Part 3 covered how many calories and meals I manage to eat every day. Lots of food and so little time. Which is why I have detailed the meals I have, when and what I eat, and the time I eat it.
Sharing too much? Definitely, but I hope it helps inspire someone out there to get healthy so they can keep dreaming.
Keeping it Simple
Right now you may be on the floor laughing at that statement to “keep it simple”. I’m tracking everything, planning out food a week ahead and eating 5 times a day. How is that simple?
I know from my own hunger response, that if I deny myself, and get too hungry, I will double my calories consumption for that meal. With this calorie restriction, my hunger response usually kicks in after about 3 1/2 hours.
Because I’m tracking everything, and have been doing this everyday for 9 months now, I chose to narrow my foods down in the last few months to some key meal choices everyday for my own sanity.
Tip: if you spend too much time tracking all this you will either stop before you have a handle on your calories, or become a bit obsessed over all the variations you can work into your day. Trust me – it’s very easy to obsess about the calories when you have pretty graphs to look at.
One major shift this process has offered up is an appreciation for REAL food. I love labels and being able to glance at a food product and know what the I’m about to ingest, but for ease of eating what helps me stay on track, real food gives me what I’m craving – high volume, low calorie and healthy. Again, this plan may not work for you, but it is are making an impact for me.
Here’s how a typical day with my 5 meals looks:
7:00 am – Breakfast: coffee, cereal and vitamins
I still love my Special K Berries! I have either have a serving (read the labels… it ain’t much!) with 3 ounces of non-fat milk OR 1/3 cup old fashion oats made in the microwave (this only takes 1 minute) and sweetened with 10 grams of sugar free maple syrup. I know… 10 grams is so ridiculous, but it’s still carbs.Over the past several months I’ve tried a ton of new cereals out there to look for high protein, which does exist, and low sugar. My core selections that are always in my pantry:
- Special K Berries
- Special K Protein – love this for when I know I’ll be low on protein for the day
- Fiber One – hey, we all need extra fiber occasionally, and yes, I like the crunch!
- Special K Original – I swear they aren’t paying me (yet!) but apparently I really like flake based cereals, and this is a go to option for me.
Vitamins are new to me. I’ve never been a big fan of swallowing any pills on a daily basis, but I do have a history with supplements from protein powder to energy enhancers – all with varied results.
What I am taking now works great for me and does help me maintain my energy throughout the day. I take it with breakfast to reduce any chance of stomach upset, but I don’t have that issue often. The GNC Women’s Ultra Mega Active Vitapak, Packscover everything from essential vitatmins to energy enhancers. If you are caffeine sensitive, hold out one of the energy enhancers for later in the day. I take this at 3:00 pm to keep me going.
10:30 am – Morning snack: 5 ounces of 2% fat Cottage Cheese with 1 ounce of fruit
I am super picky about cottage cheese. It is not my favorite food, but about 3 months into this journey, I rediscovered it while trying to figure out how to up my protein intake. I’ve tried 6 brands, different curd sizes – which by itself sounds disgusting – and all the levels of fat percentage. If you hate cottage cheese, or dairy does not like you, I wish you the best in your hunt for quick, simple protein based snacks that aren’t filled with junk. Cottage cheese is a lifesaver for me.
Note: You may notice a gap here where most people eat lunch. I’ll go into the details in Part 5 that covers my fitness plan but the short answer? I’m walking at noon to get more steps in my day since I sit in front of a computer for a living.
1:30 pm – Lunch: 8 ounces of vegetables, 3 ounces of meat
That looks super boring to me just written there, and I’m the one eating it daily. I mix this up with lots of different vegetables, meats and how I prepare it. Vegetables are my new friend and I go through 3+ pounds of steamed spinach, broccoli and green beans a week. My new addition in my search for lower sodium seasoning options is Mrs. Dash Salt Free Table Blend that I use on all my vegetables.
4:30 pm – Afternoon snack: Greek Yogurt with sugar-free preserves
I had heard about Greek Yogurt but had no idea why I should be eating it. PROTEIN. Yes I know, more dairy, but my very lactose intolerant husband and I did some research and even he has become addicted to two brands: Chobani and Fage. This stuff is not cheap, but the gain of having a wonderful quality protein source that is so flexible has made it a necessity.
The plain non-fat version is a replacement for sour cream, cream cheese in recipes, oil or butter in baking with some testing, and I’ve even made chocolate frosting with it. I think my friends may be sick of me talking about this now.
Oh, and the sugar-free preserves? I buy so much of the plain for so many uses, I save money by repacking it with a little fruit preserves for flavor and less carb than the single-serving yogurt packages.
8 pm – Dinner: 8 ounces of vegetables, 3-4 ounces of meat, 2-3 ounces of complex carb
I eat what my family eats, with modifications. We were a never fast-food, pizza ordering crowd anyway, but my eating has impacting their meals. My son never ate as many vegetables in his life, and even my test recipes that take our favorites and lower the fat, or carb, etc. have been well received.
I mentioned these resources in Part 3 but they may need repeating here:
- Not sure what a complex carb is? Check out this handy list online at Body for Life
- Want to check if your recipe adds up? I love this easy tool to help me figure out if I can eat what I just spent the last hour making. Type or cut and paste your recipe into the Calorie Count :: New Recipe section and get your answer.
9:30 am – Evening snack: 5 ounces 2% fat Cottage Cheese OR 5 ounces Greek Yogurt with fruit
This is my “maybe” meal – I plan for it, and if dinner calories end up high, or I have coffee with friends that day, this meal makes my plan flexible.
Dropping pounds… and my pants
My goal when I started was 1-2 pounds a week. Occasionally this turned out to be more, based on the time of month or if I had hit a plateau for a couple weeks. When I got serious and started tracking my food, it really started to come off.
My average weight loss the first 5 months was 8 pounds per month.
This may seem like it will take forever, but when you are seeing constant changes in your clothes, the scale, and especially the measuring tape, it is a great motivator. I’ll be sharing these numbers in detail next week!
The down side in a down economy? No one can afford to buy new clothes every month. Here’s a piece of information that I didn’t believe when I first ran across it.
10 pounds = 1 clothing size
I’ve been able to test this out and unfortunately it is true. I’ve consistently gone down one size in clothing for every 10 pounds I’ve lost. This only really became a problem when my pants kept falling down. Not just slipping down, falling down to my knees. By this stage I was able to use some belts that hadn’t been touched in years to hike up my clothes and make them last a little longer.
My one splurge along the way was jeans. I was working from home at the time, and jeans were really all I needed to appear appropriately dressed in public. It’s amazing how big a shirt can get before it’s just embarrassing.
The downfall to all this success was that I discovered that after so long controlling what I was eating, mainly since I worked from home, I got nervous when I ate out. I have never had this happen to me before, on any fitness or diet plan.
Was I so focused and obsessed with the calories that I couldn’t enjoy food anymore? I live in an incredible area to enjoy some amazing food, and have always loved to try new things. There was something stopping me from enjoying.
The first few times I dealt with it by planning ahead and researching. Did they have a menu online I could check? Was there anything on the menu I could request modification?
If something is working, and you are getting results, it’s really hard not to get anxious about waking up one day and the “magic” being gone. What if those extra 300 calories kicks me off into an eating frenzy? What if I can’t get back on track and start gaining weight? After 9 months I can answer you with what has worked for me so far.
Everyday is getting back on track.
This is a snapshot of my last 30 days of calories vs. the calorie burn I get by doing everything from walking to sitting at my desk. Of course my fitbit manages this for me.
See how that blue line has peaks and valleys all over the place? That’s my calorie intake and you can see it’s not perfect. What I look at is the information right underneath the graph. Average for the month was 1,290 calories/day.
Not bad I know there were at least one party and night out with a girlfriend stuck in there. Plus a few bottles of champage with my husband to celebrate my joining the full-time workforce once again.
My point being that when I had those heavy calorie days I did not wake up the next day and wail “I’ve blown my diet, might as well give up!”
OK – I may have felt like it, and even said it out loud just to my husband a few times. But I didn’t let it stop me from getting back on track. I can’t go back in time and stop myself from eating that cake, or having another cocktail.
So how do I eat out now? I still do a little research if I feel like it. Mostly I take photos of my food with my iPhone. Not only is this a good way to keep track of what you ate, but you can review and still estimate your portions later to log it. Tracking ANYTHING by guessing is better than tracking NOTHING.
When I outlined these posts, I had no idea the amount of information and details I’ve gathered throughout this weight loss process. Next week I’ll be wrapping up (I promise!) with the details on my workouts and break down all the things I track outside of food to keep me motivated to keep improving my health.
With any luck I haven’t scared you out starting or continuing your fitness goals, so comment and let me know how you are doing!
Just getting started – continue reading the details:
Disclaimer – the foods, diet, and exercise described here are for informational purposes only. I am not a licensed dietician, fitness instructor or anyone who can claim this process will work for you.