This is my second post of hopefully many on maintaining a large weight loss and what comes next after the weight is off. Week 1 can be read here.
My first big topic for discussion is the habits. To lose a large amount of weight, or really any amount of weight we must change habits. Typically when you start to settle into a plan you use different tools to help you reach your goals.
For me there are 4 major tools I used to lose my weight and my success was based around them. I know they worked and I know they helped me, therefor, I still use all 4 to this day.
What are the big 4? Stay tuned! But number 1 is so simple you will not believe it!
Yes. Tool number 1 is the most important, tracking.
If you bite it write it. We hear this all the time. We know it is so true. When most people are successful at a weight loss they used some sort of tracking tool. For some it is as simple as writing and keeping a food journal. Others use calorie counters like My Fitness Pal or lose it. I used the Weight Watchers points system and always tracked. I loved it, it really kept me accountable to myself.
The problem lies not in the tracking but in the habit of doing it daily. Let us be honest, tracking is work. It is a pain and sometimes you feel over whelmed and need a break from it. I did not love tracking until I got my smart phone and down loaded the app for it. Then it became quicker and easier.
Some of the excuses I hear from not wanting to track are time, patience, and boredom. I understand those are all road blocks in the way but if you analyze it one by one you might feel differently about tracking after.
I like to look at tracking as balancing my check book or bank account. You want to keep track of your money, you want to always know what is there available for income, for spending, bills, etc. That same theory would work with your nutrition. You want to keep a healthy balance every day of your calories. You want to know what is available for spending on foods, and when a splurge might fit into your week. Tracking in some way, shape or form will help facilitate this.
When I track I make better choices. I think this holds true for almost everyone. Tracking keeps us mindful of our choices. Sure tracking cannot fix everything but I do know that having to write down those pitfalls when I have them, makes me regret them a little more. It also helps me realize that even if I have a bad snack or meal it does not have to equal a bad week. In the past when I tried to lose weight I would have a binge, or even just eat bad at a party and then I would feel like, well my whole day is ruined eff it. I would continue to eat badly the rest of that week and sometimes even the month. It was a viscous cycle. I never saw beyond one bad choice or one bad meal. I let those be my down fall.
I love using My Fitness Pal!
The beauty of tracking for me has been physically seeing that one bad meal, or even a binge of sorts does not throw off my entire week. It does not have to mean I cannot have that salad for dinner and start recovering faster after a bad after lunch snack. It also helped me see exactly how much calories were in some of my favorite cheat meals.
I will never forget the moment I ran a marathon in another city, I think it was Pittsburgh last year. I really wanted a reward after running a marathon in 3 hours and 47 minutes, the reward I chose was to go to PF Changs, one of my favorite gluten free places. I had been tracking and using My Fitness Pal for a few months and tracking calories burned while running and exercising using my Polar FT 60. I knew that running that marathon gave me a good calorie burn of about 2,000.
Fast forward to dinner time, I inputted all of my gels used, pre race food, and post race protein, I realized I had consumed quite a few calories, about 1500. I like to eat 1500 a day. I thought I was still ok, but then I pulled up the Changs menu on my fitness pal and was shocked. Some of my favorite things like the rice, and chicken meals were 1000 calories! And I was planning to have dessert, they are one of the few places that offers a gluten free one, that was a bunch of calories too. It woke me up a bit, made me realize that food is a lot of calories and even when I run a marathon, recovery meals take up a good part of those calories. It helped me realize that I did not to eat extra for days after a race to make to for it, which happens to a lot of people.
Tracking has helped me to realize that even when I feel like I am not doing so good, even when I may be back sliding a little bit, I can get back control. I am in control of my daily intake and out take and while I exercise a lot, I am more efficient now that I am smaller. I do not need as many calories as I may have in the past. My body has become more efficient at burning calories so I need to maintain a comfortable weight and also learn a daily balance between it all.
Tracking also keeps me honest with myself, if I start sneaking in an extra snack here or there and then get frustrated with the scale, I know what it is from. By logging in my calories and keeping track of how many calories I burn with my Polar HRM it keeps me honest and accountable at all times. And this has been the best way I have learned to maintain my weight loss and avoid gaining the weight back.
So tool #1, the first of my big 4 is to track. I like to think of myself as a track star :)
Be a track star. Be successful long term.