Taking a break… a diet break…

When I say diet I am referring to eating in a deficit.  If you aren’t sure what that means, let me reassure you that you are not stupid, but if your goal is to lose weight or maintain your weight, it would really benefit you to learn what it means.  It’s also an important concept for what I am talking about here, because a break is not a break unless it takes you OUT of a deficit.
Brief tutorial – your body needs a certain range of calories to maintain itself, it’s function, organs, and content (yes this includes muscle and fat).  Deficit means eating less than that, maintenance is eating exactly that, surplus is eating more than that.

Just from this brief definition you can imagine that eating in a deficit for extended periods will affect your content (muscle and fat hooray!) but also the other functions of your body.  This can be severe or not so much, but it does have an effect, and I personally have come to the conclusion that it’s simply not healthy to be in a deficit ALL THE TIME, esp for years and years. (you are free to disagree but I encourage you to read on the topic first)

I’ve been on this “journey” – (yes I know you hate that word but I haven’t found a better one I like) – for 3 years now.  Out of those 36 months, I’ve taken a break for surgery (I actually needed more calories than usual to recover properly) and for a muscle building experiment, so I’d estimate about 30 of those months were eating in deficit (I am not counting various planned “high” days but breaks of over 1 week).   I think I’d actually limit my deficits to 2 or 3 months now that I’ve read more on the subject.   I just feel like somehow the function part was being affected too… enter the BREAK!

The break is NOT a free for all, and I’d more correctly term it “eating at maintenance” than “taking a break”, but a break is the function it serves for me at the moment – giving my body a break from trying to function with short of what it actually needs.

What does my break look like?   I don’t want to gain 15 pounds and have to buy a new wardrobe during my break!   The idea for me is to maintain where I am at right now, while giving myself  a break from being in a deficit.   So I still track my calories and eat healthy foods, and while I might eat fried chicken now and again or snab a cookie, mostly I’ll just serve myself 8 oz of meat instead of 4 or eat a bigger potato or use oil in cooking where I normally wouldn’t.

I also do not miss a workout!  I want all this good food to fuel my muscles (and if they grew a little my feelings won’t be hurt ;)   ).

One reason I track… let me tell you a story about the day I decided to eat “whatever I thought looked good”.  Hubby and I decided to eat a “fancy” lunch one day last week.  Steakhouse, and after 3 yrs of watching what I eat I decided I would have one meal that was just a little crazy.  I’ve gone overboard several times, but never just eating whatever.  We ordered an appetizer (fried… gasp) but I couldn’t completely commit to crazy and passed up the blue cheese burger for a grilled chicken on flatbread for my meal.  Then the manager bought us dessert (why this never happened when I actually ate desserts is just a cruel irony).  I ate about 1/4 of it and I didn’t hate it ;)

I knew I’d have to make up for this meal later but in my head it didn’t seem THAT bad.  I really only ate 1/2 of what I would have normally eaten at a no-holds-barred kind of outing in the past.   And I did order grilled chicken!   Well…  I couldn’t stand it after we got back, I had to look up the nutrition values.  I just ate – sit down if you aren’t already – 1600 calories! OMG!  In ONE meal… wow.  I would have put it at about 1000 or so but that stupid grilled chicken was just as much as the burger (boooo).  {oh my goodness… look at that dessert}

calories

I am on 2000 calories a day right now – how was I gonna make up for that?!  I intended to enjoy that meal and I CHOSE to do it, so I put any feelings of guilt or panic aside and worked out a plan :)   It is not a time for panic – it’s a time for common sense.   I could have not eaten the rest of the day and it would have worked out, but I eat 6 times a day and this girl gets HUNGRY so that wasn’t gonna work.  I just ate very sensibly, used veggies to my advantage for dinner, and shaved off 200 calories for the next 3 days.  Problem solved, crisis averted, lesson learned (what do I tell you?  look up the calories BEFORE you go, even if you plan to splurge it’s so much easier to splurge on 1000 calories than 1600 wow).

There have also been several days where I had to creatively add 400 calories of healthy food to make sure I hit my 2000.  While this sounds silly, if I eat less than that I am not serving the point of my break!

And that, folks, is why I track my calories, even on a “break”… it’s not a fun, healthy break in my mind if I gain 15 pounds when it’s done :)   I guess it’s also important to know your target numbers (what your maintenance approximately is) or tracking isn’t doing anything huh?

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