After I had my daughter, I struggled to drop the baby weight; although, I can’t just blame it on my second pregnancy. I never lost the weight after having my son. To be honest, I never really tried. I knew that I wanted to get pregnant again, so I felt like it was pointless to work that hard just to put the weight back on. Ironic, huh? In hindsight, that was a rookie mistake, and I know now that not holding myself accountable after having my son just made things harder in the long run. Oh well, you live and you learn.
So, I had baby numero dos and was ready to whip myself into shape. Let the yo-yo dieting begin…again. I finally got down to about 170 pounds when the company I worked for had a Biggest Loser Challenge. You know the one, right? Everyone chips in $20 and the person who loses the most weight wins all the money. I immediately pulled out my old Weight Watchers Points Counter and got to work. Somehow, I dropped about 20 pounds (Hey, that’s a dollar per pound! #math), and, probably because everyone else had given up, I won the contest! And then you know what I did? I gained it all back. Why? Because I won. Because I was SO strict during the entire challenge. Because I didn’t allow myself to enjoy food. I turned down dinner invitations because I couldn’t make it fit my Points allotment for the day. Now, this isn’t a bad review of Weight Watchers. I think Weight Watchers is a reasonable diet plan. The problem was with my mindset. I became obsessive about what I could and couldn’t eat. It’s all I ever thought about. This all or nothing mentality is dangerous. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with a little competition to get you started, but it’s not what you do during that six-week period that matters; it’s what you do when the contest is over. We are going to talk a lot about mindset in the future because the longer you stick with it, the more you realize the mental part of all of this is way harder than dieting and working out.
Anyway, miserable and kinda’ chunky (but forever funky), I decided to start tracking my food using a popular dieting app called My Fitness Pal. Now, before I start bad-mouthing My Fitness Pal (MFP), lemme tell ya’, this app is le bomb. I still use it to this day, and it has helped me in my fat loss. BUT! And I can’t stress how big this “but” is, it is only a tool and you need to know a few things going in.
So let’s talk about that.
When you start using MFP, it asks you about your goals. You put in your measurements, age, weight, etc., and it assigns you a number of calories that you are supposed to eat. The problem with the app is that it often underestimates the number of calories that you need each day. Yes, you read that correctly. I said underestimates.
The minimum calorie recommendation that MFP will set is 1,200 per day. From my experience setting up MFP for myself and other friends and family members, it often defaults to that 1,200, which is ridiculously low. When you’re used to eating the way I did when I wasn’t “on a diet,” of course you are going to initially drop some el-beez. And that’s exactly what I did. I dropped about 20 pounds (again). Sounds great, right? Wrong. Eating 1,200 calories per day is damn near starving yourself, and if I’m being perfectly honest, some days I would eat closer to 1,000 or 1,100 because I thought that the fewer calories I ate, the more weight my body would shed. And let’s not even talk about the fact that I started running every day and trying to convince myself that I’d eventually learn to love it. Side note: these days, the only thing you’ll see me running after is a taco truck. Anyway, at the end of the day, including the calories I burned at the gym, I would net about 700-900 calories. People, not only is that terribly unhealthy, it’s also unsustainable. Oh, and it is also the reason the scale, which I lived and died by at the time (that’s a topic for another day), would not budge after the initial weight loss. I found myself wanting to give up again. After all, why starve myself when I can’t lose weight no matter how little I eat? SO. DAMN. FRUSTRATING.
Sometime during the summer of 2015…wait, let’s pause for a second. As I am typing this, it just hit me. That Biggest Loser Challenge I competed in was at the beginning of 2010. Five years! FIVE! I spent five more years starting and stopping and starting over again. Gaining. Losing. Gaining more. Losing more. Does this sound familiar? I just want to go back in time and kick myself.
I found myself scouring the internet during the summer of 2015 to find out what was going on. I mean, to lose weight, you have to be in a calorie deficit, right? Simple math. Calories out > calories in. I was in an extreme calorie deficit! I. SHOULD. BE. SKINNY. BY. NOW. Two hours into my research, I found myself twenty articles deep into a website called Muscle for Life, and desperate to figure out why I was this freak of nature who was basically starving herself and still couldn’t manage to lose weight, I decided to comment on one of the articles.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t think I’d get a response. The comment was really just me venting and letting out some of my frustration. As it turns out, Mike Matthews, the founder of the website, messaged me back within 15 minutes and confirmed what I couldn’t admit to myself: you have to eat to lose.
This was a really difficult pill for me to swallow. After so many years of dieting and restricting myself only to fall off the wagon and stuff my face with all the delicious food I could find, for someone to tell me to increase the number of calories I eat per day was both exhilarating and terrifying. He sent me a link to an article he wrote about flexible dieting, and that, folks, is where my story (and hopefully yours) truly begins…
- Download the free version of My Fitness Pal and go ahead and set it up. Don’t worry about the default number of calories for now. We are going to set that up together next week.
- It’s time to get some numbers ready for next week! If you have body fat calipers, measure your body fat percentage. If you don’t have calipers, grab measuring tape (you know, the kind you use for fabric) and measure the following places: waist (narrowest point), wrist, hips, and forearm.
- **Important**Before you begin, I feel like it’s important (hence the word important with all the ****) to tell you that measurements fluctuate. Always try to take measurements (whether is weight, inches, or body fat) at the same time of day. I prefer to take mine in the morning, but that doesn’t work for some people. The time of day you take them isn’t important, just that you do it around the same time each time you measure.
- If you measured with tape, you’re going to plug those measurements along with your weight in here to come up with an estimate of your BF%. Save the measurements and body fat percentage (I just have mine typed into the Notes app on my phone because I’m fancy.)
P.S. If you would like to buy calipers for future reference, they’re about five bucks on Amazon. Below is exact set I have. You can order them here.
P.S. There was a lot of information at the end of this post. If you have any questions, comments, or just need to vent, feel free to comment below or message me.