I’ve tried a few different ways to lose weight in the past. I’ve tried low carb, “slow carb,” weight loss shakes…I even tried Hydroxycut back when I was 15, which I’m sure was a TOTALLY healthy decision (NOT!!!). Some of these things just didn’t really have any effect, some of them caused me to lose weight super quickly for the first 2 weeks (which was pretty much all water) and then cause me to fall off track when I got sick of eating nothing but eggs, spinach, and steak for what felt like every single meal. But I was never able to achieve real success and follow through with my goals on any of them. While everyone’s mind and body work differently together, and different people have success with different methods of fat loss, the one common thread among these diets was that, for me, they were UNSUSTAINABLE.
As I’ve mentioned previously, I’m taking it very slowly this time. However, I have lost 6 pounds, and haven’t had any trouble sticking to my plan at all. Why? Because for the most part, I am eating the same stuff I always ate. Just less of it.
After I began addressing a late-night binge eating problem that I’d had for many years by changing my waking hours and lifestyle a bit, I realized that, during the day anyway, I don’t really have all these intense cravings for huge amounts of junky fast food—that ONLY happened late at night. So once I changed my sleep schedule a bit, I then addressed my diet by focusing on the big “C word:” calories.
My first week, all I did was track my food intake in the LoseIt! app. I did not set any goals for myself nutrition/calorie-wise other than just being 100% honest and diligent about tracking every calorie I put in my mouth. If you want to know how to get somewhere, you first need to know exactly where you are, right? Right.
Once I got comfortable with tracking every calorie and not lying to myself or cutting corners with it, I calculated my TDEE—Total Daily Energy Expenditure. This is the amount of calories your body needs, based on your age, height, weight, and activity level, to stay exactly the same weight you are currently. I used the LoseIt! app, but there are other ways; some people like MyFitnessPal, others prefer to use an online calculator, and math nerds love to use the formula to figure it out for themselves. Then, once I had my TDEE, I ate at that number of calories for 1 week, just to get used to being able to consistently come in under a limit, even if that limit did not cause me to lose any weight.
Once I passed the 2-week mark, and it was actually time to start eating at a deficit to lose some fat, did I plunge into the deep end and start eating at a 1,000 calorie per day deficit to lose the often-cited 2 lbs. per week as a goal? HELL NO! I’ve done that before, and crashed and burned after only a few days each time. If you’re going from eating whatever you want in whatever quantity (which probably means not-so-healthy choices in larger-than-necessary portions), suddenly swapping over to a 1,000 calorie per day deficit is going to leave you feeling super hungry, cranky, frustrated, and prone to breaking your limit. This is only going to make you feel upset, angry with yourself, and ashamed, like you lack the magical, mythical mana they call “willpower” (which I think is bullshit, by the way). Instead, you ease into your new lifestyle—this is a lifestyle change, right?—by eating at a small, manageable deficit; for me this is 250 calories per day, which equates to about half a pound a week.
“Half a pound a week?! That’s going to take me FOREVER!!!” Chill out. Yes, it is going to take awhile. It’s supposed to. It took me 10 years of building really terrible habits to pack this fat on; it’s going to take longer than a “whole 30” or a “45 day beach body boot camp” to change those habits and take it back off. I’m in this for the long haul. I want to be fit, powerful, and sexy at 70, too, not just for a year or two in my early 30’s until I decide I can’t live without ever eating pizza, ice cream, or a damn tortilla again and gain it all back because I never learned how a human being is supposed to eat in the 21st century. When I’ve been comfortably eating at a 250 calorie deficit for a few weeks, I’ll bump it up to a 500 calorie (1 lb. per week) deficit. I’ll likely stay at that pace until I plateau, and only consider going to a deeper deficit if my fat reduction ceases altogether.
Calorie counting works because there are no limitations on the things you can eat. If you wake up one day and decide that you want to eat nothing by raw cookie dough and Gatorade all day (which I certainly do NOT recommend), as long as it fits your calorie goal, go for it! It’s just a day, and you still ate less than you burned. If you want to eat mountains of grilled chicken breast, tilapia, spinach, and whey protein powder, if it fits your calories, DO IT!
Have you had success with calorie counting? Is there another method you find is working wonders for you? Share!