Calorie Counting is NOT SEXY, But It WORKS

20170201_000923256_iOSI’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.

AlicewhichroadMy 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.

JUSTDOITCalorie 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!

How I’m Tackling Binge Eating

*I am not a doctor. None of this is medical advice. Just some things I’ve discovered over the years about my own binge eating, and the things I am using to successfully combat it for about a month now. Also, this turned into a wall of text.

  1. I started as a teenager. My parents were divorced and my mom was at work all day. When I was 13-14, my older sister would leave the house all day to work her summer job or hang with friends, which left me home by myself in a new neighborhood we’d just moved to. Instead of go out by myself and look for other neighborhood kids, I stayed at home, played video games, and ate. And after having my mom yell at me once or twice for eating all of something that I didn’t need to eat, I started just sneaking a bite or two of literally everything, so no one would notice. Eating alone in secret is a prominent symptom of BED.
  2. It destroyed my confidence, and thus my ability to follow through on pretty much anything. Because you do it in secret, it becomes something shameful. I beat myself up over it for years. I’d start eating healthily, be doing great for a week or so, and then I’d have a binge, and instead of getting right back on the wagon, I let it reinforce the negative self-image I had. My thought process: “Not only am I fat, but I can’t stick to a diet for more than a week. Just like I can’t make myself go to class/work/hobby practice/hang out with my friends tonight. I have no self-control. I can’t finish anything I put my mind to. Why even try?” ::proceeds to skip class/work/hobby practice/hanging out with friends to stay home and binge::
  3. 95% of the time, it happened late at night when I’m alone at home. Sure I had big meals at other times; but a true binge, where I zoned out, didn’t even realize what I was doing until I was sick to my stomach, and loathed myself the whole day afterward, almost always happened after about 10 PM, sometimes not until 12 or 1.
  4. Binge eating is not the whole problem. It often is just a super unhealthy coping mechanism for something emotional, like loneliness or depression. I know, for me, both of these things are an issue.
  5. It’s more prominent than you think it is. Since binge eating is something we do almost exclusively in private, it can seem like we are these lone fuck-ups who just lack some basic thing that everyone else has–some mystical trait like “will power” or “stick-to-it-iveness.” However, do a Google search, or a search of your favorite weight loss/fitness forum for “binge.” Your mind will be blown by how many other people are dealing with this very new, very first-world problem.

I’m about 3 weeks in to my efforts to get control of my life and finally lose all this extra fat, and I’ve never felt anywhere near this in-control, this on top of things, this confident. These are the things that are different this time that are helping me manage my efforts:

  • I addressed my mind and emotions first. I asked myself a lot of questions about why my past weight loss efforts hadn’t worked, and it could pretty much all be tied back to binge eating. Since binge eating is a way to cope with my depression and loneliness, I’ve made sure to be around other people as much as possible. I have been spending far more time with friends and family than I usually would. I partnered with my best buddy, who does not have a weight issue at all but has fallen off his fitness regime for a couple years since becoming a daddy, to be each other’s accountability partners. Everyday, we send each other our completed food logs and exercise logs to make sure we are staying on track with our goals. If I’m not doing it in secret, I’m pretty much not doing it at all.
  • Record everything. Since binge eating was a secretive shame for me, I am making sure to log literally everything I eat–even if I mess up and have the binge of a lifetime, there will be a record of every single calorie I eat. That’s the one core promise I made to myself.
  • Stay busy. I start to feel lonely or depressed when I am home, by myself, wasting time on the internet or watching Netflix. So I stopped doing those things. I cancelled my Netflix subscription. I promised myself I’d post or comment once per day on /r/loseit so that I could at least use reddit for something semi-productive as opposed to endlessly browsing memes. I committed to a career change, so I am working everyday on an IT certification to get my first job in the field–but I only study at the public library, so I’m not ever alone for long. I also signed up for a Warrior Dash, so I am training for that.
  • Go to bed earlier. I began waking up at 5 AM everyday to work out, write, or just do something productive or interesting. In order to get a decent amount of sleep, I’ve been getting in bed by 10 every night. Since my binge eating always happened really late, I find I’m just not awake during my problem hours.
  • I’m using CICO, and doing it gradually. The first week, all I did was log–no restrictions on what I ate or how much, just logged everything. The second week, I logged and ate at maintenance each day. This week I am eating at a 250 cal. deficit (1/2 lb per week), and I’ll probably stay at this level for a couple more weeks just to ease into it. Then I’ll go to 500/day, where I’ll stay for a few weeks. Then on from there. In the past, I’ve jumped right into 2 lbs./week (1000 cal/day deficit) and failed miserably after a week, at most.

Just some thoughts. Hope this helps someone. Feel free to add/dispute/discuss.