This is the second blog post about my current weight loss program. If you missed the first one, check it out here.
In the first blog entry, I talked about my goals. This entry is about the next step: planning and preparation. Sounds boring, I know. But it matters. Just like the goals do. I’m actually writing this blog 2 weeks into my journey, and I can say with 100% certainty that the time and thought I put into setting goals and planning my approach is a big part of the relatively painless success I’ve had. More on that in my next entry. For now, let’s talk about the planning process. In the first blog, I also mentioned that I’m using myself as a guinea pig for our new Custom Strength 8 week weight loss program.
First things first: What is your baseline?
“Weight loss is 80% diet and 20% exercise” ~ most fitness folks say that.
I actually think this is BS (apparently that’s as close as I come to swearing in a blog. One day!). Yes, food is important in weight loss; more important than exercise for most people. But behaviour trumps all. Some people legitimately need to learn more about what and how much food they should or should not eat in order to lose weight. But I think most people actually know what they need to do. The problem is that they don’t do it.
“Weight loss is 80% behaviour and the other 20% is food, sleep and exercise.” ~ I say that.
What this means is that I need to understand my behavioural habits. That is, what have I been doing over the past year to nurture the waist size growth that I noticed? Enter the food journal. Yes, I said the F word. I’m not interested in writing out everything I eat every day – that just sounds cruel. But I will do it for 3 days: 2 weekdays and 1 weekend day. Since I’m a geek, I have a fancy Excel-based tool for my food diary that looks up foods in my custom database or pulls them from the USDA nutrient database. If you don’t have such a spreadsheet, there are some great (and sometimes free) online tools you can use. I can’t stress how important it is to do this. In fact we won’t allow anyone into our 8 week weight loss program if they don’t do their 3 day food journal. That’s how important I think it is. Why?
- Sometimes we don’t realize just how many calories are in some of the foods that we consider healthy
- We look at the nutrition label and say “I’m so healthy! Organic fibre cereal as a snack. Yes! Only 250 calories per serving“. Then we proceed to pour 3 servings into our bowl.
- Are we really eating a healthy macronutrient balance? About a decade ago, I did a food diary of my “healthy diet”. The macronutrient breakdown was 75% carbohydrate, 7% protein, and 18% fat. Now I’m not going to go all low-carb here, but 75%? Not ideal.
- Are there links between what we eat and how we feel? This is an extra part of the process that I like to add to the food diary: anytime you don’t feel awesome, write it down, along with the time of day. If you often feel tired, or stuffed up, or have intestinal distress, it may actually be a reaction to the food you’re eating. Our bodies are amazing at telling us what we should and should not eat. The problem is that most of us don’t listen. Start listening. Write it down so you can see if there are patterns.
Identify your nutritional nightmares
Here’s an interesting thing that will happen when you do your food diary: You’ll stop yourself from some of your nutritional nightmares. I sure did. It’s normal; and in fact it’s one of the reasons most weight loss programs require you to do a food journal. During my 3 days of food journal, I didn’t go into the kitchen 17 times to grab a few almonds or chocolate chips or crackers. Nor did I have that extra piece of toast after breakfast. Or pop over to the store for a “single serving” bag of chips. Guess what I learned from the 3 day food diary exercise? Those are my bad habits.
I’ve done food diaries a few times, so I didn’t actually learn of any new “wow that’s killing my diet” foods. I thought I might, so I’m happy I did because you never know. If you haven’t done one, here’re are a couple of the things that jumped out at me in the past:
- I used to have a Starbucks grande latte and a cookie every afternoon as a snack. Guess what that adds up to? 750 calories! Yowza! I switched to a tall Americano (with some cream) and a frozen yoghurt which comes in at about 250. That was the most painless change I have ever made, and contributed to me losing 25 pounds many years ago.
- For the most part, donuts are a better choice than muffins, leading to one of my favourite expressions: “muffins are just an excuses to eat cake for breakfast.” Don’t be fooled by the bran. At 500 calories, it is not a good choice.
This is the good stuff, and is hopefully influenced by the time spent on goals, the food journal, and identifying habits. I went with 5 changes, which I think is optimal: much more than that, and there’s a risk of failure; much less than that and I’m not sure the results will be there, which can then lead to being discouraged and ultimately, failure.
Here are my five:
- Only five indulgence per week. This is based on eating according to my plan 85% of the time. My plan includes 3 meals and 2 snacks each day and a list of what constitutes an indulgence. It’s basically any of the things I mentioned earlier in this post and in the first entry. That evening glass of wine or cookie, or a second helping without waiting to see if I’m actually still hungry. No more than 5 total for the week.
- Sleeping at least six hours each night. This has been a big topic in health research recently. Lots of studies are coming in showing a huge relationship between sleep and weight management. That one will be getting it’s own blog soon, but suffice it to say, it’s big. Maybe bigger than exercise. Bigger than food? Not sure. But big enough that it should be a part of every weight loss plan. And how much easier does it get? Lay your head on your pillow, pull up the blankets, and close your eyes. That’s it. And it feels amazing! Yet strangely, this is a tough one for me. In fact you’ll notice my goal is 6 hours. Ideally that goal should be more like 7 or 8. But just like you, I’m human, and I need to set goals that I am likely to achieve. If not, I’ll probably get derailed from the program entirely. 6 hours is achievable most of the time for me. At this point, I don’t think 8 is. I will put 7 hours in the back of my mind, but the target I’m measuring myself against is 6.
- Three training sessions each week. I actually started my ski training program 3 weeks before starting this, and it involves 3 workouts per week. While it’s not fat loss specific (there is such a thing, and no, it doesn’t involve reading a magazine while sitting on a recumbent bike), I’m going to stick with that: my ski trip to Kicking Horse is REALLY important to me, so I want to be prepared for it. That’s more important to me than dropping a few inches. See what I did there? Ownership of decisions! Our success with body transformations is a factor of the decisions we make. If you’re going to make a decision that may slow your progress, that might be okay. As long as you understand and are comfortable with the consequences.
- Walking to work 3 times each week. I’d like this to be daily but at this point, I’m unlikely to hit that target, and I want my actions to be achievable.
- BCAAs (Branched Chain Amino Acids) during my work out. I’m not actually a big fan of supplements and generally prefer food to some weird powder that comes in a big jar. But because I’m not a meat lover, I tend toward not getting enough protein. Since I work out quite hard, this means my muscles really need that protein. As a fat loss tool, I think BCAAs are better than protein shakes as they provide the amino acids I need for recovery without the calories from the protein shake. Now keep in mind I love food, meaning quantity control is one of my biggest challenges. BCAAs instead of a protein shake means I can enjoy more of the food I love for the same results. Maybe you love protein smoothies more than dinner. Great! Then protein shakes are probably a good option for you.
That’s it. That’s what I’m doing to lose some fat and slim down. My next blog about what I’m doing to track compliance and measure results is up. Hint: it doesn’t involve a scale.
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