Day 33: Tracking things

When I committed to giving this challenge another try, I told myself that I would stick to one goal or habit at a time. Once I was able to successfully keep that goal/habit for at least seven days straight, then I could consider adding another one.

But me being me, I created a new tracking sheet after my most recent Bod Pod and put a whole bunch of stuff on it. I didn’t set any new goals and I didn’t commit to religiously tracking everything, but I did tell myself that I would at the very least try to track these things. And I have for the most part.

Maybe it’s my inner nerd, but I love spreadsheets. I like having the data to analyze afterward and see how the different things I do affect how I feel, how I look, and what I am able to do. It makes this process seem less like hard work and more like some science experiment – kind of how I approached my other goals the first time around. That change in viewpoint has really made a difference for me when I’ve struggling to overcome a challenge and stick with a goal in the past. I’m hoping it’ll day the same this time around too.

My spreadsheet also serves as a great visual reminder to stay on track towards making these positive changes. I hung it up on the pantry door in my kitchen. There’s nothing else hanging there, so it doesn’t get lost among other papers like the stuff I hang on the fridge does. I see it everyday. And although I guess it could make me feel bad by showcasing my “failures,” so far I’ve found it to be motivating instead – to a certain extent. It doesn’t seem to motivate me to hit my step goal every day. But, it doesn’t take away my motivation either, so no harm no foul?

How to motivate myself to stick with my step goal seems to be like something I need to think about more. I mean, that is the whole point of this challenge, right?

Day 49 (Part Deux): Drumroll please…

Day 49

I completed my fit test and Bod Pod this morning.

My hypotheses were:

  1. My total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is higher than my estimated TDEE of 1,822, so I can lose some weight by eating 1,822 calories a day.
  2. I can increase my fat free mass by following the Strong program consistently.

So, was I right?

After tossing out the calories from the first week of binging (I averaged over 2,500 calories a day that week), I ate an average of 1,815 calories per day – a few calories below my estimated TDEE of 1,822 calories. If my estimated TDEE was right, my weight should have stayed the same, but it didn’t. I lost almost 2 lbs. Conclusion: my TDEE is definitely higher than 1,822 calories.

I’d love to call that a win, but…

Despite completing all of my planned workouts, I actually lost 1 lb of fat free mass. Although fat free mass accounts for more than just muscle, I’m feel pretty confident that my loss was primarily muscle mass. Conclusion: I cannot gain fat free mass by following the Strong program at a calorie deficit.

I’m really disappointed. I know I shouldn’t be. It was unrealistic to think I could increase my fat free mass while eating at a calorie deficit. Conventional wisdom says muscles need calories to grow. The most I should have hoped for was to retain the fat free mass I had, but instead, I had hoped I might be the beneficiary of some “newbie gains.” Obviously, I was not.

To add onto my feelings of disappointment, my fit test was a mixed bag as well. I increased my VO2 max and grip strength, but did worse on my back strength and flexibility.

That being said, I don’t feel discouraged. Disappointed yes, but not discouraged. I just need to think this through and set some new goals for the next four weeks. This isn’t over yet.

Current step total: 4,975

Current step goal streak: 19 days 
Previous step goal streak: 2 days
Longest step goal streak: 19 days

Day 48: My Bod Pod is tomorrow!

Day 47

I ended the day under my calorie goal with 15,344 steps. I didn’t get much sleep, but that’s neither here nor there.

Final step count: 15,344

Day 48

Tomorrow is the big day: Bod Pod day! For comparison, here are my results from my last Bod Pod assessment:

My total body weight was 127.139 lbs.

In my Experiments 1 and 2, I hypothesized that I would lose some weight if I ate at my estimated total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) calories because I believe my TDEE is higher than estimated. My estimated TDEE is 1,822 calories.

I then decreased my calorie goal to 1,522 calories because I joined a DietBet and need to lose about 1 lb a week in order to keep my money. I was afraid 1,822 calories wouldn’t result in a high enough calorie deficit for me to lose at least 1 lb per week.

Based on my entries in MyFitnessPal, I averaged:

  • 2,573 calories a day the week of my last Bod Pod
  • 1,856 calories a day the following week
  • 1,892 calories a day last week
  • and 1,479 calories a day so far this week.

If I assume that I’ll stay under my calorie goal today, and I average out the almost four weeks worth of calorie averages, I ate around 1,952 calories a day – a little over 100 calories higher than my estimated TDEE.

If my TDEE is correct, I should see an increase in my total weight tomorrow. If it’s wrong, and I’m right, I should see some weight loss.

My weight this morning on my scale here at home was 125.8 lbs. I think it’s safe to say I haven’t gained any weight and have likely lost some, as predicted, but unfortunately, I just wasn’t consistent enough from the get go to get some really good data. Regardless of what my results are tomorrow, I need to do better at staying under my daily calorie goal in order to better determine what my real TDEE is.

That being said, my other hypothesis was that I would gain some fat free mass as a result of my weight training. Although I still have a “final” workout to do today, I’ve been consistent in that area, so hopefully I’ll see some results in that area tomorrow.

Current step total: 496

Current step goal streak: 18 days
Previous step goal streak: 2 days
Longest step goal streak: 18 days

Day 30: Two fails in one day.

Day 29

I’ve read hundreds, if not thousands, of weight loss articles and tips in the last two decades. One of the common suggestions I’ve read is to look at a restaurant’s menu ahead of time and plan what you’ll order before you get there.

Yesterday, I thought I was having a pretty good day calorie-wise. By the time dinner rolled around, I could have sworn I still had around 800 calories or so left. I hadn’t logged my road trip snacks yet, but I didn’t expect them to add up to much. And, when I received the dinner and cocktail I ordered at the restaurant we went to, I only ate a third of it. A third is less than half, that should have saved me a whole bunch of calories right?

Sort of. Turns out, the meal I ordered is over 2,000 calories per serving. Even a third of that is almost 700 calories; and don’t get me started on the number of calories my mai tai had. This is why smart people say you should look at the menu beforehand and plan ahead.

To make matters worse, it turns out the cured meats and cheese I snacked on while driving added up to over 500 calories. Needless to say, I failed to stick to my calorie limit yesterday.

My total calories for the day: 2,907.

I wish I could write that that was my only fail for the day. But, alas, that would be untrue. Although I managed to get a significant chunk of my steps in before we started driving south late in morning, I was still short 3,000 steps by bedtime. I wasn’t worried. I figured I’d just walk laps around the hotel room. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the time into consideration. One minute, I was checking my steps mid-lap and getting closer to 15,000; the next, the clock had struck midnight and my counter had reset to 0. I ran out of time.

Final step count: 13,450

I went to bed last night feeling pretty disappointed and frustrated with myself. I had started the day on such a high. I was proud of myself for packing my scale in my overnight bag, just so I could continue to track my weight over the weekend. I know that may seem crazy, but I’ve always struggled with following through on things, and that one little thing made me feel committed.

And then I failed. Not just once, but twice.

This morning, as I completed my tracker entries for yesterday, I remembered a tip I’d read about focusing on weekly calorie totals, versus daily. I considered trying to “make up” for yesterday’s failures by walking more the rest of the week and eating less; but I reminded myself that I’ve fallen victim to this type of thinking in the past, and in the end, it’s always ended in binging and/or weight gain.

I have no other choice but to let go of yesterday’s failures, and I have to stop thinking of them as failures. I’m still here. I’m still trying. I’m still writing these posts. I haven’t truly failed until I’ve given up, and I haven’t done that just yet.

Current step total: 333

Current step goal streak: 0 days
Previous step goal streak: 2 days
Longest step goal streak: 13 days

Day 28: Experiment 2

Day 28

Although I should probably focus on one change at a time, I feel compelled to conduct a second “experiment” between now and my next Bod Pod appointment on September 20th. I might be setting myself up for failure, but I just can’t help myself.

Experiment 2.

Hypothesis: I can increase my fat free mass (FFM) by consistently following the Strong workout program.

Unfortunately, my body won’t let me pick and choose where I want to lose weight from. It just sort of takes it from anywhere. This means that when my scale inches lower, there’s no guarantee I’ve lost any actual fat. It could be water weight, muscle, fat, or a combination of all of the above.

Personally, I’m not a fan of the “skinny fat” look, so I want to retain as much muscle as possible while losing weight. This means I need to lose the weight slowly, and I need to do the things that all the smart health and fitness people say I should do, like lift weights and eat lots of protein. They say that if I do those things, I can retain most of my muscle, even while I’m losing weight. I’ve even read that “noob gains” are a thing, meaning I could even gain some muscle at first. Granted, it wouldn’t likely be much of a gain, but anything is better than nothing.

My plan: I will once again restart the Strong workout program (for like the third or fourth time now) today. Since I’ll be eating maintenance calories, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t gain at least a tiny bit of muscle between now and my next Bod Pod appointment – and see an increase in my FFM on my results. It’s possible I may even gain a little weight overall, but as long as it’s in the FFM category, I’m ok with it.

Current step total: 1,038

Current step goal streak: 1 day
Previous step goal streak: 13 days
Longest step goal streak: 13 days

Day 27 (Part Deux): Experiment 1

Day 27

Despite yesterday’s setback, I’m not discouraged. My next Bod Pod appointment is on September 20th and I’m excited to see what sort of progress I can make between now and then.

I’ve been giving a lot of thought to what goals I should set for the next three weeks or so. Normally, I’d focus on actions I know will contribute to weight or fat loss, but there’s just something about turning this into an experiment of sorts that I can’t resist.

So folks, I give you Experiment 1 (of 2).

Hypothesis: My real total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is higher than my estimated TDEE.

When I first started losing weight late last year, the wellness center employee calculated my TDEE and estimated that I would lose 1/4 lb a week if I ate 1,200 calories a day.

I couldn’t stick to that goal. I tracked my calories most days and during my “good” weeks, I averaged between 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day and I lost about 1 lb per week. During “bad” weeks, well, let’s just say I rarely ate less than 2,000 calories a day and I definitely didn’t lose any weight.

Based on this prior experience, I have a feeling my TDEE is higher than the estimate I shared in my metabolic assessment results post.

Generally, most health and fitness professionals suggest starting with your estimated weight loss calorie goal (your TDEE minus 500 – 1000 calories) and adjusting from there based on your results. It’s sound advice, but I know myself pretty well, and I know I can’t stick to 1,200 calories a day. For me, 1,200 calories a day feels like deprivation, and I end up binging in response.

So instead, I’m going to test my hypothesis by eating at my maintenance calorie goal – my TDEE of 1,822.

The plan: I will eat 1,822 calories a day. I will also weigh myself everyday, track my meals, and then log both my daily weight and calorie total in the TDEE spreadsheet I got from the r/loseit. This TDEE spreadsheet will use my daily weight and calorie total over several weeks to eventually calculate a much more accurate TDEE for me than most online calculators can.

By the time September 20th rolls around, I believe I will have lost some weight, despite eating at maintenance calories.

I’m starting at a disadvantage. I overdid it on Tuesday (I didn’t even log my meals) and I went way over my calorie goal yesterday (I ate 2,157 calories), but I’m confident that if I stick with it going forward, I’ll still see some results.

Final step count: 15,004

Current step goal streak: 1 day
Previous step goal streak: 13 days
Longest step goal streak: 13 days