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:
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.
You are awesome. This is a great entry. Count and work and no magic. It’s hard to grow up, isn’t it? But so worth it.
So, um. Long time, first time? I just want to recommend an app that tracks all that good stuff for you (if you can dedicate yourself to using it (which, I admit, I’m still working on)): Lose It, on the iPhone. You can use the bar codes on food you eat and it will track all kinds of exercise as well.
Katie, I’m so impressed with not only your progress toward your personal health goals, but also your ability to write about it in such a clear, profound and relatable way. I’m totally hooked.
I love your blog! i am on teh same journey and blogging really does help. And you ain’t never lied…THERE IS NO SILVER BULLET!…Godspeed!
Thank you so much for your support! I really appreciate it. Good luck on your journey – I’ll be cheering you on! Kick ass, lady!
I love your blog! And you’re right. The food journal is pretty simple, but I have a couple of questions. I was adding your totals and it looks like you were always eating less than 1500 calories. Was that your max allowed caloric intake? So as long as you stayed under 1500, you were good? And how were you able to determine how many calories you burned in your workouts. Did you wear a heartrate monitor or was it just a guess?
Hi Elizabeth! Thank you for reading and for your questions.
1500 was my max caloric intake, but since I was trying to lose weight I tried my darndest to stay below 1500. Just like you said – as long as I stayed under 1500, I was good and continued to see movement (even painfully slow movement at times) on the scale.
There are three ways that I track my caloric burns – one is with a heart rate monitor, one is the calorie tracker when I work out on the dreaded cardio machines, and one is a ballpark. I’ve learned that when I really keep my heart rate up, I burn around 10 calories per minute. If I don’t have a heart rate monitor handy and I’m working out on my own, I’ll guesstimate based on 10 calories/minute. Then I usually round down to the nearest 100. I’d rather assume I’m burning less and stay safely on top of consumption than assume that I burned more than I did and end up sabotaging my calorie deficit… Does that make sense?
Thanks for the question!
How did you start on “Insanity”? Which dvd did you start with, how long were you able to follow, how did you work your way up (stamina), etc. I want to learn more, please! Thank you for giving me inspiration.
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