One of my goals this year is to lose the 7 lbs I’ve been carrying around for longer than I’d like. When it comes to lasting weight loss, it takes focused attention and patience. So far, it’s not as easy as it used to be. For years, I never really had to try unless it was specifically for a bodybuilding show. My last show was 5 years ago. For those of you who may not know, dieting for a bodybuilding show is very intense and very restrictive. Like all restrictive diets, you increase the risk of bounce back. I recall the pig-outs I had just after a show (and my short obsession with Russian coffee cake). However, I was careful to return to a healthy, more moderate way of eating after my show. I was really proud of myself for that. However, a big injury and a new job sitting at a desk in corporate contributed to the scale tipping in the wrong direction. I hadn’t seen that number on the scale in years!
I’ve been trying to lose this weight for a while and I’ve learned a few interesting things about myself. First, I eat too much, period. I eat super healthy but I have gotten used to being too full. I’ll get back to this in a moment. For me it’s all about portion control.
Second, I’ve learned that I am really hesitant to restrict my calories in fear of that bounce back I had when I was dieting for my show even though I didn’t gain too much weight right away. Even so, I had big issues with this back in college when I did my first show and remember how that messed with my head.
Third, and here’s the rub, I’ve been at this new weight for a while and doesn’t seem like it wants to move despite weight loss efforts I think I am making. I’d like to think that my body simply wants me to be at this weight. But really I think that it has more to do with my current eating habits! How do I know this? I decided the only way to really know why the scale wasn’t moving was to keep a food diary.
As a wellness coach, I like to embody the various tips and tools I am doling out. One of the tips I talk about regularly is tracking food intake that has shown to be a successful factor for weight loss. This wasn’t the first time I was tracking. In the past, I had done so at the recommendation from a registered dietitian and logged it in a book using serving sizes, but now I wanted to utilize the great apps and websites available.
In the past nine months, I’ve tried three. Weight Watchers, the fitbit food diary, and MyFitnessPal.
I was really curious about Weight Watchers since we have a group here at work and I have clients on the program. I was intrigued with their methodology and points system. Pros: hands down, their tracking platform is my favorite out of all three. I found it really easy to enter foods and see my points total. Cons: I didn’t learn about food the way I wanted to. Because food is broken down via points, you don’t know the macronutrient breakdown (fats, carbohydrates, and protein). They also don’t count calories. You just learn what food has what points. Some people may love the idea of not counting calories and others may not. For me, I wanted more information about the food I was eating. Also, there is a monthly cost to join online.
I got the fitbit Charge 2 over the holidays to track my steps and exercise. The bonus was the food tracker. Pros: It was fairly easy to input food. When I was using it a few months ago, the way they tracked their calories in regards to how you burn them was really, really confusing. The good news, they fixed it and it’s fairly straightforward. Cons: You may easily be able to track your food and they’ll add up your grams of fats, carbs, and protein, but they don’t tell you what those goal amounts are. I think that’s an important feature that is missing. Also, you need a fitbit to use the platform.
Next, I tried MyFitnessPal. I’ve known people over the years who’ve had great success using it and love it. As a coach, I thought it was important to try. Pros: It’s free unless you want to pay for the premium (I find that I get all of the information I need with the free version). The platform also counts calories and breaks down food by carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, as well as sugar and salt. When you set your goals, it gives you a baseline of calories based on how aggressively you want to lose weight as well as the percentage of macro nutrients you want to eat (for example, 40% carbs, 30% fat, 30% protein) that you can custom design. The biggest pro is that the platform gives you not only a calorie goal, but goals of the amount of carbs, protein, fat, sugar and salt to aim for. It does it all for you. This really appealed to the food nerd inside of me. Cons: Although the food database is pretty extensive, the way you need to select serving sizes is really, really cumbersome (they’re not obvious choices like they are in Weight Watchers or fitbit. Sometimes you need to calculate things like grams to ounces or simple things like cups isn’t included). With all that aside, I love knowing the macronutrient content of the food I am eating and how it relates to my overall goals for the day. Because of this, I am able to make much smarter food choices.
Alas, though, here’s the rub and it’s something that came up in my coaching this week. Myfitnesspal will give you calories back for the exercise that you did that day. So say your goal is to eat 1300 calories without exercise, if you burn 400 of those calories through exercise, you will gain an extra 400 calories to eat. They do this so folks don’t go below the recommended 1,200 minimum daily caloric intake (it’s 1,500 for men). I’ve found that when I’ve seen that I have these extra these calories to eat, I am eating them whether or not I am really hungry or not. This has been the greatest take-away in the few weeks I’ve been tracking on myfitnesspal. There is a way to turn that off or set more specific goals using the premium version (I haven’t upgraded just yet).
So there’s a word of caution to tracking in general. Tracking is a great tool but it is not the only one. In fact, solely focusing on tracking can remove us from listening to our body for hunger and satiety cues, which is really important for sustained weight loss (and for when you choose to no longer track). Even if you are tracking your food intake, it’s also a good idea to pay attention to how hungry you are before you eat and how full you are after eating. They key is to hit the sweet spot, that you are not waiting until you are starving to eat, and that when you do eat, you are not uncomfortably full.
There is one other important factor for weight loss and that’s a positive attitude! Don’t underestimate its power. When I first thought about this blog this song came immediately to mind! I listen to it to keep me motivated.
I now feel more empowered than ever to make the changes that I would like to see. Tracking gives me great insight on how to tweak my eating on a daily basis and mindfulness helps me listen more closely to what my body is telling me. I look forward to sharing my progress with you.