If you missed Part 1, you can find it HERE. So I promised details on how I've finally gotten down to losing those last pesky pounds. You all know what I'm talking about... you have great success, and you feel fit, and you plateau... and that last little bit is there nagging.
Now, before I get into this, let me cover some things that I think are very important... I want to reiterate that weight loss is not the focus of this blog. I want people to be active. I hope that my love of running becomes contagious... no matter what your weight. To me, you can't judge fitness by weight. In fact, many of the most fit individuals I know are not your ideal magazine size 2. Next, I believe that fueling a run is way more important than losing weight. If you try to lose weight while training, you do risk underfueling. Be careful out there folks!
OK, now onto the details... I have heard it over and over about calorie counting. You know, simple math... calories in - calories out. Simple, right? The thought of taking something I enjoy so much (food) and putting into obsessive equations just never sounded good to me, despite the fact that I was an Applied Math major. The problem is, I think, I had the wrong perspective on calorie counting.
I finally joined sparkpeople.com just to track calories and workout burns. I think there are other sites that provide similar services, but I knew TMB used sparkpeople, and that was enough endorsement for me. I want to be clear that there are lots of details that go into calculating how many calories you should be eating. You shouldn't just pick a random number (back to that previous note about underfueling).
I'll go through a quick approximation of myself...
Maintenance calories = BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) + Daily Activity + Training
A quick and easy approximation...
BMR = approximately 10 x Body Weight = 10 x 156 = 1560 calories
Average daily activity = approximately 500 calories
Training = approximately 35 miles a week = 3500/7 = 500 daily calories
So we're at 1560 + 500 + 500 = 2560
Now, if I want to lose 1 lb a week which I think is a nice slow loss appropriate for someone who is training hard and needs to be very careful not to underfuel then I need to cut 3500 calories a week or 500 calories a day. So 2560-500 = 2060 calories per day. That's almost exactly what Sparkpeople estimates as well... and I have been pretty consistently keeping the calories in the 1700-2000 calorie range each day. 1700 is my low-end number that I try to never be below. Eating too little can slow your metabolism... and I promise, my metabolism needs no help going slower.
OK, now the perspective. At the start, it was simply eat and track, eat and track, and if I hit my calories, I stopped eating. Unfortunately that left me feeling a little hungry some nights. It was a slow evolution, but now it's a game. I mean I love math... why wouldn't I love a good numbers game?
Let's take a look at a favorite of mine - The Chick-fil-a chicken sandwich with a medium fry. Assuming I got a Diet Coke, we're talking 790 calories (I'm not going into sodium and fat here because this could be a never-ending discussion, and I'm clearly not a dietician). Now, let's just be clear... this favorite of mine has not left my diet. Nope, it hasn't. I love Chick-fil-a... but I have had maybe 1 every 3 weeks instead of once or twice per week.
BUT I am a numbers girl... and I admit, I'm a hungry girl... and 9 times out of 10, I'll pick quantity. So it didn't take me long to really do the math and figure out that for the same 800 calories as the Chick-fil-a meal, I could instead have an entire 10 oz bag of baby spinach plus 2 large sweet potatoes plus a cup of chopped bell pepper plus 2 apples plus 4 cups of zucchini plus 2 cups of snap peas plus 3 carrots. That's a lot of food.
Basically all this to say that I am getting really good at making trade-offs. I know that if I'm pretty hungry and I only have 200 calories left for the day, I better make a huge salad or snack on some carrots and snap peas. But I want to be clear that this is not what I eat all the time. I still eat chocolate... tonight I ate Chipotle... but I count it all... every calorie. Even on the couple of days where I gave myself a "pass" for a special event, I came home and approximated the calories of every single thing I ate. I didn't do that so I could beat up on myself for eating 2500 calories instead of 2000 calories that day. I did it because this is a learning process... and the realization of how many calories are in certain things allows me to make wise and informed decisions.
For instance, on one of my nights where I allowed myself a little freedom, I had two Guiness beers. I rarely drink, but I did have two beers that night... and when I came home to log it in, I realized I had wasted 400 calories on beer. Really? I'm one of those that would rather have 400 calories of cookies and cake than drink it.
I'm getting wordy... but the conclusion here is that once I got in the right mindset about calorie counting, it was a resounding success. Calorie counting is not about beating myself up for everything I eat. Calorie counting is about learning the value of each bite you take. It's about being educated about what we eat. It's about knowing it's ok to splurge if you take a cut somewhere else and as long as it's on occassion. It's about knowing the trade-offs (like tonight, I could've skipped the tortilla and instead gotten cheese and guacamole and been a much happier person, but I didn't realize that until I got home and logged that big tortilla at a whopping 290 calories).
And just so you all know that I am not starving myself... this was my dinner the other night (note that this is a huge dinner plate, not my small lunch plates)...
4 oz chicken breast rubbed with a little grapeseed oil (yes, I count and measure the oil) and rosemary and then rolled in some Italian bread crumbs; baked sweet potato with brown sugar and cinnamon and a pat of butter, and an entire zucchini cooked in a little garlic grapeseed oil. A huge plate for 560 calories. YUM!!!