[Disclaimer] I’m not a health professional and what I’m sharing in this post is what I’ve personally experienced. The approach I’ve taken for weight loss is from science and research-backed methods, and I’ve linked to the supporting evidence for all health claims. It is important for you to do your research too and if necessary, consult with a medical professional before starting a new diet.
Three days before Thanksgiving 2019 I decided to drastically alter my diet. I know, sounds crazy. Just days before the holiday known for food coma-inducing meals and lots of pie, I decided to change up the way I was eating.
Let me give a little back story on why I felt the need to do this. By most accounts, I looked like I was a healthy weight. I didn’t need to lose a drastic amount of weight but the extra weight I had I could feel and see in the way some of my clothes were starting to fit me. The daily grind of working from 9-5, coming home and being too exhausted to drag myself to the gym and instead eating a heavy meal and snacking throughout the evening was a major contributor to my weight gain.
It was a decision of well-being and challenging myself to create healthier habits. This all was for me: mentally, emotionally and physically.
My goal was to lose around 15 pounds. This decision wasn’t about needing to be skinny or because I felt some pressure by society or social media to look a specific way. It was a decision of well-being and challenging myself to create healthier habits. This all was for me: mentally, emotionally and physically.
My Refined Eating Plan
My diet approach was not to do keto, paleo, whole30 or any of the other fad ones currently out there. I wasn’t going to cut out all carbs or completely quit eating any form of sugar or go on a juice cleanse. So many of those diets are not sustainable and many people tend to gain all the weight back once they stop.
My approach to weight loss is something that is backed and proven by science, and that is creating a caloric deficit.
So what does that mean? A caloric deficit is any shortage in the amount of calories consumed relative to the amount of calories required for maintenance of current body weight.
When it comes to calories, they do count. Many overfeeding studies have found that when people eat more calories than they burn off, they gain weight. This 2014 review found that people who participated in weight loss plans that included counting calories lost around 7 pounds more weight than those who did not. As you’ve probably seen over the years in many weight loss articles and papers, eating in a 500 caloric deficit (below your specific maintenance level) can lead to approximately a pound of weight loss a week.
Simplified this means eating too many calories (over your maintenance level) leads to weight gain and counting calories and eating in a caloric deficit leads to weight loss.
Please keep in mind that as a woman your deficit SHOULD NOT have you consuming less than 1,200 calories a day. You should not be starving yourself. It is imperative that you make sure to feed your body with nutritious foods (whole grains, fruits, veggies) and drink plenty of water. Going lower than 1,200 also puts you at risk to significantly slow your metabolism which can make your body go into starvation mode and cling on to every calorie you put in rather than use for fuel.
I changed up the food I was eating by finally getting serious about meal prep and planning, and thinking through each ingredient I was putting together to make sure I was getting all the right nutritional elements.
My new diet plan consisted of creating a 500 calorie deficit per day (below my maintenance level), done either by exercise or on my non-gym days, by cutting back on food intake. I used this tool to get a good baseline of my caloric maintenance level (based on gender, age, height, weight and activity level) and then tweaked from there based on the results I was seeing (you can also go to the doctor to get a more accurate reading specific to your body).
As I said above, calories count but the quality of the food that you’re getting your calories from is also imperative. I changed up the food I was eating by finally getting serious about meal prep and planning, and thinking through each ingredient I was putting together to make sure I was getting the biggest bang for my buck in terms of nutrition. That means making sure that protein, whole grains and healthy fats along with bigger servings of fruits and veggies in each meal. I think it is also important to call out that I did all of this with plant-based, mostly vegan foods, and yes there are an abundance of non-meat/non-dairy foods where you can get your protein fill for the day.
I also invested in a food scale (you can buy the one I got here) to help me get really specific about portions so I could track calories as accurately as possible. I downloaded the My Fitness Pal app (using the free version) and this is where I track all my foods/meals everyday.
How I Approached Exercise
I took a combo approach to exercise by doing a routine of strength training, plyometrics and HIIT. The cardio high intensity parts helped me burn calories in the moment and the strength and weight lifting helped me build muscle which helps boost after burn calories. It is important to do both cardio and strength to ensure you’re preserving and building muscle mass.
I aimed to go to the gym 3-4 times a week and all my workouts had a strong focus on building muscle through strength training and plyometrics. I did 2-3 HIIT cardio workouts a week too but those were not always part of every gym session I did.
I’m about 78 days into this and have lost 8.3 pounds. If you do the math this does not average out to 1 pound of fat loss a week, more like ¾ of a pound per week. This is because I had some missteps along the way and I allowed myself to indulge a little bit for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.
It is enough to see the physical change in my body. I can see my waist and thighs are getting slimmer and that I’ve definitely become stronger too. Last week I even got back into two different pairs of jeans that I haven’t been able to wear for the last year or so (one of them is actually a bit too big in the waist now!).
At this point, I’m about halfway to my goal weight and will write up part two of this once I get there. That’s where I’ll go into more learnings, tips and final results. I realize there’s a lot in this post that lacks specifics like what I am eating everyday, what things did I or did I not cut out as well as what my fitness routine looks like. I’ll be writing and posting more of those specifics in the coming weeks.
I’ll leave you with this, as I’ve been researching and scouring the internet on everything diet, weight loss and fitness-related and the most alarming thing that I keep seeing over and over again is the amount of misinformation and gimmicks out there that promise to help you lose weight fast and a lot of non-qualified influencers pushing overly restrictive diets that are not backed by science. My approach took what research and science has been telling us a long and put it to the test. And it works!
The journey to better health and losing weight is slow, hard and time-consuming. There’s no fast fix or magic pill. It all comes down to the work you’re willing to do. I promise the results will be worth it.