Week 1 was a successful week.
I lost 1.5lbs and learned a lot in the process.
Now, I understand that some of you may be saying:
“That’s it?! A measly pound and a half?”
Yep. That’s it. A pound and a half – which is a success!
I’d be happy with a loss between 0.5% and 1.5% per week, or even over two weeks.
It’s a healthy amount of weight loss, and one that will minimize any loss of lean muscle mass.
I could lose weight faster with an extreme approach, but I’d likely lose some muscle mass. Typically, ⅓ of every 1 pound lost on an extreme diet will be lean mass.
A popular saying in fitness is, “If you want to look like you gained 10lbs of muscle, you need to lose 10lbs of fat”. And that’s my goal.
To be honest, being 1.5lbs down might be an anomaly. It’s not uncommon for my weight to swing 2-3lbs from day to day. I won’t really know how things are progressing until next week, which brings a key point – I don’t recommend weighing yourself more than weekly or biweekly for this exact reason.
I take a weekly mirror selfie, and I can see some slight change – but again, it’ll be hard to tell until next week. Biweekly progress markers really are the best way to go.
As for my eating, the first two days were eye-opening for me. I could see clearly why I weighed 180lbs.
By the third day, I’d settled on a meal template that kept me between 2,200 and 2,400 calories per day.
Here’s what I learned:
1 – 2,400 calories isn’t a lot of food
The first day was pretty easy. I hit 2,400 calories right on the nose and stopped eating for the day.
I barely changed my diet or how much I ate, I simply kept track of it on MyFitnessPal. This day even included a burrito – although I’ll admit, I don’t know exactly how many calories were in it.
The second day? I ate 2,800 calories. Might have been even closer to 3,000 calories, because some of my foods couldn’t be tracked exactly.
And I could have easily kept eating. I was hungry! And not just hungry to feel physically full – I could tell that my body wanted the calories it hadn’t had the day before.
This day was eye-opening. This day showed me that on an average day, I might be eating between 3,000 and 4,000 calories of healthy food if I’m hungry and not paying attention. Especially on a day when I’m recovering from a heavy lifting session.
The third day was back to 2,400 calories. It was harder to pause at 2,400 calories today. I tend to eat a lot of turkey sandwiches. They’re healthy – whole grain Arnold bread and piled high with nitrite-free deli turkey. Even with healthy ingredients, the calories stacked up quickly.
On the fourth day, I started making changes in order to get more bang for my buck.
Over the weekend, I consciously chose lower calorie foods and focused on eating primarily veggies and lean protein. I still had starch and fats, but I ate smaller portions of them than before. This alone cut out 500-100 calories from each day.
I went out for dinner on Sunday night, but chose a healthy option and ate a small meal beforehand. I planned for dinner, essentially. This made it easy to not over-eat at the restaurant, where they’d have used extra butter and easily inflated the calories by several hundred.
2 – Sneaking calories out of my diet
A lot of the changes I made on the fourth day were the first ones that I recommend to all of my clients.
- Prioritize lean protein, like chicken, at most meals
- Have non-starchy veggies at most meals
Non-starchy veggies, like green beans, carrots, and broccoli, let me eat a big serving of food while minimizing my calories. Perfect for when you feel hungry.
- Limit starchy veggies and grains to after a workout or 1-2 servings a day.
I was eating as much starch as I wanted. Mostly whole grain bread and starchy veggies. I eat a lot of frozen veggies, and one of my veggie mixes was 650 calories of mostly starch and grain (beans, legumes, corn, etc.). Swapping this for a bag of frozen non-starchy veggies cut out 400 calories! Both are healthy options, to be clear, but one is the clear winner for weight loss.
- Aim for a minimum of 1g/lb of protein for every pound of lean mass
- Drink zero-calorie beverages
- Minimize condiments – some of my turkey sandwiches had an extra 100 calories of mayonnaise and an extra 100 calories of cheese – cutting back on both has made a big difference
- Eat at home – any of my meals out added a few extra hundred calories. Over the course of the week, this will add up
3 – Keys to my success
I was getting plenty of protein in with how I was eating.
I start each morning with 50g of protein from a shake, which gets me through my early morning coaching sessions. (I could wake up at 5AM to eat breakfast before work, but no. Just no.)
This has made a big difference in getting enough protein, and some days I even hit 225-250g of protein.
4 – What’s next & key takeaway
I’ll keep eating the way I am now and see how my weight keeps coming down.
By knowing what I need to focus on (more veggies, less starch, less condiments, less cheese), it’s made making choices easier.
I stopped tracking after 4 days, since I knew enough about my patterns by the 3rd day to know what needed changing.
For you, it may take longer to notice the trends and to come up with a template that works for you.
My #1 takeaway for many of you is this:
I still lost weight, even with a 3,000+ calorie day, because I made up for it on my other days.
As I get closer to 170lbs, that margin of error will get smaller and I’ll be able to make less mistakes.
If I hadn’t lost weight, I would have reduced my calories to 2,150 per day and tried again.
- 2 servings of a protein shake (50g), plus 1 cup Greek Yogurt with ¼ cup of granola (~600 calories)
- Chicken burrito with guacamole from Santa Fe Burrito (~1000 calories)
- 2 servings of a protein shake (50g, ~260 calories)
- 2 pieces of toast with butter and garlic stuffed olives (400 calories)
- Minimal veggies
- Lots of starch between the rice, beans, tortilla, and starch
- I stopped eating at 2,400 calories this day, but usually I’d have eaten more at night
- 2 servings of a protein shake with PB2 (375 calories, 60g protein)
- 6oz chicken, 2 pieces of toast with butter, stuffed olives, and bbq sauce (660 calories)
- Tuna sandwich at Panera (660 calories)
- Turkey sandwich at home with Sweet Potato soup (800 calories, at least)
- Greek Yogurt + Granola (300 calories)
- This is the day that showed me where I was overeating, since I could easily see myself eating an extra 500-1000 calories on days like this where I might have an extra sandwich or more food at night)
- 2 servings of a protein shake with PB2, plus Greek Yogurt and Granola (600 calories, 90g protein)
- Chicken breast, toast with less butter, stuffed olives, and 5 cups of frozen veggies (866 calories)
- 2 servings of a protein shake with PB2 (350 calories)
- Turkey sandwich with less cheese and mayo (400 calories)
- Chocolate bark that a client brought me (saboteur!)
- 2400 calories for the day
- This day will be my template for a while. It still contains the foods that I enjoy and are easy for me to make, but it keeps me within 2200 to 2400 calories.
- Swapping buttered toast for apples will save another 100-150 calories per day, which is a swap I made through the weekend to make up for Tuesday
- I’ll continue to eat this way and see how my weight changes.