After posting a progress update on my weight loss, I thought it would be a good idea to go over what I’ve been doing for my diet.
Now I know that anyone can Google “What can I eat to lose weight?” and return 3 billion search results promoting a miracle maple syrup diet. I could do that. I would probably even lose weight by eating only a tablespoon of hot sauce every day. But I feel like I’ve been training enough over the past year that I can call myself an athlete and athletes need energy. I want to move down a weight class when I compete, but I will not fulfill my burning desire to deadlift 405 lbs by subsisting off two soda crackers and a can of tuna every day. The end result is that I’m constantly trying to strike a delicate balance between eating enough, without overeating.
The other area where I start to walk a metaphorical tightrope is when I start trying to fit healthy eating habits into my schedule. I know there are a lot of parents and so-called adults out there who think that when you’re in college you can just spend a million hours a day at the gym, play some Xbox when you get home and then still have have time to rub one out. Ha. I’m a full-time student and I work part-time. I feel like I’m constantly away from home, and when you throw in a few training sessions every week and the bare bones of a social life, suddenly finding time to make sure I’m eating right falls to the bottom of the list. Oops.
So, here’s what works for me. Everything that I’m currently doing is stuff that I’ve been doing for a while or have done successfully in the past to achieve results. I’ve tried to list what I do in the order that I implement them. The step-wise approach works well for me: I make a plan and I stick to it. Once I get the broad strokes down on canvas, I can focus on the details and create a masterpiece.
1. SupperWorks. I blogged about SupperWorks after my first visit and I’ve gone back every month since. Basically, it’s a service which allows me to prepare 21 meals (or more) in advance. When I get home in the evening, I usually just want to unwind for an hour and cooking feels like a monumental chore at the end of a busy day. Instead, I go to SupperWorks with a friend one evening each month and spend an hour assembling our meals. The time commitment is minimal and I get to disguise one of my chores as a social outing. I will note that I tend to consciously steer clear of some of the menu options that are generally high in carbs, high in calories or lower in protein so that I can justify paying for this service. I find that it’s worth it because now I have healthy meals planned out and waiting in my freezer a month in advance. Someone with more culinary inclination could easily do this in their kitchen and not at SupperWorks, but having quick and easy options on hand makes staying on track a no-brainer.
2. Calorie counting. Like SupperWorks, calorie counting works for me because it’s just a plan I have to follow to reach my goals. I log what I’m going to eat the night before and then measure it out and pack it in my lunch bag so that I’m not scrambling to throw something together as I rush out the door. Again, having healthy options on hand means that I never end up wishing I’d brought a snack as I chow down on a Mars bar. And while I generally try to eat whole foods, I am a pretty firm believer in the “If it fits your macros, eat that shit up” approach to nutrition. Sometimes I just need a cinnamon bun or some peanut butter m&m’s to maintain my sanity. By tracking my calorie consumption, I know exactly where the occasional treat fits into my diet and I don’t wind-up feeling guilty later on. There are about a million websites and associated apps where you can log your eating habits. I’ve tried several and have been using myfitnesspal for almost a year.
3. Intermittent fasting. I follow a LeanGains style eating window. I don’t eat my breakfast until after 11 am and I usually eat my last meal around 6 before heading to the gym. My calorie distribution is a bit different from Lyle’s recommendation, since I don’t usually find myself hungry after lifting. Overall, I am less concerned with the carb-backloading theories of LG and instead I find it beneficial because it provides me with satiety when I need it. I am not one of those people who can eat six small snacks during the day. Eating 200 calories every 2 hours just leaves me feeling hungry all of the time. Instead, I like to have a couple of cups of coffee in the morning, a big lunch and dinner, and a small mid-afternoon snack. The result is that when I lift in the evenings, I’m not distracted by how hungry I am. I will say that I do try to get my overall diet under control before cutting out breakfast. I find that it always takes a couple of weeks to adjust to a new eating schedule, but the transition is made a lot easier if you’re already eating the right things. I’ve been known to false-start but once I get over the initial hump of skipping breakfast, this approach does work for me. (And it works despite all of the grief my coworkers give me about skipping “the most important meal of the day”!)
4. Calorie cycling. Once I’ve dropped my calories, I usually hit a point where my weight loss isn’t happening as fast as I’d like, but my lifts seem to be plummeting. Being my usual paranoid self, I struggle with the idea of increasing my calories to improve my lifting – what if I overshoot and end up gaining back all the weight I’ve been working so hard to lose!? Calorie cycling is a compromise that I can handle: I will eat more, but I will eat it when I know my body will need it. I use this calculator to figure out how much I should be eating on lifting and non-lifting days. I’ve been eating 1750/1350 for about 10 days and it’s made the world of difference for me. My weight still seems to be moving in the right direction, my gym performance has improved at least a thousand fold and my general attitude towards this whole cutting cycle is much more optimistic. If anything, 1750 calories seems like a feast and I’ve been struggling to eat that much. I think the fat girl inside of me must have died because I used to be able to eat 2000 calories in a single sitting.
As a final disclaimer I feel like I should add that these methods are not fool-proof, even if I’m the one advocating them. They will not work for everybody. In fact, they might not work for anyone else but I’ve managed to cobble together enough ideas from all over the place to find what works for me. Nothing here is revolutionary. I am certainly not an expert when it comes to nutrition. I just think that as a formerly fat person, I can call myself an expert when it comes to eating.