As promised, I’m bringing you guys some great posts from some amazing friends and bloggers while I’m away on vacation. This post is brought to you by Jessica, another dedicated Circuit Training class member and friend from the Y. Jess is here today to share her weight loss successes with all of you. Thanks, Jess, for writing a guest blog in my absence!
Building Your Calorie Budget
To my fellow Fitness & Feta followers (weird being on this side of F&F?), I’ve come to share my experience with dieting, exercising, and building a budget (really this all relates). A bit of background on me…I was never very interested in health and wellness. While I was a dancer in my younger years, I never really exercised or watched what I ate, nor did I ever need to. Then something happened…something between pizza, beers and late night Tiki House, my body changed… changed by over 20 pounds. Yep, college. Packed on the standard “freshman 15” and then some and thus began my yo-yo cycle of diets and exercise routines, and I’ve done lots of them.
I’ve tried everything once (Mediterranean, South Beach, Fat Smash, “Lemonade Cleanse”- Ok, I lasted about 12 hours). The problem is nothing was sustainable or my life wasn’t consistent enough to keep up with any one routine or diet. Also during this time, I managed to acquire a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance & Accounting. It wasn’t until I was settled into a full-time job in Corporate Finance when a Biggest Loser challenge in the office re-sparked my interest, and inner competitiveness in health & wellness. What I came to realize was my weight loss goals and job had something in common, it all came down to the numbers. If you intake more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. If you intake less, you lose weight.
Over the next year or so I tried a few different websites to count calories which were helpful, but a recent YMCA promotion for “Lose It” I’ve found to be incredibly helpful. The nice thing about Lose It is that it has a TON of name brand name foods already programmed in it and it has downloadable apps for Android and iPhone.
The way it works is you input your stats (height/weight) and then you select your weekly weight loss goal (I picked an aggressive 1.5 lbs/week). The program gives you a daily calorie budget (mine was 1,315). 1,315! Eek! If you’ve ever eaten 1,315 calories you know it’s not a lot. The key, is to understand that its net calories, meaning your intake (food) minus your burn (exercise). The 1,315 created enough of a daily deficit for 1.5 pounds a week (or -750 calories a day). When you are actively tracking your calories you realize the importance of exercise to your overall weight loss goals. I could not have been successful at 1,315 a day, however, burning 300-900+ (on a two-a-day) provides more flexibility.
I found it helpful to log my food for the day based on what I knew I was going to eat and the exercise I planned on doing. The result was I knew what my budget was for the day. If I knew I wasn’t going to make it to the gym, I’d pass on the candy jar. I’ve been using Lose It for a while now and even though I’ve reached my weight loss goals, I still like seeing my progress. The Oak Square YMCA where Athena teaches has had a series of challenges like 8,000 calories in 8 weeks or 10 pounds in 10 weeks. That adds motivation by competing with other users. I even had a few friends join which added a new level of competition.
Other perks are reporting tools, charts, etc that monitor your progress and provide stats on what we’re eating (carbs/proteins/fats). You can even export to a spreadsheet (yay!).
I understand that many fitness individuals cringe at the thought of calorie counting…but ultimately that’s what drives weight loss. I have been very frustrated by lack of results and this is somewhat foolproof…the numbers don’t lie. Of course, it’s all an estimate, a best guess as to exactly what you ate (did you include all seasonings? Toppings?, etc) and without a heart monitor calorie burn is also a guess however it really helps to provide guidelines. Healthy eating doesn’t always mean weight loss — portion control and exercise are a big piece and I’ve found using tools like Lose It have really helped, then again, I create budgets for a living so it would work for me. Now that I’ve been using it for years I’ve really come to enjoy a much healthier style, I love exercising and obviously attend all (most) of Athena’s classes.