I am cautiously optimistic. This morning’s weigh-in revealed a 3.2 weight loss, 1 inch lost in my chest, 1 in my waist, 1 in my butt.
I’m not throwing a party just yet, since this weight-loss brings me exactly where I was two weeks ago. Plus, parties mean ice cream and cake. And right now, we don’t have room in the calorie budget for ice cream and cake.
I made an appointment with a new family doc to discuss all of this. Unfortunately New Family Doc can’t see me for a month. No worries. Because yesterday, I met with Kelly The Nutritionist at the gym. Kelly is adorable, fit, and training for a mini marathon.
Which is completely irrelevant to my story, but I just wanted you to have a visual.
Kelly weighed me, wrote down everything I had eaten in the previous 24 hours and punched a bunch of numbers into her calculator. After Kelly’s expert analysis, she determined the following:
1. I am officially “overweight.” You know the “ideal weight” range? Well, it appears I’m no longer “ideal” or “acceptable.” Bad chart. Baaaaaaad chart. I want to believe it’s because she mistook me for a super model and used Kate Moss as the standard for “acceptable.”
2. Despite my weight falling into that category (by only 1 pound) Adorable Kelly The Nutritionist refused to write “overweight” in my notes. In fact, she refused to call me overweight, at all. I felt the need to comfort HER during the meeting. “It’s OK, sweetie…you can call me overweight. I’m a big girl. Get it? BIG girl?” (Just a little overweight humor.) She said, and I quote, “No one would look at you and call you overweight.” Except maybe Kate Moss. This may be true, but sometimes seeing the words on paper is just the motivation a big girl like me needs to take it up another notch.
3. Keeping a food log and counting calories, in her opinion, is the best way to monitor what we eat. Which is exactly what I’ve been doing for the last week. She recommends I do it for the next few months until my body adjusts to a reduced calorie amount. And then, I must pretty much keep a mental food diary forever and ever, or until the Lord returns and I get my glorified body.
4. My eating is great, and she wouldn’t make any further recommendations, except to keep doing what I’m doing. Yipee!
Though I’ve whined and moaned about having to keep a food log and track my calories, I’m realizing now that this may be the key to my weight loss AND my previous weight gain. Though I exercise 5 days a week and eat very healthy food most of the time, I eat a lot of food. But even healthy food has calories. And if I don’t burn those calories off, they end up stored in my body as fat.
(Warning: If you don’t care about the intricacies of calorie counting, I recommend you scroll to the bottom of this post where I have a killer breakfast recipe for under 200 calories. If I were you, I’d be zoning out right now, too…if it weren’t for the fact that I’m now “overweight.” This is when other vital information in my brain gets squeezed out to make room for math. I hope I don’t have anything important to do today. Because I won’t remember to do it, thanks to calorie counting.)
The Art of Creating a Calorie Deficit
Every 3,500 calories equals one pound. In order to lose weight, you must create a calorie deficit.
If you cut back 500 calories a day, you should lose about one pound per week. That said, if you exercise to burn off 500 calories a day you should also lose approximately one pound per week. Do both, and … you get the picture. Ideally, you should do a combination of both.
A healthy weight loss goal is to lose .5 to 2 pounds per week. Losing more than 2 pounds per week will mean the weight is less likely to stay off permanently.
Keys to keeping a great food diary
1. Write down every single thing you eat or drink in the correct portions. You will need to dig out the measuring cups and spoons until you learn to eye-ball “a serving.” Most people are shocked the first time they measure out their cereal or their salad dressing. But this is where the revelations come and real change begins.
2. Write the times you eat in the margin. This can help pinpoint the times of day you are very hungry, so you can plan for those times. For me, I’m really hungry around 10 am and 3 pm. I make sure I have healthy, lo-cal snacks ready for those times.
3. Calculate your calories for each meal. I won’t lie. This is a pain at first. But there are a lot of great resources to help you, like this one: Calorie Count. Also, nearly every restaurant now offers nutrition info on-line. So even if you eat out, you can come home and calculate your calories. If you are like me, you will see you eat a lot of the same foods over and over, so you will eventually memorize these number or will be able to refer back to previous days in your log to find the calorie count. It gets easier.
4. Make the cuts. Find foods you can cut out, reduce or switch to a lower calorie alternative. It’s easier than you think, when you see it all on paper.
5. Remember that adding more activity is a valid way to create a calorie deficit. For example, cutting 250 calories out of your diet and then adding a 45 minute daily walk would be the same as cutting 500 calories out of your daily diet. Plus, the exercise is really good for you.
Figuring out how many calories you should cut
1. Calculate the number of calories you need. You body needs calories to keep you alive. This is called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). You should never eat fewer calories than your BMR. To calculate your BMR, you can use a calculator or figure it out yourself using the formula below.
655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)
2. In order to incorporate activity into your daily caloric needs, do the following calculation. Be realistic. Most people overestimate their activity level:
• If you are sedentary : BMR x 20 percent
• If you are lightly active: BMR x 30 percent
• If you are moderately active (You exercise most days a week.): BMR x 40 percent
• If you are very active (You exercise intensely on a daily basis or for prolonged periods.): BMR x 50 percent
• If you are extra active (You do hard labor or are in athletic training.): BMR x 60 percent
Add this number to your BMR.The result of this formula will be the number of calories you can eat every day and maintain your current weight. In order to lose weight, you’ll need to take in fewer calories than this result.
As you lose weight, you should re-calculate the formula to assess your new BMR.
All About Me
Using this formula, I need to eat about 2000 calories to maintain my current weight. Kelly The Adorable Nutritionist figured about 2300 calories a day. As you can see, this is all approximate. To lose weight, I need to aim for somewhere between 1500 and 1800 calories a day.
Now here’s the shocker: in reality, I eat about 3000 calories on a normal day. Easily as many as 4000 calories on days when I indulge in ice cream, homemade chocolate chip cookies or order appetizers and dessert on date night.
Weight gain mystery solved. I think. Time will tell. In any case, I was completely delusional about my calorie intake until I started writing it all down. (I can hear all you calorie-counting diehards now: “Fitness Friday Girl, you never told us you were such a piggly wiggly!”)
A Few Calorie Counting Warnings:
1. Take the time to look up the food you eat in restaurants. It’s eye-opening. For example, The Naked Grilled Veggie Burrito at Q’Doba has no tortilla and no meat. It’s basically vegetarian burrito guts, consisting of black beans, cilantro lime white rice, and grilled vegetables. I order it with pico de gallo, corn salsa, guacamole, cheese and sour cream. I always figured since I was eliminating the tortilla, I could afford the cheese and sour cream. Guess what the calorie count is on that baby?
If I want to get it below 500 calories (which is still high for lunch), I would need to drop the cheese, the sour cream AND the rice! Whoa. When you discover you’ve just consumed about 60% of your daily calorie intake in one meal, you may find yourself eating lettuce and a can of tuna, drizzled with bottled lemon juice for dinner—virtual salad hell.
2. Be careful not to make unhealthy choices for the sake of fewer calories. Sugar substitutes are calorie-free, but they are poison. I wrote about that here and here. Pretzels have fewer calories than almonds, but pretzels have no nutritional value, whereas almonds are packed with nutrients. Better to choose the healthier option in smaller portions than to substitute with crud. Food is fuel.
3. Allow yourself a free day once a week or a free meal every few days. Not only will it give you something to look forward to after all your hard work, but it will actually help your metabolism by not allowing it to completely adjust to the lower calories. Kelly the Adorable Nutritionist confirmed this. And Kelly knows her stuff.
I know all of this is cumbersome. It’s a pain to measure, log, cut, and calculate, measure, log, cut, and calculate. But you won’t need to do this forever. After a while, you’ll be able to eyeball it and it will be habit.
Or you will be so frustrated, you’ll just quit. No…I’m just kidding. You won’t quit. Cuz you STRONG. You BRAVE! You not afraid of no calorie counting! (do a chest bump and man-grunt here).
Want an Amazing, Tasty, Filling, Healthy and Pretty breakfast in under 5 minutes and 200 calories?
1 egg plus 3 egg whites
1 cup chopped peppers and onions (I keep a bag of frozen for things like this)
Handful of fresh spinach
Dash of skim milk
One slice organic American Cheese (or whatever cheese you like in a 60-calorie portion)
Salt and pepper to taste
Cook peppers and onions in skillet for a few minutes until slightly browned. Add spinach and stir around for a few seconds until wilted.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs, milk, salt and pepper in a bowl. Pour over cooked vegetables.