I’m just going to put it out there. My jeans are a bit too tight for my comfort and ego to accept. And, truthfully, the scale is reflecting that reality as well. Exercise isn’t the issue. I’m doing some type of workout 6 days a week (a combination of cardio, strength and flexibility training) and three of those days would be classified as vigorous exercise. My trainer colleagues would concur and add that if I added to my regimen, I would run the risk of muscle loss and over-training problems. Nor is what I’m eating the problem. I consume a very balanced, nutritionally dense diet consisting predominantly of lean proteins, whole grains and produce.
The problem is I’m not being careful about how much of the healthy foods I’m consuming and giving myself permission to have the occasional treat more than occasionally. When this phenomenon occurred at twenty-something, I could cut back here or there and, thanks to the great metabolism and normally functioning hormones we tend to have at that age, I’d be back to breathing normally in my jeans in no time. When one is forty plus, however, it takes more vigilance and time to combat the creeping weight gain. I know this because I’ve been to this rodeo before. About 5 years ago, when my youngest was a toddler, I realized losing those final pounds of baby weight wasn’t as easy as it was after I had my oldest. I knew that I had to set goals and come up with a concrete plan to get there and, most importantly, have built in tracking and accountability.
For weight loss, one has to determine what her base daily calorie intake is. That’s the daily amount of calories one needs to consume to maintain her current weight. In other words, the base daily calorie intake is equal to the amount of calories burned throughout a day. From that, you subtract a daily caloric deficit (how much less you will take in compared to what you burn), the result is your daily calorie consumption goal. The formula is simple but finding the right numbers to plug in is tricky.
The base calorie intake is a complex number based on lots of variables (such as gender, age, occupation, resting metabolic rate, just to name a few) and is unique to each person. The calorie deficit number is also difficult. The higher the deficit number is, the more quickly the pounds will come off. However, if one is too ambitious this will backfire. In the short-term, one will become extremely hungry and the temptation to binge will be very strong. Also, she may experience light-headedness and low energy, making her less likely to exercise thus reducing her caloric output. In the long-term, the body goes into starvation mode. In this state, the body will hold onto fat cells like they’re precious jewels and begin to burn proteins (lean mass) instead. This leads to slower metabolism and a generally unhealthy state of affairs. A safe and healthy daily caloric deficit is one that will yield a weight loss of no more than one pound per week.
Five years ago, this meant I needed to do a great deal of research with some serious guess-timations to determine my daily calorie consumption goal. But that was quick and easy compared to the daily hand-written food consumption log and numerous calculations I had to do to make sure I was meeting my goal. But, I did it. I achieved my goal and purchased the pre-mentioned pair of jeans as a reward.
This time around, the goal-setting calculations and tracking are a lot easier, even if actually losing the weight isn’t. Last Tuesday I downloaded the free app MyFitnessPal to my smartphone and created an account on myfitnesspal.com through my laptop. All I needed to do was type in some basic info and the program calculated my daily calorie consumption goal. The program boasts having calorie amounts for over a million items – including products by brand as well as restaurant meals. So, from my smartphone or computer, I enter what and how much I ate. As I input, the program calculates the amount of calories I consumed and will keep a running total for the day. I always know exactly where I am in relation to my goal.
In addition, I can log my workouts. The program adds those calories burned to my total. For example, my daily calorie consumption goal is 1200. If I’ve logged 200 calories burned in exercise today, the program will add the 200 calories to my goal, allowing me to consume 1400 calories today, if I wish, and still be on track. From the perspective of a trainer, I love this feature because it’s a fabulous incentive to encourage exercise. I’m keeping my account private because that’s my preference. But, you can make it public or connect it to Facebook so that you can become part of a community that offers encouragement, tips and advice.
I am still able to get into said jeans, so my weight loss goal is very modest. It’s the same goal I had five years ago and well within the healthy range on a BMI chart. I could have kept my little secret but I thought sharing would be valuable for me and my readers. For me, it adds another layer of accountability to stay on track and see this through to my goal. For you, I hope it’s valuable to see that even a fit person, who is seemingly doing most things right when it comes to diet and exercise, can get off-track sometimes. Yes, even a trainer puts on unwanted pounds. Even someone who is fit can be fitter. I’ll keep you posted on my quest to be fitter and happier.