Something I’ve been focused on the last couple of months (while I haven’t been blogging) is my weight and fitness. I’m not sure what got into me, how this time was different than all the other times I’ve declared I was going to get with the program and get into shape, but something just clicked, and here I am four months later and 20 pounds lighter!
It all started with My Fitness Pal, which I first wrote about here, just as I was getting going. Right away, I saw results. Three-and-a-half pounds the first week, two the next, and so on. In all the years I’d been trying to lose weight, I’d never wanted to keep track of calories, it just felt like so much work, but after just a couple of weeks using the app, I was a believer. Changed forever.
No Paleo this, or juice cleanse that. Just three balanced meals, two in-between snacks, and most of the time, dessert, too. It took some getting used to, tracking every forkful I put into my mouth, but because of that, I found myself making far better choices, simply because I didn’t want to track that cookie or bag of potato chips out of self-imposed guilt and shame. I definitely cut myself some slack on the weekends or when traveling, though, but as soon as I got back into my routine, I easily slipped back into the ritual of eating well, tracking it all, and working out as often as I could.
Just recently, I saw a number on the scale that I haven’t seen since I don’t even know when — college? high school? maybe my wedding?
I didn’t start this recent spate of eating well and working out with a particular numeric goal in mind. Basically, I decided that I just really wanted to fit into a certain pair of jeans. Gap, size 10, slim fit. These became my Goal Jeans. A little over a month ago, I pulled them out of the depths of their drawer and cautiously put them on, one leg at a time. I pulled them up over my hips, zipped and buttoned them up, and let out a huge sigh of relief.
(It should be noted this was not my bedroom, but instead my hotel room where I stayed for Comic-Con.)
Honestly, getting into those jeans, and comfortably, was the best feeling.
Oh, and walking (and jumping!) around in a bathing suit on our Florida vacation was pretty awesome, too.
A lot of people (family, friends, co-workers) have noticed my weight loss (not gonna lie, I never get tired of the compliments) and then, of course, have asked me what I’ve done to get to where I am right now. Usually I just say, I started tracking what I’m eating, made some adjustments after realizing just how many calories I’d been eating, worked out two or three times a week, and that’s it.
Truly, that IS it. But, I thought it might be helpful to others looking for a little inspiration to provide a few more details and offer suggestions based on what’s worked for me. Obviously, what’s worked for me may not work for you, so take that into account as you make decisions about your own health and fitness.
Set a daily calorie intake goal
When I first signed up for My Fitness Pal, I input my weight and desire to lose a couple of pounds per week, and it suggested I start with 1,200 calories per day. HAA. Um, no. I did a little research and determined that for someone with my level of activity (moderate), a better range is around 1,700 per day. Ah, much better. That number seemed far more achievable, less hunger-inducing, and most importantly, sustainable in the long term. Of course, I quickly realized that one of my favorite things to eat for lunch — veggie burrito from Chipotle — boasted 800 calories. Well, poop. Time to make some adjustments.
Make good food choices
Eating out is hard when you’re tracking your calories, but it doesn’t have to be. All national chain restaurants like Chipotle post nutritional information in brochures at the store and online. Chipotle even has a Nutrition Calculator. You can build your burrito online and see how many calories each component has. So ah, that tortilla? Almost 300 calories. That’s about as many calories as I like to eat in total for breakfast. Ditch the tortilla. Instead I get a chicken salad, topped with black beans, pico de gallo, corn salsa, and guacamole on the side. They put the dressing on the side, too, but I rarely use it, and if I do, I employ the fork-dip method for just a little extra flavor. This meal is totally filling and only about 420 calories. A great dinner on the run.
Really, though, it’s better to just avoid eating out when you’re tracking. A typical day looks a lot like this:
½ cup plain Jersey yogurt (from our CSA)
¼ cup cooked wheat berries (from our CSA)
Handful of fresh berries
Drizzle of honey
Coffee w/ sugar and half-n-half (x2)
Veggie burger patty
Multigrain thin bun
Tomato slice, sprouts, mustard
3-4 oz. grilled protein (usually salmon, chicken, tri-tip)
Steamed or roasted veggies (green beans, zucchini, broccoli, corn on the cob)
Starch (quinoa, brown rice, potato)
Frozen Greek yogurt bar
TOTAL: 1,397 calories
On the weekend, I usually allow myself a beer or mixed drink and more snacks. But, then of course, I’ve also worked out, too, which gives me more leeway to consume more calories without the guilt.
Get the most bang for your buck
Figure out which foods make you feel full without breaking the calorie bank. A salad topped with chicken and avocado, even though a bit on the high side, calorically speaking, is a better (and healthier) lunch for me than say, a slice of pizza. That way, I don’t find myself listlessly wandering the office in the search of candy around 3 p.m. Adding a dollop of almond butter to my sliced apple snack is another way to curb the cravings. I also avoid empty calories, like sodas and other sugary snacks. It’s hard to do at first, but once you train yourself, it becomes easy to just walk by the front desk candy jar.
If you want to eat more, burn more
My Saturday morning spin instructor always praises us weekend early birds for coming to class at 8 a.m. when other options like sleeping in or going out to breakfast seem a more desirable choice. She talks about “pre-burning” all the extra calories we’ll probably eat at a party later that night. I love this idea. As painful as it is to get up early and put on my workout clothes, I think about how I’m going to reward myself, whether it be a slice (or two) of real bacon when I get home, or a couple of mixed drinks and chips and salsa in the backyard sun. Really, that helps push through the pain and makes the reward that much sweeter.
My Fitness Pal (and other calorie tracking apps, I’m sure) make it so easy to log your calories. If you have a smartphone, you can even use the built-in barcode scanner to pull up the nutritional info for most foods. Don’t feel bad if you slip up and gorge out on a bag of potato chips. (Guilty!) But do log it all, and then move on. No one will see your food diary unless you want them to. Just try to do better the next day.
I think the real trick to it all is to stick with it. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t see dramatic results after one week. Try it for a month, and see how you feel. If you want to talk more offline, shoot me an e-mail, and I’d be happy to share more of my experience.