Back. Better. BOOM!

November 21, 2004

Okay, so that was a little break.

Here’s the thing. The whole time I’ve been doing this, I’ve worked in steps. Lose a bunch, go full-out, then lose a little ground. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Mid-September was the beginning of the “Lose a little ground” phase. Now when I saw “lose ground,” I’m talking about gaining back, like, maybe five to seven pounds, two or three of which are already gone again. It’s not a collapse. But I’m not really doing it, either, and I tend to stop working out, and I kind of don’t want to talk about it, and I’m just too busy, among other things, to put a lot of time into cooking and so forth. And the thing is that I don’t even feel really down about it. I’m just on hold.

But at the same time, I don’t really want to keep doing it that way. For one thing, stopping working out is always a bad idea, because not only do you lose your fitness improvements pretty quickly, it just makes me less energetic and less happy. So I’m not happy with the status quo, no matter how easy it is to see that I’m still doing really well, and will end the year easily 20 pounds down from where I started. And I have kept a substantial and ever-increasing amount off for, like, five years now. And it’s not coming back. I don’t even worry about that, because as soon as I get to the five-to-seven stage, it’s like . . . okay, well, enough slacking.

So I got thinking about what to do, and how these periods begin in the first place — these times when I just kind of hold rather than continuing to progress, and I realized that it’s always when there’s some interruption. I’m interrupted by a trip or a change in schedule or something, and it’s not at all that I’d ever claim that I can’t stay on track when that happens; I just don’t. And in diagnosing why I don’t, I had this revelation.

I don’t want to be on a plan anymore. I don’t want to be counting anymore. I don’t want to be on Core or Flex, even though I think they’re both really good. I was at the grocery store yesterday, and I was trying to restock the house after living on Lean Cuisines for a while, and I was thinking . . . “Well, I learned on Core that I occasionally really like a piece of lean meat, and really like the shot of protein. But . . . Core is so hard on bread, and I really like to be able to have bread . . . and I have to count all my lowfat flavored yogurt, so . . . ” And I stood there, debating about which one I wanted to try to be on.

And then I just thought . . . I know how to eat. I know how to have a good breakfast, a good lunch, a good dinner. I know how much is too much. I’ve counted points for so long that I know what benefit you get from not putting cheese on your sub, or getting the small instead of the medium. I know from Core that lattes are really nice and are basically milk, so they’re a very good idea. I know from years of experience that whatever my opinion of the anti-carb vigilantes is, a bowl of pasta may be very tasty, but I will indeed be hungry half an hour later.

I know how to eat. I don’t always do it, but I know how to do it, and I think I’m tired of being on plans where I invariably feel like I’m either on or off, either doing or not doing. I just want to do what I think is healthy for me for a while and see what happens.

So I’m inventing my own “plan,” which I am calling the Eat By The Seat Of Your Pants plan. I want to emphasize that I don’t condone this, as I haven’t even tried it. Maybe I’ll gain five pounds in the first week and come back here all, “Uh, no.”

But I don’t think so. I think I’m just . . . ready to stop eating like my eating is disordered somehow, which it isn’t. I snack on yogurt and fruit or whole wheat crackers, naturally and easily. At worst, I snack on, like, Baked Doritos. When I gain a few pounds, it’s because I take a couple of trips and eat really good food that I really enjoy and drink margaritas and lie around. And I’m not sorry about any of that, and it comes back off when I go back to normal.

We’ll see. We’ll see what happens. All I know is that I look at myself, and I feel like . . . honestly, what is anybody with a book or a plan or a graph going to tell me that’s any better than what I already know? I have a lot of confidence in my experience. I have a lot of confidence in what I’ve learned about myself. That’s why when Core came out, even when I was having a lot of success with it, I was modifying it a little bit. I never counted my occasional handful of raisins. Because I know myself, and I know that isn’t the problem for me. I know I can have lowfat raspberry yogurt and not binge on it.

I’m wanting to do it myself. I hear people who like points talk about “accountability,” and it just baffles me, because . . . how am I ever going to be any more accountable than I am when I see every day whether things are going the way I want or not? And every time I think that, I think, “Right, but they say that at Weight Watchers all the time — that everybody thinks they can do it themselves, and that’s when they gain it all back.” Respectfully . . . I’m not everybody. I’ve already done this. It may not all be gone yet, but it doesn’t come back. I don’t have to go twenty years before I get to say that perhaps having learned the lessons I did from following all these things, I am ready to apply them in a way that might be right for me even if it wouldn’t suit everybody. If I do best with some Core/Flex hybrid, who’s to say that’s not right for me? What if I had invented Core while Weight Watchers only had Flex? Would that have been bad?

I want to make it clear that I encourage people who are in the early stages of this to follow something like Weight Watchers. I think it’s incredibly helpful to have that structure, and like I said, I’ve learned a huge amount from following those plans and from learning about trade-offs in a way I never would have if I hadn’t been on a counting-type plan.

But I know how to eat. When I don’t do it, it’s not because I don’t know what to do, and it’s not because I’m not committed enough. It’s because I choose to prioritize something else, and however I feel about that, that’s the level where I’m going to have to handle it. I don’t want to count anymore, and I don’t want to obey rules I think are overly restrictive for my personal lifestyle anymore, either.

It’s the Eat By The Seat Of Your Pants Plan. And now that I’m back, you will get to hear all about it.

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25 Responses to “Back. Better. BOOM!”

  1. Lucy Says:

    I did the same thing with Weight Watchers – I lost most of my weight, then struck out on my own. WW was incredibly useful at the beginning. I needed a framework to start really understanding food, and at first I was also motivated by being weighed by a third party every week. After a while, though. I did know how to eat, and I cared more about what *I* thought about my weight than what some WW weigh-in person did.

    And I was fine. I lost the rest of my weight (45 lbs, which is not that much, but still) and have kept it off for about two years now. I, like you, fluctuate a bit if I go on vacation or if Christmas hits or whatever, but I always lose the extra weight again shortly thereafter.

    I don’t really know what the point of this comment is, except to say that it worked for me, and I’m pretty sure it will work for you too. The people who immediately gain all their weight back and more as soon as they leave Weight Watchers obviously weren’t psychologically ready to do so. You sound like you are. 🙂

    Go Miss Alli!

  2. Lisa Says:

    Core has been wonderful for me, but I have been doing my own extremely modified version. I am so happy that WW came up with it because I have learned that I don’t handle white flour well. And that I can live without focusing my diet around bread and pasta. But I think some of the Core rules are utterly ridiculous–for example, yogurt never made me fat, so fat-free flavored yogurt doesn’t count. (But I have learned that I love plain yogurt.)

    The weight crept off when I was on Flex, because I ate junk; it was low point, but it was junk. I have never counted points on Core, have modified it alot, and as long as I avoid refined foods, I lose weight.

    I am still going to the meetings, mostly because the weekly weigh in keeps me accountable. And I like the leader. But on the whole, I can’t live in a way with rigid rules.

    Welcome back! I’ve missed your updates!

  3. mediaman Says:

    I lost my first 35 pounds, got confident and did the same thing. I did learn how to eat. Though I kept attending meetings, I stopped counting. I kept it off for a year . . . but didn’t lose any more. What you said is right, if you just started or have a long way to go, keep structured till you are at or close to goal. After that, be confident in the changes you’ve made and live by what you have learned.
    SO glad you’re back.

  4. ladymisstree Says:

    Yay, you’re back! I’ve missed you!

    I utterly agree with you, when you’ve been playing the game that long, you have the knowledge and the confidence to strike out on your own. I think when people talk about the ‘accountability’, it is just a way of saying that they still are not confident with their ability to control themselves and their knowledge of how their body responds to food.

    As you said, until you have learned that, it’s best to stick with a plan and rely on that structure. Some people will never get it and they will always need structure around them. I’m hoping that one day I’ll be able to break free of points and make smart decisions all by myself, but I’m not there yet.

    Another great post, great to have you back!

  5. Heather Says:

    Glad to hear from you! I’m going through the exact same thing right now. After six months of being “on plan”, my work/travel schedule got crazy, and I went “off plan”. Kind of sick of being on and off, you know? (well, yes, of course you know!). Thanks for the words of wisdom. I, too, know how to eat, I know how to be healthy. Maybe that will be enough for now.

  6. Cindy Says:

    After over two years of “plans” and 80 pounds lost, I too know what you mean. I’ve done it the same way: get on a plan, follow it strictly for a while, then go “off the plan” for a while, gain back 2-5 pounds, then get on a plan…..

    Now I’m pretty close to my goal weight (okay, heck, I’m about 50 pounds below the weight I ever reallly thought I could lose to!!). I don’t have a plan anymore, but have chosen a very small number of rules to live the rest of my life by. I’ll share, although I’m not in a position to recommend these rules for anyone else:

    1. Eat only when PHYSICALLY hungry.
    2. Eat to less than the point of feeling full.
    3. Aim for foods that weigh a lot but don’t have a lot of calories (of course veggies and fruits are the best example of this)
    4. Do exercises I ENJOY as many times a week as I can squeeze in.

  7. sara Says:

    Well, I have to say that I tried the Eat by the Seat of Your Pants plan (I didn’t call it that, but that’s what it was), but it didn’t work. Not for me anyway. But, then, I haven’t been on WW for 5 years. I think WW is invaluable to me at the moment because it really makes me think about what I’m eating and when I’m not on it, then I stop thinking as hard and I binge. And I don’t binge on the okay for you stuff like Baked Doritos or soy crisps, I binge on caramel corn and chocolate and ice cream. I think it’s especially important for me to be on a specific plan during the holidays. I applaud the people who can do it by themselves; I wish I were one of them. Good luck.

    Oh, and welcome back, Miss Alli. I’ve missed your columns.

  8. Heather Says:

    I’ve tried that plan before, and when I do, the seat of my pants start getting a little tight. I’m one of those people who needs to know the limits, and I go from there.

    But your point is a good one: there is no diet that is perfect for everyone. I have friends who have all tried very different things, and most of them have had success.

    Whatever works! Good luck. So glad you’re back!

  9. rcobeen Says:

    It will be interesting to see how this goes, since this essentially how I’ve been doing it for the last year and a half. I lost 50 pounds in a six month time period purely by eating less, eating better and working out. After that time period I gave up the working out because of a knee problem, and went to my version of an Eat By The Seat Of Your Pants plan. I have neither lost nor gained weight since then. I eat more than I did when I was losing weight, and am just beginning to exercise again, but because my eating habits (what I eat and when I eat) changed, my weight has stayed off. Your plan could work since you have, it appears, internalized what you can eat. Hope it works.

  10. peach Says:

    When I started trying to lose weight and get healthy, I was all “eat by the seat of my pants” thinking that if I taught myself how and what and when to eat, it would be the “smart” way to go about it. Here I am more than a year later and even though I “know” good choices and such, I’m not making them.

    I’m meeting with my doctor tomorrow (for the first time regarding weight loss) and I think I’m one of those people who need to start on a plan and can eventually get to the “no plan” thing.

    Here’s hoping.

  11. Tarn Says:

    I’ve been on the Eat by the Seat of my Pants plan for several months now, and I’ve lost close to 20 pounds, and reached a goal that I set for myself a loooong time ago. I still have a long way to go, and I know that the upcoming holidays are going to be rough on my waistline, but I’m going to try to stick with my fairly new routine of near-daily exercise and nearly-never snacking between meals.

    I’ve tried structured plans before, and I would get all gung ho for a short while and they would work, but the second I stopped being gung ho, I would slack and they would stop working and I would gain back all the weight I’d lost and more. Not saying that this will happen to everyone, but it made me realize that weight loss is something I have to do on my own time, my own motivation, my own willpower, etc. The motivating factors finally came together for me around August of this year, and it’s worked so far. I’m trying not to be “gung ho” about losing weight anymore (though I’m certainly happy when I can fit into a smaller size or move that bottom slide on the doctor’s scale one big CLUNK to the left!) I’m just trying to think of this as my life now, not a diet or a plan.

  12. Erin Says:

    Glad you’re back, and look forward to hearing more about EBTSOYP.

  13. Tina Says:

    Does this mean that you are beating the shit out of that guy who is holding your rope? Good for you! I barely even acknowledge that he is there. That’s why I need the structure. You writing is inspiring, as usual.

  14. Yet another Kim Says:

    So familiar! I did the same, lost 35 lbs on Weight Watchers over a couple of years then was so bored. I was so sick of counting I knew all points off by heart and figured out how to cheat and not gain etc etc. It took a long time to find my motivation again, especially when I knew what was good and what was bad for me.

    This summer I found it again, and this might work for others who are sick of the WW thang. http://www.thepathway.org. The solution is this way of eating that is based on 3 parts to a meal (protein, fiber and good fats), not so crazy non carby, but reasonable, what you already knew as good eating. It does this one thing that I never figured out…it deals (without the complexity of dear Dr. Phil) with why you eat. gives you the tools not to blow it….

    finally no points, but still losing yay! and yeah, still exercising. Keep going! you rock!!! glad you are back, you are an inspiration.

    Kim..(yes another one)

  15. rebecca Says:

    I started losing weight on South Beach, and it was really helpful because it made me realize just how much I was actually putting in my mouth. But I got really tired of it, and really tired of hearing that I couldn’t eat carrots and beets, and am now on my own plan. What helps me is a food magazine, actually, called Eating Well–lots of good, really healthy recipes and interesting articles on nutrition.

  16. Meredith Says:

    Hi there – I’m new to the diet section of the blogosphere, and I wanted to say I really like your writing. I read past posts through your XML feed and you’re great! I lost about half the weight I wanted to just by doing the Winning POINTS plan, but I stopped and gained it back. I’m now back up top where I started, pretty much, despite being back OP for quite some time…I plateaued, and then I gained! I’m still on Flex and I’ve been thinking about Core, but I’m not sure I could do it because of that part about “eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re satisfed.” I eat when I’m bored, and I stop when I feel like I’m done. So I haven’t tried it yet, but I might. Anyway, just wanted to say hello!

  17. guava Says:

    A lot of diet plans work because we have less choices in what to eat. A lot of people lose weight on the Atkins program just because there’s less variety to pig out on. I know I’ll eat more dessert if I’m offered a piece of pumpkin pie, a piece of pecan pie, and a chocolate cake than if it’s just one choice of pie. Studies have shown that people will eat more M&Ms if they are presented with a bowl of multicolored ones than if there were only red ones offered!

    There’s a unique plan I learned about recently called slimming world. I think they call the strategy food optimising. As far as I understand, no foods are completely off limits, but certain foods are forbidden depending on what food plan you choose to follow that day. It’s an interesting strategy.

    Love your journal. It sounds like you’ll do just fine at a seat of your pants plan.

  18. DeAnn Says:

    I have complete faith in your ability to Eat by the Seat of Your Pants and still lose lose lose. You’ve come so far already. And just look back at this blog and see how much you have inspired the rest of us.

    I know you know what you’re doing. I only wish I knew as much. So, in other words, I need you. Please stick around this time.

  19. Nils Says:

    Ahh .. you’re back. Wonderful …

    I’ve lost close to 70 pounds since last May, most of it on the South Bitch Diet. I paid attention along the way, learned about eating and food and what happens when stuff goes in my cakehole. So now, I too, am Eating by The Seat of My Pants.

    And when the seat of my pants gets a little snug, maybe THEN I’ll look for a little structure.

  20. Lane Says:

    I’ve been using my mom’s old W.W. books for close to four weeks now- a short time, I know. I only wanted to lose twenty pounds, though, and I’m only five away from that now.

    Since neither of us are going to meetings, I was wondering if any W.W. alums could tell me how points you’re supposed to consume for maintenance. I’m 15, 5’9″, and will be 150. Thanks!

  21. Helen Says:

    So happy you’re back!

    I’ve only been on WW (UK) for 5 months (lost 30lb) and there’s no way I’d give up my system right now, but I intend to try SOP when I am at goal… I can’t imagine pointing for the rest of my life.

  22. tooraloora Says:

    i have read that most people who succeed at losing a fair bit of weight and keeping it off, have done it on their own… the “accountability” is to themselves.

    i have lost 75 lb over the past 16 months, with calorie counting for the first 3 months, and then when i knew “how to eat”… the seat of the pants plan with lots of flexibility but consistency (lower fat, higher fiber, less recreational eating, lots of exercise). another 5 to 10 lbs and i will keep doing more of the same to maintain.

    it can work. go for it.

  23. Amy Says:

    I think you will do wonderfully!

    I wish I were as strong, I fear “portion creep” and need the security blanket of points right now, to know that I am on the right track. But soon, oh so soon, I plan to break free and join the ranks of the EBTSOYP’s!

    Best wishes, and thanks for coming back and sharing your experience and insight with the rest of us.

  24. Amy P Says:

    Good to read you again here, Linda/Ms. Alli. I didn’t even know there was new stuff here until I kind of wandered back over from the Weight Watchers site. Sigh. You’re moving ON to Seat of The Pants, and I’m regressing FROM it. See, I had this thing with weight for years too, from the time of puberty, though, rather than childhood. Started with my father getting all nervous about me, the only female of five children, sprouting lumps and progressed to much worse from there….but we all have those details, just different ones, right?

    What strikes me is that I learned relatively early on that weight wasn’t the important thing, and that it was when I focused on weight, and decided I was “on a diet” that it got out of control for me. So for 20 years, I just didn’t do that – I ate healthily, but normally, I got exercise doing things I love to do, and I maintained a reasonable weight. And then as I got further along in my 40s, I kept gaining without being able to get rid of it as I had before, and so here I am. Partly due to your words, partly to my mother’s action (at age 72), mostly to my own insecurities, I’ve joined WW and am now on the damn Flex plan, counting and measuring and eating low-fat salad dressing instead of the wonderful olive oil vinaigrette I’ve made for years. But at least some of those stubborn pounds are finally coming off, and I feel like I’m re-learning how to eat. To paraphrase you: Relearning! How to eat!!

    I, like others here, am sure you’ll continue to do well. Look at all you’re doing: changing jobs to be able to write more! Writing a lot, and brilliantly! Kudos to you, and may the blessings spread.

    Amy P

  25. rebeka Says:

    I’ve been on this journey to lose weight for going on 3 years now, and I’ve had several bouts of similar ideas. I’m sad to say that during those times I’ve either maintained my weight or gained a small amount back. I do think I needed those breaks because I have resurfaced better for it and am now really close to my goal.
    I have read everything there is to read about nutrition and good health as well as exercise and have been a member of Weight Watchers on and off for what feels like half a lifetime. But sometimes even though we know what to eat, we get lazy and for me, if I am not keeping a food journal and counting points, I won’t lose weight.
    I wish you the best of luck with this approach, and hopefully you will be successful. I think for me I didn’t really want to focus on losing weight and gave myself an excuse to stop really trying. But if you are seriously trying it on your own, I know you can do it.


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