Yep. I’m doing it wrong.
I have learned some very interesting, preconception-shattering, eye-opening facts over the past couple of days. I am a diet failure, and here’s why:
First of all, the website caloriecount.about.com is where this all began. I had used it a few times to find out nutritional information of foods, but eventually I realized that this website had all of these wonderful dieting tools available, free of cost.
So, I started plugging in my information. I obtained my personalized daily calorie intake goal, I was able to calculate how many calories I burned at rest and with exercise, and was given a realistic goal date with which to achieve the goal weight I had entered. Really good stuff. But it gets better.
The food log: You enter your meals into the food log, and it calculates all of the caloric and nutritional information of those foods, then gives you an analysis of your progress so you know throughout the day what nutrients you need to eat more or less of, as well as how many more or less calories you need to eat.
The activity log: It lets you select your exercise type, the intensity and duration, and then calculates how many calories you burn. Once you add it to your daily log, it then integrates that information with the rest of your totals.
The forums: This place is jam-packed full of knowledgeable health nut/weight-lifting/personal trainer types. Really friendly, really helpful, really supportive environment. I have had every question I’ve asked so far be answered by multiple people — clearly, succinctly, and with compassion. There can be lots of varied opinions, especially about exercise routines, but those really come down to personal preference, anyway. The important thing is that the mainstays of fitness are universal, and the forum is all about doing things the right way for health, not quick results. I like that.
So, after logging my food and exercise for two days, I began to realize that I was falling way short of what my recommended calorie intake is. I was befuddled by this. I kept checking my numbers and recalculating to make sure I was getting the appropriate suggested daily calorie intake amount, and I was.
Pointedly, the analysis interface displays something called “Daily Net Cals”. I had no idea what that meant, so I opted to ignore it completely, and naively hope it didn’t pertain to me. It then became clear that I should be very concerned about this number after a quick peek in the forum. It is important, because in order to maintain steady, healthy weight loss, one should aim for a deficit of -500 Net Cals a day. Anything more than that, and you are basically making your body think it is starving, and it will start conserving fat stores instead of burning them. Your metabolism slows way down, and your energy levels drop off.
A mere -500 Net Cal deficit every day for a week will consistently result in the loss of 1lb a week, because the body requires 3500 calories to be burned in total for 1lb of weight loss. Obviously, hitting -500 Net Cals on the head can be difficult, so a slight variance is okay, say, -400 to – 700 or so is ideal.
So, why am I doing it wrong, you ask? Because I’ve been cruising around with Net Cal deficits of -1200 to -1500 every day for nearly 2 months!!!!! My metabolism is probably non-existent right now, and my weight loss has been tapering off due to this huge oversight on my part. I really had no idea I was not eating enough. I never felt hungry, and I thought the less I eat (within reason) and the more I exercise, the better the results. So. Stupid.
Now, bizarrely, I must eat more in order to lose more weight. It seems counter-intuitive, and everything in my body and mind is resisting this new information, but the facts are quite clear and the science is irrefutable. The funny part is that I don’t even know how to eat any more than I already am! I apparently just need to find good calorie-dense foods that are still low on the Glycemic Index (for the Diabetes part). I’m struggling to sort that out as we speak.
This also leaves me in a lurch in terms of my exercise routine. I will have to eat even MORE to make up for the exercise calorie burn in order to maintain a -500 deficit. I have the option to stop exercising until I figure things out, but I would really not prefer to do that.
Had I known I could gorge myself daily and lose weight like this I would have done it years ago. My brain was still stuck in some 1980s low-fat fad-diet time capsule of misinformation. It really doesn’t work that way, and I am so glad to have been shown the light.