10 June 2015
I've lost a little bit of weight--just a little. It's a very slow process, and as much as I would like to speed-lose, it'll be more likely to stay off. I've done the whole drop it quick, gain it back thing, and I don't want to do that again. I'm thinking long-term, not just being able to squeeze into a smaller size by next month.
My health has been in the forefront of my brain the last few months, and while I've inched my way toward eating better and moving more in the last couple of years--I honestly have--it was just time to really do something proactive.
The swimming is mostly for fitness; it's the one cardio activity I know I'll routinely do without feeling like I'm being punished. I still love walking, but swimming is a lot easier on my body and I feel like I get a better workout in the pool. It does burn calories--I use a waterproof heart rate monitor to give me an idea how much and I get roughly 500 calories burned in 2400 meters--but it's only a small part of the equation.
The crux of it really is simple: calories in, calories out. No, it really doesn't matter what form those calories take, not as far as weight loss and gain goes. A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.
You'll feel better if you eat better food, but you really can lose weight eating crap. I am choosing to eat less crap, eat more real food. But in the end, calories count.
If you want to lose weight, it doesn't do much good to just declare yourself to be limited to 1200 or 1400 or 1600 calories; the amount of food that's right for me might be too little for you, or too much. You need to have an idea what your Basic Metabolic Rate is (BMR) and your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and calculate an eating deficit based on that.
Easiest way to find those numbers is to use an online TDEE calculator. IIFYM has a good one, I check it every now and then there (sometimes the page looks screwed up, with ads inserted into the middle of the calculator...just scroll down and you'll be able to enter all your data.)
An example: a 45 year old female who is 5'7" and 250 pounds and who exercises 3 times a week has a BMR of 1814 calories a day and a TDEE of 2494. That means that her body burns 1800ish calories a day just to stay alive...what she would use up lying in bed, not moving. To maintain her body weight at her activity level, she needs to eat 2500ish calories.
To lose weight, figure out how many pounds a week, and figure out a deficit based on the TDEE. Want to lose a pound a week, cut 500 calories a day off that. Two pounds, cut 1000.
So she would eat about 1500 calories a day to lose 1.5-2 pounds a week. And ideally, no matter how badly she wants to drop weight, she would also not routinely go under 1200 calories a day.
The body needs fuel. It needs food. Not eating is not an option.
And yes, it can be any food. If you want all your calories to come from fast food, if you stick within your calorie counts, you'll lose weight. You might not feel fantastic, but you can lose weight.
Why the difference in how you feel? Simple. The better the fuel you fill up your tank with, the better your machine works. And your body is a machine. A tankful of cheap assed crap won't hurt every once in a while, but over time...yeah, you'll feel it.
But I've tried that and I can't lose weight counting calories!
Yeah, you can. You're not immune to biology. Your body works the way a body works; if you eat to many calories, you gain weight. Eat under your TDEE and you will lose.
But I counted them, I really did!
It's very, very easy to under-count. If you're counting and not seeing results, you're either misjudging serving sizes or not understanding serving sizes. Sure, Applebee's 7 ounce sirloin clocks in at about 270 calories...but the ribeye at the steak house? Yeah, that's going to be a whole lot more.
And if you're cooking at home and don't have a grasp, get a food scale. Measure your food exactly for a while. You'll get the hang of it.
But I have issues! I have a slow metabolism! PCOS! Wonky thyroid!
Doesn't matter...and I've used that excuse. If you have genuine metabolic issues you'll have to adjust your TDEE number downward, but only by a couple hundred calories. And if you have a genuine medical condition, see your doctor. Get it addressed. Get on the medications that will help.
I know that particular pain; I have a laundry list of issues. It took a few years to get onto the right dosage of Sythroid, but that in itself was never in my way. The only thing in my way was me.
I eat at a normal-people TDEE that should have me losing about 1.5 pounds a week, but I'm losing about half a pound. And that's fine. I know why it's slow and I know that if I lose it slowly I have better odds of it staying off. I'm also not willing to eat less.
That's a key...know what you're willing to do. Know where your Oh Hell No point is. For me it's 1500 calories a day; I don't routinely eat under that even though I know I would lose easier.
You swim, you exercise, I hate exercise. So I'll never lose anything.
You really don't have to exercise. It's just calories in, calories out. Exercise helps burn more and help you feel better, but you don't have to just to lose weight.
I still recommend it...but find something that doesn't feel like punishment and does feel like fun. Get a video game system and play fitness games. Take Zumba classes. Martial arts. Dance in your own house to the music you like, and dance like no one's watching.
Your heart will appreciate it.
And here's the bigger thing, the one my doc tried to pound home: you're more than a number on a scale. If you eat well and stay active, and if you feel healthy, then keep doing what you're doing. My doc would rather see me eating better foods and keeping up with the swimming and adding other activities to my routines than sitting back and just trying to drop body mass.
I do want to lose body fat; I do want to do it slowly and get to a weight that feels good to me; I don't want to make it my life's mission. I don't have "bad days" but I do have days where I've eaten a little more...and that's not a big deal. Life's too short to be too restrictive. I also don't have "cheat days." If I want something I normally wouldn't eat, I eat it. It's eating, not cheating.
I don't like the cheat-day mindset...but you do whatever works for you.
TL;DR: you are not the number on the scale, but if you want to see that number decline, it's calories eaten versus calories burned...no matter what.