Today I bring you a really helpful post by Cory Trusty from Aquarian Bath, who discusses ways to help track your calorie intake so you can manage your weight. Welcome Cory and thank you for this very insightful post.
After I had my first baby it was easy to get back into shape. It was an uncomplicated pregnancy. I was eight years younger, biked everywhere during that time and didn’t have any spare money for extra fattening treats. With my second pregnancy I was not in as good shape initially, and I also had problems with the pregnancy that made it necessary to be on extended bed rest. The result has been that I had a lot of excess weight to lose after my second pregnancy. I leveled off at a weight that I wasn’t comfortable with, and I couldn’t seem to make much progress even though I was dancing, running and biking on and off. After a lot of frustration, I have finally started making progress in what I feel is a healthy sustainable way. I’m really excited about it, and I wanted to share what I have been doing because it is nothing very drastic. It is mostly just observation that has helped me make more informed food choices, but it seems as they say that observation really does change what you are observing. In this case the changes are very positive.
I have been losing weight by tracking my calories, activity level and weight at the Live Strong website. This has been a low stress and informative process. Live Strong has a calorie counter called “My Plate.” You can enter in your weight, activity level, height and age, and it calculates the number of calories you need to maintain your weight, or gain or lose a certain number of pounds per week. You can enter in the calories of foods you prepare at home or from many restaurant chains. I was hesitant before starting Live Strong again (I did use it once briefly after weaning my first daughter) because I didn’t like the idea of not knowing exactly how many calories I was eating when it came to foods I had not prepared myself. I also didn’t like the idea of not knowing how to factor in calories that I was losing by nursing my toddler. In the end I just decided to estimate calories if I am not sure about a meal, and any calories I am losing by nursing my toddler are just a hidden bonus in the weight loss. If you are the type of person who wants to record everything precisely, then I think you should give it a try anyway. After a while you will be able to estimate calories pretty well, or you can use estimates pre-programmed into “My Plate.” Estimates will still give you useful information. It does take a lot of dedication and attention to record calorie intake, but if you are a person with compulsive eating habits, tracking your calories is a positive way to redirect that type energy as long as you don’t take it to extremes. Also you don’t have to record everything 100 percent perfectly, although the more information you have the better.
My weight has gone up and down periodically, but I have lost weight consistently despite having gone over my calorie goal on a few days and skipped tracking a couple of days. Besides tracking calorie intake you can also track the number of calories burned during various activities like running, gardening, stretching, yoga, hula hooping or swimming. You can also track your water intake. One excellent tool at Live Strong is a graph that shows your calorie intake plotted alongside your weight gains and losses.
Observing tracking results has been extremely helpful for determining correlations with eating habits and weight gain or loss. You might start noticing some interesting patterns that will help you understand your body and meet your weight goals even if you just have “maintain your current weight” as a goal. That is what I did at first, and then I switched my goal to “lose one pound a week,” then “lose one and a half pounds a week.” Now I am back to having it set at losing one pound a week, because that is an easy goal to maintain.
These are some of the patterns that I have identified that have helped me make good decisions on a daily basis to meet my weight goals. First, I noticed a correlation between stomach upset on days when my calorie goals were far exceeded. I think humans like me are very strange animals to need to enter their foods into a database to figure this out, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who could benefit by observing and recording. I also noticed some surprising results. On a day when I am expending tremendous mental energy but am otherwise sedentary, for example concentrating on learning new information or focusing on digital details and deadlines, I can eat far over my calorie goals and still lose weight. Certain habits were noticeably detrimental. For example, I can eat well under my calorie goal for the day, but if one of the foods I have eaten is pizza, then I gain weight anyway. Now that I know eating pizza will cause me to gain two pounds that are difficult to lose over a period of three days, it is very easy for me to avoid. Late night snacks also throw me off from my progress similar to pizza. Happily, occasional sweets and wine or beer do not effect me radically like pizza.
I also found some helpful trends. I read an article on Live Strong about eating eggs for weight loss. I was skeptical, but I did notice on days after I ate eggs, my weight also went down. On days that I drink enough water I also don’t feel the need to eat as much food. I also have noticed three-day eating cycles: for two days in a row I eat a relatively low level of calories, then on day three I tend to go way over my calorie goals. Interestingly I tend to lose weight after this cycle (day four) if my calorie consumption was relatively low on days one and two. This is something I would have never noticed without seeing my calories and weight plotted together in a graph. It’s great to be able to recognize this pattern and experiment working with it along side my exercise activities. These are just the patterns I have observed in the last month and a half.
If you have been stuck at a certain weight and want to gain or lose, I hope you will give it a try and have good luck with it. I’m sure everyone will notice different patterns with their bodies and how they react to different foods and eating patterns. If you try it I would love to know how it goes for you. Come back and leave a comment if you do. Since May 24 I have lost eight pounds. I am taking it slow and easy. It’s not dramatic, but that is kind of the point. I’m happy with slow and steady results, because this is not a diet, it is a sustainable life style change in progress.
I also want to give a shout out to Michala of Spell Bound Hoops in Gainesville, Fla. After starting this tracking process I wanted to add a fun fitness activity as a part of my life style. Michala makes awesome heavy hula hoops for fitness, and you can have them customized with different colors. Mine is three colors with holographic black, white and black, but I love the look of these rainbow color hoops, too. I got one for me and liked it so much that I got a second one for my eight-year-old daughter, Moira, right away.
Cory Trusty is an herbalist, soap maker and gardener in central Florida. She studied Biology at the University of Washington as an undergraduate, then studied Traditional Chinese Medicine in a Masters Program for two years, but her school closed before Cory could complete it. She moved to Atlanta for a short time, met her husband and moved to his home town in Daytona Beach. They have two girls. Cory gave birth at home with just her husband, no midwife, there both times. The second time she was pregnant, there were a lot of problems, but she got through it with herbs and being careful. She never had a midwife or doctor the second time she was pregnant. Since Cory did not finish her herb program, and the economy is not so good in Daytona for biologists, she started to make herbal products for a business. Soaps and things became an easier way for her to have a successful business because it has a broader appeal. She still likes to use her training and love for herbs to do what she can to make therapeutic products. Check out some of her items to see what she means: