Or how I learned to understand the sneaky calories and high fat foods I had to avoid
My relationship with food and eating has been tricky for a few years now. Caught in the midst of finishing university and being unable to transition straight into a job (oh hi discrimination my old friend, how are you?), I struggled with inactivity and depression. Both of those are still constant vigilant battles to this day, but I like to think I am winning. I have tried various methods of bringing my weight down to a level that I felt comfortable with, reduced health issues I was having and allowed me to wear all the clothes that stopped fitting me. Intermittent fasting was okay, but not a magical bullet. It did reduce my calorie intake to an extent and I have never been a big breakfast fan anyway. What it did do and why I’ve kept it going is I cannot eat past 9pm at night, except for 1 or 2 days a month when my schedule clashes with it. It has eliminated night time TV snacking and allows me to start my day without slowing down for food. But what finally caused the weight to fall off? Counting macros.
The General Principle
As I’ve mentioned before, I am studying Sports, Exercise and Coaching with the Open University. (At this rate I’ll have two degrees before long!) Part of my study this term involved analysing the body’s requirements of the main three macronutrients: carbohydrates, fats and proteins. All are essential and required for your body to function. You cannot eliminate carbohydrates or fats or consist solely on protein and be healthy, in my humble undergraduate opinion based solely what I’ve noticed in myself. (You may have a different experience and if you have a story to the opposite, please comment below.) When I tried to focus on upping my protein, I put on weight. When I tried to reduce my carbs, I was hungry and tired. When I tried to eliminate fats, my brain felt like it was running on half power. Therefore, the plan is to consume a balanced macronutrient plan, tracking your intake and keeping under and as close to your set numbers as you can.
There are different ways you can look to measure this depending on your activity level. An adult in a general fitness program can meet their protein needs through an intake of 0.8g to 1g of protein per kg of bodyweight. There are similar calculations for fat and carbohydrates, but there are websites out there who can calculate this for you. I used this one from bodybuilding.com and adjusted according to my needs. I came out at a maximum of 170g for carbs and protein and 40g for fat. I knew from my studies that 100g of protein is an acceptable figure, but where I am screwing myself over is having too much fat and carbs. I had my limits, lets measure with myfitnesspal and go!
Very quickly we realised that several meals we had incorporated into our regular routine had far too much fat. You don’t expect quorn vegetarian nuggets to have such a high fat content, but they were quickly eliminated as unsustainable. Same for cheese at the quantities we consumed. It is still an occasional treat, but not a 3-4 times a week thing. Buying smaller quantities for a measured use in a recipe.
New additions were made to the recipe rotation. Turkey breast steaks turned out to be inexpensive, super high in protein and low in fat. Pair that with some veg and boom, simple and cheap meal that hits the macro requirements. Pasta is fine, but stick to whole grain and it is now weighed and served only with a simple sauce made with nutritional yeast and a little pasta water. Baked potatoes also served as a high carbohydrate meal which kept me full for a long time. All Greg does is he bakes the potatoes in the microwave, dices them up with some onion, pepper and 2 eggs and makes a fantastic potato hash. We have it at least twice a week and is easily my favourite lunch at present. All these cheap vegetables are amazing and I can’t believe he used to serve us pre-made frozen mashed potato. We worked on this together so he adapted his cooking.
Very quickly we learned what meals got us above the minimum and within the maximum for our macros. I even have space for treats such as respectable servings of chocolate, homemade banana bread and Starbucks.
In over a month, I have lost approx 15lbs and my body has toned up fantastically. Now this is not a result of eating alone, a quick perusal of my fitness account on Instagram will show you I am working out 6 days a week and walking more. I always struggled for the energy to do this in the past, I don’t anymore! I have been tracking my weight daily to understand the impact of meals, taking pictures of every day and the mindfulness spreads to every aspect of my health – not just food.
Do not trick yourself into thinking that one change is the magic bullet. It requires wholesale life changes to your eating, your exercise and lifestyle. If I kept eating the same lazy foods, sitting on the couch/desk all day and ignoring this – I was heading for health issues. I had been warned my liver was fatty and I have my eye issues to monitor constantly. Last time I went for a health checkup, my intra-ocular pressure was down too. So I have seen the results and have the motivation to keep going. Scales aren’t the only victory, I understand how my body feels now and how already my big baggy clothes (that I hid under) are starting to be too loose for me.
I will continue to share my progress but I am delighted with progress so far! Let’s go.