Let’s Talk Numbers

In the real world, when I’m not trying to figure out how to be a blogger, I work full-time in Labor and Delivery as a Surgical Technologist. Which basically means I assist doctors during C-Sections and deliveries. It also means that I’ve learned that I will touch anything as long as I have gloves on, there’s very little anyone could ever say to gross me out, and I can’t help but hand people scissors by the tips, even my eight year old. img_0013_facetune_29-03-2018-07-50-32 Over the past 10 years, I have been fortunate to be able to witness hundreds, if not thousands of new little lives enter this world. I’ve been truly fascinated by the miraculous things our bodies are capable of, and it is no different when it comes to nutrition and weight loss.

If you’ve known me for any length of time, you probably know that I could binge watch documentaries about nutrition for hours, and have on occasion! It fascinates me how our food can have such a profound affect on our lives and our bodies. When it came to losing weight this time around, I decided that I wasn’t going to mess with the “short cuts” anymore. They had always come back to bite me. This time, I was going to actually learn what I needed to learn, to make this stick, and to lose weight in a logical and methodical way, and to work with my body, not against it.

That’s where the numbers come in. If you’ve ever lost weight, you know all about calories in vs. calories out. Even though I do believe there’s a lot more involved mentally in weight loss, calories in vs. caloriesimg_0751 out is an important piece that I’d like to try to explain this week. I truly believe seeing the numbers helped me to feel like what I was doing would scientifically work, and I didn’t feel like I was just stabbing in the dark hoping that I would eventually get some results.

In my post about macros, I briefly described what a calorie is. It’s the total sum of the protein, carbs, and fats in a food, and it tells us how much energy that food will provide to our body. When you put your information into any calorie tracking app, such as My Fitness Pal, it’s going to tell you how many calories you should be consuming in a day, and how much weight you can expect to lose with that specific caloric deficit. But how do they come up with those numbers, and how can you use them to help motivate you in your weight loss efforts? Let’s go through some of the terms you might hear when trying to plan out your weight loss goals.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Your BMR is important, because it is the amount of calories your body needs at a bare minimum, just to function correctly. Your BMR takes into account your height, weight, and sex, and tells you how many calories you would burn if you did absolutely nothing, except lay in bed and watch Netflix all day. Your body needs this many calories to just support itself, and eating below this number can lead to things like loss of bone density, hair loss, and excessive loss of muscle tissue. Retaining as much muscle tissue as possible is so important for weight loss, because muscle tissue burns more calories than fat tissue. Fitness professionals advocate slower steady weight loss, because holding onto muscle tissue, is what turns your body into a fat burning machine, and gives clients the “toned” look, that most people are striving for. When you lose weight too quickly, by eating too few calories and killing yourself with cardio, you may be losing muscle tissue. So while you may be seeing the scale drop, your shape may not actually change much. This is what has recently been referred to as “skinny fat”. Which basically means, that while you may be dropping pounds, your body fat percentage will remain high. We definitely want to be eating more than our BMR, especially when we start incorporating more exercise into our day, to lose weight at a healthy rate, and retain as much muscle as possible.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

This one is a big one! To calculate this number, your BMR is multiplied by an activity factor. The activity factor changes, based on your activity level. The TDEE formula, uses all of this information, to tell you how many calories your body would need to maintain its current weight. This is why when you plug your information into My Fitness Pal, they ask you this specific information. They’re calculating your TDEE.  If you don’t have My Fitness Pal, there are many others online, I’ll link another one I’ve used here.

So you have your BMR, but we don’t want to eat that many calories because it’s too little. We calculated our TDEE, but we don’t want to maintain our weight, we want to burn off some body fat! So we need to be eating less than our TDEE to be in a caloric deficit, but eating enough for our body to function optimally. Typically, this will be a number 500-800 calories less than our TDEE.

Working The Numbers

In order to lose one pound of body fat, we need to be at a caloric deficit of 3500 calories. So if you’re eating 500 calories per day, less than your TDEE, you can expect to lose 1 pound of body fat per week.

I know, I know, this seems SO slow, and like it’s going to take FOREVER.img_0687 Just remember we’re strictly talking about pounds of actual body fat lost. When you first start losing weight, you will most likely lose some pounds in water weight too in the beginning, so if you’re still stressing about seeing progress on the scale, you will see bigger drops than one pound a week in the beginning (depending on your cycle), but as far as actual body fat lost, and inches lost, 1-2 pounds a week is just fine!

When I was in the beginning and middle of losing weight, seeing these numbers, and understanding what they meant, really helped me to realize that no matter what the scale said, scientifically, if I ate according to the numbers, there was no way I wouldn’t make progress. I didn’t have to just guess! If I did my part, my body would do it’s part. It’s science! This helped me a lot on the weeks when my weight would fluctuate or stay exactly the same. I weighed myself everyday, so that I could learn my body’s patterns. Ladies, our bodies are miraculous, baby producing, milk making machines…but it also means they do some screwy things around our cycle. Men, feel free to skip over this part if you wish!

I learned that the week that I ovulate, and the week before my period, my weight doesn’t budge. Or it goes up. EVERY. SINGLE. MONTH. Like clockwork. However, because I knew this, and because I knew that I had done the numbers on my meal plan, it helped me to keep going, and to not feel like I had done all of this work for nothing. I realized that it was just water weight, and that if I stuck with my meal plan, no matter what the scale said that week, there was no mathematical way that my body wouldn’t drop the fat.

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1 pound of body fat

I reminded myself constantly to trust the process, to be patient, and to stay the course. Sure enough, I would always have a big drop in weight the week after my period. Like clockwork. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

Maybe you’re like me, and you want a clear, strategic way to lose weight, so that you don’t feel like you’re wasting any time. I wanted to know even though I wasn’t trying to use short cuts, or magic pills, I was still losing weight efficiently. I did the numbers, and I had a methodical plan to reach my body composition goals. I hope learning exactly what the numbers mean, can help you too, by realizing that you don’t have to just blindly guess at this and hope it works. You can have a plan, and know that if you just execute the plan, your body will do what it’s supposed to do!

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What Do You Mean, “Tracking Macros”?

Still to this day, when I’m asked, “How did you lose the weight?” There’s always this awkward pause, before I attempt to explain. I have a really hard time either simplifying it too much, or making it sound too complicated, because I think either extreme, too easy or too hard, can make it seem impossible. img_8079So there’s the anticipation building pause, and then I either say, “diet and exercise,” or, “tracking my macros.” The former to me sounds like condescending bull crap, and the latter, I feel, sounds like I’m speaking a foreign language. Maybe if I say it louder they’ll understand? I TRACKED MY MACROS!

In a lot of my previous posts, I’ve talked about how important mindset can be while you’re trying to lose weight. I can’t stress enough how much this can make or break your attempts at weight loss, but I also want to delve a little deeper and attempt to explain the theory behind tracking macros and flexible dieting without the awkward inhale, pause, “Um”.  I guess I should make a disclaimer here, I am not a nutritionist, just a regular gal who consumes a lot of nutrition information because it really interests me. So I’ll try the best I can to explain and simplify what I’ve learned and share it with you. However, I am not a doctor, dietician, or nutritionist. Okay, I said it!

What are “Macros”?

Let’s go back to the beginning. Calories, pesky calories. Calories in versus calories out, the basis for any weight loss attempt and every diet under the sun. But what the heck is a calorie actually? A calorie is basically how much energy is in a given food. It’s how much energy is required to raise 1g of water through 1 degree celsius. But I like to just think of it as, how much energy that food is providing to your body. How that actual number is determined, is by adding up the “macros” of that particular food. Macro is just a trendy gym rat way of saying macronutrients. As I’m typing this post, macronutrients is seriously underlined in that squiggly red spellcheck line, which lets me know that even my computer thinks I have no idea what I’m talking about. Anyhoo, there are three main macronutrients that are used to calculate how many calories are in a food: protein, carbohydrates, and fats. img_7804Each one of these “macros” has a certain number of calories per gram, and when you add them all together, you know how many calories are in the food, thus letting you know how much energy your body is getting from that food, and how much you should hate yourself after eating it.

When you’re losing weight, especially if you have a large amount of weight to lose, you can lose weight simply by being in a calorie deficit, or eating fewer calories than you burn. So why all the hoopla about macros? The hoopla, is because while it is true you can lose weight by just being in a deficit, learning how to track your macros is a great way of training yourself to eat a more balanced diet, and to really change your body composition. So while in theory, you could eat only a few donuts for any entire week and lose weight, tracking your macros helps you create a more balanced diet, so that all of your calories are not consisting of only a couple of the macronutrients and you can maximize the volume or amount of food you’re eating. Yay! More Food! When I don’t actively use macros to balance my diet, the majority of my calories tend to come from carbohydrates and fat, with very little protein. I think this is pretty typical these days for the Standard American Diet, but it’s not the best for reshaping your body.

Protein

Protein now makes up the largest portion of my diet. I know protein can be somewhat of a controversial thing as far as the amount we actually need or can digest, but I think everybody agrees we do need it. Protein is very important when you’re losing weight, because it helps your body retain the muscle that you have. It’s very hard to actually build muscle while you’re eating in a calorie deficit, which is why when body builders are trying to gain muscle they actually go into a “bulking” phase where they’re eating at a calorie range above their maintenance calories. But when losing weight, you at least want to try to retain the muscle you have, by eating an adequate amount of protein, because muscle is what turns you into a fat burning machine! img_8074When you’re in a calorie deficit, eating too little protein can cause your body to eventually start burning muscle for fuel along with carbs and fat. Which is why someone can be within a normal body weight range, but still have a high percentage of body fat. Focusing on body composition and lowering your body fat percentage, is what gives you the “toned” look that so many people are going for. All of the crunches and lunges in the world aren’t going to make you look “toned” if there’s that pesky layer of body fat still covering the muscle. So if protein is what supports and repairs my muscles, and my muscles are what actually give me the shape that I want…give me all the protein! Great sources of protein are things like chicken, fish, lean beef, turkey, pork tenderloin, eggs, protein shakes, protein bars, etc.

Carbohydrates

If the amount of protein we consume is controversial in the world of macros, carbs take it to a whole other level. Carbs are our bodies primary source of energy. When our body stores carbs in our liver, they’re referred to as glycogen. So if you’re eating carbs, when you start exercising, your body is going to burn through the stored up glycogen first, before it moves on to body fat and muscle.img_8075 The theory behind low carb diets, is that since your body doesn’t have as much stored glycogen to burn through first  (example: ketosis, or the “keto” diet), you can start burning body fat quicker. Sometimes this can also mean you feel like crap and have no energy, especially during your workouts. I’m not against low carb diets, I just haven’t found that I’ve needed to lower my carbs especially low up to this point, so I plan to keep eating them until I hit a plateau and then maybe consider gradually lowering them to see if I can get things moving again. I talked about my theory behind keeping tools like this for later in a previous blog post. So when I’m looking to add carbs to my meals, I go for things like rice, potatoes, some starchy vegetables like corn, granola or protein bars, crackers, tortillas, etc.

Fats

Fats. What an ugly word. Fats. img_8076Back in the day fats got a bad rap. Fat free, reduced fat, low-fat. Nobody likes fat, but we do still need some. Fats are important, especially for women, because they can really impact our hormones, skin, hair, etc. I’m not going to spend a lot of time on fats, but when I’m looking to add more fats to my meal plan, I usually go for things like avocado, olive oil, or cheese. Glorious Cheese.

Putting it All Together

I hope this gives you a broad overview of macronutrients and what each one of them does for your body and the theory behind tracking them. Many diet plans simply eliminate one macronutrient (usually carbs or fat), and slap a shiny new name on the book. Atkins, South Beach, Glycemic Index, Keto. They just remove a macronutrient and call it new earth-shattering science. The balance of all of the macronutrients is one of the many things I love about flexible dieting. No food group is off-limits, you just have to find a way of eating the correct portions so that you’re eating the optimal balance of all of them.

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October 2016 to March 2018

Tracking macros and flexible dieting really aren’t that complicated once you get the hang of it and start making a list of meals you like. However, I do think it’s interesting to know the theory behind flexible dieting and what macros actually are. Fingers crossed that this somewhat makes sense and I didn’t totally botch it! If you have any other questions, feel free to ask! I’ll answer them to the best of my non-nutritionist, but avid googler abilities! Now if only I can find a way to say all of this in a short three to five word response that is neither idiotically simple or pretentiously complex!

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Mommy Fell Into the Wormhole

4697B7C6-BDB3-4CD7-B3F1-58B3DC747827        Hello! Welcome!! Phew, my very first blog. This is a big deal. Anyone who knows me personally knows me, knows that I’m not really one for sharing feelings. Don’t get me wrong, I will talk your ear off if you catch me in the right mood, on the right subject. As far as sharing my deep thoughts and feelings though, I usually keep it to myself.

Over the past year and a half or so, I have managed to completely change my lifestyle. I was never really “in shape”, or what I would consider “naturally thin”. However, after the birth of my second son in June 2016, I knew I was going to have to lose weight, and I was going to have to do it the right way this time.

I, like most people, have lost and gained weight so many times, trying so many quick fixes. From Weight Watchers to injecting myself everyday with HCG, I have tried so many things. This time, I didn’t want to have to rely on any plan, any pill, or any device. I wanted to figure this out, without hanging my success on the efficacy of a product or medication. I needed to rely on me, and my knowledge to figure this out.

So I dove deep! Holy crap. I dove straight into the wormhole of YouTube. I binge watched YouTube like most people binge watch HGTV. I wanted to learn every possible thing I could learn about nutrition and flexible dieting. By no means am I an expert, but by investing in my knowledge, I have managed to lose 107 pounds, naturally, through flexible dieting. I truly feel like I’ve finally found the lifestyle change that all those thin, beautiful fitness people are always ranting and raving about. And I love it. Never did I think I’d see the day where I craved the gym. If I can get from where I was, to where I am now. I really feel like anybody can.

While I was in the process of losing weight, I really didn’t talk about it a lot. I was focused, I had a goal, and I knew that goal was going to take a long time. It was a process. Of course people noticed I was losing weight eventually. But it really wasn’t until they saw the longevity and the perceived “discipline” that I had, and that I was still consistently losing weight 6 months, 8 months, a year later, that the questions really started picking up.

People wanted to know how I was doing it, what plan, what pill, what shake. You would not believe the looks I got when I said the word “macros” 😂. Although I feel like flexible dieting is pretty commonly talked about online these days, there are still a lot of people that have no clue what you’re talking about. But when you try to explain that it’s basically eating a balanced diet, that somehow seems even more strange and like a bunch of crap.
I truly want to be able to explain my process, my mindset, and the things that got me from point A to point B. But holy crap it’s hard to do in one brief little conversation or text or (as I’m learning), instagram post. Dang you character limit!!

I recently started an Instagram @mommytracksmacros to try and shed some light on this for people I know that were interested and had questions. Something I could make public, without it being mixed in with pictures of my kids eating spaghetti or playing baseball.
Good lord though. As soon as I actually started wrangling my thoughts and actually trying explain and talk about it, I quickly realized how complicated and complex this issue is. This is not something where I can just say eat this, don’t eat that. Do this in the gym, this many times a week. There is so much more to it than that. Once I started making posts and trying to explain, after keeping it to myself for a year and a half, I could not for the life of me shut up about it. Instagram character limits are my worst nightmare. I just have so many thoughts! 🤣

So that is the purpose of this blog, and maybe one day a podcast, who the heck knows. Where I can actually sit down, get my thoughts out, and talk to you as a friend about how to actually create lifestyle change for the every man, or probably in this case the every woman💪🏼 haha. I hope that I can help you get your head around this, and show you that it is possible, and that you don’t have spend a fortune on gimmicky fads and extreme measures to create the ever illusive “lifestyle change”. Take a deep breathe, eventually you might even love it. Maybe you won’t just meal prep and work out because you think you have to, but because you love the way it makes you feel to take care of yourself and feel strong. Things could get weird, but here we go! 💪🏼🙌🏻