Reducing My Calories – Reflections

diet1
I really appreciate all the tips and ideas that people left on my post about reducing my calorie intake. There were a lot of good ideas that I’m taking into consideration. Lori from Finding Radiance left me this comment:

“I hear you. I can’t do the 1200 calories, either. That is what I am supposed to eat to lose 1 pound a week according to MFP – can you believe that? I just shoot for 1500 calories and only eat back some of my exercise calories on long ride days. It’s slow going, but working. It is also a point to consider about trying to maintain where you are. You may not mentally be happy with that, but your body might be. It could end up not being worth what it takes to get and *stay* at a lower weight now.”

She made a good point about how maybe my body is just where it’s going to be. I have been unhappy with where it’s at for months now. I’d gained 15 pounds and was struggling to lose it again. I’d lost about 5 of it, then gained it back. I had a lot of setbacks (several injuries, sickness, a dose of prednisone, some monkey-ing with medications that caused some weight gain) and was feeling very deflated about it.

Even though it was “only” 15 pounds, it felt significant to me. Clothes weren’t fitting properly anymore. The weather was getting nicer and I was preparing for a mini-vacation in Arizona and brought out all my shorts and tank tops and…nothing fit. Like at all. I had to go buy practically an entire new wardrobe and it depressed me. There were tears.

I went from a size 4 or 6 in shorts to a size 8. The small tank tops are now a medium. I was very unhappy about this and became determined to get it under control. Sure I wasn’t still GAINING weight but I wasn’t LOSING either.

This MIGHT be where my body is comfortable and just stuck. Perhaps. But I am willing to give it a try to see if I can change that. Even if I can only lose 5 of those 15 pounds I know it will make me a little but happier about my body than where I am currently at.

I told Michael about my plan to reduce my calories. He wasn’t very happy with the restriction and he was very sweet, saying, “I hope you know that you don’t have to lose weight for me.” It was unnecessary for him to say but it was good to hear nonetheless.

Reflections and Goals

I went into this restriction with some trepidation but I was feeling determined and wanted to do it right. Sure I was reducing my calories quite a bit, but I wanted to make what calories I ate SMART calories. The portion-controlled guacamole was a good idea on my part. Sure I wasn’t happy about it being processed but like I said, it was portion controlled and pairing it with some celery was the perfect snack that filled me up.

I experimented with changing up my breakfasts and eating foods that were higher in protein (more filling) like cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and oatmeal. I tried my best to avoid eating frozen lunches and tried to eat real food instead. Baked chicken, salads, soups, etc. It wasn’t 100% but I did okay with this goal.

I tried to limit alcohol intake to Friday/Saturday nights only and only 1 glass. I also tried to be better about the dessert I ate: not eating it every night and making better choices (like a piece of chocolate with strawberries instead of high calorie junk). I also had fruit as dessert many times (this is easy for me to do when it’s berry season!)

I’m kind of sick of salads. I love salad and eat a lot of it, but it was becoming my lunch or dinner norm and I burned out on it.

Food prep is time consuming but VERY NECESSARY. Sure it takes a long time but spending an hour prepping the veggies for the week has saved me so much time and on evenings when I’m tired and hungry having that stuff already prepped helps me make better choices.

Tilapia! I re-discovered tilapia. We used to eat it frequently (usually as fish tacos) but then stopped and I don’t know why because it’s a great fish to eat when trying to lose weight. It’s about half the calories of salmon and is a good choice for low-calorie lunches or to pair it with some rice or quinoa for dinner.

I went back to measuring my portions. I’ve written about this topic a lot because you can track your food and do everything “right” but if you aren’t REALLY measuring your food you have no idea how many calories you’re taking in. I measured portions diligently to lose weight and then periodically throughout my 6+ years of maintenance I would go back to measuring. Basically to “check in” and remind myself what a portion was. It’s easy to slip back in bad habits.

I think this was part of my problem this past year. I was eye-balling portions because I’d done it for so long and “knew” what a serving was. But in reality, things were a little off. Clearly! The biggest shocker? I made a bunch of quinoa for lunches and dinners and measured out a serving using my food scale and my eyes bugged out of my head. Wait, what? THAT’S 200 calories worth of quinoa?!? Holy cow, I was eating twice that! For a long time. It was a good wake up call and a good reminder that I had slipped back into lazy habits. Read these old posts for more insight:

What’s REALLY a Serving Size?

C is for Calories

M is for Measuring Mistakes

How to Count Calories

Counting Calories and Serving Sizes

So I’m back to measuring almost everything. I use the food scale primarily because sometimes you can’t trust the label. Remember this post I wrote about misleading labels? If not, read it now. You will be shocked and want to immediately buy a food scale.

Primo_Chrome_P115C-food

Progress

I was making progress that first week and that boosted my motivation. Seeing immediately changes like losing 1 pound after a week of the new diet made me feel better about what I was doing. Before I felt like I was denying myself things I wanted, restricting, but not seeing ANY CHANGE on the scale. That SUCKS.

Week 1 of the diet: lost 1 pound

Week 2 of the diet: lost .6 pounds

Week 3: lost .4 pounds

I’m going to continue what I am currently doing for a little while longer and see if it keeps working. I don’t know that I can reduce my calories any lower, so this is it. Stay tuned!

Weight Loss Tools

Well, we are a few weeks in to 2015! How are your new year’s resolutions going? Are you still on track? If your goal was to lose weight this year, I hope you are finding your groove and settling in to your new routine.

I think there are a lot of different ways to approach weight loss. Weight Watchers is a great program and I think it’s one of the best options out there (although I never did WW). It teaches you portion control and how to eat in a healthier way in the “real world” as opposed to a Jenny Craig type program where you only eat their food.

Whatever your path, here are a few tools that can help you along your way:

Scale

I know, I know, the dreaded scale. If you can get away with losing weight and not using a scale–just go by measuring and how clothes fit–more power to you. You’re probably better off. But for most of us, a scale is a necessary evil. Don’t get me wrong, there are a lot of factors that go into weight loss and health and they can’t all be measured in a number. But this is a good place to start to track your progress.

If you can, find one of those fancy scales that don’t show the number. They sound fantastic and someday I’d like to have one. Basically you set up the scale, weigh yourself, then put in your goals. The next time you step on the scale it will tell you your progress without telling you your actual weight. I like the concept–I think it’s healthier emotionally than seeing a number and feeling devastated but instead you see that you lost a percentage of your weight compared to the last weigh in.

No matter what you decide to get, make it a habit to weigh yourself consistently. Whether it’s once a week or every other week or once a month, try and be consistent: same time of day, before eating or drinking any water. Keep a journal or track the progress in some way.

green-scale-large1

Heart Rate Monitor

I’ve talked a lot about heart rate monitors on this blog. I never had one while I was losing weight and I kind of wish I’d had. I think it could have spend up some of the weight loss. What the HRM did for me was twofold: 1) It taught me to TRAIN SMARTER and 2) It gave me better accuracy in the gym.

With training smarter, I noticed it first with running. It taught me how to pace myself. It really did teach me how to run. When I first started running I thought it was “run as fast as you can as long as you can” and that’s not right. Or healthy. Or effective training. The heart rate monitor taught me how to pace myself and stay within the zone for extended periods of time. I am such a better athlete because of my HRM.

With the accuracy, I finally knew how many calories I was really burning. The cardio machines aren’t accurate at all, even putting in my age and weight. And when I don’t do machines, I want to know how many calories I’m burning lifting weights or doing body weight exercises. It helps knowing the actual number.

Read this old post for more details: Polar Heart Rate Monitor Tutorial.

hrm

Food Diary App/Journal

I think tracking is THE number one way to lose weight. Being aware, being consistent, being HONEST with food tracking WILL work. The trick is to be honest with portions and calories you are consuming. If you aren’t honest in your journal, you won’t see weight loss. And this is something I know well!

There are a ton of free options out there. I know that Spark People was a really popular website for people. If you are on the go and want something that you can use anywhere, a smart phone app is probably the best choice. I use My Fitness Pal and I know that Lose It is also a really popular app.

The reason I think a calorie app or food journal is so important because it’s right in your face. It makes you be aware. You are aware of calories in food, you are aware of what you are eating, you become aware of what food makes you feel good and what food does not. Tracking your calories will show you where you need more work (for me, it’s sugar). If you get an app that breaks down your intake you can see if you’re eating enough protein and fiber, if you’re eating too much sugar (ME!), if you are deficient in vitamins. It’s just all around a great tool to help you in your journey.

Check out these old post for some more suggestions:

How Do You Track?

How to Count Calories

The Battle of The Calorie Counters.

 

Water Bottle

I am always trying to drink more water. I am so bad at this, but I’m getting better. Having a large water bottle at work that sits right next to my computer reminds me throughout the day.

Drinking water is a good thing all around, but if you are trying to lose weight drinking more water can be essential. It fills you up. It takes the edge off hunger pains. How often have you thought you were hungry and you mindlessly munch of snacks when in reality you were just thirsty? I’ve done that many times. Listening more carefully to body cues can help with weight loss (am I REALLY hungry? Or just bored? Thirsty? etc).

My tip would be to ditch the sodas, the juice, etc, stop drinking your calories and switch to water.

drinkmorewater

Food Scale

This has done so many great things for my weight loss. For a long time I just went off the nutritional labels and then eye-balled portions. Portion sizes have always been my downfall and you can go along, thinking you’re doing great and then discover you’ve been tracking for 1 serving when really eating 2 or 3! No wonder weight loss wasn’t happening. For awhile I did the food measuring with measuring cups. This is better than eye-balling it and guesstimating, but it’s still not perfect.

A food scale was so eye opening for me. We got one a few years ago and one of the first things I used it for was cereal. The box says a serving size is 3/4 of a cup or 1 cup. Okay cool. I measure out a cup and think I’m doing ok. Then I used a food scale and measured out the serving according to grams (per the nutritional label) and HOLY COW. I had been eating way more than I thought!! (Read this post: M is for Measuring Mistakes!)

A food scale is fantastic. If you buy ONE THING to help in your weight loss goals, this would be the one I’d recommend.

Finally, if you’re new to my blog, check out this weight loss series I did a few years ago:

How to Lose Weight Series: 

Week OneWeek One Check In

Week Two , Week Two Check In

Week Three

Week Four

Week Five

Five Truths of Weight Loss

Five Truths of Maintenance

Hope it helps jump start your weight loss resolutions!