Like I mentioned in this morning’s post, I wanted to write a response to a question that a reader had asked me about how I lost weight. I did not go into much detail in my original post about specifically what I did, and so I thought I’d elaborate a bit more here.
In terms of my weight loss, while it began in 2007, I consider 2010 to be the real turning point of the whole journey for me. What changed in the fall of 2010 was that I finally changed my attitude about the whole process, and I wish I had done that sooner, but I guess I just wasn’t ready. I really made a conscious effort to re-shape my attitude – I wanted to empower myself to have control over the food I ate, and I stopped playing the victim when it came to my relationship with food. Choosing to write down what I eat every day doesn’t have to be a burden, but rather an opportunity to take better care of myself, and it’s a small price to pay for looking and feeling so much better about myself.
This change in my outlook was key. You know how people say they were just “ready to change?” It sounds kind of cheesy, but I think I was just finally at that point, and tired of doing what I had always done in the past. I think it really helped that I started journaling a lot during this time, so I was really able to work out a lot of my hang-ups and notice patterns in my behavior that helped me to realize that my problems could not, and would never be, resolved by food.
In line with that, in terms of thinking about calories objectively, originally (from 2007-2009) I set up an account with Livestrong to log my calories each day. I know there are dozens of online programs that are similar, featuring a food database. I liked this initially because I literally just plugged in my height and weight and it did the math for me, so I knew how much to eat every day if I wanted to lose X amount of pounds per week. It helped me to be able to see that having fries wasn’t “bad” – it just meant if I went seriously over calories one day that I needed to cut back the next to stay on track for the week. It also helped me see what a crucial role exercise played; knowing that I could “earn” an extra couple hundred calories really motivated me to get to the gym! I love food and exercise helps me to get to eat a little more of it .
However, I did find that it started to be a pain for me to run to a computer every time I ate something, so eventually I just started carrying around a little notebook to write everything down, and that’s what I still use to this day. Depending on your personality, you may like this old-school method better, but there are plenty of apps out there, too, so just figure out which system that works best for you.
As much as people don’t want to hear that logging calories is a crucial step, I honestly believe that it is. I know that when I don’t track for a few days, I eat so much more than I would otherwise. I think it also helps you to see the “bigger picture” and see that one day is not going to cause a 5 lb weight gain (at least not permanently; a bit of water weight gain is possible from a salty meal, but that will go away after it’s flushed out of your system) – it’s more about the overall trend.
If you’re keeping track manually, I used this calculator to find out my BMR (the calories you need just to survive), and from there you can factor in your activity level to determine how many calories you’d need every day to maintain your weight. Mentally, for me it helped to be able to factor in exercise calories, so I multiplied mine by 1.2 (sedentary) and then when I went to the gym and burned 500 calories, I would know that if I ate back 250 of those it was okay, because I was still in a deficit.
A lot of people tend to under-eat on diets, and that’s why they end up starving and binging. Knowing my numbers really helped me to make it a scientific process rather than an emotional one – for example, when I was losing weight, I was still eating 1600-1900 calories a day MINIMUM. You only need to create a deficit of 500 calories a day to lose 1 pound a week, and you can do that by cutting down food, upping exercise, or a combo of the two. What I started doing was figuring out how many calories I got per week if I wanted to lose about a pound. I don’t know the exact number, but let’s say it was 15000 calories a week. Then, I could go a little over some days, a little under some, and as long as it balanced out, it was all good.
I hope that hearing what worked for me can help you a bit, too; I’ll share some more thoughts on the topic in another post. But for now, I want to know: if you’ve lost weight, what worked for you? What didn’t? What do you think are the elements that make you successful when it comes to losing weight, and what gets you off track? Let me hear it!
And, as always, if you have any questions or want something answered here, let me know. That’s what I’m here for