Saturday, August 30, 2008

As you Reach your Goal

As a calorie counter approaches their weight loss goal the process of loosing weight will slow down. This is a very trying experience that will truly test your dedication to loosing weight. Thinking back to how this works, if you consume less than what your body needs you will loose weight.

Simply put, the slimmer you are the fewer calories your body needs. Thus the amount of calories that you intake per day will slowly approach the amount of calories that your body consumes per day. This makes sense in that if our weight was where it is supposed to be we would be consuming approximately what we use each day. It can take a much longer time to loose the last ten pounds because of this.

I am happy to be at the point where I am working on the last ten pounds that I want to loose to get to my target weight of 155 lbs. But it is requiring some serious dedication to get there. I can go weeks at a time without loosing much weight at all. This is a common experience though.

When I started exercising it resulted in the building of muscle tissue which, as you know, weighs more than the fat I am burning. I try to keep this in mind as I step onto the scale in the morning. I want to see that scale going down each day, though I know that it won't. At this point a look at the bigger picture is needed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

This Past Month

I recently spoke about plateaus in weight loss. Right now I seem to be traversing quite a long plateau. For the past month I have not lost any weight at all. From day to day I will fluctuate up or down a pound or two but this is mostly water weight.

One possible source for this stagnation is exercise. Until recently I did not exercise much at all. Honestly, only about once a week or two did I even go out for a walk. I find the humidity and heat here in Houston to be absurd. But my brother-in-law has an exercise machine in the garage I decided to try.

The machine is a running machine where your feet never leave the pads so that there is no impact on your legs. I have been using this thing about three times a week for twenty minutes or so each time. It took some getting used to and I did go through some serious pains getting used to exercising (muscle soreness).

It was my original impression that if I increase the amount of calories I burned in a day and I ate roughly the same amount that the weight would just fall off. But this doesn't seem to be the case. Muscle weighs more than fat and I can imagine that I am building up my leg muscles, I can certainly feel it.

I appear to be a little slimmer compared to when I started, which is the goal. Somehow it just doesn't feel as satisfying as seeing the weight drop on the scale. This is the longest plateau I have dealt with, but I think the end is in sight. By consuming less than what I need to maintain this weight I will eventually lose again. More than likely my body needs to reach a new state of equilibrium now that I have changed my calorie expenditure.

Getting Started

Any time we wish to change our habits or behavior there is always a bit of rough spot when starting out. It always seems like there are so many things to do at once that we aren't sure where to start. Counting calories is the same way.

I urge you to start slowly. Begin by purchasing or finding a journal to track you calories in. Also, pick up a scale if you don't have one. Then just start recording the calories you consume.

As you go along swap out foods that aren't too healthy for healthier options. One or two items at a time is a good pace to make over your diet. If you change too much too quickly it will be much harder to maintain.

Your taste buds also need some time to adjust to different foods. As time goes by you may notice that the healthy foods that didn't taste so good at first are now tasting much better. So work in fruits and vegetables to replace snacks from the vending machine.

One week swap white bread for whole wheat bread. After a while you won't notice the difference between your healthier choice and the less healthy food of the past. It is these small changes that will make great big differences in the long run. A month or two into it you will be able to reach your calorie goals while eating healthier foods.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Doughnut Days at Work

On Fridays where I work someone will inevitably bring in doughnuts, kolaches, or tacos to share. This is always a challenge for me to resist. I know that they will have way more calories than I need for breakfast, but it smells awesome!

I have learned to resist these tempting treats though. At first it was pretty difficult and I gave in a few times. However, when I added up my calories for breakfast including the treat I would be shocked. Not only did I consume enough calories for breakfast but also for about half my lunch!

In order to salvage my calorie counting efforts for the rest of the day I would try to adjust what I ate. But every time I indulged I found that at the end of the day I was still hungry or had gone over my calorie goal. There are just too many calories packed into such a small piece of food.

It took a few times for this to sink in. So today while there were some Krispy Kreme donuts to enjoy, I opted not to. Some may say that you only live once and should enjoy those treats, but that is the same mentality that made me overweight to begin with.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy any sort of sweets or desserts. On the contrary I quite often will have dessert after dinner. However, I do make sure that it won't make me go over the calorie limit that I set for myself. Luckily, the doughnuts go pretty fast so the temptation is not there for long.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

How Counting Calories Works

To be successful counting calories you need only the following things:

1. A notebook to write down your calorie consumption

2. A scale to weigh yourself with

3. A calculator to add up your calorie intake for each day

For me it is easiest to weigh my self as soon as I get up. In my calorie journal I will record the date and my weight at the start of the entry. Then I write down what foods I consume and the calories contained in that serving size.

As I go through the day I will total up the calories I have consumed so far in order to see if I am on track to meet my goal for the day. At the end of the day I draw a line to signify that I have written everything down, then I write the total number of calories I consumed.

If I happen to exercise I will record the type of exercise, how long I exercised for, and how many calories I burned in the process. It is really that easy. The hard part is recording everything on a consistent basis.

For about a year and a half now this is what I have done to lose weight. Along the way I have adjusted my eating habits but the core of what I do is just counting calories.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Making Calorie Counting Simpler

It can be tiresome and time consuming to log each and every food item that you eat. Here is a quick thing that I found can help make this a quicker process.

Group food items together that you normally eat at the same time. For instance, everyday for lunch I eat a similar sandwich. It contains bread, cheese, and sliced meat. To speed up my logging process I add up the number of calories for the sandwich and then record it under the item "sandwich".

In this way I don't have three items to record, just one. You can expand this into meals you normally consume, cereal and milk is another good example. Remember to recalculate the total if you change any of the ingredients by a significant amount of calories.

In order for this to work for most people, including myself, calorie counting needs to be as quick and painless as possible from day to day. The more complicated things get the less likely we are to follow it for long periods of time.

For me, I tend to have a pretty regimented diet from one day to the next, especially during the week. I have structured my breakfast and lunch to include around 1000 calories. By doing this I know approximately what I have consumed by the time I get home for dinner. So if I don't have time to add things up as I go through the day I will at least have a ballpark figure which will help me determine what portions I should eat for dinner.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Perilous Plateaus in Weight Loss

During the weight loss process whether you count calories go by another diet there will be slow times where you don't seem to lose much weight. This can be very frustrating to go through. I have had two week stretches where my weight doesn't seem to change at all.

The important thing to remember here, that I have found, is that you are modifying your behavior with food. This takes a long term perspective. Every time my weight loss slowed down or plateaued I kept counting those calories and it paid off. After the plateau I would tend to lose a few pounds pretty quickly.

Make counting calories a habit and view it as a changing of perspective rather than a short term diet. After all, what are you supposed to do once you reach your goal weight? Keep Counting!

The reason we ended up weighing more than we should is because we consumed too many calories for too long. Once we lose the weight we have to keep it off by consuming approximately the same amount of calories that we burn in a day. So take a long term perspective and realize that this is a life changing process, not a temporary inconvenience.