An update might be in order.
I never finished my original Japan story.
But here I am, back again.
Flying back to the USA in 4 hours.
I guess I’ve been blessed to have always been pretty lean. I’ve never been grossly overweight or had any weight struggles. I’d always been used to being able to eat pretty much as I pleased without consequence. But there was a period starting maybe around 2010, as I delved deeper into my 20s, where my weight started to creep up without me realizing it. My metabolism started being a little less enthusiastic than it used to be, yet since I didn’t adjust my eating habits accordingly, little by little I ended up somewhat pudgy before I even knew it.
It was around late 2013 when I realized that my weight was unacceptable and enacted a series of general lifestyle changes that, without me really even trying, melted off 20 pounds pretty quickly. For instance, my alcoholic beverage preference used to be a madras, which is vodka and cranberry juice with a splash of orange juice. Very tasty, but sugary and probably somewhere in the 150 calorie range in a tall glass. On some nights out where I might have 4 to 6 of those over as many hours…that’s 600 to 900 calories for alcohol alone on TOP of food and other beverages over the course of the day. Yikes.
So I ditched those and adjusted my taste buds to regular vodka and club soda which research told me was pretty much the cleanest kind of cocktail you can drink. Unflavored vodka has minimal calories (maybe about 70 – 90 for 1.5 oz depending on the brand) and club soda has 0 calories. Essentially, it’s diluted vodka masked by carbonation. I had to acquire the taste for it, but I eventually did and it’s still my go-to today.
Other things like, you know, not crushing whole bottles of wine while watching movies at home and weaning myself off McDonald’s and other assorted fast foods helped a lot as well. Over a series of months, the weight came off pretty easily.
It’s funny how weight works going both ways – gaining and losing both occur in subtle increments that are hard to notice in the mirror every day. It really only occurred to me that I was bigger than I wanted to be when I started noticing in stores that I had to delve deeper into piles of pants to get to bigger sizes. I only realized I was losing when those same pants started getting looser on my waist and people started asking me “how I did it” and commenting on my figure favorably.
So since 2014, I’ve been maintaining a tolerable weight range that I guess still keeps me on the lean side (although I’ve been wanting to lose another 10 or so pounds, like, forever). It was then that my roommate recommended MyFitnessPal to me. I immediately took to it, finding it helpful to track what I ate because I think one of the biggest problems people have with food and diets and weight these days is that they probably don’t realize how much they are actually eating, calorie- and portion-wise.
MyFitnessPal put a lot of things in perspective. I realized in trying to limit myself to a mere 1,200 calories a day that I had previously been in the habit of eating half of that allowance for just breakfast alone on some days. That worked fine in my teens and early 20s…not so much now. Calories became a kind of currency: if I “spend” (eat) more now, then I have less for later. It helped me to really think about what I was putting in my body and if it was really worth the satisfaction (or regret).
Shortly after I started using MyFitnessPal, I was introduced to the concept of the Fitbit and thought it would be the most excellent thing in the world to be able to track steps and sync it to MyFitnessPal so I can get the total picture of what I am eating and burning daily. I went out and bought one immediately and was thus indoctrinated into the world of micromanaging steps and miles and goals all day, every day. I became obsessed with consulting it many times throughout the day to see what I had burned so far, and would feel a sense of genuine sense of accomplishment when I felt it buzzing on my wrist to announce that my goal had been met for the day. I had been an avid disciple for over 2 years.
That is, until a month ago. It was actually an inadvertent hiatus at first: I woke up one Sunday morning from a Saturday night out to find that my tracker chip was missing from the wristband. Oh no! I assumed it had slipped out somewhere during my drunken wanderings the night before. Darn.
Now, this wasn’t the first time I’d gone without my Fitbit for a small period of time. Any time I went away for vacation I didn’t bother wearing it because I already knew lots of drinking and eating of things not easily quantifiable would occur and vacations are supposed to be a break away from real life, to include dieting as well as work, drama, stress, etc. Even still, after I was done with these vacations I’d return home and eagerly restore my Fitbit to my wrist.
But this was my first real break from Fitbit in the midst of my normal routine. I’d worn it faithfully up until then.And if I hadn’t lost it, I probably would’ve kept wearing it. But I found myself for some reason not that enthusiastic about the prospect of buying another one. I’d long since felt like I should upgrade (I have the same Fitbit Flex from 2014), so it wasn’t so much the price. It was more so that I’d been wearing it for so long that I didn’t know what life was without it and wasn’t sure if it was really still beneficial to me or if I was just attached to it due to longevity. To find out, I decided to give things a whirl without it for a few days to see how much it still mattered.
And wouldn’t you know it…I survived. I didn’t binge eat. I didn’t gain 100 pounds. I worked out as normal. I moved as normal. And I found that I didn’t particularly miss it.
I ended up finding it under my bed maybe a week later. My initial instinct was to charge it up and to put it right back on, but having it back really only emphasized how much I hadn’t missed it while I thought it was lost. When it was new and novel, it was neat to see how many steps I’d taken in a day and how many calories I’d burned, but when I thought about some things, it no longer seemed really pertinent. For instance…
A) I burned “X” amount of calories today…and so what?
I already know that I could be in a coma and still burn somewhere around 1,400 calories for the day because that’s my approximate Basal Metabolic Rate. The Fitbit has been useful in demonstrating to me that on any day that I’m not in a coma or strictly lazing away in bed, I’m going to end up burning somewhere in the 1,900 – 2,000 calorie range. I’ll hit 2,000 – 2,200 if I’m on the upper end of the activity spectrum. And if I actually work out or do an extraordinary amount of walking for some reason, I’ll end up in the 2,200 – 2,300 calorie range. It’s going to be different every day (and even Fitbit numbers are only an estimate), but the exact amount is really inconsequential, because…
B) Activity is only 20% of the battle…diet is 80%.
I know that for myself, it’s not my activity that I need to monitor so closely, it’s my diet. I lose and gain weight by eating better or eating poorly; actual activity level is not really germane because that’s always going to vary. Some days I will be more active, some days I will be less active. My activity level will always be a moving target, but setting limits on my actual eating is something I can control to a tee. I have to limit myself to a certain amount of calories whether I want to lose or maintain my weight; my actual expenditure level doesn’t really matter.
C) I don’t need the encouragement.
I’m not a sedentary person. I hit the gym several times a week and while my career role does involve computer work for a lot of the day, I have to do a bit of roaming sometimes as well. When I’m off, I’m social and like to be out and about more often than not, so I’m a pretty active person as it is and thus I don’t need a Fitbit or anything else to tell me to move. I’ll either take so many steps or I won’t, but I don’t feel that I’m in such a position as to “have” to move more or to take a certain amount of steps in a day. Most times when I have not burned as much as I had hoped at any given point in the day, my solution was hardly ever to move more so much as it was to eat less. Because again, I’m a firm believer that diet > exercise.
And thus, adios to Fitbit for me. It is now tucked safely away in a drawer and has been for several weeks. It was definitely helpful in a lot of ways, but I realized I didn’t want to spend my whole life tethered to it. I feel like the Fitbit, or any activity tracker, should be like a set of training wheels – a temporary aid to help you get on track. You use them for a while to help encourage you to engage in healthier habits, but there should come a point eventually when these practiced habits become second nature and you don’t need them anymore. I reached that point.
In the past several weeks, since I made a more active commitment toward getting these final 10 or so pounds off once and for all, I’ve lost 5, sans Fitbit. And I’ve barely even been tracking in MyFitnessPal these days either. That’s not to say that I don’t still find the latter kind of helpful, but my day-to-day dietary patterns don’t vary much and so I don’t really need to specifically track each specimen of food to know around about how much I’ve ingested for a day. But that habit will finally fade away one day too.