When I first posted about my weight loss journey last month, my intention was to give weekly updates and talk a bit about what challenges I faced during the previous week, an update on my goals, and to set new goals for the coming week. Obviously, that has not happened, but it wasn’t because I stopped trying to lose weight. And it wasn’t because I forgot to post. No, I haven’t posted because I’ve been flummoxed by my progress, or lack thereof, and I wasn’t ready to admit that to anyone.
What in Tarnation is Going On?!?
The first couple of weeks of my weight loss journey, I was dropping weight easily. It seemed that just by giving up a daily fast food habit for lunch, my first goal to lose 5% of my body weight would happen almost as if by magic. I lost four pounds in those first two weeks, and then …
Then I started gaining weight. That third week, I gained a pound. Then I gained almost three pounds in the fourth week. I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Fast food was more or less off the menu. I was eating smaller portions. The only other change I had made was to switch to a lower carb diet. Not a low carb diet, it was just an attempt to limit things like breads, pasta and simple carbohydrates. I’d lost weight before doing the Atkins diet, so I expected this to help, not hinder. Honestly, the weight gain didn’t make sense.
Macronutrients vs Calories
Now, I’ve never been one to think that you have to get all crazy about the macronutrients to lose weight. I subscribe to the theory of “Calories in versus calories out.” In other words, eat less than your body burns and you’ll lose weight. I’ve always believed that it shouldn’t matter overmuch as to the make up of those calories. And there have been numerous studies done that back that theory up. As long as you’re eating fewer calories than your body burns in an average day, you will lose weight.
Other people disagree. It’s the idea that success is in what you eat that gave birth to diets like Atkins, Keto, South Beach and others. A lot of people on the internet give a LOT of credence to micronutrition, but I’m not one of them. My personal opinion is that it’s too much work to track all of that and try to hit specific targets for each macro.
I’ve been using the Lose It! app to track my food intake. It has a nice interface, and I like it better than My Fitness Pal or any of the other apps I’ve used in the past. I like it so much, I pay for the premium version, which allows me to track macronutrients, among other things.
So What’s Going On?
I have a lot of weight to lose – about 100 pounds. So I get a fair number of calories to eat each day. In fact, I’ve been using a range of calories instead of a specific target. My personal range is about 1,800 (lose two pounds a week) to 2,750 (maintenance). I try to stay in the 2,000 to 2,200 range most of the time, and over the last couple of weeks, I hit 2,200 only once. I’m not guessing on portion sizes. I have a nice scale I use that is very precise, and a range of measuring cups when I am being lazy, which isn’t often. I knew that at most, my counts could be about 100 calories off, but not several thousands, or even hundreds. But I had accounted for the 100 calorie error in my range, so I was stumped.
Last Friday, I sat down and took a look at what I’ve been eating, and the associated macronutrients. First, I looked at the weeks where I lost weight. I noted that my macros were approximately 50% carbs, 30% fats and 20% protein. I was basically just eating the same things I normally eat, sans fast food, and better portion control. Then I took a look at the weeks where I gained weight. Those weeks my macros were flipped. I was eating about 50% fats, 30% carbs and 20% protein. The calories were actually a little lower than the weeks where my carb intake was higher.
A Weight Loss Plan Forms
Based on all of this, it seemed that the best course of action was to once again reverse course. More carbs, fewer fats, protein about the same. First, though, I had a “reset weekend.” That is, I didn’t really worry too much about what I ate, so long as I kept it below my maintenance line. I enjoyed ice cream and Mexican food, we tried out a new restaurant where I had pulled pork. I logged everything, but I worried about nothing. It was refreshing after four weeks of careful monitoring.
But today, I’m back on the wagon. My goals are simple. Keep the fats at no more than 30-40%. Exercise at least 20 minutes a day, four days a week (I’m working up to more exercise). Keep an eye on the goal, which at this point, is to lose 5% of my body weight. Don’t become discouraged, and continue journaling about the experience. Don’t focus on food; focus on life.
This Week’s Goals
- Stay under 2,200 calories a day
- Stay under 40% fat
- Exercise four days, at least 20 minutes a day
- Lose one pound
Of course, all of this is anecdotal evidence based on my own observations. But I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, at least, macros do matter at least some. They may matter more as my weight decreases. I mean, I’m two weeks shy of my 50th birthday, so what worked for me at 20, 30 and even 40 isn’t likely to work for me now.
I think that’s why most people who try to lose weight end up failing. They aren’t willing to make changes to what they’re doing, when what they’re doing isn’t working. I know that at my age, and for the amount of time I’ve been overweight, it’s going to take a while to lose it all. I’m willing to make the changes I need to make to lose the weight and for it to be a sustainable loss.
Last time I lost weight, it was through heavy weight lifting. It worked, no doubt. But when I was injured, I didn’t change my eating habits and I never got back to lifting like I was. That’s where most of my weight came from this time, and I don’t want to make that mistake again. So I will eventually add lifting to my routine, but right now I’m more focused on losing the weight. The rest will come, later. For now, I’m happy just to be moving in the right direction.