Wednesday, August 02, 2006

rituals

If you have ever watched a baseball game, you know the weird rituals that batters have as they step up to the plate. You can almost hear the internal dialogue: "Cross yourself, take two steps, tap the bat against your left shoe 3 times, against your right shoe 4 times, adjust your cap, step up to the plate."

In sports, hard work isn't enough to ensure success -- players need a little bit of luck too. Because failure is so public and so embarassing, players develop rituals out of things that seemed to work in past outings. This is why so many of them have lucky items, like socks. And anyone who's ever watched the movie Dumbo knows that if you believe in the lucky feather, it will work for you.

Weight loss is similar. Sure, over time, your hard work will pay off and you will lose as long as you are consistent. But week-to-week, who knows? One week you could have had your own personal Chocolate Festival, and still find that you've lost a couple of pounds. Another week, you track every single point and weigh and measure everything, stay within your range, and gain 5 pounds.

I've seen women in meetings in the middle of December who stripped down to gym shorts and a t-shirt in a cold church basement before stepping on the scale. I have watched people take off belts, watches, and even rings. And I've never thought there was anything silly about it, really.

I don't care how philosophical I try to be, when I step up to that scale, I want to see a loss every week. Preferably a big one, but at least a pound. I am sure that my leader and everyone in the meeting will think I'm pathetic if I have even a small gain. So I have my weigh-in day rituals. I wear the lightest thing I can find, never jeans. I never wear my shoes on the scale. I try to stop eating solid food at least two hours before the weigh-in. I try to avoid salt. If I think I had a bad week, I will have asparagus with dinner the night before (it's a mild diuretic). Sure, none of these things have anything to do with real weight loss. They are just ways to comfort myself when facing the possibility of a public failure. Even though they never say your weight aloud, they will say how much you gained or lost or if you maintained. I'm always sure that everyone in the room is listening and watching.

I am convinced that superstition is the origin of all the urban-legend Weight Watchers plans like Wendie's and CJ's. They probably each started as something that worked one week for someone, and they told a friend, and that friend had a good week (or didn't, but didn't do it quite right), and the plan spread. Usually they have explanations as to why they would work but I am guessing those reasons were dreamed up after the fact. Even scientists can't give us a straight answer on the whole story behind weight losses and gains.

Any of these systems make more sense to me than the superstition that just paying the Weight Watchers dues and weighing in each week will cause weight loss even if you don't do the program -- not that I'm judging anyone, I've been there myself.

If you are brave, there is one ritual that will practically guarantee you have a good week. One of my many WW meetings had a "Public Journal." If you needed to break through a plateau, you could take the journal home and use it. The catch was, you had to be honest and journal everything, and then you had to bring it back for the group to see. I took the journal home once and lost 5 pounds that week. I felt too guilty to lie and I definitely didn't want anyone to see that I had gone over my points, so I was more careful than I had ever been before and I weighed and measured everything.

I think I'll know that I have gotten my head on straight when my own personal journal is no different than the public journal. Until then, I'll be looking for good recipes for asparagus.

5 comments:

  1. This was a great post Jen. I bet everyone fighting the bulge has their rituals before getting on the scale. I try to weigh in the morning after going to bathroom and prior to showering (somehow I have convinced myself that wet hair weighs more than dry hair) and naked.

    Thank you for sharing your pictures with me. You looked so happy finishing that race! I think you resemble a young Isabella Rossellini (whom I think is beautiful).

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  2. Wow, I had to look up Isabella Rossellini to make sure you meant the same person -- she is beautiful. Thanks so much for the compliment.

    I get the wet hair/dry hair thing, and the bathroom thing...

    I wish there was an easy way to know someone's Flickr identity from their Blogger profile. I'd share my pics with the regular AFG posters if I could.

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  3. When I was going to Curves and weighing - we had to reach a compromise. I went at 6am, so hadn't eaten yet. BUt I refused to be weighed with my clothes on because of my naked weighing at home. There was a curtain - I am not shy. The first time I threatened to strip, they didn't know what to do with me. The second time, they said - just weigh at home (any way you want!) and then tell us when you get here. So that's what I did - I was always honest - the other advantage is that I was always using ONE number.

    I'd love to see your pics but am not comuter savvy enough to do the request thing. LORI - could you please give Jen my email so she could send me instructions? Or Jen - please send Lori instructions to forward on to me if you are more comfortable that way. THANKS!!!!

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  4. I've actually thought it would be interesting to record some of the things we've seen at weigh-in. One of the women has a pair of "lucky shorts" and has to change into them.

    Then there are the bathroom people. Just to get maybe an ounce out of them.

    This is the second day of actually tracking my points. I went to bed hungry and a bit pissed off for a lot of reasons. (And Lucky Jen was online with me while I went slowly [or quickly] insane with Flickr uploading; people, let me tell, she's a very patient person!) And now, I'm reading the material from WW. I've always said I would not be a good spokesman for them.

    I can see the Public Journal being very effective. Not only for the not going over points but would you want to say, Well, I spent x number on points on something seemingly frivolous.

    Jen, keep up the good work. You might not think you are seeing big signs but maybe big signs aren't necessary. It's the little things that does add up to success.

    PS Yes, Vickie, I'll take care of the flickr for you. You've got mine, I think.

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  5. Lori, I used to work in Tech Support. You should be glad I didn't tell you to reboot and call me back :) That was the best trick -- especially because half the time it worked.

    I was thinking that if people put their flickr site in their profile (I did) where you can list a website, that would help us share photos. But Vickie, once I get your email I will send you an invite to see my flickr stuff. It's sort of fascinating to see the pictures over the years -- I miss my 19-year-old body but I guess it came with my 19-year-old brain.

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07