2…The Plan (part 2)

**continued from Food, Exercise, Weight*

The Plan
So what did I do specifically to lose weight?

In the beginning, I ordered 2 months worth of packaged food stuff (I do not recommend this and I show you how to eat without doing that BUT this was part of my journey).  5 meals a day packaged and you cook dinner. It amounted to about 1200 calories with 120 grams of protein with one super large helping of green veggies during dinner. My most valuable lessons from these 2 months were portion size, eating 6 times a day, and how protein plays a large role in making a small amount of food fill me up.  I also did not exercise during this time (or 1200 calories would not have been enough).

After 2 months, I figured out how to eat this combination of food from the grocery store. (I’ll include some links at the end of the article.) I ate 1200 calories a day, 120 grams of protein – so most of my meals and snacks have at least 20 grams of protein

calories for my meals (approximate):
breakfast – 200
snack – 100
lunch – 250
snack – 150
dinner – 350
snack – 150

I eat chicken, turkey, super lean ham, green veggies (lettuce, kale, broccoli), 40 calorie bread (only 2 pieces a day). I eat protein bars or shakes for snacks (if you buy them and not make them you HAVE to look at the calories – many of these are “energy” bars so they have too many calories).

Protein and fiber keep you full so while you COULD have 100 cal cookie pack for snack that won’t keep you from being hungry by the next meal. Neither will an apple for that matter, so I pair my fruit with protein.

I did lite cardio for 15 minutes then moderate machine exercises for about 15.  BUT 1200 calories is not enough to account for vigorous exercise, so this was pretty moderate effort.

Over the next several months I made some changes to my regimen:

I started doing a lot more vigorous exercise (Jillian Michaels DVDs specifically – and running – look up my posts about my learning to run!) so I started eating 1500 calories a day to account for the extra energy needs or risk my body thinking it is starving and conserving fat instead of burning it, still at 100-120 grams of protein.

calories for my meals (approximate):
breakfast – 200 (a protein shake)
snack – 150 (usually protein bar)
lunch – 300 (lean sandwich)
snack – 150 (prot bar)
dinner – 500 (lean meats, lots of veggies)
snack – 200 (whole grains, fruits, yogurts – I make sure to eat the rest of my 1500 whatever is left of it)

I eat chicken, turkey, super lean ham, green veggies (lettuce, kale, broccoli), 40 calorie bread for my sandwich, I also eat fruits and yogurt and cheese now but choose only fat free ones and I count the calories in fruits so I don’t go overboard.

**click and enter your email for a sample of my daily menu

This is not a formula you set an forget about though – your exercise changes, your weight changes, your muscles change and you need to adjust your calories accordingly.  For instance I went up to 1800 calories a day because my workouts got longer (did I mention I am a weightlifter now?) and now I am in a muscle building challenge so I eat even more on some days.  The trick is to learn and be aware – don’t be afraid to take responsibility for your own body and learn about it!!  I’ll link to places that help you figure out your calorie needs at the end.

The magic of protein.

It’s been my experience that protein protects your muscles while your body is metabolizing fat (so it doesn’t start eating muscle too) but protein is also fairly slow to digest so it keeps your tummy feeling full longer. A salad would fill me up for about an hour – a salad with a serving of chicken or tuna will keep me full for several hours. If I have fruit for snack it is mixed with some sort of protein like nuts or fat free cheese.

I use protein powder (whey) 2 or 3 times a day, but natural protein sources besides meat include skim milk, fat free cheese, fat free cottage cheese, fat free yogurt, beans but these carry a lot of calories, nuts but these also carry lots of calories.

I’ve also learned that your body does not store protein so you have to constantly supply it throughout the day so each of my 6 meals has some sort of protein. (see – that’s me LEARNING!)

The Magic of Calories.

The plain and simple explanation of weight loss is that if you eat less calories than you use you will lose weight. Whether those calories are protein, carbs, snickers or carrots doesn’t matter – if you stay within your calorie limits you are going to lose weight. The opposite is also true, if you eat more calories than you burn you will gain weight – whether those calories are snickers or carrots :)
Of course if you only have 1200 calories to spend you want to use them on healthy foods, not sugar! And believe it or not once I saw weight disappearing, I didn’t WANT to spend my calories on frivolous sugary foods :)

In determining how many calories to eat at each stage I used a calculator such as the one here http://www.freedieting.com/tools/calorie_calculator.htm . Your current weight and activity level will give you a different number so your plan needs to be updated every so often. This is why I added 300 calories when I started more vigorous exercise AND at 120 lbs my body needs different calories than when I was 180. This information is important when you’ve lost weight and want to maintain that loss because it will forever be true that if you only need 1800 calories to stay at your hard won new weight and you eat 2500, you will gain it back :)   (message me if you need help figuring yours out)

Counting calories:
Let me start by saying it can be daunting until you get the hang of it but it gets easier so just trust me :)
It’s all about reading, measuring and logging. Look up the serving size and measure everything you put in your mouth, look up the calories (most are right on the foods, others can be looked up online), write it down, then enjoy!
At first it was easiest for me to make a list of foods that I already knew the numbers for and those were my default foods (protein shake, protein bar, ham sandwich with mustard, chicken with salad and fat free dressing) if I was not able to look up calories for something else I ate a default food – every single day! When I got bored of that I got inspired to look up some more foods. As you look them up you start to remember and don’t have to constantly reference them – I have memorized most of the foods I eat now.

When eating out (cuz you can eat out!) get used to looking up your food options before you go! Many places have online nutrition facts – today I found the healthiest option at Panda Express before I placed my order. What sounds most healthy is not always (remember our salad from above). My default order if I am in an unfamiliar place is grilled chicken, no mayo, no cheese and NO FRIES! Every fried food on the planet is the enemy of weight loss I promise, so kiss those goodbye until you can incorporate them appropriately after you’ve hit your goals! It’s not so bad I promise – I haven’t had fried food in 11 months – a chicken sandwich is quite satiating.

Part3:  It’s Hard But It’s All YOU! (next)

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