So I haven't been doing that "weight control chart" for a long time now. I still weigh myself most mornings, and every few days I write it down because I want to keep a long-term record (and if nothing else, there's a height and weight check-in on the NFP charts, so I will at least have one data point per month). I stopped doing that thing where I would start following more rules when I had so many data points (weight readings) that were in such-and-such a range, etc. It was worth a try, but it was really too involved to keep up with.
I have been thinking more and more about the most useful attitude to have toward the numbers: the weight on the scale, the dress size, and even the calorie count (or WW points or carb grams---whatever countable food metric you might be considering).
Coming into the start of my fifth year of weight control, I am even more strongly convinced of a particular way of thinking about these numbers. I have pointed out before that "the numbers" are not under your direct control. Behavior and habit development are under your direct control; the numbers aren't. If weight/size control for health is your desire. the numbers are useful -- not as goals or targets, because you cannot really aim at them -- but as diagnostics to evaluate existing habits and behaviors.
The sequence goes like this:
- Check the numbers
- Decide to develop a particular habit that seems it might be helpful
- Set goal to "hit" the habit by repeatedly practicing the behavior until habit is established
- Once habit is established, check the numbers again
- If the numbers are good (or at least not worse) and the habit is pleasant or tolerable, keep the habit; if the numbers are worse or the habit is intolerable, choose a different habit.
The important thing here is that if you're going to freak out and feel like a failure, don't do it because the numbers are bad. Focus all concern about failure, all motivation to succeed, on the behavior. Not on the numbers. The behavior is what you can control. The numbers are an indirect effect.
One of the things I am even more sure about is that even the number of calories you consume counts as a metric, not a behavior. I know it seems wrong, because theoretically you ought to be able to directly control the number of calories you put in your mouth. But it is so foreign to human relationships with food to calculate calories before eating them, and it is such an intrusion into normal eating behavior to do it, and it is so difficult to keep up long-term (not to mention being pretty inaccurate) that I really think it needs to be considered a metric, something that is indirectly affected by the choices you make throughout the day.
Even if you take the step of counting calories before you eat them, using a calorie counter to make a plan and then trying to stick to it all day, you still need to employ direct behavior strategies, and whether you consume the number of calories you planned or not is an indirect result of all the choices you made that day. One of them was the choice to count up the calories and put together the meal plan, of course. But there were many others: did you measure your food every time? did you take steps to avoid temptations? what did you do when you had to make an unexpected substitution? At the end of the day when you count up all the calories, the number you actually ate is a measure of whether your decisions were useful or not.
In other words: don't berate yourself for eating 1,972 calories instead of 1,300 calories. Measure it, write it down, work on the habits, and then some day in the future try measuring again and see if, with a similar effort, you manage to get closer to the 1,300.
I find that periodically spending a week or so pre-planning my portions in order to hit a certain calorie range is a good way to remind myself of the portion sizes I actually need, so I do this from time to time. (I am doing it this week; the semi-annual gluttony retrospective is here for a reason, after all). But I try really hard to think of the behavior goal as "I will sit down every evening for a week and pre-plan my portions and foods to the best of my ability to predict them, and at each meal I will measure portions and make corrections to the plan to reflect reality." I don't think of it as "I will eat no more than 1700 calories each day." Because ultimately, unless I moved into a locked laboratory, I can't just make that happen. I don't eat calories; I eat food, things like strawberries and cheddar cheese and turkey sandwiches and Twix and margaritas. The calories are an abstraction, and they are not worth getting upset about. I just use them, from time to time, to tell me if my habits are helpful or harmful.