I’ve always been an organized person, so I use that to my advantage when working toward goals, no matter what they are. Planning and tracking REALLY help with weight loss in particular. I’ve found several helpful tools along the way that I will share below.
How long will it take?
This is a tough one. Back when I thought I needed to lose 75 pounds, I guessed I’d need a year to get there. That thought really depressed me at the time. However, setting a goal to lose 75 pounds in 6 months wouldn’t have yielded better results. Rushing would have negatively impacted both my physical and mental health.
I thought 1 pound a week sounded reasonable, but it didn’t work out perfectly. After a few months in “weight loss mode”, I burned out and wanted to quit. The effort to keep track of everything took a lot out of me, even though I wasn’t super hungry or feeling deprived. Consequently, I took breaks during the winter holidays and then again during the summer months. Though I didn’t reach my goal as quickly, I still had my end goal in sight during those breaks.
How much should I eat?
I found this amazing weight loss calculator. It takes into account that as you lose weight, your metabolism slows. (You don’t need as much energy to power a smaller body. From what I can tell, “starvation mode” doesn’t actually exist.) Every month or so, I “checked in” with my progress to make sure I stayed on track. Not counting the breaks I took, it was pretty accurate for how much food to eat and how long to reach my goal.
How often should I eat and at what times?
I’ve successfully lost weight with both small and big meals. There is no research to support that small meals have any effect on metabolism. Since I don’t have any blood sugar issues, I prefer to stick with big meals. I like eating 3 big meals because it’s easier to eat with other people, and I can use a normal-sized plate. Small meals feel like a bunch of snacks, not real meals. If I split up 1600 calories into 6, I don’t get to eat much at a time, which is depressing. I like to be full!
To help me with my goal of only eating 3 meals, no snacks, I ate at specific times (9, 1, and 5). Since my eating window was about 8 hours, that means I was technically doing intermittent fasting. These times really worked for me. I find that I liked to do household chores and exercise while still fasting. I didn’t eat with my family members for breakfast or lunch, but that meant I could eat those meals alone, uninterrupted, without sharing my food. 🙂 Since reaching my goal, I’ve gotten out of the habit, but I’d definitely do it again when this pandemic is over. Intermittent fasting really helped me eat the proper amount of food, which meant I enjoyed it more than when I overeat, as I’m likely to do when stressed out.
How do I keep track of what I eat?
I’ve found pen and paper to be my best friends. Technology is amazing for a lot of things, but I get really distracted when I try to use apps for certain things. I also don’t care if I have a record of past days, so once I’ve used both sides of a page, I throw it away. There is no reason to get hung up on past days, whether or not they were good. Planning and tracking is most important for TODAY.
I do use my phone to figure out calorie values on single foods (apples, broccoli, etc.). For recipes, I use this analyzer. Unless I am cooking something new, I’ve already recorded nutritional values on my recipe cards so I know exactly how much to eat. Fixed recipes really help!
How will I record my progress?
I have a spreadsheet where I keep track of my weight and measurements, and I update them once a month. A month is long enough to see real improvement. I weigh myself more often than that, but I don’t really “count” it until the end of the month and keep my cycle in mind. (Water retention is the worst.)
Weight loss takes time and patience, but having a specific plan really helps it happen. Planning and tracking can be annoying at times. That’s why I took breaks when needed. After a month (or a few) off, I started again.
More posts on health here, and more to come soon!