins, which gives me a high. Carbs have become my best friend. I have a lifelong emotional tie to carbs.
  • The high carbs give me is equivalent to the high a drug user feels.
  • Eliminating carbs eliminates the high, and eliminates my best friend. That is an emotional separation. This is a big reason why diets fail.
  • This needs to be a lifestyle change, not a quick weight loss diet.
  • Snacking is equivalent to a smoker's break. It is an action that is not at all necessary for health that keeps the high going, as insulin and blood sugar levels fluctuate. Insulin reduces blood sugar, snacking keeps blood sugar up, therefore extends the high.
  • Snacking, just like a smoking break, satisfies an oral stimulus.  Need to replace that: Coffee, tea, sparkling water, sugar free gum -- need to maintain that oral stimulation.
  • Permission is the issue. 
    • If an addict gives themselves permission to indulge, that indulgence is the problem. The first bite leads to a fast downward spiral. An addict cannot have the first bite. This is why abstinence is important for all addicts. 
    • This is where Weight Watchers is a problem, because the WW message is that if you have points, you can have anything, as long as you moderate. Addicts cannot moderate. They can only abstain.
    • An addict cannot make choices, because they cannot moderate. Therefore, addiction treatment methodology has to be used, as opposed to a WW points system or CICO approach. Must quit cold-turkey and eliminate the problem foods.
    • Does not have to be zero carb or keto. But has to eliminate the addiction issue: Sugar and processed grains. Whole grains, fats, and proteins are not the problem. It's sugar and processed grains. Addicts cannot moderate that, so must abstain.

Lifehacking

Mindset is important to succeeding with health goals. I used to think of my various attempts in terms of trial and error, or success and failure. That framed my health in very opposing positive and negative terms. I prefer instead to think of my attempts at things as lifehacks, and pivots. I try something for a while, take the parts of it that are successful, and pivot away from the aspects that do not work well for me. And I keep in mind that what works for one person or even the majority may not work for me. I apply this in my daily life with how I manage my calendar, tasks, email, and certainly my exercise and fitness regimes, and my approach to food.

One thing I've learned as a constant is that WW works for me. When I gain weight, if I go back and follow a "clean" or strict WW points program, it absolutely works for me.

I've also picked up recently that having a Food Plan with set rules is really helpful to me to avoid sugar, which has been an addition issue.

So, the wake of yesterday's binge after three successful weeks of abstinence, I am hacking my approach and pivoting slightly:
  • Resuming a clean/strict WW points approach. Tracking everything I eat, and staying within my allotted 23 points a day plus 35 weekly points. I know how to do this, and I'm good at it, and it absolutely works for me.
  • Keeping the best of my Food Plan approach: 
    • Never any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.
    • Always stick to my WW points.
    • Always get a minimum level of physical activity each month.
    • Never restrict my intake of zero point foods.
  • I am eliminating the processed / unprocessed food element. That was a bit too nuanced and confusing and not really in response to my bingeing / addiction issues. Sticking to points should cover this.
I'll try this approach for a while and see how it works, but I'm not afraid to continue to hack this system and pivot as necessary. And I've learned to never think of my actions as failures -- just learning experiences on a continuum of progress.

Running

San Francisco Half Marathon
Today I am running the St. Patrick's Day 10k race.

I do not like running. I know some people look forward to heading out and running 3, 6, 13, or even 26 miles. I do not understand that at all. I tolerate running. I am not particularly good at it, but I do it because it's the most efficient way to increase my cardiovascular health, and does not require any special equipment.

I've run a number of 5k and 10k races, and even a handful of half-marathons.

I started running in the spring of 2001. At first it was just around the block after work, but eventually I worked up to three miles in thirty minutes. That was my couch-to-5k program, before there was such a thing. In May 2003, I decided to run the Human Race 5k run. But when I got to the 5k/10k fork, I decided to go for the 10k. I managed to cross the finish line in just under an hour. I ran several other 10k races in 2003, until I injured my knee hiking Yosemite's Half Dome in October 2003. I decided to run again in 2004. My goal for the summer was to break the 50 minute mark (8 minute mile), which I did. I took 2005 off from running to focus on other activities. I ran a few more times in 2006, and that was the last of the races for a while as I focused more on biking, weight lifting, swimming, and other aerobics.

I'm pretty far away from my record 10k time (7:52 minute mile) now, as I'm focusing on keeping my heart rate in the aerobic zone (Z3), putting my time closer to 10 to 11 minute miles.
San Jose Turkey Trot

My favorite race that I've run is the Wharf-to-Wharf 6 mile run in Santa Cruz. The entire community turns out to support the runners along the length of the race. It is a very moving and emotional experience. And I saw someone die when I was running, which helped me keep life in perspective. My second favorite race was the Human Race in Mountain View (no longer run). They played Amazing Grace at the beginning, which I think is a moving way to start a race, and it was a festive atmosphere that ran through what is now the Googleplex.

I track my stats on Strava, if anyone wants to add me.

Closing this post with a few of my favorite running quotes:

"There will be days when you are not sure if you can finish a race. There will be a lifetime knowing that you have."

"The miracle isn't that you finished a run. The miracle is that you had the courage to start one."

Rewards

I am easily motivated by rewards. Rather than food-based rewards, which would be bad for a diet, WW uses charms. Charms are given for weight loss milestones. Charms are given out in meetings, and not available for online-only members. Because I am easily motivated by rewards/awards, I wanted charms despite not initially attending meetings. So I bought them on eBay. That kept my motivation up and gave me something tangible as a reward for my weight loss.

Tip: Tracking Zero-Point Foods

Tracking foods is an important part of WW. It is important to learn how many points various foods have, to learn which foods are healthy (to eat more) and which are less healthy (to eat less). Tracking is a good habit to get into, because not tracking can lead to laziness and sleepiness with making sure one is eating within one's daily and weekly points. Tracking is a great way to be mindful about what one is eating.

Tracking zero-point foods (fruits, vegetables, eggs, lean meats, beans) can be time intensive, especially when eating a lot of them (e.g., a salad). So rather than track individual ingredients or even individual zero-point foods, I created a custom zero-calorie food called "Zero-Point Food", favorited it, and I just track that.

For example, for breakfast I often have egg whites, with one or two hard boiled eggs, and fresh fruit. Those are all zero-point foods, but tracking 3 items is time intensive and sometimes leads me to not track at all (a bad habit!).  So now I track my "Zero-Point Food" favorite to mentally check that I did eat a healthy breakfast. It also counts towards Wellness Wins points!
"Zero-Point Food" Custom Food Entry

Key Take-Aways

They key things I've learned about food from being on Weight Watchers:
  • Moderating food intake is a vastly more effective method of weight loss than exercise
  • Before WW I rarely ate fruits or vegetables. On WW, fruits and vegetables are most of what I eat
  • If I go off track, I just need to go back to what I know works

SmartPoints and Zero Point Foods

Not losing weight? You're eating too many zero point foods.

Some people start counting points for zero point foods after consuming a certain number of servings per day (e.g., count 2 points for each serving of fruit after your first two "free" servings). That is too complex for me, so I took a different approach: My target daily points are 23, and my target weekly points are 35, for an average of 28 total points per day (23 + 35/7). I eat my daily points (23), and I don't use my weekly points. I treat my weekly points (5 per day, on average) as a "buffer" for the relatively large amount of zero point foods I eat.

For example: In a typical day, I will have a zero-point breakfast, and a 3 point lunch, and a 10 point dinner, for a total of 13 points. That is the lowest points I can eat in a day and still be within my recommended daily point range. But I eat a lot of zero-point foods: Three to four servings of fruit, several servings of eggs, two servings of beans, at least one serving of protein, and one to two servings of fat-free Greek yogurt. From a calorie perspective, that gets me to the calories I need for the day.

Do Not Stress About Tracking Points

The other day for dinner I had homemade beef curry with vegetables over rice. I could have spent 15 minutes adding each ingredient to my WW app to track it. Instead, I just recorded the maximum points for the day (28 in my case, less 4 for a prior meal) and was happy with that. I ate a very moderate portion, and skipped eating most of the high-point rice, so I felt like 24 points was more than generous for that meal.

Tracking points is meant to bring mindfulness to eating, and guiding us towards eating healthier foods. It should not be stressful or take away from the enjoyment of eating, otherwise, we will stop tracking.

WW Food Tracking

I use the WW app and website religiously for tracking. I track all my food, excluding zero-point food. In the past when I had a binge day, I track the binge. Having data is helpful to keep me motivated and learn about what foods are good and bad for me.

I do not eat anything without knowing in advance what its points value is. Particularly the first month on WW when I was still learning what foods had high vs. low points, I researched all foods before eating. Otherwise it is easy to eat an entire days worth of points in one meal by accidentally picking high-point foods.

I pretrack meals when I know I will be dining out. I scour the restaurant's menu in advance and pick out my meal, enter it into the app, to budget points, make sure I stick to healthy options, and stay within my points budget for the day. Pretracking prevents point overages as it establishes rules for future meals, especially when eating at restaurants.

I use Favorites to store frequent foods and custom meals to make tracking easier.

As I mentioned, I do not track zero-point foods: Mainly fruits and vegetables, lean meat, beans, eggs, and Greek yogurt.

Recipe: Chili

Slow Cooker Chili
Zero-Point Slow Cooker Chili
Zero SmartPoints!
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 180 minutes

Ingredients
  • 1 large uncooked onion, minced
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 30 oz canned black beans, rinsed & drained
  • 30 oz canned kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 30 oz canned pinto beans, rinsed & drained
  • 15 oz canned tomato sauce
  • 1¼ oz spiced seasoning mix, chili
  • 15 oz canned yellow corn
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  • 16 oz 98% fat free uncooked chicken breast, or turkey breast
  • 15 oz no salt added diced tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Combine onion, garlic, beans, tomatoes, meat, tomato sauce and seasoning mix in a slow cooker
  2. Cover and cook on high heat for 2 to 3 hours (or low heat for 4 to 6 hours)
  3. Add frozen corn during last hour of cooking
  4. Stir in lime juice and cilantro just before serving

Tip: The Apple Test

If you are feeling hungry, but an apple does not sound good, you are not really hungry. -- Source.

Go-To Meals For On-The-Go

Tom Yum Soup
Tom Yum Soup
Having a list of healthy food options for dining out is helpful when travelling or eating out with friends or family. Here's my go-to list. Most of these have very low WW SmartPoints.
  • Airport Convenience Food: Mixed-Fruit Container or Fat Free Greek Yogurt
  • BBQ: Turkey breast plate with salad, beans, or cole slaw
  • Diners: "High protein" breakfast, usually an egg white omelette with chicken breast and vegetables
  • Japanese: Sashimi (no rice), chicken and/or tofu stew
  • Korean: Tofu stew 
  • Starbucks: Reduced Fat Turkey Bacon Egg White Breakfast Sandwich or Mixed-Fruit Container
  • Subway: Double chicken chopped salad, with yellow mustard for dressing (1 WW SmartPoint), or the 6" or 12" roasted chicken sandwich on wheat bread (no dressings)
  • Thai: Tom Yum Soup (often can be vegetarian with tofu, or with chicken or shrimp)
  • Wendy's: Chili (plain)

Subway Salad
Subway Salad

Diner: Veggie Scramble with Chicken Breast Side
Diner: Veggie Scramble with Chicken Breast Side 

Diner: Egg White with Chicken Breast and Veggies
Diner: Egg White with Chicken Breast and Veggies

Recipe: Zucchini Spaghetti Bowl

Zucchini Spaghetti Bowl
Zucchini Spaghetti Bowl
  • 1 cup cooked zucchini (spiral zucchini and lightly cook for 2 minutes with 1 tsp oil) 
  • 1⁄2 cup(s) cooked quinoa
  • 6 oz cooked 99% fat-free ground turkey breast
  • 1 medium fresh tomato(es), dice and cook into ground turkey
  • 1 cup baby arugula
  • 1⁄4 cup sliced fresh radish(es)
  • 1⁄4 cup shredded carrot(s)
  • 1⁄3 cup edamame (shelled)
  • Kimchi to taste
  • Sriracha hot sauce to taste
Makes one serving.

WW Grocery List

Grocery Shopping
An important part of any healthy eating approach is to have plenty of go-to foods to eat. This prevents getting hungry (or rather, hangry) that can lead to a binge eating situation. Many of the times that I binge eat are because there are obstacles to having convenient, quick access to healthier food options.

This is my cheatsheet grocery shopping list of ZeroPoint foods that I try to keep on hand at all times.
  • Fruit/Veg
    • Vegetable sticks
    • Fruit - fresh, frozen, or canned (no syrup/sugar added)
    • Tomatoes (diced - for chili or sauce)
    • Applesauce with cinnamon (no sugar added)
    • Corn - fresh, frozen, or canned
  • Beans/Dairy
    • Beans (canned - any type)
    • Soy beans (shelled)
    • Yogurt: Greek fat-free plain, no-sugar added
    • Eggs (or egg/white substitute)
  • Meat/Fish
    • Chicken breast (ground 98% fat-free okay)
    • Turkey breast (ground 98% fat-free okay)
    • Fish - Canned tuna, salmon fillet, etc.
    • Broth (fat free)

    Books: Recommended Reading

    Here is my recommended reading list of books I have read about healthy eating that I think are worth reading:
    I also have a Goodreads book list of books about healthy eating and lifestyles.


    In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto
    The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World
    Atkins for Life: The Complete Controlled Carb Program for Permanent Weight Loss and Good Health
    Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution
    The Great Cholesterol Myth: Why Lowering Your Cholesterol Won't Prevent Heart Disease-and the Statin-Free Plan That Will
    Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health
    Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
    The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat
    The Secret Life of Fat: The Science Behind the Body's Least Understood Organ and What It Means for You
    Wired to Eat: How to Rewire Your Appetite and Lose Weight for Good
    Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person
    Obsessed: America's Food Addiction - And My Own
    Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body
    The Keto Reset Diet: Reboot Your Metabolism in 21 Days and Burn Fat Forever
    The Wellness Project: A Hedonist's Guide to Making Healthier Choices
    Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics: A 10% Happier How-To Book
    Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions
    Fast Food Genocide: How Processed Food is Killing Us and What We Can Do About It
    How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease
    The 22-Day Revolution: The Plant-Based Program That Will Transform Your Body, Reset Your Habits, and Change Your Life

    Useful Websites

    Podcasts & YouTube Channels

    I love listening to podcasts. They are a great way to make productive use of time while sitting in traffic or doing chores at home! Here is my list of podcasts that I listen to related to food, weight loss, and general health.
    YouTube Channels:

    Book: "Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person"

    Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person by Glenn Livingston (website).

    eBook PDF available for free at this link!

    The premise of the book is that we have "inner pigs" that cause us to binge eat bad foods ("slop"). We need to tame our pigs to avoid binge eating. I had a hard time with the pig analogy, but many of the other concepts in the book were meaningful to me. As other reviewers have said, it may help to suspend disbelief while reading the book, and focus on the elements that resonate with your experience.

    My key takeaways are below.

    Emotions

    • "It’s also why it seems like no matter how hard you try, you eventually find yourself eating in ways you swore you never would again. And it’s why you may feel demoralized, dejected, and hopeless about ever successfully dealing with food."
    • "Because in this book we’ll apply a very kindhearted, effective way to recover from mistakes without becoming preoccupied with guilt and shame."
    • "Bingeing transforms you into a wild animal. It rejects the laws of humanity and returns you to the jungle where life is brutish, chaotic, and short. Bingeing wipes out your spirit. Don’t spend years investigating WHY you Binge before you stop. Just stop."
    • "To Never Binge Again all you need to do is Never Binge Again. You do not need to repeatedly smack yourself in the head with a spatula to prove you’ve suffered enough."
    • "You do NOT need to know why you Binge. You just need to stop."
    • "Guilt and shame about Bingeing are uncomfortable emotions which quickly dissipate in the absence of a plan to Binge again. Much like the pain you feel after touching a hot stove, these feelings exist to help you learn…and they go away quickly once you’ve done so."
    • "most people report feeling somewhat “unconscious” during a Binge, almost as if another entity had “taken over.”"
    • "you can and should let go of the guilt and shame associated with Bingeing once you’ve analyzed the Squeals, corrected your Food Plan (if necessary,) and re-committed 100%…"
    • "whether you’ll choose a life of discipline versus a life of regret."

    Relapse

    • "If you fall down, you’ll just get up and resume where you left off."
    • "a small Binge [will] snowball into a full-blown Food Orgy, and seriously undermines confidence in your ability to control yourself."
    • "What if you DO Binge? What then??? Simple: Analyze what happened, adjust your sails, and then NEVER Binge again."
    • "Making a mistake doesn’t invalidate the law. Your Food Plan remains law at every possible moment in time,"
    • "promptly forgive yourself and make a 100% confident, renewed commitment to perfectly follow your Food Plan forever. You are a fallible human being."
    • "A Binge is defined as even one bite or swallow outside of your carefully constructed Food Plan."

    Eating Plan

    • Analogizing following a food plan to learning how to ride a bike: "And eventually—perhaps not on the first few tries—she WOULD make it…in large part because you protected her from becoming pre-occupied with the possibility of failure." and "If you make a mistake, you’ll just pick yourself up and get back to peddling in the right direction, speaking kindly to yourself the whole time."
    • On never eating certain foods again: "certain impulses are too strong to restrain when they’re given even a tiny opening."
    • The concept of "never": "If you can’t say you’ll NEVER do something again (or never engage in a particular food behavior again), the Pig knows it’s only a matter of time until it gains the upper hand. If we define a “Binge” as engaging in any eating behavior which contradicts your Food Plan, then at very minimum we must be able to say we will NEVER Binge again." and "“always” and “never” are sacred vows. They become something the Pig can’t assail, no matter how hard it tries, because the motives behind any Squeal suggesting an exception will be recognized immediately."
    • "Define your Food Plan with 100% clarity so you can tell with certainty when you are ON versus OFF it. A Binge = even one bite and/or swallow outside of your Food Plan. You will NEVER Binge again."
    • "Consuming even the most minuscule amount of Pig Slop —anything even remotely off of your well defined Food Plan—is, by definition, a Binge."
    • "When you stick to your Food Plan and nourish your body you will NOT die. But you won’t get a Food High either. You’ll just kill the Craving and go on with your day. This will NOT be exhilarating. You’ll experience life however life was meant to be on that particular day without a food high… But YOU will be 100% in control. This is the only way to get the results you want."
    • "If you find you’re repeatedly struggling with a food or drink in the Conditionals section, the odds are pretty good you need to move it to the Nevers. For many people, certain super-rewarding foods taste and feel too good to constrain with conditions and rules. But these same people—who may have struggled for years or even decades with a particular food—find it remarkably easy to NEVER have it again. Certainly much easier than the ongoing, painful search for that one “magic rule” which will let them have their cake and eat it too."
    • "Whole, unprocessed, organic plant foods—and a modest amount of organic animal protein—are the ONLY truly healthy foods for humans on this planet."
    • "Anything less than a 100% commitment is nothing more than the Pig’s plan to Binge."
    • "When you accept 90% compliance, you’re depriving yourself of the immense confidence and peace of mind which only 100% can bring. 100% is really the ONLY option."
    • "There’s absolutely NO need for “Cheat Days” and/or “Controlled Binges” on a well-considered Food Plan"

    Counting Time

    • "Counting the number of days, months, or years it’s been since you last Binged is like counting how long you’ve been obeying the law. It’s actually harmful because it signals the Pig you are insecure and ambivalent about your commitment. There’s NO reason to count the number of days since you last Binged."

    Intermittent Fasting

    I have read a lot about the benefits of intermittent fasting (“IF”, e.g., 16:8 method). The first number (e.g., 16) describes the number of fasting (non-eating) hours, which can include sleep time. The second number (e.g., 8) describes the number of feeding (eating) hours. Many people implement 16:8 intermittent fasting by simply skipping breakfast.

    As I got close to my goal weight using WW, I implemented intermittent fasting into my routine, primarily to get my blood sugar lowered as I have insulin resistance. My fasting windows were between 16 hours and 24 hours. I then stopped using intermittent fasting, but I am considering what role, if any, it could play in addressing binge eating disorder.

    Pros
    • Provides a mechanism to force myself to avoid eating because I'm focused on a goal or rule of fasting
    • Develop impulse control
    • Give digestive system a rest between digestion cycles
    • Normalize blood sugar levels and avoid insulin swings that lead to cravings
    Cons
    • May lead to binge eating during the "feast" window
    There are a lot of different ways to do intermittent fasting, and many different views on what foods are allowed to be eaten during a fast. These are the rules I follow:
    • Water, tea, and coffee (black) are encouraged
    • Non-fat broth is permitted
    • No other food or drink is permitted
    Lifeomic has developed an app called the Life Fasting Tracker for IOS and Android that I like a lot for tracking intermittent fasting. It is simple, free, and has a social component.

    As I develop my Food Plan, I integrated intermittent fasting (16:8) into my plan as an "Always" rule, a minimum of one day a week.

    Lifeomic "Life" Intermittent Fasting App
    Lifeomic "Life" Intermittent Fasting App

    Website: "Physiqonomics"

    Physiqonomics

    At some point in my searching the internet for solutions to my problem I came across the Physiqonomics website. I read a few of Aadam's articles, and soon realized I needed to read all of his articles, like a book. So I opened each one in a web browser window, and started reading. Key take-aways that were helpful for me:
    • Intermittent Fasting - 16:8; helps develop impulse control.
    • Keep calm and carry on.
    • Break negative feedback loop cycles (i.e., binge-fast-binge) with disruption. Stop the loop.
    • Prevention: Pre-tracking food in a log, building healthy routines and habits.
    • Be strategic in eating, even on spike (high calorie) days.
    • Strength training: Focus on compound moves - Bench, squat, deadlift.
    Aadam also has a very informative and active presence on instagram and twitter.

    Book: "Obsessed: America's Food Addiction - And My Own"

    Obsessed: America's Food Addiction - And My Own, by Mika Brzezinski

    Mika's book introduced me to the concept of control, as it relates to food and eating.

    Being in control makes me feel:
    • happy
    • optimistic
    • proud
    • healthy 
    Being out of control makes me feel:
    • like bingeing
    • stressed
    • feel bad / guilty
    • disappointed
    • unhealthy
    Mika was a compulsive eater, and compulsive exerciser to counteract the effects of the food. She was trying to outrun her diet, which never works well. Once she exerted control over food, she overcame her eating disorder. 

    I thought she did not do an adequate job explaining how she mastered control over food. But her book gave me optimism that what I needed to find was the ability to control what I ate, and once I found that control I would have success over my eating disorder.

    Weight Watchers

    I have separately written about my experience on Weight Watchers (rebranded "WW"). I will integrate some of that content into this blog.

    I am a lifetime member of WW, meaning that I achieved and maintained my goal weight. Following WW helped me lose nearly 40 pounds.

    WW provides me with a mechanism (SmartPoints) to quantify my eating, and hold myself accountable. SmartPoints act as a motivation to avoid bingeing, and teach me what foods I can eat when I am hungry. But I still struggle and have binge eating days. I am working on learning what triggers me to binge eat, and develop skills and tools to avoid bingeing when I am triggered.

    I have read that diets and food restriction is counterproductive for addressing eating disorders. I have to focus on other strategies to find abstinence from my food addiction. I hope to be able to continue using WW to keep my weight at a healthy weight and focus my eating on healthy foods. WW is a very integral part of my overall healthy eating strategy, as it guides me about what foods I should eat, and how much.

    I have found the following points to be the keys to my success on WW:
    1. WW is the only diet that has worked for me. Eating within my point range is all I need to do to achieve and maintain my goal weight.
    2. Weight loss through managing food intake is vastly more effective and efficient than attempting to do the same through exercise.
    3. WW is about improving healthy habits over time. An occasional lapse, binge day, or strategic break from tracking will not reverse a weight loss trend.
    4. In case of a lapse, resume the WW plan immediately. Never punish.
    5. Be strategic with eating and exercise: Pre-track food especially when eating out; have easy access to low-point foods; enjoy lean proteins; focus on high benefit exercises like strength training and high intensity interval training.
    I am going to repeat here some tips I had posted elsewhere about achieving success on WW:
    1. Be very strategic about eating, and view every meal as an opportunity to further your goal. Research and pretrack meals (especially if eating out). Rely on freestyle zero-point foods and a lot of hydration. Have some easy go-to meals and low-point items you order at restaurants.
    2. Find out what number of points work for you. For me, I found that if I ate all my dailies, I would lose weight. If I also ate my weeklies, I would maintain; and if I ate my FitPoints, I would gain weight.
    3. Take some days off. Don't stress about Thanksgiving and Christmas, a special occasion day, or an indulgence while on vacation. And if you fall off the wagon and eat all the Halloween candy, just pick right back up the next day and resume the plan. 
    4. Build a community of supporters. This can be at WW workshops, friends and family, and online through Connect. This can also be watching YouTube videos about WW, or listening to WW-related podcasts.
    5. Envision what success looks and feels like, and what overeating looks and feels like. Is that high-points food really worth delaying your goal?
    6. Finally, most people on WW are trying to lose weight. But following the WW points plan is really about making better food choices by nudging us away from high-point sugar and fats and towards lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.