No carbonated beverages – diet or otherwise. No candy, potato chips, or pizza. Never a glass of that heavenly sweet tea so famous in this part of the land. How on earth did I gain weight? The easy answer is I took my eye off the ball.
My husband downloaded a dieting app as he reminded me that he was not the one on a diet. I told him I understood – which meant I would make the necessary changes to my diet while not imposing those changes onto him. It was only a few days into the process when I realized it was just like him to share this journey with me by logging every calorie I ate into that stupid app on his phone, and I loved him for that support.
The day’s standard fare was added to the app every morning: cappuccino, yogurt, granola, a small glass of juice. The rest of the day’s menu was always an adventure.
He’d enter the calories from my dinner plate, and say whoa! There were always calories there that surprised us. Sometimes we looked up the calories before he cooked.
I brought out blackberries one morning to add to my cereal. He said, whoa! Each blackberry has a whopping 10 calories!
We sat in the parking lot outside our favorite Mexican restaurant while he looked up my favorite menu items. Whoa! We drove away.
One day we calculated the day’s calories in advance – to the last bite of dinner. It was a long-run day and we had made that our ‘night out’ – going out for dinner being the hardest meal to keep under calorie budget. We finished a glass of wine while sitting at the bar of our favorite Italian restaurant when the bartender topped up our glasses ‘on the house’ – good news/bad news, red-line day.
Obviously it’s easier to manage weight if you don’t eat out. In fact, we have friends that follow this approach quite successfully. Unfortunately, my husband and I enjoy eating out.
My rule of thumb is to never feel shy about special requests (marina sauce instead of a cream-based sauce, for example). My mom almost always orders what she wants to eat even if it’s not on the menu (albeit for a different reason altogether); amazingly they’ve never refused her. Maybe the easiest thing you can do is to always, always ask them to hold the butter (you’d be amazed how much they add!).
Calories In / Calories Out
There’s truly an astonishing number of different diets in the world. I decided to keep it simple and just count calories. In my eagerness to cut as many calories as possible, we eventually eliminated all carbs. Each day I went for a run, my energy dwindled further and further until I could barely finish a short run.
One of our fellow runners and bloggers (Adam from Back In A Bit, Have Biscuits Ready) had also been on a diet and eliminated carbs quite successfully all the while running and racing a lot. I thought maybe I’d jumped ship too soon, but we had already reintroduced carbs into my diet by the time I read his post, and I’ve never looked back.
Timothy Noakes co-authored a report in 2014 referencing a study of elite athletes, adapted to a diet of less than 10% carbohydrates, who produced energy at very high rates purely from the oxidation of fat. The jury may still be out for me, but a low-carb strategy is an interesting alternative.
Most experts suggest a distance runner’s goal is a ratio of 60/30/10 carb/protein/fat (or thereabout). This has always been especially challenging for me (evidenced by the two days on the left where the fat ratio was off the charts!), and it’s one of the best reasons to track calories from time to time.
A study for Active.com found that Kenyan elite runners at the peak of their marathon training consumed up to 76% carbs while most of their 10% protein came from the milk in their tea. Despite the growing trend of the low carb diet, some would say it’s tough to denounce the golden standard.
Also remember: the greatest nutritional value is gained from eating a large variety of foods, and the most diverse diets have also been linked to the most successful athletes.
Weight vs Size
January 4-30th: 6 pounds lost (I didn’t think to weigh myself until Jan 30th)
February 4: 2 more pounds lost / February 16th: success!
I’ve never been a big fan of weighing myself regularly. Better to feel good in your clothes. Nonetheless, my weight simply verified the problem I was having with the size of my clothes.
For some folks, not to weigh themselves is comparable to us runners never checking our pace during a run. It’s nearly impossible. However, weight is affected by many factors: the time of day, what you’re wearing (which can add 3 to 5 pounds), how much sodium you’ve consumed, muscle vs fat, when you last went potty. . .
My weight goals have always been related to my dress size. When I turned 40, I was determined to be a size 4, but overshot my goal and landed at a size 2. When I took up running, I was sure I would run faster if I were smaller and decided to drop one more size. Over time I overshot my goal again, and landed at size 00. Although I regularly weighed myself a few years ago to be sure I wasn’t losing too much weight, I couldn’t attempt to tell you what I weighed at any time in the previous 30 years.
It’s not my numbers, weight or dress size, that’s important. It’s the process. Whenever I ‘grow’ out of my current size, panic ensues – rightfully so. For me, it wouldn’t matter if my weight were 125 or 110 as long as I fit comfortably in my chosen size. I’ve spent the past eight weeks getting comfortable in my clothes again.
Keep Your Eye On The Ball!
This process has reminded me of all the ways I took my eye off the ball, and the habits I’ll be more careful about in the future. But the truth of any human endeavor is the same truth I’ve so often mentioned as it relates to running: you have to do what works for you.
These are the rules that will hopefully help me keep my eye on the ball going forward:
- If you don’t know what’s in it, don’t eat it.
- Serving size is just as important as ingredients.
- Push back from the table before you feel full.
- Good In, Good Out.
- Be Adventurous.