When Self-Care Feels Selfish

If you’ve ever watched any amount of Oprah or Dr. Phil, and come on, we all have at some point, you’re familiar with the saying, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” I get it. It totally makes sense, that it’s going to be really hard to do all of the things I need to do to take care of everyone else, if I’m run down and exhausted. Nevertheless, there are still days, almost two years into my weight loss journey, when taking care of myself feels selfish.

This has been on my mind a lot more lately with the arrival of summer break. During the school year, life falls into a routine. The older boys go to school during the day, and Tyson is fine doing whatever, as long as he’s with Mommy, or Grandma, or Nana.img_1911 He’s just happy to be around one of his favorite ladies. Everyone knows we get up, we go to school, and then we go to the gym.

However, now the carefree, unscheduled days of summer have arrived, and everybody is making adjustments. One adjustment Levi is making this summer, is trudging his way to the gym with Mom in the morning. If I don’t go to the gym first thing, the day always seems to get away from me. I get tired, and I’m afraid I’ll talk myself out of going. This shouldn’t be an issue, because my boys have been early risers from the moments they entered this world. A startling adjustment that I had to make, I might add. I don’t think either one of them has ever slept past 9 a.m. However, this summer, I’ve quickly realized that just because Levi is awake, it doesn’t mean he’s ready to do things.

The Struggle

So every morning that he’s at my house and not with his Dad, we have the same conversation:

Levi: “I hate going there, the three year olds jump on me!

Me: “It’s only for an hour, you’ll be fine.”

Levi: “Why can’t I just go to Grandma’s house while you go!”

Me: “I don’t know what Grandma is doing right now and it’s only for an hour. You’ll be fine.”

Levi: “I’m tired! It’s boring!”

On and on, until even though he’s the one complaining and being a turd, I start to feel bad, like I’m being selfish making him go. I start saying things in my head like, “It is his summer break, maybe I should just let him lay around and watch TV for a few hours instead of dragging him out of the house. Maybe he could just go to my mom’s house for an hour while I workout.” I start convincing myself he’s right, and that I’m the one being selfish.

Let Me Explain

I finally had to decide to stop arguing with him about it and explain why I do what I do. I had to remind us both why it’s so important that I spend a little bit of time taking care of me too. The last time this came up, I explained to him, that going to the gym is a very big priority of mine. Exercising keeps me healthy, so that I’m better able to take care of him.img_0822 I had to explain, that adults don’t usually get to go outside and play and run around, so going to places like the gym help us move our bodies and keep us healthy. And I had to point out, that the whole rest of my day revolves around what he and Tyson need or want to do, but that going to the gym is one hour out of the day, when I get to do something by myself that’s good for me and fun.

Does he get it at eight years old? Absolutely not. He doesn’t understand why it’s so important to me. He just wants to watch kids open toys on YouTube or some crap, swim, and jump on the trampoline. He doesn’t get how hard I’ve worked to change my lifestyle, so that I can be the kind of mom that I want him to have. He can’t comprehend how much time I’ve invested to make this stick, and how I’m sometimes still afraid to loosen the reigns for fear that I’ll fall back into my old habits. He doesn’t get it now, but I hope one day he will appreciate how much I’ve worked to be the happy, healthy, active mom that I want him to have. I don’t want him to look back and remember that his mom was always too tired to take him to do fun things or participate in activities.

Squeezing In Me Time

As moms, so much of our lives center around other people. Even the most minute decisions revolve around our children and family. We schedule almost everything we do around nap times, meal times, cranky times, baseball practice, music lessons, you name it. We do it without question, because of course we love them so much, and they are our number one priority. I know someday it will happen, but right now I can’t imagine a time, when my life won’t revolve around my children’s day to day activities. But as I get further into my weight loss journey, img_2089I’m also realizing that squeezing little bits of time out of the day to do things by myself, that make me happy, are vital to my health and my mood. It’s important to me mentally, physically, and emotionally, to have that time to recharge so that I can be more present for them, for the rest of the day. It’s not only important to me that I find those moments, it’s also important to me that my boys know about them.

I want them to know that I value my personal time. I want them to know me as their mom, but also know that I’m a real person, with interests and hobbies. I don’t want to just tell them it’s important to take care of their bodies, I want to show them, by taking care of mine. I want to show them what a strong, happy woman is, so that they will hopefully one day, a super long time from now, they’ll be able to spot one for themselves!

Putting It Into Practice

So far this summer, I’m making a conscious effort to get out and do fun things with my boys, instead of just getting stuck in another routine. I tend to be a creature of habit if I’m not actively planning different activities. This summer, I’ve decided that we’re going to have a blast, and we can get back to routines in August. Right now we have memories to make!

So far, we’ve gone rock-climbing, trampoline jumping, hiking, swimming, we’ve gone to the zoo, and strawberry-picking, and mom has a whole list of other ideas to fill our time together. I want to help my boys experience life and do fun things that they’ll always remember, even if it’s just in pictures. I want to give them the green light to try new things, and to find places and hobbies they love, and it starts with giving myself permission to do the same.

Pardon Me, Your Self-Love is Showing

Body acceptance has always been a concept that eluded and confused me. I understand the need to love yourself as a person no matter what size you are, and I always felt like I did. I loved the person that I was, but I wouldn’t say that I loved the body that I was in. The idea that I would one day be able to stand in the mirror at 100 lbs overweight making googly eyes at myself and saying that I loved my body, was a bit ridiculous to me. I’m sure there are thousands of women that truly love their bodies,

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July 2016

and I think it’s great that there’s this movement, telling women that they can learn to love their body, no matter what size they are. But I honestly didn’t see how it was possible that I would ever truly love my overweight body. I seriously doubted there would ever be a day when I made some viral Instagram post bearing my stretch marks like trophies and being confident enough to display them for the whole world to see. It wasn’t just that I didn’t liked the way my body looked, I was frustrated with how my body was making me physically feel. The idea of loving my body no matter what size I was, just seemed like another thing to add to the list of ways I should be feeling but definitely wasn’t.

Let’s Think About This

What was my body doing for me at that size? I was exhausted, I didn’t really want to leave the house unless it was for food, and it was hard to move. I had to brace myself and rock to get off of the couch. Clothes that hid my body were bought, over clothes that I actually liked, and I felt like I’d hiked 4 miles every time I walked in and out of work. I wouldn’t say that I absolutely hated my body, but I definitely didn’t have a good relationship with it either.

And Here’s Where Things Get Weird

Bear with me, because this might sound a little whoo-whoo. I wouldn’t consider myself especially touchy-feely, or emotional normally, but somewhere along the way, I started to feel differently about my relationship with my body. I’m not really sure now, what prompted my views on my body to change, but one day I realized that I needed to start viewing my relationship with my body, as a relationship. Sure, maybe my body wasn’t exactly helping me live my life the way that I wanted to, but like any relationship, I had to start realizing, it’s a two-way street.

If I looked at my relationship with my body as a relationship, I would’ve kicked my butt to the curb years ago! I was an abuser,

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July 2016

and the taker in this relationship for sure! I have put my body through a lot. I’ve starved it, neglected it, put it through two pregnancies, surgery, and the list could go on. There were times where my body couldn’t deal with what I was doing to it, leaving it with scars, and minus an organ. (I’m speaking of my gallbladder, which I’m almost certain had to be removed because of my rapid weight gain.) But all in all, she’s a tough old gal, who only wants me to love her with my actions and not just my words.

Taking Care of Me

I had to start holding up my end of the bargain. I had to start learning how to take care of this body, because it’s the only one I’m ever going to have. That’s the thing that is a bit confusing to me about the “love yourself at any size” movement. I think it’s so important that we love ourselves for who we are, whatever size we are. However, I don’t feel like that should give us a free pass to make lifestyle choices that leave our body unhealthy, although I’ve been guilty of this the majority of my life. I feel like at some point, we should really evaluate how we’re showing love to the body we say we love. I’m in no way saying that every single woman needs to be the same size, and we are all at different stages in our weight loss journeys, both mentally and physically. We were also all created with unique frames and proportions. What I am saying, is that loving and respecting your body, regardless if you have weight to lose or not, may also mean trying your best to keep your body healthy.

So when I began taking steps to take care of my body, initially, it was just because I wanted to have more energy for my day to day life.

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October 2016 (size 20) to June 2018 (size 4)

I started paying attention to the things I was putting into my body, and the nutrients that helped me feel my best. I practiced how to stop using food to deal with my stress, and learned how to use it to fuel and to nourish my body instead. My body had been treated like crap for years, but started responding almost immediately to the new kind of attention I was giving it. My body responded to my effort by dropping over 100 pounds of extra weight, and giving me the energy to feel like I could do more with my day than just get it over with.

In My Humble Opinion

So almost two years later, I still feel like my opinion of the body that I’ve worked so hard for should be 100% positive. I should be so proud of all of my hard work, and not be able to see anything negative about my body at all.

After my weight loss, I definitely have more energy, I can buy clothes in any store, and I can do active things with my family with confidence.

 

My relationship with my body is definitely vastly different than it was two years ago. However, here’s how I honestly feel at this point of my weight loss journey: I love the person I have become through this process and who I am still becoming. I have proved to myself that I can set a goal, and that I have to mental toughness and determination to achieve it. Even after losing 112 pounds, there are still things about my body that I would change if I could snap my fingers. But I also have a deep appreciation and respect for the things that my body is capable of. My body has been a trooper for these 30 years, through all of the abuse that I’ve done to it, and it has given me two healthy, handsome children.

I Said All That to Say

Weight loss can definitely help you feel so much better in your body physically and mentally, but weight loss is never going to be a cure-all for your self-image. Changing your body, can greatly impact your health and day to day life,camerarolltempimage but if you don’t love the person that you fundamentally are at 300 pounds, you’re probably still not going to like the person you are at 150 pounds. Maybe you’re where I was, and couldn’t see how any plus-size person could honestly say they loved their body. That’s okay. You feel how you feel. There may never come a day, when you wake up and are in awe of your mom-bod, and that’s okay too. But when you start treating yourself the way that you would treat a friend, you can work toward being proud of the person that you are, and showing yourself love through the way you treat yourself and how you treat your body. The rest will fall into place. It’s amazing how our bodies can bounce back and respond, when we hold up our end of the relationship.

How To Find Macro-Friendly Foods

In a perfect world, where I was the perfect specimen of health and wellness, my diet would consist of one hundred percent organic, whole foods. I do wish I was at that point mentally, because physically I’m sure I would feel amazing! However, at this present moment, I’m more of what you might call a “practical eater”.

When it came to my weight loss in the past, I had a very all or nothing mindset. I always assumed if my diet wasn’t consisting of completely healthy, “good” foods, that I could never make much progress. Although working my way toward better overall health and nutrition is of course the ultimate goal, I was so relieved to find, that I could still make progress toward my physical goals, img_1360while eating foods that didn’t make me feel like I was depriving myself of all of the delicious processed treats this western world has to offer. For me personally, finding the right balance of vegetables and whole foods, with some processed, convenient treats mixed in has been the way I’ve made this process more of a lifestyle , instead of a diet. Finding brands with the ingredients that best fit your macros, is key to helping you fit in those fun foods and treats.

One common question I hear is, “How do you find macro-friendly foods?” Honestly, that’s a tricky question, because ALL foods can be “macro-friendly”, depending on which foods you pair them with for the day. But this week, I’ll explain the things I look for on a nutrition label, and how you can find the brands that taste the best, and fit the best with your macros.

Decoding the Nutrition Label

Lucky for us, in this day and age, we have magical apps like My Fitness Pal, that can help us track our food, calories, and macros for the day.img_1729 I honestly can’t imagine how body builders did it back in the day, before smartphones and computers. But knowing how to read the nutrition label while you’re at the grocery store, is still important when you’re buying ingredients to fit into your meal plan. There’s a ton of information we can learn from the nutrition label, but when I’m at the store, the main things I look for are: serving size, total calories, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber.

Comparing the Labels

So finding the brands, that have the most “macro-friendly” ingredients, is simply about comparing the labels. When you really start looking, it’s amazing how different brands, of the same types of food, can differ so much on their macronutrients. So let’s look at some examples of things you might see:

Example 1: Protein Pancakes

If you know me at all, you know that I love me some Kodiak Cakes! There was a period of probably 3 months or so, that I ate pancakes twice a day, every day. Pumpkin Spice for breakfast, and dark chocolate for an after dinner dessert. So I was curious when I saw another brand of protein pancakes pop up on the shelf, img_1730next to my beloved Kodiak Cakes. So I took a look at the label, and compared. It’s important to always check the serving size first, to make sure you’re comparing the same amount. These two pancake mixes had the same serving size of 1/2 cup. Next I check the total calories. The Krusteaz pancakes have 220 calories per 1/2 cup, while the Kodiak Cakes are 190 for the same amount. Next, I look at the protein. When it comes to protein, the one with the highest amount wins. Kodiak Cakes wins again! Next I’ll check the carbs, and for me, the lower number wins here. Kodiak Cakes is 3 for 3, with 8g less carbs per serving than the Krusteaz. Both brands have equal amounts of total fat. img_1731The last thing that sold me on the Kodiak Cakes, is the fiber. It contains 5g of fiber per serving, while the Krusteaz mix only contains 1g. So although both of these brands of protein pancakes, could fit into your macros, depending on your taste preference, the Kodiak Cakes are the most “macro-friendly”, because they have the highest amount of protein and fiber, and the lowest amount of carbs.

Example 2: Barbecue Sauce

It’s crazy how much the macros of some sauces and dressings can vary. One example of this is good ‘ol Barbecue Sauce.

 

A good thing to remember is, the sweeter the sauce, usually means, the higher the carbs. Two sauces that we sometimes buy in our house, are Sweet Baby Ray’s, and Stubb’s spicy barbecue. They also are the same serving size, and neither one of them contain protein. The things you want to pay attention to with sauces, are going to mainly be total calories, carbs, and sugar. Because of the sweetness in the Sweet Baby Ray’s, it not only packs in twice the amount of calories per serving, but also 10g more carbs, and 9g more sugar. Just like with the pancakes, you could make either brand work into your macros if you really wanted to, but the Stubb’s spicy barbecue would be easier to work into your day, than the Sweet Baby Ray’s.

Thank God For Technology

Technology makes it so much easier to not have to track all of our food, macronutrients, and micronutrients throughout the day. Using My Fitness Pal to plan my meals has been a huge part of my weight loss success, and it makes it so much easier to calculate all of the things I eat in a day. The main things I pay attention to in My Fitness Pal, are my total calories, protein, carbs, fat, and fiber. The only other things that I try not to get wild with are my sugar and sodium intake. I try to keep those numbers within the daily recommended amounts, because I know when I don’t, that I can feel sluggish or bloated.

Finding a Balance

While the goal is to keep progressing, and working my way toward a heavier emphasis on more whole foods and green vegetables, it is comforting knowing that I can still have some processed treats mixed in, and still reach my physique goals. img_1737Flexible Dieting is about finding the balance that works best for you, both physically and mentally. Flexible Dieting is not all about finding ways to eat junk and still lose weight. There are advantages and disadvantages to eating on either end of the spectrum. A diet comprised of mostly clean, whole foods, allows you to eat a higher volume of food if that’s what you need to feel satisfied. However, if fitting in some sugary processed things helps you stick with your diet long term, then you can do that as well, but the total amount of food you eat might be slightly less. Personally, I prefer to have a mixture of both. It helps me to not feel deprived, and to have a lot of variety and convenience in my meal plans.

I hope you will take the time, to find what works best for you. You are totally capable of losing weight and feeling better when you just decide you want to and find a way. This is all about finding something sustainable for you, that you could see yourself doing years down the road. I hope that helps you kind of see how I compare different brands, and how I have compiled a list of go to ingredients over the course of my weight loss journey. As always, feel free to reach out to me here or on Instagram, @mommytracksmacros if you have any more questions!

The Ever Elusive “Lifestyle Change”

What the heck does that even mean, “Lifestyle change?” Every legitimate fitness person ever, typically preaches the same general message when it comes to weight loss. These 2 simple words, are repeated over and over in top tips and tricks, magazine articles, and interviews…lifestyle change.

Two years ago, if you had asked me what lifestyle change meant, this is what I pictured: Everyday, for the rest of my life, I must wake up and do at least 15 minutes of morning yoga and meditation. img_1661.jpgNext, I will float into the kitchen, and whip up an Instagram worthy Acai bowl, complete with fresh slices of kiwi and perfectly placed strips of chia seeds. After I’ve nourished my body with a bounty of fruits and vegetables, I will go on a brief 6 mile run. I’ll be wearing a perfectly matched outfit, and I’ll end my run, looking like a goddess. Then, I will make my way home to stuff my face full of kale, quinoa, and green juice. I’ll have to repeat this routine day in, and day out for the rest of my life.  A perfect specimen of health and fitness.

It honestly sounded exhausting! I spent my days taking Levi to school with greasy hair, a newborn attached to me 24/7, pumping, sleeping, eating, and watching TV. I felt like it took everything in me, to just get through the week.IMG_8004 Between work and family, I was totally drained, and the only thing that the aforementioned lifestyle seemed like to me, was more work. I had no visions whatsoever of spending my mornings in the gym and my days eating steamed broccoli and boiled chicken. But I knew that I did have to start getting some of the weight off, if only to have more energy. I could still remember what my body had felt like at 150 lbs. That was the lowest weight I had been able to achieve after taking Phentermine, and even though I was far from healthy, just being at a lower weight, I remembered that I physically felt better.

That’s what I was trying to get back to, but this time, I really couldn’t muster the energy to go nuts from day one. I knew I wanted to do flexible dietingeventually, because I had dabbled in it before I had gained all of my weight back. A friend had made me a meal plan years before, but I knew in order to make long term progress, I was going to need to learn how to do it for myself. That being said, when I first started my weight loss journey, I wasn’t quite ready for flexible dieting yet. I needed to take it slow. I had a lot on my plate, and I felt like going hardcore right from the start, was just setting myself up for failure.

Taking Baby Steps

There were certain habits that I knew would have to change. Common sense things, that would need to be adjusted, if I wanted to reach my goal. One of those things was sweet tea. Whenever I would eat at a restaurant, when the waitress asked me what I wanted to drink, it was almost like a reflex. I couldn’t help it! Asking me what I wanted to drink, was like asking me my name. Auto response: Sweet Tea. I finally realized, that by drinking Sweet Tea with every meal, I was adding hundreds of calories into my day. Those were calories that I could’ve been eating that would’ve actually filled me up. I knew that was a pretty obvious habit that I would need to change. I knew I could still have it sometimes, like with a “cheat meal”. I just couldn’t have it all the time, and reach my goals.

One of the next things I did, was to start planning my meals ahead of time. Actually making a grocery list, doing meal prep, and eating the foods that were on my plan. This was a huge adjustment for me, img_0319-1and this was something I started practicing before I was actually tracking macros. I still couldn’t wrap my brain around macros, but I was just getting into the habit of doing meal prep and actually eating what I intended to. I had to practice every day. I had to practice NOT finishing my kid’s food that they left on their plate, not nibbling on their goldfish crackers, and not picking at all of the treats left around at work.

Looking at how I was eating before, it’s easy to see how these small changes alone, helped me to start seeing progress. I started losing weight, little by little. As my weight began to drop, I started to want more. If I had been able to see results from these small changes, I wanted to see what I was capable of when I really dialed in my food, and I started going to the gym.

That’s when I started really learning how to track my macros, and I decided that I would start working out at Planet Fitness. I knew several people who worked out there, and they all loved it. And let’s be honest, it was cheap and involved very little commitment, so if I flaked out again like I usually did, no harm no foul! I truly felt like this time was different though.

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My Free Planet Fitness T-shirt, size small!

I really wanted to stick with it and see it all the way through. I was so sure, that I walked straight into that Planet Fitness at just over 200 pounds, and asked for a size small t-shirt. That girl working the desk and I, both knew that I wasn’t a small. But I knew I intended to be!

I started out doing the 30 minute workout at Planet Fitness, stalking other gym-goers to see what machines they used, and how they used them. Then I moved onto doing a workout plan from Jamie Eason, and eventually put together my own workout routines based on which exercises I enjoyed the most for each muscle group, and what I felt were the most effective. Eventually I switched to a larger gym that offered childcare, because after working out at Planet Fitness for a year, I knew that this was a habit I wanted to continue, and I wanted to be able to go without having to find someone to watch Tyson while I went.

Stacking Habits

As the weeks went on, and I kept stacking one new habit on top of the next, eventually those small changes here and there, have amounted to some big results. So here’s the part of the blog where I throw in a weird example. Hear me out!

When I was preparing to go back to work after maternity leave, I knew I was going to need to start pumping, so that I would have enough milk to send with Tyson on the days that I worked. I hadn’t made it very far into breastfeeding with Levi, so this time I was determined to make it work. So when Tyson was about 3 weeks old, I started pumping after each of his feedings. Day one of pumping began. I awkwardly strapped in, went into full dairy cow mode, and patiently waited. After 20 minutes, I looked down to inspect the fruits of my labor…one measly ounce. Not one ounce from each boob…one ounce total. This was not going to be easy. I was determined though, and stuck with it, pumping after each of his feedings for the rest of the day. The next time was the same, one ounce. Each time I pumped, I only was able to get one stinking ounce. But I kept adding ounce on ounce, until the end of the day I had one whole 4 ounce bottle. It seemed like it was going to take forever to get any kind of stash going! I kept with it though, and even though most days I could only pump 1-2 ounces after each feeding, by the time I went back to work a month later, I had 100 ounces in the freezer!

The point is, small things eventually add up to big things! Ounce by ounce, I stored up a good amount of milk, and it was the same with weight loss, I just kept collecting pound after pound making little changes here and there. Tweaking things as I went along, until now I’ve lost a total of 112 pounds.

Two short years later, my daily routine has completely changed from what it used to be, and it happened so gradually, that I didn’t even see it coming! It didn’t happen overnight, it happened one little habit change at a time. Two years ago, my typical morning involved taking Levi to school, taking care of Tyson, and eating and sleeping as much as possible throughout the day.camerarolltempimage That was all I felt like I could handle. Now I routinely hit the gym 3-4 days a week, immediately after taking Levi to school. I get groceries regularly, and meal prep every week. Sometimes, when people congratulate me on all of my hard work, I almost feel like a fraud. Intellectually, I know that losing 112 pounds with diet and exercise is not easy. I know that it takes dedication and discipline to form new habits. But because I did it gradually, and didn’t try to fix every one of my bad habits at the same time, it really doesn’t seem to me like it was all that difficult! I just let myself naturally progress at my own pace, as I craved results more and more. I knew what my ultimate goal was, but this time I wasn’t in a huge rush to get there. I knew scientifically that I would reach my goal in time, I just had to actually give my body the consistent nutrition and time to get there.

Lifestyle Change In a Nutshell

Now if you ask me what does “lifestyle change” mean I would explain it like this: It’s not about eating perfectly, or spending hours everyday in the gym for the rest of your life. It’s about forming new maintainable habits that support the body and life that you want to have outside of your fitness routine. Lifestyle change is about finding a balance between reaching your health and fitness goals, while still living your life.

How you truly change your lifestyle, is just by stacking one new habit on top of the next. You get there by continuing to build and add on new goals. Pushing a little farther and a little farther, as you feel like you’re ready for a new challenge. Now that I’m at a point where weight loss isn’t necessarily the goal anymore, I can continue to make progress with new goals.

My new goals, are continuing to share my story and hopefully help others, to keep pushing myself with my level of fitness, to keep adding in more whole foods and vegetables into my day, and to get my Personal Training and Nutritionist certifications. Outside of fitness, my goals are to continue using my new body to experience life with my family. Enjoying days at the pool, trips to the beach, and hiking with my husband, and being able to fully enjoy those experiences without my body holding me back, because that’s what true lifestyle change is all about.

A Glimpse Into My Meal Planning Mind

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I truly can’t say thank you enough, for the amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from so many of you in regards to my weight loss journey and now my blog. I  hope that I’ve been able to inspire even just one person, to see that you’re important enough, and that you’re worth making whatever changes are necessary to feel great. I know it can seem like an uphill climb and a lot of trouble, but I hope I’ve been able to show you that it’s possible to do this in a way that’s sustainable, and effective. It’s possible to see this all the way through, and to feel the confidence and sense of accomplishment that comes from crushing this huge goal. Deciding you want to change is a great first step. The next step, is to start experimenting, and finding a style of eating that is sustainable for you and your lifestyle, long-term.

So let’s say you’ve been following me for a bit, and you’ve decided you want to give flexible dieting a whirl. Awesome! I truly don’t feel like flexible dieting is actually a “diet”, it’s more a style of eating that teaches you about portion control and how to eat a more balanced diet. Planning my meals ahead, has been a huge part of my success with this style of eating. However, I know from experience and from numerous other women that have come to me with questions, that meal planning can be overwhelming in the beginning.

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Meal Prep Day: Pork tenderloin, rice, broccoli with cheese

When you’re first starting out, think of meal planning as a labor of love that will set you up for success for the week. The point of flexible dieting, isn’t to meticulously obsess over every gram of food that goes into your mouth. For me, this is a way of teaching myself what appropriate portions should look like, with the goal being to eventually move into eating more intuitively. I have had a life time of bad eating habits. Flexible dieting to me, is taking the time that’s necessary to learn balance and better habits.

This week I thought it might be helpful to someone starting out, if I kind of go through my process each week, when I’m planning out my meals. I’ll try to reverse engineer my thought process so it makes as much sense as possible! Just know that as time goes on and you find meals you like, as you start to learn portions, and what makes up each food..it starts to become second nature and the hardest part about it will be figuring out what you’re craving each week.

Looking Ahead

I have always prided myself on being a “fly by the seat of your pants” type of gal. I’m not much on planning ahead, and I tend to be a procrastinator. So one of the hardest new habits I had to form, was looking ahead at my week. When I start planning out my meals, I look at which days I work first. Because I work 12 hour shifts, I know I’m not cooking, or going to the gym on those days. Next I see what nights we have baseball practice or games. Do we have doctor’s appointments, hair cuts, or anything else out of the norm? My next priority after all of those other things, is when can I go to the grocery store, and when can I cook my food? Even if my week is so jam-packed that there’s no way I’m making it to the gym (which normally doesn’t happen, as I’m not that exciting), I know that at the bare minimum, if I can get my food prepared for the week, I’ll still make progress.

Start With The Staples

Next, I start plugging foods into My Fitness Pal. There are several food tracking apps out there, but I have always used My Fitness Pal, so I’ll use it to explain. This is going to sound ridiculous coming from me, but I actually don’t like tracking my food.

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Spaghetti Squash Chicken Marsala

I’m not good at entering in my foods everyday. So instead of just saying screw it, I enter in one full day of eating, once a week. I meal prep the food I need for that plan, and eat those meals until it’s time for my next “cheat meal”, or until it’s time to make a new meal plan. Doing it this way just helps me to not have to really think about it the rest of the week, or track my food everyday. If you like more variety, or have more time to cook food fresh each day, then you can do that as well. It’s truly about finding a schedule that works best for you. The first things I always enter in, are my “staple foods”. These are foods that I know I’m going to eat every day. No matter what my other meals are, I know I’m always going to drink a protein shake, and I always eat some sort of barimg_1360 for one of my snacks. Once I have those in, I just start working around them to complete my day of eating. I typically work in breakfast, lunch, dinner, and two snacks in between meals. I love me some snacks!

Down to The Nitty-Gritty

On to breakfast. I’ve been eating this way for quite a while now, and I’ve been able to find a few different breakfasts that I rotate through, that are easy to make, taste good reheated, and that I know I’ll actually want to eat when I’m tired and hungry. For me, my breakfasts are usually some sort of egg scramble, or Kodiak Cakes pancakes. If you haven’t tried Kodiak Cakes yet, I definitely recommend you jump on it!

Now I just have to figure out lunch, dinner, and one more snack. Lunch and dinner are usually interchangeable, and I have the same criteria as breakfast. I want something that tastes good reheated or is easy to make fresh, and it has to be something that I’ll actually want to eat for a few days in a row until my scheduled MSM. I try to also think of things that I can easily pack for lunch on the days I work.

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Buffalo Chicken Flatbread

Over time, I have made a list in my phone of “go to” meals, that are meals that have worked well for me, so that I can refer back to them if ever I’m drawing a blank when trying to figure out what to make. Whenever I figure out what type of meal I want to make, I usually start by entering in the protein. Chicken, lean ground turkey, pork tenderloin, fish, or any lean meats are great options. So for example, this week for dinner, I had buffalo chicken flatbread. So when entering in my meal, I start with the chicken. For women, a good starting amount is 4 ounces. Next, I can either scan the bar code on the greek yogurt ranch I used for the base, or search for the brand manually. I do the same thing for the Flat Out flatbread. I typically don’t enter in things like spinach, green onions, or the Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce I used. I don’t fret too much about foods with very low caloric values. I’m not trying to be in a bikini show, and they aren’t going to make that much of a difference for me. Keep in mind, starchy vegetables like potatoes, corn, or carrots, do have more calories and carbs and would need to be accounted for. Also fruits like bananas, or oranges that can be higher in carbs would need to be added in.

Now I just need one more snack. Snacks can be whatever you like that fit your numbers. However, one thing that helps me, is to pick one sweet snack, and one more salty snack like crackers and a baby bell cheese wedge. That way, no matter what I’m craving throughout the day, I have something to satisfy me.

Crunching The Numbers

So we’ve got all of our food for the day plugged in, now it’s time to see where we’re at with the numbers. If you don’t know what your macros should be starting out, it can be kind of confusing because different websites can give you different numbers. When I started, I used a calculator online that I’ll link here. Then you can go into the goals section under settings in My Fitness Pal, and change your macronutrient goals to those numbers.

When you get all of your food entered in for the day, you can scroll down to the very bottom of your daily food diary, and click on the black nutrition button. Under nutrition, you’ll find sections for calories, nutrients, and macros. For me, the most helpful section is the nutrients section. Here I can see not only my daily goals, but how many grams per macronutrient I still have to work with. I’m using my numbers as an example, just keep in mind that my macros are calculated based on my height, current weight, age, and activity level…and your numbers will be different and specific to you.

I’m not a major stickler for the numbers, I just try to get them in the ball park. Protein, carbs, and fats, are my main concern. However, I do try to not go crazy with sodium or sugar, and I try to get the daily recommended amount of fiber. Word to the wise, fiber may be something that seems insignificant, but when you’re eating a higher amount of protein and not as many carbs as you normally would, fiber becomes very important. I won’t get graphic…just make sure you’re paying attention to your fiber. Your intestines will thank you!

Making Adjustments

The easiest way I can think to teach you how to make adjustments if you’re over or under on a macronutrients, is to just give examples. So let’s say you’ve entered all of your food. For breakfast you’ve decided on a protein shake,

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Pork Carnitas Burrito Bowl

and an egg scramble with turkey bacon and cheese. For lunch you’re having pork tenderloin, potatoes, and green beans. For dinner: a chicken burrito bowl with 1 cup of rice, sour cream, cheese, pico, and salsa. For one snack you want a protein bar, and for the other one, some fruit and a string cheese.

So you get everything in, but now see that you’re over on your amount of carbs for the day. Breakfast didn’t have that many carbs, but we can take carbs from lunch with the potatoes, or we can decrease the amount of rice in our burrito bowl. Or if we’re low on carbs, we can add more.

If we’re over or under on protein, the easiest thing to adjust is the meat, so adding or taking away pork tenderloin with lunch, or chicken with dinner. It’s the same with fat, we can take away one of the egg yolks with breakfast and add in more egg whites, or adjust the cheese or sour cream. It’s just like working a little puzzle to get the numbers in the ball park. Once you get them close, you can check the pie chart under the macros section if you wish.img_1527 Just like anything, the more you do it, the easier it gets. Eventually you’ll start to compile a list of “go to” meals, and planning out your meals will get a lot faster.

Pulling It Together

Now all you have to do is get the groceries, make the food, and eat the food! If groceries shopping isn’t your favorite thing, Kroger and many other grocery stores now offer online ordering, and it will rock your world. Most of the time, I’ll still go into the store to shop, but if I’m ever really busy or short on time, it’s amazing.

As far as meal prep, I try to keep it as simple as possible. Lately I’ve been wearing out my InstantPot, but typically I’ll make one crock pot meal, and one meal that I have to make on the stove top or in the oven so that I can multitask. Meal prepping can seem like a chore at first, but it truly saves me so much time and money throughout the week…and also helps me stay on track with my eating. When I know I already have food prepared at home, that fits my macros and will get me closer to my goals, I’m much less likely to make poor impulse decisions about what to eat.

I hope that gives you kind of a broad overview of how I make my meal plans each week. I know it can seem overwhelming at first, but just know that taking the time to learn proper portions and what is actually making up your food can be life-changing. I just tried to remind myself of how much time I had spent learning bad habits and gaining weight, and to remember that it’s going to take some time to learn better habits and lose the weight. However, it truly is amazing how simply adjusting your macronutrient intake can drastically transform your body over time.

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Applewood Bacon Turkey Tenderloin with green beans and string cheese.

I truly enjoy eating this way, which is how I’ve been able to keep doing it for so long. It’s like a little game or puzzle that I figure out each week, to keep working towards my goals and see what I’m capable of achieving. They don’t call it flexible dieting for nothin’! It really can cater to your personal preferences and eating habits. If you’re a person who prefers eating a larger volume of food, eating more whole foods can allow you to eat bigger portions. If you have a bit of a sweet tooth, there is also room to fit those things in as well. Personally, I prefer a balance of both. I feel my best physically, when the majority of my foods are whole, clean foods. But I also know, that mentally I’ll eventually feel deprived if I don’t fit a few processed sweets like protein bars or chocolate pancakes into my day!

Figuring out your preferences, what works best with your body, and the strategies that are going to make this something sustainable for you long-term are key! I hope this has answered some questions about meal planning and crunching the numbers, but always feel free to reach out to me if you have any other questions that I may have forgotten to cover! Just take comfort in knowing, that even if it takes some experimenting and practice to figure this out, just the fact that you’re paying attention to what you’re putting in your body, means you’re already making huge strides in the right direction!

Confessions of a Crash Dieter

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Let us pray. Dear Lord, be with me. Guide my fingers, as they dance swiftly across my keyboard, while I attempt to explain my severe distaste for everything related to fad diets, gimmicks, or “magic pills”. Please help me to share my experiences…the money lost and the extra pounds gained, in such a way as to minimize the offense that may be taken from said advice. Help me to use this platform, small as it may be, to save my dear friends some time and heartache by owning up to the truly idiotic things I have done to lose weight. Amen.

Where to Begin?

Like a lot of first time moms, my introduction to the woes of yo-yo dieting, began after the birth of my first son. I had tried to diet in the past, with decent success, by making small changes here and there. img_0770Nothing drastic. But I feel like there’s a mental shift that tends to happen regarding weight loss after the birth of a child. I think it probably stems from always being told as women, that your body will never be the same after having children. The horror. Choosing to become a mom, can truly be a terrifying prospect when it comes to body image. It’s a total crap shoot. While you may be one of the rare diamonds in the rough who never develops the first stretch mark and leaves the hospital in your pre-pregnancy jeans…you really have no idea what might happen to your body when you become a mom. From everything you’ve been told, you’re destined to live out your days, marred with stretch marks, widened hips, sagging skin, stubborn body fat, and let’s not even get started on what the actual act of childbirth may do to your body. Yikes.

So you throw caution to the wind! YOLO! You’re a mom! You trudge through the first few months of motherhood, sleep deprived, but falling in love with this new little human. Eventually, you clean the crust from your eyes, brave the bright lights of the bathroom mirror, and it’s time to assess the damage. For me, stretch marks and extra pounds were my proof of pregnancy. However, It turns out I was a slow adjuster. I was in pure survival mode for a long time, and it wasn’t until after Levi’s first birthday, that I decided it was time to tackle the “mom bod”.

I was 204 pounds when I gave birth to Levi, and by the time I was finally ready to do something about the baby weight, I was up to 215. I started out pretty conservatively, joining Weight Watchers with my mom. I have heard so many great things about Weight Watchers…it’s actually a lot like flexible dieting! I know many people have had great success with their program, but at this point in my life, it was working too slowly for me. I was 23 years old, and I didn’t have time for slow and steady. Impatience got the best of me, and after a few short weeks, I had enough.

That Escalated Quickly

So after my short stent with Weight Watchers, I did probably one of the stupidest diets I’ve ever done in my life. You talk about a quick fix recipe for disaster. Enter the HCG diet. img_1056Human Chorionic Gonadotropin Hormone. If you’re unfamiliar, that would be the pregnancy hormone…the same hormone that your placenta produces, and is what makes that pregnancy test turn positive. My brilliant idea, was to lose my baby weight by injecting my thigh daily, with pregnancy hormone for a month. A true stroke of genius.

Not only did I inject my thigh daily with HCG, I paid $250 to do so, and followed the diet plan that went along with the program. The diet plan was extremely restrictive. Like 500 calories per day restrictive. I lost 30 pounds in a month, all of which I gained back in the next couple of months after I stopped the injections. Who would’ve predicted that injecting yourself with expensive pregnancy hormone was not a sustainable diet strategy?

On to the Next One

After that disaster, I can seriously remember googling how to qualify for the Lap Band. I know, I know…hilarious. It turns out I wasn’t quite ready for that yet. I would’ve needed to gain another 50 pounds or so to be in the BMI range to qualify, and honestly for a brief moment I considered living it up for a few months…plumping myself up, like a fatted calf preparing for the slaughter. I thought I could gain just enough weight for what I felt would be the “easy way out”. That’s how naive I was, I thought having surgery and permanently altering my anatomy was the easiest option, not realizing that even surgery requires diet modification to be effective long-term. Oy. I quickly realized how irrational I was being, and briefly tried out a diet pill called Alli.img_1055 Any diet pill that states on the bottle that it may cause “oily stools” is probably not the greatest option long-term. I decided my next course of action would be Phentermine. It was way cheaper than the HCG, and it also gave you energy!

So I dragged my rear to a weight loss clinic, and started running. I continued taking the medication for 6 months, losing an average of 10 pounds a month. It definitely suppressed my appetite, but it also gave me horrible dry mouth, acne, and thinning hair. I quickly figured out that I could still lose weight eating Taco Bell and junk food…I just ate less of it. I got down to 150 pounds, but I was still 49% body fat according to the BodPod. It turns out, that when you lose weight that quickly, your body isn’t just losing body fat. It’s also losing water weight, and because I was doing only cardio and not eating enough protein, I was also losing lean muscle mass. That’s where the term “skinny fat” comes from. Just because someone is within a healthy BMI range, it doesn’t mean their body looks “toned”. They can be 125 pounds, but because they have very little muscle mass, they still feel like they look flabby.  img_1057In order to “tone”, you just need to change your body composition, meaning gaining lean muscle mass, and losing actual body fat. After taking Phentermine, I got to just within the normal BMI range for my height, but I still felt like I hadn’t really reshaped my body, and I figured out it was time to shift my focus to losing actual body fat. I also knew that I couldn’t continue taking the Phentermine forever and it was getting too expensive to keep buying it every month.

After I stopped taking the diet pills, I actually kept the weight off for a while and started working on my body composition. It wasn’t until life stress and the comfortable flow of a new relationship came into my life that I began packing the weight back on. And then I absolutely PACKED it on. I had been starving my body for months, and it was having no more of that abuse! I gained weight so rapidly, that I swear it’s what caused me to need to have my gallbladder removed. My gallbladder was done trying to keep up with weight gain and food intake, so it just stopped functioning all together. I had it removed, and then got pregnant 2 months later! Looking back now, I can see that I have really put more poor body through the ringer!

So Here’s My Issue

Besides the fact that all of these “weight loss aids” cost a ton of money, none of them teach anything about nutrition or weight maintenance. Because let’s be honest, if they did, you wouldn’t need them anymore. My problem with diet pills, teas, wraps, etc…is that mentally they can really warp your perception of what a healthy lifestyle is, and make you feel like you’re always going to need some superfluous thing, to make you to be successful. Even if these products work, and you lose weight, it’s just not realistic to think that you’re going to use any product or pill for the rest of your life, and then what do you do? I know for me, for a long time, I felt like the only way I would be successful with weight loss, is if I took Phentermine again. If I couldn’t afford to do that, there was no point in trying at all, and I went completely in the other direction.

This time around, when I began losing weight, I was determined to not depend on ANY product, person, or thing, to make me lose the weight. I wanted to look back on my success and be able to say, without a doubt, that nothing had assisted my weight loss except for my body, the food I was eating, and the exercise I was doing. Because that is truly sustainable weight loss. If every supplement company, pharmacy, or diet book in the world suddenly disappeared…I knew how to eat to continue my weight loss, because I had removed all other variables except for my nutrition and my workout routine.img_0948

Now when I hear of a new miracle product or amazing new diet, I’m extremely skeptical. I’m a total conspiracy theorist when it comes to fad diets or weight loss aids. There’s always the same questions that run through my head:

  1. Will someone stand to make a profit if I become mentally or physically dependent on this product? If any company truly created a product that worked, they would quickly go out of business. They would fix everyone’s weight issues, and then no one would need their product. Their company depends on my mental dependence on their product…because physically I know, I don’t need it.
  2. Will this product help me lose weight without diet modification? Scientifically I can tell you the answer is no. No product can cause you to lose weight without diet modification. Surgery can’t even do that. However, diet modification can make you lose weight without the product, and you don’t have to spend any extra money!

Quietly Tip-Toeing Off The Soap Box

I truly hope that by sharing my mistakes with weight loss and crash diets, that I can save you some time and money. I think so many times, we can fall into the trap of thinking that we need some external thing to assist us with weight loss. We get impatient. We feel like we’re too old, we’ve broken our metabolism with motherhood, we’re too mentally weak, or any other reason we can think of. img_0751I hope that by sharing my weight loss journey with you, that you can see that it’s totally possible to do this. I’ve said it multiple times, and I’ll continue saying it…I’m no one special. I don’t have a super fast metabolism. I’m not naturally skinny. I don’t enjoy “healthy foods”. I wasn’t an athlete in high school. I’m a busy working mom, with stretch marks, and spider veins. I never found a miracle product, pill, or tea. I just figured out how to eat a more balanced diet, in a caloric deficit, and I figured out how to make my own body work with me. Although the term “Flexible Dieting” may be trendy right now…bodybuilders have been manipulating their nutrition for decades to transform their bodies. It’s nothing new.

I never thought I would want to share my weight loss experience publicly, but I’m becoming increasingly more passionate about it, because I truly feel like anyone can do what I’ve been able to do. Anyone can feel the sense of accomplishment that comes from completely transforming your body naturally with food, and the pride that you feel, knowing that you didn’t try to cheat the system this time. So instead of investing in a product that claims to be the next break through, invest in your knowledge about nutrition, and invest your money on good food that helps you reach your goals.

“And that’s all I have to say about that.”- Forrest Gump

Girl, Treat Yo Self

I guess I should start out this post by saying that I don’t really just love the term “cheat meal”. Mainly because, from the beginning of my weight loss journey, I have always fully intended on including more indulgent meals into my meal plan twice a week. I scheduled them deliberately, for many reasons that I’ll explain. So for me, and my plan, I wasn’t cheating. For me, they were “Mental Sanity Meals”, so from here on out, I’ll just call them MSM’s.

Last Saturday morning, I hit a new low weight! 137.2 pounds, a weight that I’ve not seen since probably 6th grade. And while I was excited to see that number on the scale, I knew it wasn’t going to last, because Saturdays for me, are a scheduled MSM day. And man, we did it right that day! img_0366I woke up, went to the gym, drank my protein shake, ate my normal breakfast, and then for lunch, we made a trip to Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen. When you walk into a restaurant that sells chocolate bars wrapped up like butter in the lobby, that’s when you know you’ve hit the mother load of MSM’s.

As suspected, it was delicious. I’ll spare you the details, just in case this is not your MSM day, lest I cause you to drool. Normally, on a diet, this would’ve meant for me that I had failed. I blew it. I have no will power, and I’m weak. However, the more I researched about MSM’s, the more I realized how necessary they are for most people, and that there are actually some great scientific and mental benefits to scheduling them into your week.

First, let’s talk mental benefits. Most of the time, when we’re on a diet, we look at food as either “good” or “bad”. We’ve been told that to be successful, we need to be 100% consistent, and to really commit. So what normally happens, is that we do okay for a few weeks, depriving ourselves, normally at a large calorie deficit, and then something happens. Somebody brings food to work, or there’s a birthday party, or we just simply don’t have time to go home and get our meal prepped food. We’ve been in such a large calorie deficit for several weeks now, that inevitably, our body starts to rebel. Mentally, we can’t take it anymore. We finally cave, we stuff ourselves until we’re ready to explode, and then feel horrible. Guilt sets in and we feel like we have to fix it. So what do we do? A lot of times, we restrict ourselves even more to make up for overindulging. And then, we start the whole cycle over again. Restrict, binge, back and forth. But what if you didn’t start out a diet starving yourself? What if you started eating enough calories to still be in a deficit, but not feel like you could eat the paint off the walls? What if you could still work some of your favorite foods that you craved into your meal plan, and know that you only had to follow it for 4-5 days until you could have a scheduled MSM? Ahhh, so much better for my mental state, and so much easier to sustain long-term.

Mentally, the benefits are wonderful, but there’s also scientific reasons for why we mentally struggle. As I said in my previous post all about macros, I am not a doctor or nutritionist, this is just what I’ve learned by doing my own research on this topic and I want to share with you what I’ve learned.

Leptin, Gherlin, and Glycogen

Leptin is the appetite suppressing hormone. After being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, leptin levels start to decrease. Which is why after being in a calorie deficit for a few weeks, your cravings are out of control. It’s not because you’re weak, or because your will power is horrible. It’s because your body is doing what God designed it to do, it’s trying to not let you starve. It’s telling you that your body is in a deficit, and it’s dropping your appetite suppressing hormones to scream, “EAT SOMETHING!”

At the same time our body is dropping leptin levels, it is rising our levels of ghrelin, the hunger stimulating hormone. While I can imagine both of these natural body processes are amazing if you’re a nomad, searching for food as your job everyday, when you’re actually trying to lose weight, they can be a real kick in the teeth.

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July 2016 to April 2018 

Glycogen, also discussed in a previous blog post, is how our body stores carbohydrates for energy in our liver. After eating a low carb diet, or being in a calorie deficit for an extended period of time, our stored glycogen gets depleted. When this happens, we generally have low energy and feel sluggish, especially during workouts.

Looking at these 3 things, it’s easy to see how a MSM can be beneficial not only mentally, but biologically. When you eat a meal higher in carbs and calories, you’re signaling to your body that you’re not starving. The hunger hormones, leptin and ghrelin stabilize, and glycogen stores are replenished. Which basically means, your cravings are in check, you’ve given your metabolism a little jolt, and you have more energy to keep moving forward with your meal plan for another 4-5 days until it’s time to replenish again.

MSM Guidelines

img_0491.jpgAs you can probably tell, I’m a firm believer in the MSM. I have allowed myself two a week, for the entire length of my weight loss journey, and have been able to keep losing weight steadily for the last 18 months, but I do have some general guidelines for them:

  1. They are scheduled meals, not spur of the moment, emotional decisions. I know my schedule for the week, and don’t justify moving my MSM unless it is absolutely necessary because of something out of my control.
  2. I have whatever I’m craving, which is usually carb-rich, fatty foods, like fajitas, pizza, or pasta.
  3. I don’t use it as an excuse to “Binge”. This one is still a challenge for me sometimes, especially if I’m eating at a restaurant with huge portions. Not only because I’m eating one of my favorite foods and I want to inhale it, but also because I don’t take home leftovers. Restaurant leftovers can quickly turn my one cheat meal into 2 or 3.
  4. This is a big one. VERY IMPORTANT! A MSM is ALWAYS a meal I didn’t have to cook. This is very key!
  5. I eat whatever I want on the menu, and then I forget about it, and go straight back to my meal plan until the next MSM.

What to Do After a MSM

After a MSM, the most important thing to do is to move on. Don’t worry that you’re not making progress or that you’ve set yourself back. All you’ve done, is tell you’re body that you’re not starving it, that you’re fine, and that when you start feeding it in a deficit again tomorrow, it’s okay to continue dropping body fat.img_0492 It is true that you’ll most likely gain a couple of pounds of water weight, but you won’t gain actual body fat. In my experience, the water weight from the increase in sodium usually goes away after a couple of days. After a MSM, one of the big things I do to help things along, is to just continue drinking lots of water to help flush things out. Other than that, I don’t restrict my diet, I just go back to eating my regularly planned out meals.

I hope this helps you somewhat understand the reasoning and actual biological benefits to scheduling yourself some indulgent meals into your meal plan. It truly does help your body keep going, while in a deficit, for so much longer than if you just try to white knuckle it, dropping those leptin levels until you crack. Learning this information helped me be so much kinder to myself also, because I realized that if I was craving a MSM, it wasn’t because I was weak or because I didn’t have enough will power. My body was just doing what it is naturally designed to do in times of famine. My job is to reset my hormone and glycogen levels, and then get immediately back to work. As of this morning, a week after my big cheat meal with Paula Deen, I’m at 136.6 pounds! Long term weight loss, is about learning to work with your body’s natural processes, not against them.

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I’ve Been Personally Victimized By The BodPod

Last week, in my blog post, Confessions of a Crash Dieter, I briefly discussed a tragic story, of the time I subjected my body to the scrutiny of the BodPod. A BodPod, is a fancy little egg-shaped chamber, that uses air-displacement to accurately measure body fat percentage.

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The dreaded BodPod

The first time I entered the BodPod, I was confident. I was feeling brave. I was feeling like a weight loss master. I had been taking Phentermine for 6 months, eating 1,000 to 1,200 calories a day, and running three to four days a week. I thought I was doing all of the right things to lose weight. So I stepped into the BodPod, knowing that I wasn’t at my ultimate goal, but feeling pretty good about the progress I had made on the scale. Picture it, as I stepped out of the egg chamber, chest out, shoulders back. I sauntered over to the buff personal trainer and BodPod operator. Now imagine my embarrassment and horror, when he placed the results before me and read the verdict. 49% Body fat. I was a soft boiled egg. Half of my 150 pound, size 8 body, was made up of fat.

I knew I was still jiggly in places. I knew I still had work to do, to “tone”, but I was not expecting to be told that I was still considered to be in the “Risky” category for my body fat percentage. Even though I was at a normal weight for my height, because of the amount of excess body fat I had, I was still at a high risk for conditions related to obesity such as Type II Diabetes and heart disease.

Needless to say, I was ticked. How much more weight could they possibly expect me to lose? I held it together, the whole time thinking, “Maybe I did this at the wrong time of day? Maybe I ate a lot of sodium yesterday! Maybe I wore the wrong clothes?” I tried and tried to justify why the results had to be wrong. Totally dumbfounded, I tried to listen to him go over the results. He was talking, but all I heard was the Charlie Brown, wha wha. When I came to, he was totally calling me out. He said, “It looks like you’re eating way too little and doing too much cardio.” How could he know that from numbers on a paper?

It’s More Than The Scale

He knew exactly what I had been doing. Like so many others, I had based all of my weight loss

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150 pounds, 49% Body Fat

success on the number on the scale and the amount of pounds lost. I hadn’t thought one iota about body composition or fat loss. My only concern was seeing my weight drop.

The scale is a tricky thing, especially for women. While it is an important tool for collecting data points, it isn’t the end all be all when it comes to successful weight loss. So many things can cause our weight to fluctuate day-to-day. When I started losing weight, I weighed myself everyday. While this may seem a bit neurotic, it really helped me to learn my body. For me personally, I now know, that my weight will fluctuate if I have a busy day at work. It will fluctuate if I do a really heavy leg day and have delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). I know that I’ll gain a pound or 2 when I ovulate, it will go back down for a week, and then it will go back up 2-3 pounds before I start my period and then I will have a big weight loss after my period.  As women, so many things can have an effect on our weight. At the risk of sounding like the lady from Fried Green Tomatoes with the hand mirrors…it’s so important to learn your body. The scale is an important tool, but it’s also important to have other ways to measure progress.

The Toning Myth

When we start losing weight, we usually have a picture in mind of what our dream body would be. We usually don’t want a smaller body that’s still flabby. Most of the time we picture our ultimate goal as a “toned” body. Dropping more and more weight, isn’t what is going to make us look toned. We just need to lose enough fat to reveal the muscle underneath. However, if we’re trying to lose too much too quick, we will also be losing our muscle. That’s why sometimes it can seem like you’re chasing your tail when it comes to toning. When you’re eating too little and burning through your muscle, it’s going to be really hard to see progress.

There’s a saying that sometimes floats around that says, “muscle weighs less that fat.”img_1362 That’s not actually true. A pound is a pound no matter if it’s a pound of fat, muscle, or a bag of peanuts. What they’re actually meaning, is that a pound of muscle is much smaller and compact than a pound of fat. This is why a person who weighs 150 pounds, but is 49% body fat, can look much more overweight than a person that weighs 150, but has a body fat percentage of 25%. What their weight is made up of is completely different, and looks completely different…because a pound of muscle is smaller than a pound of fat.

The Metabolic Powerhouse

Muscle is so important when it comes to weight loss, not only because of the look it gives our body, but also because it actually helps us burn more body fat. In a previous blog post I explained the term Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR). This is the amount of calories our body burns, just to support us being alive. This number is important, because it play a part in telling us how many calories we should be eating in a day. This number is not fixed! It changes according to your body composition! Muscle requires more calories to support itself than fat does, and has been referred to as the “metabolic engine” of the body. So the lower your percentage of body fat, and the higher your muscle mass…the higher your BMR. Translation: the higher the amount of lean muscle you have, and the lower the body fat percentage you have, the more food you can eat while maintaining or losing weight!

Let’s Try This Again

This time when I lost weight, I started my weight loss journey, with body composition in mind. I knew I would lose weight on the scale as a by-product, but I wanted to retain as much muscle as possible during the process. I knew this time around, that the more muscle I had, the more calories my body would burn naturally. I wanted to help my body work for me.img_1286 I learned that although I can burn calories while doing cardio, resistance training is so important for weight loss because I can continue burning calories long after my workout, as my body repairs my muscle. I learned that not eating enough food, and doing excessive amounts of cardio doesn’t do much to change my actual shape or body composition, because while I am burning some body fat, I’m also burning through my muscle. Imagine you have a giant balloon filled half way with water, and the other half with baseballs. If you slowly begin removing the same ratio of water and baseballs, your balloon is going to feel the same, it will just get smaller. However, if you work to only remove the water, leaving as many baseballs as you can…eventually you’re going to have one deadly weapon of a baseball balloon on your hands! Does that make any sense? It did in my head, okay!

Body builders know this concept, and have it down to a science. It’s nearly impossible to gain muscle mass, while eating in a caloric deficit. When a body builder is trying to put on more muscle, or “bulking”, they are actually eating at a caloric number above their maintenance calories. When they want to drop body fat again, to show off their new muscle, they drop their calories back to a caloric deficit, or “cutting”. They lower their calories just low enough to lose body fat, without dropping it so low that they’re going to lose all of that muscle they worked so hard for during their bulk. When in a caloric deficit, your main goal isn’t to necessarily build muscle, but to maintain what muscle you already have, so that your body is burning the maximum amount of calories it can while at rest.

Putting My Money Where My Mouth Is

So this week,  I decided it was time to put my money where my mouth is, and once again face the dreaded BodPod. I have been working for so long to change my body composition, and wanted to make sure I actually was. I wanted to prove to myself, that losing weight this way had worked…that it wasn’t just a theory. So this past Thursday, May 10, 2018, I stood in nothing but a sports bra and compression shorts, in front of a complete stranger and braved the Pod.

I checked my body fat percentage on my scale at home before I went, just to compare the results.

Results from my home scale, the morning of my BodPod test

According to my scale at home, I was 32.4% body fat.

I will admit I was a little worried. The last time I subjected myself to the BodPod, I had been confident, and it was a disaster. What if all of this weight loss advice I had been touting was total crap and I still had no clue what I was doing?

First of all, my body fat scale at home was WAY off, but in the best way possible. I left that place with the biggest smile on my face. 22.8% body fat! I couldn’t believe it! I’m finally a hard-boiled egg! The girl went over the results with me, and told me I was in the “Lean” category. Mind you I was only 0.2% away from “moderately lean”, but she said lean and I’m totally running with it!

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BodPod results from May 10, 2018

Never in my life would I have ever referred to myself as lean, and honestly it’s still a bit surreal to me how far I’ve come. According to the print out, being in a lean category means: “Lower body fat levels than many people. This range is excellent for health and longevity.” How freaking cool is that?

I hope that by sharing my results, you can see that it’s possible to completely transform your body with food and exercise. For years I struggled with bouncing back and forth with my weight. I could lose 20- 60 pounds and still not be completely happy with my results. It took me a long time to figure out, that the body I desired, required not just weight loss, it required muscle. I had to shift my focus to fat loss and muscle retention, not just on pounds lost on the scale. Things like progress pictures, measurements, how your clothes fit, and body fat percentage, are so much more telling than just your weight on the scale. Just 18 months ago, I was obese…I would’ve been considered in the “risky” category. If my body fat percentage was 49% at 150 pounds, I shudder to think what it was at my highest weight. With the right food and exercise strategy, I’ve been able to completely change my body, and much to my relief, I now have the paper to prove it!

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All smiles after braving the BodPod