The Food Part

Since I started blogging, I’ve heard a lot of the following:
“Uh huh, that’s great about the motivation and the working out and everything, but what about your diet? Can you tell me what you eat and don’t eat? What should I eat and not eat?”

The truth is, I don’t feel particularly confident blogging about my diet, because I don’t have any silver bullets. If anything, the process of losing and keeping off 100 lbs has forced me to realize that there are no silver bullets. There’s only hard work, and who wants to hear that?? Nobody.

I can’t provide you with a food plan. I don’t have a list of what should be served for breakfast, lunch and dinner, even for myself! But, I have guidelines that I follow and rules that I abide by, and of course I’m happy to share.

Step One: Calculate Your Baseline

Take a minute to figure out your resting metabolic rate. Online calculators are readily available. These calculators are not precisely accurate (you’d have to get medical testing for that) but, they are handy tools for figuring out your ballpark. Once you know what your resting metabolic rate is, you will know how many calories you can afford to consume each day.

I, for example, have a resting metabolic rate in the neighborhood of 1500 calories/day. So, if I want to maintain my weight, I need to eat and drink 1500 calories/day. If I eat more than that, I gain weight. If I eat less, I lose weight. And, of course, working out earns you some wiggle room.

Not that I ever grit my way through a workout in the name of earning enough wiggle room to enjoy a glass of wine or anything…

Step Two: Food Journaling

When people ask my advice on diet, I always recommend starting a food journal. Write down every single thing that you put in your mouth. EVERYTHING. Every bite, every sip, all of it. If you’ve never tracked your food before, you’ll be astonished by how quickly those little nibbles add up.

Food journaling helps you to learn what 1500 calories (or whatever your target may be) really looks and feels like. When I first began my food journal, I was knocked entirely sideways by how little 1500 calories really is! Holy SMOKES! No WONDER I gained so much weight in the past. 1500 calories is a mere fraction of past norms.

Your food journal doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just a scrap of paper will do. All that matters is that you have somewhere to track your consumption, so you know where you stand at any time during the day. Here’s a sample of what mine looked like when I was staying in a daily calorie deficit:

Weight Loss Journaling

See? Nothing fancy, but worth it’s weight in gold. It would be really easy to forget that random stick of string cheese if I didn’t write it down and add it to my totals.

(Sidebar: My food journal reflects my personal preferences. As you can see, I’d rather eat as little as possible through the day in the name of the sensation of indulgence in a big, delicious dinner. This won’t feel good for everyone. If you would rather space out your calories, then do what works for you. This is only meant to demonstrate the tracking of it all.)

Step Three: Don’t Eat or Drink Anything That Isn’t Labeled.

It’s awfully hard to keep track of your calories if you don’t know how many of those little buggers are in the foods you’re eating and the drinks you’re sipping. So, if the object of your desire doesn’t provide nutritional information, don’t eat or drink it.

This means a lot of home cooking. It means careful inspection of what a serving size really is. When I track 110 calories on pretzels, it’s because the label says that a serving contains 110 calories, and that a serving is 18 pretzels. Think I’m that crazy person counting out 18 pretzels, one by one? You bet your ass I am.

When I make dinner for my family at night, I track the calories in my ingredients as I go. Then, when I have a full-meal total, I know what percentage of it I can afford to take for myself.

And that’s about it. Hope it helps!

It’s not easy, but it’s certainly not impossible. It’s just a long string of little choices, all made in the right direction.

#VeggiesAreGood #SugarIsBad

The Fun of the After Pictures

When I began my fitness journey, I had lots of motivators. The motivators that made me persist even when things got hard were the big ones – health, longevity, energy to play with my kids, etc.

But there were minor motivators in the mix, too. These junior-motivators (feeling comfortable in my clothes and happy on the beach, for example) could never drive a lifestyle change on their own, but they felt more fancy and fun. They motivated the girly-girl in me.

The Grand Poobah of the minor motivators was The Before & After Picture. I knew I’d have to do some digging to find Before pictures, because I was so expert at hiding from cameras for so long. But imagining the day when I could stand in front of a camera without wanting to hide could make me smile even when the hard work was seriously bumming me out.

The After picture wasn’t enough to keep me on track on it’s own, but it was a very helpful mental image when I needed a little willpower-boost to help me step away from the ice cream.

This weekend, I hooked up with Kathryn Raines of Plate 3 Photography in Philadelphia, and she helped me to make my little dream come true.

I give you: A Goal Achieved

Before & After 100 lbs loss

Before and After 100 lbs loss - 2

Before and After 100 lbs loss - 3

Now if I can just survive this cursed 5k, I’ll be in good shape 😉

Debunktion Junction. Lesson 2: The Fiction of “Spot Training”

“I like my legs exactly the size and shape they are, I just want to tone up my arms.”

“I only need to lose weight in my belly. How many crunches should I do for that?”

Guys… I’m really sorry, but… you’re hoping for things that aren’t technically possible.

After watching untold hours of workout commercials and infomercials, I was pretty well convinced that spot-training oneself was an actual physical possibility.

“Want to get rid of that stubborn belly fat? Buy now!”

“Tone your legs like the stars!”

Please don’t hate me, but I need you to know: Your body is not capable of losing fat in only one spot. It’s just not.

I spent decades 100% convinced that ‘feeling the burn’ in my core meant that calories were being torched from that precise spot.  It took some serious Come To Jesus talks with the resident trainer before I could wrap my head around that not actually being the case.

We have been told (over & over & over & OVER again) that our bodies can work like magic. Want to have the arms of Halle Berry, the butt of JLo & the abs of Cameron Diaz? No problem! Pay here.

But our bodies are not magic. If they were, plastic surgeons would all be out of a job.

Want abs that show AND want to keep your nice, juicy, Beyoncé bootie? I hope you have Beyoncé’s parents, too!

Tragically, it’s all about genetics.

If you have a layer of fat over your belly, doing crunches isn’t going to specifically eliminate your belly fat. It’s going to help eliminate over-all body fat, and it’s going to build your abdominal muscles, but it’s not going to target the fat that’s right on top of the abs.

Calorie burn happens on a systemic level. Losing weight happens to your body as a whole.

I don’t mean to imply that you can’t get the visible abs that we all crave. You can! But, if you think you can keep the boobs and the butt as juicy as ever and just crunch your way to a zero-percent-body-fat core… um… it’s probably not going to happen. Unless you’re genetically blessed, in which case I’m jealous like WHOA.

(Ducking to dodge the things you all want to throw at my head right now.)

Gyms are full of clients who have certain ideals in mind – curvy or straight, muscle-bound or sleek. Go for it! Do your best! Just don’t be too angry at your trainer when they’re unable to rewrite your DNA.

If you have a belly pooch, you’re going to have to lose weight all over if you want to banish the pooch. Crunches won’t do it.

If you want slimmer thighs, you’re going to have to lose weight all over to slim them down. Squats will give you great muscles when you dig them out, but they’re not going to specifically burn the fat that’s right on top of them.

Rude, huh? I know. I’m as pissed about it as you are.

If this is news to you, I feel your pain.

Think I freely sacrificed my boobs? Because I didn’t choose to spot-train my thighs, belly, and arms? I can assure you, I did nothing of the sort. My DNA mandates that if I want to keep my size 4 jeans, I need to make my peace with the death of the DD’s.

We all have our own cross to bear.