MYST 173: How to Break Your Slump

Last week, I talked about evaluating your actions and the results they generated, and comparing them to your goals. If you were getting good results, keep on doing it! But if your results were not helping you move toward your goal, you need to make changes. Tomorrow is always another day to make good choices.

So let me tell you a little of my progress. This is an episode of total honesty and transparency.

For the past year, I was in a slump. I won’t call it a plateau, because that is a little different. A plateau is when you do everything right, and yet for months, you make no progress.

I wasn’t in a plateau. I was able to make progress–when I did everything right. My problem was that I was tired of doing everything right. I was not in a diet slump, but a mental slump. Not depression. More like boredom. I’ve been counting calories with LoseIt since May 2011, and have been tracking my weight since July 2008. That’s nearly 10 years of eating the right way. And I just became tired of it.

So for the past year, I’ve been as low as 217, and as high as 227. I’ve been just bouncing between around those ten pounds. When I did everything right, I was at the bottom end. All the rest of the time, I was at the upper end.

I looked at what I had been doing, and realized my errors. I needed a “new tomorrow” plan. I needed to go back to the basics. This wasn’t a case of eliminating foods, or increasing activity. I didn’t need keto or intermittent fasting. The good days were caused by accurate logging, the bad days were caused by indifferent logging. I never stopped logging, but I will admit that my accuracy was lacking.

Photo via Pixabay, by Noah8001

I was bored. Yes. Constant calorie counting is fun at first, and eventually it is just boring. So, here is the challenge: how do I get back to doing what works when I mentally am tired of doing what works?

Yeah. That is a challenge!

Here is a little more about me. I’m an “all or nothing” guy. I either have a laser focus or a wandering gaze that accomplishes nothing. When I was able to use my laser on calorie counting, I reached my goal weight.

My question was how can I refocus my laser, and yet not really change what I eat (because I really don’t want to give up my favorite foods.)

The episodes on cholesterol (MYST 169 and MYST 170) triggered some thinking. My cholesterol numbers are good. Not great, but good. But all that research on the benefits of specific foods stirred some interest. It created a feeling of curiosity. And you can’t be bored and curious about one topic at the same time.

I’ve always planned my meals for the week, and I generally use Sunday as my prep day. I like to cook as much as possible on Sunday, which eliminates work in the evening after returning home, and helps prevent the easy “pick something up” attitude.

Now I do more than plan for the week. I use a meal script. I created a chart that lists all the healthiest foods (fortunately, I love all these foods). It is on an Excel spreadsheet and I have the foods broken into four categories: at least 5x/week, at least 3x/wk, at least 1x/week, and other. For example, I want 1/4 c of oatmeal, 1/4 cup berries, 1 cup spinach, 1/2 cup legumes and 1/2 an avocado in at least five meals a week. (There are many more in that category, but this is a sample.) I also want dark chocolate and almonds or walnuts three times a week and red wine twice a week and at least one piece of fruit daily.

Knowing what I want to eat, now I plan out my meal script. I make one of two oatmeal dishes every Monday – Friday. In each bowl, I add either blueberries or bananas to the oatmeal. Some days I top it with one tablespoon of almond butter, or crushed walnuts

I also make 2 eggs everyday, and top them with tomato paste, avocado, and jalapeno.

For lunch, I pack salads. The base is always 2 cups spinach. Then I add 1/2 cup black beans. Then I add a fruit (apple or pear, sometimes pineapple and blueberries). Maybe I’ll include tomatoes, or red cabbage, or radicchio, or radishes. I’ll finish with 1/4 of an avocado.

Photo via Pixabay, by PublicDomainPictures

So how does this help me break the slump? While those foods are very healthy foods, it is more about the intentional food design. The planning. The purpose. The careful thought that goes into each meal, and hitting my weekly targets.

It changes my focus from counting calories (the same as the past 10 years) to instead create the right food combinations. And I want to see what it does to my blood lipids. While they are currently good, I want to see if I can make them excellent.

I’m also focusing on four other food values:

  1. Potassium (more than 4,700mg)
  2. Sodium (less than 1500mg)
  3. Dietary fiber (more then 40g)
  4. Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio (better than 1 to 6)

Now, one thing to note: I’m still counting calories. I still eat my full budget. But calories are not the focus, they are more of a side effect of designing my food blueprint. See, when you eat the foods that I’m eating, the calories are slow to add up. Think about that salad I made. The only calorie-dense foods are the avocado and the dressing I use (and since I usually use 1 tablespoon, even that isn’t an issue.)

By my evening meal, I usually have 30-45% of my calories left. I make a meal that follows my food blueprint, choosing options and quantities based on how many calories remain uneaten. Sometimes I enjoy a five-ounce glass of red wine with dinner. I use the dark chocolate and almonds to fill out my daily calorie budget.

Here is the recipe analyzer that I use to help me regain my focus on eating well and making good choices. This will take entire meals and give you the macro- and micro-nutrient breakdown, as far as down to the amount of each amino acid in the food.

By the way, I said my lipids are good, but not excellent. More total disclosure:

  • Total cholesterol = 170 (good is less than 200)
  • HDL (good) = 66 (good is more than 40)
  • LDL (bad) = 98 (good is less than 100)
  • Triglycerides = 76 (good is less than 150)

My goals by my next lab work (sometime in spring) is total cholesterol down to 150, LDL down to 70, triglycerides down to 50, and HDL up to 70. I’ll let you know when I get my next lipid panel.

So, if you are in a slump, find a new target (while keeping total calorie intake under control) and maybe that will light a fire under you.

I’m actually having fun making these meals, eating good food and—this is the pay-off—watching the scale show progress on a regular basis. I’m down 3.8 pounds in the past two weeks.

Here it is, mid-winter, when I most want to hibernate, and I’ve rekindled my enthusiasm. All because I learned from my yesterday.

If you want to try this, here is a link that will send you my food blueprint.

Picture via Pixabay, by


Music composed and performed by Jason Shaw, courtesy of

Voiceover courtesy of Matt Young. Matt is a professional voiceover artist. If you have any need of voice-over work, for your podcast, radio spot, or whatever, you can reach Matt by a variety of methods. He is on LinkedIn. On Twitter. And Google+. Follow his Facebook page to learn how to better use social media. Matt was also my guest on MYST 54. Give his story a listen!

All images are Creative Common Zero.