Saturday, May 28, 2016

One year later...

On this date last year, I posted about my weight loss, which, at the time, I was just over six months into and had lost 50 pounds. Well, here it is one year later, so perhaps  some of you are wondering how it's going or if it's even still going at all. Most diets seem to last only for a short time and then the person gains all their old weight back, right? While that is true, so far, it's not true for me.

To start, at this point last year I was right around 175 pounds, just 15 pounds from my goal of 160. I officially got below 160 on August 1, 2015 when I checked in at 159.4. I officially "bottomed out" about two weeks later on August 12 when I got as low as 156.4 pounds. Since that time, yes, I have gained some weight back, currently hovering around 170 pounds. But here's the deal: while I have gained weight, it has been incredibly slow, and more importantly, has not resulted in me having to get any larger clothes or any of the smaller sizes I bought feeling tighter, particularly around the waist. What does that mean? It means the weight I'm gaining is mostly muscle, not fat. And, oh by the way, I've been trying to gain weight, back to 170.

May 26, 2016
At this point last year, since I was still actively losing weight, I was functioning on a daily recommended intake of 1,485 calories per day, which translated to 45g of fat, 150g of carbs, and 120g of protein. I was pretty good about hitting those numbers or being pretty close. I was also getting regular cardio done each week to burn around 2,000 calories in the week. Beginning in August, once I hit that initial goal of getting below 160, my trainer Josh slowly started to increase my macro totals to the point where I have been since December: 2,450 calories/per day, which includes 70g of fat, 335g of carbs, and 120g of protein. I also started to keep track of my fiber and sugar intake. Josh recommends 1g of fiber per 100 calories per day (so my goal is to be above an average of 24g per week) and no more than 100g of sugar/day. By then I had already stopped doing formal, documented cardio, at least as part of my regular workout. I still do cardio, but it's in things like yardwork or walking places instead of at the gym. When I'm able to measure it, I still put it into my app just to keep track of it all.

Progress from the beginning, covering 18 months
I still check my weight every day and keep track of everything I eat. Yes, that can be tedious at times, but overall, I've gotten so used to it, I don't mind. It becomes an issue when I'm not totally sure how much I'm eating of something or what all is in it. In those cases, I do my best to guess. The most difficult challenge I had was during my trip to Ukraine. Here in the US, most food has fairly detailed nutrition labels based on a determined "serving size", so inputting that into My Fitness Pal is pretty easy, especially when I can just scan a barcode. Even for things that don't have the label, I can usually find something in the database that's close to what I think it is.

Could I maintain my weight without tracking everything I eat? Most likely. I continue to track it all and use a scale to measure some things when I can, but more for the precision and accuracy of my results than the bigger picture.

Such was not the case in Ukraine. In other parts of Europe they have nutrition labels that are based on 100 grams, so it requires some additional math to figure out how much you're getting when the total isn't 100 grams, especially if it's less than 100 grams. Ukraine didn't have much of any nutrition labels, but even more so, I couldn't read them anyway! There were a few times I could get info from scanning the barcode, but that was pretty rare as most food did not have a barcode.

So what did I do? Well, in Ukraine, I simply stopped keeping track of food since I not only didn't have the barcode to scan or label to read, but I also often didn't even know what to call the food or if the version available in the database was anything close to what was what I had in front of me. I did that because I knew it was only for about two weeks, plus I did bring my scale, so I was keeping track of my weight every day. Keeping track helped me notice any changes and I could make adjustments as I needed. Even if I wasn't totally sure of the numbers and hitting my exact macro goals, I could usually tell if something was probably higher in fat, carbs, or protein. I also paid attention to how I felt after eating. I didn't want to feel hungry, but also didn't want to feel totally stuffed.

In the end, my starting weight when I left for Ukraine on March 21 was 168.2 and my weight when I returned home on April 4 was 169.2, and that was after being awake for over 24 hours, mostly sitting on a plane and in various airport waiting areas as I traveled home. On the course of the trip, my weight got as low as 167.4. In other words, it fluctuated just like it has consistently done here, even when I'm hitting my goals and getting my workouts consistently. Bottom line is I practiced reasonable moderation in what I ate and I got a good amount of physical activity. It was pretty easy doing that in Ukraine since I was with my sister (who doesn't like just hanging out) and we had to walk just about anywhere. I was able to get one good formal workout in on the trip, but that was it.

I've never been comfortable calling what I've been doing a "diet" mostly because "diet" has the connotation of "restriction", meaning I'm not eating a certain thing or otherwise denying myself of certain things. When people say they're "on a diet", it seems they most often mean they're avoiding certain things, usually things they really like (sweets, dairy, carbs. etc.). So it's no surprise when they inevitably miss those things they are avoiding and then ultimately fail at their attempt to lose weight as they decide this whole "diet" thing sucks and give up.

As I've said before, it's all about moderation. I continue to eat out regularly and have sweets in a reasonable manner. Not a day passes that I don't have some kind of cookies or chocolate, and ice cream regularly finds its way into my macro budget too. That doesn't mean I base my entire day around sugary snacks, but it does mean I have them. I'm far less likely to binge on them (never have had a so-called "cheat day" this entire time) since I'm not giving them up or avoiding them altogether. Same for anything like carbs and fat.

As for supplements, at this point last year I was only using a protein powder as a supplement. Well, I haven't used even that for several months now, mostly because I made a few changes in the foods I eat to meet my protein goals without having a supplement. Instead I get it mostly from chicken, turkey and roast beef lunch meat, and Greek yogurt, along with my trusty Triscuits and pretzel chips :). Occasionally I get the Pure Protein bars mostly because I like their flavor. I got a case of them for Christmas and then got another case later and used them in place of the Greek yogurt on days I felt a bit rushed in the morning. I have yet to find a supplement I actually need, at least as far as what I'm trying to accomplish. Just remember: anything that claims to "cleanse" or "detox" your system is complete and utter nonsense and is a waste of money. The only thing it "cleanses" is your bank account. Same for any supplement that claims to "block fat" (really?!?), "transfer carbs" (come on!!) or any such malarkey. Seriously, just don't waste your money on things you don't need and that aren't helping you at all.

And lastly, remember to get health advice from TRAINED PROFESSIONALS (registered dietitians or at least people who have taken college courses in nutrition and physiology), not memes or cute graphics on social media, random stories from slanted sites like "NaturalNews, Food Babe, or Mercola, or from well-meaning friends who happen to work for a multi-level marketing company that sells some "awesome" BS supplement. Working for a supplement company does not suddenly make you an expert in health and nutrition, on top of the obvious conflict of interest.