I’ve been working on losing some weight this year. Actually, now that I think about it, I’ve been working on losing weight for a long time now.
It started over at SparkPeople.com which is an awesome (and FREE!) weight-loss website. Lots of great information, community and trackers. I set up my profile, followed their program of exercise and counting calories, and over 4 months I lost 11 pounds. I was very close to my goal weight and quite happy with myself. But it was now winter, and February was looming. I tend to get SAD in winter, so I told myself I would take February off. My reasoning was that I would probably skip a lot of workouts and do a lot of emotional eating, and it would be best if instead of beating myself up for each of these, I just give myself a month, and then I could get back at it.
Except I didn’t, of course. When I weighed myself 3 months later, I’d gained back 9 pounds. For the next two months, I tracked my weight, but then I stopped. Almost a year later, right back at the weight I started, I began tracking again. This time, I think I was trying a different eating regimen, perhaps Zone, and I had started doing CrossFit, I believe. I lost about 7-8 pounds over 4 months this time.
Fast forward 7 months, and I was once again right back to where I started. The thing is, throughout all these fluctuations, (with the exception of that first “break”) I was always exercising and, I thought, eating well. But I wasn’t tracking what I was eating in any way, convinced that if I just ate the right foods, I wouldn’t have to keep track, that it would all just magically work out.
Over the next year or so, I tracked my weight somewhat sporadically. It creeped up ever so slightly, maybe 2-3 pounds from where I first started. It was now 2010. A lot happened in that year. I was CrossFitting maybe 5 times a week and training for a marathon. I figured I didn’t have to keep track of anything; with all that exercise, I could eat what I wanted and still lose weight, right? Well, I don’t know because I’d stopped tracking.
2011 came around, and I was till CrossFitting, but not nearly as much. Not running anymore either. (I ran my marathon, and decided to take a one month break – sound familiar? – and never started up again) I started using a spreadsheet to track my weight so I could also track my body measurements and calculate things like “hip-waist ratio”s. For 5 months I tracked my measurements (but not my food) and things stayed pretty much at status quo. At this point, I had moved from Zone to doing “Slow Carb” eating.
Tracking went sporadically, with no huge difference in numbers, and at one point in early 2012 I switched over to Paleo eating. Again, I wasn’t actually tracking my food, but I was doing my best to eat healthy, “real” foods. (Which at the time was pretty easy since work had salads for lunch, and I lived at home and mom has always cooked “real” food for dinner; I just had to forego the rice that was served) This continued until March of 2013, when I was about 2 pounds above where I’d started.
Then, all tracking stopped for over a year. When I finally stepped on a scale again, it wasn’t pretty. From February of 2013 to May of 2014 I had gained 25 pounds.
And while I was not happy, I somehow thought this was okay. I let myself be deluded. I thought since I lift weights, I had muscle, and muscle weighs more than fat, so OF COURSE I was heavier than I would like to be. It was all fine. But it wasn’t. “They” say that you can healthily lose 1-2 pounds per week when trying to lose weight. But “They” also say that you can gain 0.5-1 pounds per month of muscle when trying to make “gainz”. I am strong. But I am nowhere near THAT strong that I put on 25 pounds of muscle. I would compare myself to other CrossFitters who were super super strong and completely ripped and had super low body fat and be all “they weigh almost as much as me! And I’m taller! My weight is fine!” It wasn’t. It was all fat, and it had to go.
So at the beginning of this year, I decided to really work on getting my weight back down to a healthy number. My BMI* before had put me in the “overweight” category, and I was NOT happy about that. So, what should I do? I’d been basically eating “Paleo-ish” with a cheat day for a long while, and I’d gained weight, so that wasn’t working. I went back to the data. At the lowest weight I had ever been what eating regimen was I on? I had just been counting calories. Nothing fancy. So, I started doing that again (while keeping my cheat day!).
I’ve lost almost 9 pounds since the beginning of the year! My BMI is back down in the normal range! I have tweaked my eating a bit; I still count calories, but I also try to keep track of my macros and make sure that they are also in range. I’d still like to lose quite a bit, and it’s been *very* slow going, but now I know what I need to do. Don’t stop tracking, ever. Yes, counting my calories is tedious as hell. Yes, eating the same foods over and over and over again gets boring (this is where the cheat day really helps!). But to me, it’s worth it. The tedium of keeping track of every little thing FAR outweighs the shame and heartbreak of looking in the mirror and lot liking what I see.
If I hadn’t kept track of my numbers, I wouldn’t know all this. I wouldn’t know what really works for me. Because while this is what worked for me, it might not work for you! Data is important!
note rant on BMI: Remember when I said for awhile I deluded myself thinking that all my extra weight was muscle? Don’t do that! If your BMI puts you in a range that you are not happy with, be perfectly honest with yourself about it. Far too many people don’t like being called “overweight” or even “obese” and they trot out the studies about the 6% of the population that BMI doesn’t work for. Guess what? If you calculated your BMI, you’re probably not in that 6%. The people who actually do have so much muscle that it throws off their BMI couldn’t give two shits about what their BMI is. If your BMI makes you uncomfortable, and you feel that you’d be “anorexic” at a healthy weight, I challenge you to try to get down to that weight, and see if you truly become “too skinny”. If, in the process, you feel you start to get too thin for your tastes, then you can always stop! But I’ve lost 9 pounds, put myself back in the healthy range, and I can assure you, no one is ever tell me to “eat a sandwich”, and I still have trouble finding riding breeches big enough for me!