Changing bad habits is HARD! I'm still learning, every day.

When I was training for IMCDA under Chuckie it was my first IM with him. Chuckie has a lot of "advice" and I would get these emails reminding me what all the right things to do are going into an IM. Things like drink more water, eat great food (not just good food), put your feet up on the wall, administer self massage, get lots of sleep, stop eating after 7pm. Wait, what? What was that last one....stop eating after 7pm? Wow, that's harsh, seriously?

So I tried it. I did OK, not great, I would grade my effort with a C. So, kinda 50/50, which I guess was way better than before. I think before he told me this the number of times I had not eaten after 7pm in my life was....zero. Yup, zero. I eat after dinner. Sometimes good stuff like fruit, yogurt, popcorn with the air popper. Sometimes bad stuff like chips, Nutella, popcorn made on the stovetop with oil.

But the nice thing about getting into Kona was I knew that Chuckie's advice was going to come around again, and I had another "chance" to get a better grade. Before IMCDA Chuckie sprung the no eating after 7pm concept on me about 3 weeks before the IM. So I was expecting the same with Kona. Well, I was wrong, this time he sprung it on me with about 10 weeks to go.

I tried so hard. I ate only really good food if I ate anything after 7pm, but there were nights where I just wanted food, and I ate food. I would give myself a B+ for the Kona build. I got the concept, I followed it for the most part, but when deep self restraint was required...I caved. I still made some great body composition strides, stepping on the line at Kona about 7 pounds under what I raced at CDA. I was leaner and meaner, but still very much healthy and strong, and it showed on race day.

Well I KNEW it was coming for IMAZ. I think it came about 8 days after Kona. The advice to once again curb the evening consumption. I was both full of dread and excited at the same time. It's another chance to do a good job, but also another task in self restraint.

It is generally accepted that positive reinforcement is the most effective form of behavior modification. Even within the realm of positive reinforcement there are things you can do to hasten your desired change. I recently read this article on motivating preventive behaviors and learned that not all positive reinforcement schedules are created equal. Here is a quote from the article:

The most powerful positive reinforcement schedule is called the variable ratio schedule where rewards are given after a random number of responses (meaning a rat will get food after pressing a bar once, then five times, then seven times, then three times, then eight times, etc.). The weakest positive reinforcement schedule is called the fixed interval schedule where rewards are given only at certain time intervals after the desired response (e.g., a rat will get food after pressing a bar only if 10 seconds have passed since the last reward was given).

Before I read this article I was putting together yet another sticker chart for Annie. Do you use sticker charts for your kids? After we go on vacation where Annie sleeps in the same bed with us it's very hard to get her to sleep in her own bed when we get back home. So I make a sticker chart and wha-lah, she's back in her own bed lickity-split. A sticker chart works for Annie every time. We draw a certain number of circles and then we pick a reward, this time it was going to get a pumpkin for Halloween. She's almost there:

When I was putting the chart together Troy suggested I put together a sticker chart for myself for not eating after 7pm. I said "What's my treat"? I was thinking something along the lines of a Hawaiian vacation, new car, summer home in the mountains. Seriously, that's how hard it is for me to not eat after 7pm. He said that if I didn't eat after 7pm for 30 days, he would buy me a new outfit. Humm, it's not a car...but, being that every single outfit I have bought in the last 4 years has been from the thrift store, this was actually sounding like a pretty big treat. I don't even know what the inside of Old Navy and the Gap look like any more. Do you think that my only options for jeans are the skinny ones, because I'm just not ready to go there?

Now granted, after reading the above referenced article, I'm not sure that the sticker chart with one big reward at the end is the most effective positive reinforcement schedule. But then again, I don't think Troy can afford to give me random awards, and also...I'm not a rat clicking a button.

So, what the hay, if I don't eat after 7pm for 30 days, that will only leave me 3 days until IMAZ, and I will land myself straight into the A, A+ range for the first time this year....for this "task" at least. I've still got a few others that need work as well, but another generally accepted concept of behavior modification is to work on one thing at a time.

So I made the sticker chart, hung it up on our closet door and last night was my 7th night in a row. See, this is an all or nothing kind of deal so I can not mess up even one night or the outfit deal is off. Troy deserves a new outfit for putting up with my whining as my body screams for food in the evenings, not because I'm hungry, but because I'm addicted to eating after 7pm.

There has been a great side effect from all this. Another "problem" I have had through the years is eating a good solid breakfast. Well not any more, don't eat after 7pm and the first thing on your mind when you wake up in the morning is FEED ME. So, it's been like hitting two birds with one stone.

I know you all want to see the sticker chart....it's why you've made it this far down in the post. Each morning after I weigh I put a happy face sticker on there, and then I write what the scale said that morning. weight/body fat/hydration.

As much as sometimes I wish I was a little more concerned, or anal about the number on the scale, I've just never been too much like that. I find it interesting to watch how my weight fluctuates with my training. Some mornings I wake up and the scale says I'm 2 pounds heavier from the day before. I toss a few cuss words at the scale, threaten to fire it for incompetence, and a few days later it's telling me I'm two pounds lighter. The thing (or maybe me) just fluctuates. What I do like to see is a downward trend, but a slow steady one.

From losing 7 pounds between IMCDA and Kona I noticed that it actually comes in fits and spurts. If I keep up my good strong training, eat good food, and quit the post 7pm eating, then whatever body I end up with from all of that is the one I'm happy to be residing in. It's about the journey, not the destination.

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