My personal "diet" and weight-loss strategy
Saturday, April 06, 2013
Some of you have asked about my “diet” – my personal weight loss plan. First of all, I want to say that I believe everyone should “tweak” and “personalize” whatever plan you use (whether it’s Weight Watchers, mine, or anyone else’s) to “fit” you, personally. We are all different, with varying preferences and dietary and exercise habits. We all differ in what commitments we are willing to make, or to not make. This is what worked for me. Take what you wish from it; take what you know from other places. Throw out what you don’t want to do. And, create an individual plan that “fits” YOU!
I had a 3-prong plan. I didn’t use any of these strategies “as written”, but, tweaked them all to “fit” me.
I. Calorie Cycling
II. South Beach Diet concepts (“good carbs”; “good fats”)
III. IsaGenix products (absolutely unnecessary. But, they helped me to stay within calorie range on some of my lower calorie days. Other meal replacements would work fine. Or, choosing lower calorie, healthy foods on those days would work fine.)
I. Calorie Cycling
I set my target caloric intake for my “Enough Days”, my “Medium Days” and my “Hungry Days”.
1. I calculated my BMR. http://www.bmi-calculator.net/
bmr-calculator/. Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR); the number of calories you'd burn if you stayed in bed all day.
a. My BMR, when I began at 180 pounds in 2010, was approx. 1600-1700.
2. I subtracted 500 calories from that. One pound = 3500 calories. If you wish to lose one pound per week, you need to decrease your caloric intake by 500 calories per day.
a. 1600 calories – 500 calories = 1100 calories.
3. On “Enough Days”, you need to eat “enough”. If you eat too little, your body will go into starvation mode. If your BMR – 500 calories is less than 1200 calories, move your “Enough Day” up to 1200 calories.
Also, you want to have some days, each week, where you do not feel deprived or hungry. Don’t set your “Enough Day” too low.
a. My above calculation was 1100 calories. Not enough to avoid “starvation mode”. I set my “Enough Day” range at 1200 – 1500 calories.
b. I scheduled “Enough Days” 2x per week, and spread them out a little. Usually, Sundays and Wednesdays worked well for me, but, I was flexible and traded or adjusted days if “special event” days occurred on a different day.
4. On “Medium Days”, if you wish to create a larger calorie deficit, you need to eat fewer calories than you do on “Enough Days”. Also, one of the concepts in calorie cycling is that, if you vary the amount of calories that you consume per day, you’ll “confuse” your metabolism, and your body will not “know” that it should hang on to calories in order to maintain your weight. Your body “likes” homeostasis; it likes to stay the same. It does not “like” it when you try to make changes, such as losing weight. It “protects” you from changes, the way our ancestors’ bodies “protected” them from starvation when less food was readily available.
a. I set my “Medium Days” at 900-1199 calories. I, actually, found that, when I’m not in a “special occasion” or “buffet” kind of mind-set, this is the range where I was the most comfortable eating. I suspect that, sometimes in the past, I ate in this mode for far too many days in a row; and that “starvation mode” was a part of my weight gain problem over the years.
b. I scheduled “Medium Days” about 4x per week. I was very careful not to eat too little (such as a Medium Day or a Hungry Day) more than 2 or 3 days in a row. That is when our bodies begin to “worry” about starvation.
5. On “Hungry Days”, you decrease your calories a little bit more. Again, this increases your body’s calorie deficit, and allows you to lose weight, because you are consuming fewer calories than your body needs to function.
a. I set my “Hungry Days” at a 700-899 calorie range. And, I WAS hungry on these days. Some people follow the Alternate Day Diet, and eat 500 or fewer calories every other day, and eat “normally” on opposite days. 500 calories made me feel much too hungry and deprived. But, that works for some people.
b. I scheduled, usually, only ONE “Hungry Day” per week. Sometimes, if I wanted to “change things up” a little, I might do two in a week. But, not very often. I did not like “Hungry Days”. But, “Nothing tastes as good as thin feels” was always on my mind on these days.
c. To help keep the hunger at bay on these days, my personal strategy was to eat small amounts frequently. I would, intentionally, eat every 2 or 2 ½ hours. Often up to 6 or 7 times a day. Usually about 4 very small “meals”, and 3 snacks. One snack that I enjoyed was 6 almonds + 1 40-calorie piece of dark chocolate. I ate that almost daily (sometimes twice daily) during my weight loss phase. 4 oz of V-8 juice was an even lower calorie snack that helped tide me over on some of my “Hungry Days”.
d. I told myself: “You can eat more tomorrow. I can do ANYTHING for just one day.”
That is how I calorie-cycled. There are other ways to do it. Google it online, and find other ideas. Tweak my ideas. Tweak their ideas. Come up with a plan you can live with.
II. South Beach diet concepts
1. “Good carbs”
a. This was really important. I didn’t consider my diet to be “low-carb”. It was not nearly as low-carb as Atkins, for example. But, I generally ate fewer carbs than my sister, who has Type I Diabetes, and has to watch her carbs closely.
b. I significantly decreased “whites”. White flour, white sugar, pasta, crackers and other snack foods with white flour, white rice, etc. I also decreased starchy vegetables, such as white potatoes and corn.
c. I did not limit healthy carbs.
i. I ate lots of fruits and vegetables, which have carbs. Fruits have more carbs than vegetables, due to their natural sugars, but, especially if it was not a “Hungry Day”.
ii. I didn’t worry about fruits either. I started most mornings with oatmeal, often with almond milk and/or Greek yogurt on it and also blueberries on it.
iii. I ate legumes, sometimes a few times per week, even though they are also high in carbs. I liked to make a 3-bean salad. I used a can of green beans, and a can, each, of 2 different legumes. I topped it with a T of pickle relish (because I prefer that, instead of mayo or oil and vinegar) and usually ate a cup for a serving size until it was gone out of the refrigerator.
iv. Brown rice was OK, but, I wasn’t much of a rice eater.
d. I discovered that some of my symptoms (diarrhea) that I had thought were MS symptoms (multiple sclerosis), were, instead, connected with gluten. I cut back on gluten to 3-4x per week (many people eat it 3-4x per day). And I took a gluten enzyme (available at health food stores or amazon.com) prior to consuming gluten.
2. “Good fats”
a. It’s been a long time since I’ve read “South Beach”, and, again, I don’t think I do this as suggested either. Again, I “tweak” ideas. I don’t worry about saturated vs unsaturated fats. I believe that “we need to eat fat to lose fat”.
b. However, I SERIOUSLY limit trans-fats, which are also called hydrogenated fats. These are so “fake” and un-natural; our bodies just don’t know what to do with them. They are found in many processed foods. The more naturally a food grows in the “wild” (and, the less “processed”), the more healthy it often is for us.
a. Again, I don’t remember if “South Beach” talks about this, but there are toxins in so many processed and un-natural foods. I try to limit those. One “vice” that I still have is my Diet Dr Pepper. But, sometimes, I’m better at substituting water or tea.
b. There are foods that help to remove toxins from our bodies. Our liver is the organ where the toxins collect, prior to being released from our bodies, so it is important to have a healthy liver. If our liver needs to work too hard to remove toxins, then it has less efficiency in removing fat.
c. A glass of water every morning, with lemon squeezed into it, prior to eating, is one way to remove toxins from our liver. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables is another. My husband gave me a high-performance blender for Christmas, and I make green smoothies with fruits and vegetables, etc several times a week. Legumes is another. You can do some googling to find more information on foods that are healthy for your liver, or, here is a link to an article: http://www.globalhealingcenter
III. IsaGenix products
a. As I said, I didn’t “follow” their program either.
They recommend 2 “shakes” daily, followed by one 400-600 calorie meal. I believed this would not give me enough daily calories if I followed it every day. Also, I did not like to “eat” only a liquid diet for 2 meals a day.
b. Instead, on the days that I chose to use their products, I used less each time than they suggested, and I supplemented with “real” foods. One formula that sometimes worked for me was 3 half-servings per day (2, with a meal; one by itself as a snack).
Member Comments About This Blog Post
I'm pretty sure now that I have what will work for me.
1187 days ago
Comment edited on: 7/14/2013 8:19:22 PM
Thank you Mama. I know that you had a very good reason to loss weight so fast, but not all of us are that driven. I hope your son's wedding was a good time for you. You are doing such good work keeping the weight off.
1201 days ago
It is nice to hear that others have been able to lose weight even though the did not follow the diet exactly. I totally agree that you need to sometimes change it to "fit" you. It is also nice to hear from someone else who is short and how it worked for them. I am 5'1" and would like to lose 20 lbs. That would put me at 116 lbs which is healthy for my height. Thanks for your tips and how it worked for you. I think my problem was the same as yours as to why I gained weight. I think I had too many "medium days". I will definitely take some of your tips/advice and incorporate them into my own diet. I am attempting the Alternate Day Diet but to have one Medium Day so my down days fall on the same day each week (not on Saturdays!). Good job on your progress. I hope to have the same success as you.
1206 days ago
Thanks for your comments, Turtle, Susan and Karen.
Susan -- although I admit that my initial motivation to lose weight was vanity, my motivations to continue to lose weight during my journey, and my motivation to maintain my weight loss have very definitely been health. Because I am short, and, a small build, and middle-aged, my BMR is simply low, so my calorie consumption needs to be low.
My calorie count needs to be low (1230 calorie BMR) even just to maintain my current weight. When I was trying to lose, it needed to be lower. And, because, on my "Enough Days", I often go above my BMR calorie count, my consumption needs to be lower on my "Medium Days" in order to maintain. Perhaps people with different BMR's have the luxury of a higher calorie count. I don't. I also no longer go hungry, and I am often most comfortable eating in the 1000-1100 calorie range. It often takes more self-discipline to eat "Enough" than it does to eat less than 1200 calories.
My health is better than it's been in years. My MS symptoms have improved. My balance has improved. My stamina has improved. I have not had even a minor MS flare for two years. I have not had a hospitalization for 3 years (used to be once or twice a year, for 1-3 weeks). My cholesterol is improved. Etc. This is not just about vanity pounds.
And, I am not on a low-carb diet. I eat lots of fruits and vegetables and some other carbs. I eat "good carbs". I don't follow South Beach exactly, but, even it I did, South Beach is not a low-carb diet. I don't like low-carb diets either, including Atkins.
This diet "fits" me. I lost weight steadily and consistently (4-6 pounds per month). It was not a crash diet. And, I have been able to maintain my weight loss, which would be unlikely if the weight loss was simply "vanity pounds".
1207 days ago
Faith, thank you so much for taking the time to lay this all out for us. Obviously, you have had a "real" weight loss and lifestyle change, not a "vanity" one. The fact that you are healthier is a good clue, plus 60 lbs is nothing to sneeze out. I'm getting myself a cup of coffee and then I'll sit here and read every word. In fact, I've copied it into my word processor so I can study it and make it fit me.
Congratulations on your success! It took a lot of effort and time to achieve this plan and these results!
1207 days ago
i think your calorie confusion is much too low. i have never liked south beach or other "low carb" diets. i have never liked diets. i think if you have to limit calories so severely, you may be losing vanity weight.
1207 days ago
Your plan sounds remarkably similar to mine without the IsaGenix products but I use a Idealshape protein drink meal supplement a couple of times per week. The weight is coming off slowly but I am post menapause so that is expected. I know that I need to up the strength training. I do stretching and cardio nearly everyday. Thanks for the update on your plan.
1207 days ago
I followed that plan for about a year, and lost 60 pounds. I went from a size 22 to a size 6.
I have been in "maintenance" for over a year. I continue to follow many of the same concepts. I no longer track food daily (that had been one of my strategies), except occasionally, when I feel a need to "get back on track".
And, I no longer utilize "Hungry Days".
1207 days ago
Disclaimer: Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.