Thursday, October 29, 2009

Calories, Calories

I ended up taking today as a rest day for the week, so I thought I'd use today to write about something that I've been doing recently ... counting calories. First, I think I need to back up and start from the beginning. I'd say that about a year ago, I wasn't 100% happy with my body. I had gained a few pounds, I wasn't really utilizing my gym membership and knew that I should do something about it. I started going to the gym maybe around 3 times a week and started to feel a little bit better.

I started out at about 149 pounds (in my mind, 150 pounds is some magic threshold that I was hoping never to cross and although I wasn't completely comfortable being so close, I was happy that I hadn't gone over). My body fat percentage (according to Drew's scale) was nearly 26%. I think that was the most shocking number. I know that women are always fattier than men, but compared to Drew's body fat percentage, I felt fat. I'm 5'8" and never looked over weight (and in fact, I wasn't). I just noticed that my pants were a little tighter than they had been before. There was even a brief consideration of buying the next size up, but I told myself that I wouldn't give in.

It wasn't until sometime in February of this year when Laura asked me if I'd want to sign up for a triathlon with her that I really felt like I got into the groove of things. I then started becoming more consistent with my workouts (like working out 6 days a week). What helped me the most in becoming more consistent was the fear factor of signing up for a triathlon as well as having a plan when I went to the gym. I knew I had to do X number of hours / workouts each week. I didn't always do exactly what the plan said to do on any given day, but I always tried to match the number of hours I spent working out.

By May of this year, I had firmly lost 5 pounds. I waited a while before I really admitted it to myself because I was afraid that it was just a fluke each time I stepped on the scale. Turns out it wasn't. I should say that this was never really my goal when I signed up for the triathlon. It was just an added benefit. In fact, I never really thought about weight loss when I was considering signing up. My body fat percentage had also gone down to somewhere around 24%. By this point, I could tell that my clothes were back to fitting they way they were when I bought them. I also kept hoping that my body fat would go down, but I wasn't going to stress out about it.

I should say that I've never really struggled with my weight. There have been several points in my life where I thought maybe I could lose five pounds and so I did. Until two years ago, I never really exercised (other than sports in high school) or belonged to a gym. I just figured that by living in New York City and walking around a lot, that counted as enough exercise.

By September, I was down to 141 pounds, which is where I currently am now. And, the last time I weighed myself (last Saturday 10/24/2009), my body fat percentage was down to 20.7%. When that number popped up on the scale I literally yelled out "Ohmygod" several times because I just couldn't believe it. I can tell, especially doing this weight lifting book, that I am getting stronger and my muscles are getting bigger. It's just nice to know that the effort I've been putting in is paying off.

Which brings me back to where this post started ... counting calories. Drew had told me that he wanted to keep track of what he was eating and so I said I'd do it too (we've done this before where we just kept spreadsheets of what we ate, but didn't count calories). This time, he signed up for the Daily Burn website, which will keep track of your workouts and food and will also count calories. So, I signed up too and said that I would do this for two weeks with him. Tomorrow will be the end of the two weeks.

When I first signed up, I put in my current weight stats, said I'd like to lose 5 pounds (mainly because it seems like you need to have goals on this website), and that I was "moderately active - doing moderate exercise 3 to 5 times per week". That calculated that I should eat somewhere between 1669 and 1919 calories. Before this, I really had no idea how many calories I was eating. I felt like I ate pretty well during the week and a little less well on the weekends. I never really felt like I denied myself anything, but I also don't splurge too often on really big calorie meals.

Turns out that the calorie range of 1669-1919 wasn't really working for me. I really felt like I had to think about everything that I ate, which I hated. I would get to the end of the day and still be hungry, but be afraid to eat because I didn't want to go over my calories. Drew told me that if I hated it and it was making me unhappy, I should just stop. But, I felt like I had told him that I would do this with him and I wasn't about to just quit.

So, after the first week, which I found miserable and actually made me feel bad about myself, I decided that I had probably cheated myself on the exercise portion of the website. I changed it to "very active - hard exercise 6-7 times per week". This was still one step below "extremely active - marathon training, etc." I felt like "very active" was more realistic for me because I do go to the gym about 6 days a week and I spend at least an hour there. I'm not really training for anything yet, so "extremely active" seemed wrong. By switching to "very active" I got a new calorie window of 2371-2621.

This is so much better! I can eat and not have to worry about going over my calories or feeling bad if I want to eat a piece of (reduced fat) cheese on my sandwich at lunch. I can even splurge and still be within the range. The website does say that if I want to lose weight, I should eat slightly under that calorie range, but for maintaining my weight, that's the correct range. I'm still undecided about whether or not I will continue this. I think it has been good for me to see what I'm eating and what it adds up to, but I'm not sure I'm cut out to do this for the long run.

So, at the end of this long post, I guess I'd just like to summarize and say that I'm pretty proud of myself for overall making good choices with food. I really don't think that I have some of the food stigmas that it seems like lot of people have. Food doesn't make me feel happy or sad. It just makes me feel not hungry. I think that this calorie counting really taught me a lot. The funny thing is that I know I'm eating more than I did a year ago, but it's actually okay now because I'm also exercising on a regular basis. Overall, I'm really happy with where I'm at right now.

1 comment:

  1. Whew..I was so glad when I got to the end of your post and saw that you were allowing yourself more calories. My stats are pretty close to yours- I started out at exactly 149lbs last February and am now 139 at 5'7", so pretty similar to you and if I don't get at least 2300 calories a day, I get really tired and low energy. I calorie counted for awhile, but found that I naturally was eating what I needed so I just gave it up.