How Much Food Do I Really Need?

Trying to lose weight post-partum has definitely been a struggle (as I’ve written about many times here). The fitness aspect hasn’t been the struggle for me. The food has.

I feel like part of the problem is that for nearly 10 years I was on a “plan” that worked. After losing 110 pounds, I kept the weight off by working out consistently and by counting my calories. I logged my food pretty diligently for almost a decade. With a few blips here and there, I kept the weight off. I could splurge on treats or go out to dinner and still maintain my weight with about a 5 pounds fluctuation up and down.

When I got pregnant I did not eat for two. I increased my daily calories per my doctor and I still worked out. And then after Logan was born, (after taking about a month off from counting calories) I was back to logging my food but I was still eating a lot of calories. Every time I tried to lower that daily number my milk supply was effected.

I am pretty proud of myself for staying “on track” while pregnant. But I admit, I did give in to foods I didn’t really eat. I had managed to mostly kick my candy habit while losing and maintaining my weight loss. Sure I had treats and dessert (homemade cookies or ice cream, or chocolate) but I stayed away from the candy bar type stuff that was always a trigger for me.

While I was pregnant I craved two things: orange juice–which I started drinking a glass of with breakfast every day (probably 150 calories worth–and I COULD have drank several glasses of juice, but controlled myself) AND Reese’s Pieces candies. I have NO idea why those were the two cravings I had while pregnant with Logan but they were. Once he arrived, I cut out the juice.

The candy? Not so much. I am still eating candy on occasion and I absolutely hate that it’s so hard for me to kick that habit. It’s no secret I’ve always struggled with sugar but…dammit, why is it so hard this time around to STOP the sugar??

Let’s get back to that.

So I am still hovering around the 13-pounds-left-to-lose-mark. Ideally I’d like to lose 20 but 13 is my goal. I talked to my doctor recently and she suggested I reduce my daily calorie base to 1400. (She also suggested I try going vegetarian, but that’s a whole other conversation. ๐Ÿ™ )

I decided to give it a try and went from around 1600 calories a day to 1400. Sometimes I eat back some of the calories I burn in the gym but I am trying really hard not to eat all of it and try to stay around 1500 or 1600 total on work out days.

Reducing my calories to 1400 was a bit of an adjustment at first. The first week it felt really stressful because if you break it down, 1400 calories is NOT that much food. So 400 calories for breakfast, maybe 100 for a snack, 400 for lunch and 500 for dinner. Yikes! I’d see my number of left over calories getting smaller and smaller…and I’d feel discouraged and sometimes I’d beat myself up. But after the initial hunger and getting used to that number, it wasn’t that bad. And sometimes I even found that I’d bring snacks to work and I didn’t really need them.

Since going back to work full time, I’ve started working out a few days a week during my lunch break. The gym at work can be kind of crowded, especially on bad weather days and Mondays. So I’ve adjusted my lunch hour around in order to work out earlier. In the past I would have a snack before working out –fruit or Greek yogurt or a low carb protein shake–and then work out, shower, and eat lunch at the normal time. But shifting to an earlier lunch hour to workout, I noticed that I didn’t need my morning pre-workout snack anymore.

So I wondered,ย How much food do I really need?

I decided I could probably skip my morning snack on workout days and just workout. Then eat lunch later. And I’d be fine. And it helped me stay at my lower calorie range.

I have no idea how many calories are the “right” number. I mean, I workout a lot and pretty intensely. So how do you find the proper balance between how many calories you need to not completely crash and still get your good workout in? I pose that question because I honestly don’t know the answer.

Recently I decided to give it another shot. First, I decided to try doing the lower-carb diet again. I kind of gave up on it this summer. I lost about 7 or 8 pounds on it when I first tried it in the spring but I stalled out and just felt like I was torturing myself and not seeing any results–so I stopped and just counted my calories every day and didn’t care about limiting carbs.

Second, I decided to try and cut out the candy. Recently at the store I did not buyย ANY treats! None. I am going to try going cold turkey on the dessert/candy/treats and see if that also helps.

UPDATE

Last week in addition to cutting out candy and sweets (other than fruit and my coffee creamer), I decided to give the lower-carb diet a try again.ย So last week I went back on the bandwagon.

I stopped buying sweets and desserts and was surprisingly able to give up the candy without noticing too much of a hardship or craving. The carbs? I was somewhere between 50-75 grams of carbs for each day. I felt like crap all week, honestly. I felt run down and like I had the flu–but I didn’t. I just felt exhausted and burned out and my workouts suffered and my mood suffered….I’m sure it was cutting out carbs.

So no bread, pasta, rice, etc. No potatoes, reducing the fruit I eat (I had raspberries for dessert two nights). I’m eating more protein and fat. I’m hoping this second week will be better–and that I will feel less run down. I know that’s pretty common in the beginning when you go low carb….UGH.

The good news? I weighed myself over the weekend and was pretty happy to see a 2 pound loss. I have no idea if that’s the low carb diet or cutting out sugar or both. But if this trend continues, hopefully I can relax and just be in maintenance mode in a few months! I do not believe a low carb lifestyle is the right choice for my body type…but I’m willing to give it another try.

20 Responses

  1. My weight has been falling off like whoa since I started eating a whole foods plant based diet (and I just ran a 30K trail race so there’s definitely no issues having enough energy to work out) – could be worth a shot? I read through your old post on vegetarianism, and I don’t think you can discount that way of eating based on that. (I was a junk food vegetarian for years and years, I hear ya!)

    1. Perhaps. I am not dismissing the vegetarian or vegan lifestyle because I know it’s helpful for people. I feel like every body is different and some just do NOT work well with a vegetarian diet. It’s a lot of trial and error to figure out what works. I’m glad you found something that works for you! You are looking great! And congrats on the runs!

      1. Whether you lean more towards plant-based or paleo, I think the important thing is to avoid processed foods and focus on eating waaay more vegetables. Fill up on veggies so you get all the micronutrients you need and don’t go around feeling hungry (and make sure you eat some fat with every meal which increases the bioavailability of those micronutrients). That mindset helped me mentally too, since I was focusing on adding food rather than obsessing about what I “couldn’t” eat.

        1. Oh I agree 100%! I have been trying for a long time to get off processed foods. We are PRETTY good. I would say before the current diet reboot, the most “processed” foods I had was in sweets. The rest of it was pretty whole foods based.

  2. Super hard for most people to be vegetarian without being a carbaholic. And gaining weight. In my opinion.

    So if becoming a vegetarian, have to address the balance up front. Cannot live on bread, pasta, potatoes, etc and lose or maintain. If living on mainly green vegetables, probably.

    I went vegetarian for a year or two (in maintenance) and I had a very hard time. I had a vegetarian and a vegan at my house at that time. It seemed logical.

    And I ate way too much dairy as vegetarian. And developed a sensitivity to dairy. I was also eating eggs and fish. Yes. But have to watch the fish because of mercury. And my cholesterol level IS impacted by eggs.

    So I added back chicken and turkey. Very lean kind. And switched to egg whites. And dropped dairy.

    One of my vegetarians also added back chicken and turkey and fish. She has always eaten dairy and eggs. Good decision.

    My vegan switched to vegetarian and added back dairy and eggs.

    The former vegan struggles with her weight. And I think it would be easier for her if she added back lean meats. But, no. However, much better now that she is doing dairy and eggs.

    So that is our experience.

    And protein is what holds hunger. I think that is why a lot, not all, vegetarians get themselves in a carb loop.

    I too had orange juice craving with one pregnancy and with the knowledge I have now, it was the sugar. And it also caused my nausea/vomiting. So you were smart to only do one glass. And one serving, max, not a whole glass, with a meal with protein, one time a day, is smart (for anyone else pregnant and reading this in future). No juice, instead one serving of fruit is smarter. Sugar causes blood sugar changes which is what causes morning sickness. Steadier blood sugar reduces morning sickness. Protein is pregnancy friend. For most.

    My opinion – Do the 20 lbs.

    I think it is very smart to just get it all off and the process will help maintenance.

    And no one says – I wish I had not lost all my baby weight.

    We all wish we had, after every baby.

    Friend just lost all her baby weight plus the extra she had gained before baby. She is so glad she did. She is pregnant with second and has set herself up well for after this next baby.

    Even no second baby, it was still very smart for her. (And I wish I had been that smart.)

    1. Thanks Vickie, I enjoy hearing what other people’s experiences are and what worked for them (or didn’t work). I know many vegetarians and vegans and I’d say 1 or 2 of those friends do it “right” and are healthy and thin. Like you said, it’s a hard diet if you are trying not to go crazy with the carbs. I sometimes check in at the grocery store organic section to see what the “new” vegetarian options are and they are ALL packed with carbs. Like tons. It’s hard for me to justice having a vegetarian veggie burger for 46grams of carbs. Maybe if I was running marathons it would make sense but….I’m not and it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around eating that much carbs.

      Interesting about the juice! I am sure it was some kind of sugar craving for me, especially considering I’ve always struggled with sugar. I’m glad I didn’t get gestational diabetes. I was probably having a lot of sugar when I was pregnant. ๐Ÿ™

  3. I’ve found that rather than cutting carbs as a goal, I have more success with focusing on protein and produce at each meal. The result is I don’t have a lot of calories left for carbs (I aim for 1200-1400 when I’m shedding), but I end up getting a half cup of rice with one dinner, and a half turkey sandwich (i.e. the bread) on another day. It feels less punitive to me than banning all of them. I just have to wrap my brain around the reality that I’m going to be too hungry (and too cranky) if I don’t make eggs or meat or nuts or Greek yogurt and a lot of vegetables central in each meal.

    I also think cutting all added sugar out when you are in weight loss mode is key for those of us who love it.

    I’ve been lurking on your blog for awhile. It is an excellent source for those of us maintaining. There is so very little information out there that is reasonable and honest about the continued challenges of sustaining a substantive weight loss. You are doing important work. Thanks!

    1. Thank you so much for the advice and the sweet comment! It’s nice to hear from readers who don’t comment often. ๐Ÿ™‚

      First, it sounds like you might do some carb cycling sort of? I have looked into that and I thought it might be a good thing to try instead of just doing a full on low carb diet. Like you said, it’s hard to maintain that for long periods.

      Second, I appreciate the compliment! That was my goal when I kind of started this blog–it wasn’t a weight loss blog because I’d already lost the weight. I couldn’t really find a lot of books or blogs out there written by people (or about people) who have lost significant amounts of weight and kept it off. I wanted there to be a voice out there for those of us that did lose it and keep it off. I try not to beat myself up for not being at my goal weight, since it was a pregnancy that did it not like I “fell off the wagon” and regained a lot of weight. But it’s hard mentally sometimes.

      1. Such a good comment. Focus on what TO DO rather than what not to do.

        AND this is excellent advice for teaching children.

        Instead of saying – do you need to go potty? – Ask if they want to go potty in the big bathroom or the little bathroom.

        Instead of saying – donโ€™t touch. I used to say – put your hands in/on your pockets.

        Think of it like teaching a dog. You tell a dog what to do. You do not say – donโ€™t jump. You do say – sit!

        1. These are great! And it’s funny, I’ve been thinking lately I need to re-frame how I say stuff to Logan, too, because I feel like we say “no” too much. LOL But you are right, changing the way you think about food could work too. Focus on what I CAN eat.

  4. Lisa, I love your blog and occasionally comment, mostly on your adorable, Logan. But this post spoke to me. I am quite a bit older than you and probably older than most of your readers – am 69. But have struggled with weight issues my entire adult life. Recently have gone through a siege of 9 tooth extractions followed by a bad sinus infection. During the last 4 months with these issues I was eating soft food, yogurt, rice, oatmeal, jello, soup, more yogurt, more yogurt – you get the idea. Yet when I went to my doctor last week for my yearly exam I was up on my weight and the nurse practitioner I saw was not sympathetic. Not a good visit. Each item that I told her I had been eating she goes “sugar”, “sugar”, “sugar”. I swear I think there is sugar in water and in the air!! Told me I need to do a low carb diet and even when I explained to her my inability to eat a lot of fiber due to digestive issues, she was having none of it. I always find your posts inspiring and informative and hope you do some more on your low carb efforts. And, Logan is getting more adorable the older he gets!!

    1. I’m sorry to hear about your struggles of late! That is so hard when you are sick. That was us last year–new to daycare and constantlysick. Which meant not working out a ton and eating garbage–whatever we could stomach, really. SIGH. Chronic illness/pain is hard in regards to maintaining/losing weight.

      I will do another post next week I think. I’m going to weigh in later this week and see if there’s been anything new to share! Thanks for the comment ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Yes – this post says so much about how much we *still* do not know enough about maintaining weight loss. Society knows tons about losing, but not keeping it off. I have kept off most of my weight for the last 9 years, I think? There are times when eating is very easy for me and times when it is hard. I have been struggling a bit lately from a combination of stress, really busy with work and, TBH, the political climate. I do tend to turn to food even now.

    Many times I will alternate eating styles to change things up. For me, I couldn’t do low carb for a long period of time. Even eating tons of protein and fat – I still get fatigued on long rides unless I have the carbs. That’s me and that’s what works for me. When I want to low carb, I will do 3-4 days a week of low carb and then moderate carb the other days. That is a very doable solution that doesn’t make me crazy or binge and I can stick with it longer.

    Anyway, sorry that was all about me LOL! I hope you can stick with your plan and that it works for you. ๐Ÿ˜€
    Lori recently posted..October PSA

    1. Hey! No worries! I like hearing your input and experience because you are one of the only other bloggers who have maintained for so long. I look at you for inspiration! Seriously, you are spot on with your eats when you post your day of foods. I am always impressed with your portion control.

      You are right. I tried to find books or blogs or ANYTHING about maintenance and some of the emotional aspects surrounding significant weight loss and there’s really nothing out there. I wish there was. Like you said, there’s definitely enough of weight loss out there.

      I like your idea of doing a few days of low carb and then a few days of moderate carbs. I have been rethinking my plan because low carb all the time is really, really hard for me. For example, I ran yesterday and it was AWFUL. The run was awful, I was hungry, I was lethargic and tired and felt a little dizzy. I was starving when I was done and I ended up eating junk just to stop shaking. ๐Ÿ™ I don’t know that low carb is ideal for run days.

      1. I think the people who have success with low carb and exercise are those that do full keto. That’s only based on observation. If you find low carb to be really, really hard – then give alternating days a try. Losing weight shouldn’t make you miserable. You need to live the healthiest life you can food wise that is also sustainable mentally/emotionally.
        Lori recently posted..October PSA

        1. Agree 100%! I think what makes me struggle so much with this diet is that when I lost the weight the first time, I didn’t do some drastic diet cutting out certain types of food. I just ate a certain amount of calories. If I wanted a cookie, I ate a cookie, but I accounted for those calories and adjusted. So it’s very weird for me to look at certain foods as “bad” or “good.”

  6. Hi Lisa. I think going completely no carb is difficult. I try to generally go “lower” carb – and skip it when it makes sense. Out to dinner – I always skip the rice and potatoes and 95% of the time pass on the bread basket. But I have English muffins or Kodiak pancakes for breakfast sometimes, or oatmeal. I think if you are able to ditch the sweets you will see a big difference. But you’ll probably have to figure out a “treat” to replace it with – whether an afternoon cappuccino or whatever. The other thing I would suggest if you don’t do already is to start journaling – not just logging your food. Write daily about your day. What you were feeling when you went for the M&Ms. It will probably reveal a lot. I feel like once I write about it I’m able to let it go. This has been something new I’ve been doing for about 3 months.

    1. That’s an interesting idea about the journaling. I haven’t thought of that! I will say that when I was “cheating” with candy it was for one of two reasons: boredom or stress.

  7. Great blog, Lisa – lots of good ideas from you and from your readers. I am in much the same place as you – trying to lose the 15 pounds that have crept up on me. I bumped up against that question about how much food do I really need as well. I used to eat an English Muffin during my commute, then my cocoa yogurt, followed by an apple dusted with PB2 for snack on my daily post office run. First I took out the muffin, and, while I missed it, I didn’t feel hungrier. Then I cut out the apple, and again, it was more the habit of “now is when I eat an apple” that was hard to get past, but I still wasn’t noticeably hungrier. Makes me really wonder how much I need to maintain my running and daily activities. No-carb doesn’t work for me, but I do skip bread, pasta, rice etc. except at dinner. I know I’ll need to tweak my eating (AND weekend beers!) some more if I’m ever going to be successful at dropping these pounds!

    1. Cheers for weekend beers! ๐Ÿ˜‰

      You make a great point about HABIT. For a long time I had a morning and afternoon snack at work. Part of that was because I would go to the gym right after work and sometimes not eat dinner until 7:30 at night. So I’d be starving. But I’ve noticed lately that I just don’t need that many snacks and I am still working out almost as hard as before. So I think habit is a big part of it!

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