A little over two weeks ago, I asked you to do an experiment to find out how much you are consuming. If you haven't done that yet, CLICK HERE first and come back to this post in two weeks.
The point of this was to get you to really understand what you are eating. We can all say we aren't eating right. But do we really know why? Not until we get down to brass tacks and count calories, understand the function of macros, weigh our portion sizes and get to know what foods pack a nutritional punch and which supply a heavy caloric load. The people that do this will fare better than the people who never grasp the situation.
Everyone wants me to skip to the "meal plan." Just tell me what to eat, so I can lose weight, I don't have time for this tedious crap. But you need to make time for this tedious crap. This tedious crap is the difference between being able to carry on a proper diet and make wise decisions for the rest of your life or hitting a snag where the meal plan doesn't work, not being able to improvise, and giving up in a ball of flames and fast food wrappers. There is no magic formula. Besides being unsustainable, one meal plan isn't going to work for everybody.
I'm not another fitness jerk trying to sell you a meal plan. I'm a fitness jerk trying to show you how to tell the other fitness jerks to fuck off because you got this shit handled.
With that said, these are the questions you want to answer:
1. How many calories do you take in every day?
2. Did you lose weight? Gain weight? Or maintain your weight?
3. Check out your macros (Proteins, Carbohydrates, Fat). What percentages made up your total diet? Are your carbs really high? Is your protein low? Are you getting too much saturated fat? (CLICK HERE for more about macros.)
4. Did you notice any foods that were surprisingly full of calories? Did you notice any bad habits that add a bunch of unnecessary calories?
For me, I remember being surprised how many calories a jumbo apple contains. Like, what??? It's an apple! Dammit, Costco-sized fruit. I also remember being upset at how much a glass of wine cost me. 4 ounce pour, my ass! And don't even get me started on how much I hated measuring cereal. Cereal is supposed to be dumped into a mixing bowl and balanced on your boobs (or belly) while you check your Facebook feed with your free hand. And here was myfitnesspal telling me to eat 1/2 - 3/4 a cup of cereal at a time. If I ate it my way, it'd be a 300 calorie bowl.
Don't get me wrong, I still eat Costco-sized apples with zero guilt and drink an occasional glass of wine. I just don't do the cereal anymore. Not that I don't eat giant bowls of Life when necessary, but I don't balance them on my boobs, because my boobs have diminished considerably in their balancing capabilities. (There is one downside to losing body fat.)
So, Now What?
Now, my little scientists, you are going to actively change your diet to change your life.
Let's keep a good thing going and keep our food scales and measuring cups out. As you start tweaking your diet, you still want to be accurate. The more honest you are with tracking, the better your results will be. Besides, this makes recipes a breeze and eliminates a lot of wasted food and unneeded calories. Will you need to count and measure forever? Absolutely not. But it is really good to get a few months in, at least, and it comes in handy when you've slipped off the wagon. I use the scale and cups when I meal prep - works great!
Step one is to calculate your TDEE. (CLICK HERE if you missed how.) If you want to lose a few pounds, cut out 250 calories a day. If you want to lose more than a few pounds, cut out 500 calories a day. Or, just use your myfitnesspal app to calculate your calorie goal. It's really easy that way. Do not aim for any more than .5-1 pound loss a week.
Step two is to keep tracking and measuring, reading labels, and fill up on good food but stop when you've reached your limit. Eat more vegetables and complex carbohydrates because they are nutrient-dense, but not high in calories. Experiment. Make your own deals about what you are willing to cut out and what you want to keep in your diet for now. Yes, I'm giving you the power to work it out on your own.
In the beginning, you shouldn't stress out in all directions. Instead, focus on smaller changes that you can stick with. I am going to post a lot about diet and meal prep in the coming months. Please feel free to adapt any of it that applies or interests you. But the first step is keeping your calories in check, and trying to get all three macronutrients balanced into your diet. Be at the helm of your own decisions; there is no need to pay money to have someone give you a generic low-cal menu of 5 meals of chicken, rice and broccoli. Before the end of the first week you'd be homicidal.
I also want you to have energy to get moving and you won't have that energy if you're starving. So, don't cut more than 250-500 calories a day. Relax, Rome wasn't built in a day. There will be trial and error, but this freedom to figure it out for yourself is crucial to your success in the long run.
Note: Do NOT, I repeat, DO NOT assume cutting more calories to lose weight faster is a good idea. This will backfire for a few reasons: 1. It will be a shock, it will hurt and you will end up eating french fries out of the garbage. True Story. Shut up. 2. At a point, your body adapts itself to the calories you give it. So, if you are eating 1,100 calories a day in effort to lose weight fast, your body will adjust to that and plateau so you don't kill yourself. You have no wiggle room to cut at that point, since you're barely eating enough to live, and will stall out and cannibalize your muscle mass for energy. And when your body suddenly gets food, your metabolism will take time to re-calibrate back. You'll puff up and freak out. Especially if you're not working out.
Our bodies do their best to keep our dumb asses alive. Start showing it the same respect. Treat it right from the foundation up. Don't shock it, don't overfeed it. Give it what it needs to run smoothly and it will treat you right. Make friends with your body again. You both deserve it.