A few months ago, I let you guys in on my little secret. I had put on a few pounds, and they were clinging to my buns like a bad blind date. This wasn’t my first spin on the gain-and-lose Ferris Wheel, but what was a new twist was the time it took to get it off. I stay pretty close to my ideal weight most of the time, so I’ve never been overly concerned if the scale was up a little higher than I’d like. I trusted that, as always, a week or 2 of dieting and I’d be right back where I belong. This time, though, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I’m happy to report that I have lost those few pounds, and a few more for good measure. And it took me 10 weeks to do it. Though I sure won’t win any prizes for speed, I learned so much throughout the process that I just have to let you in on it. First, I learned that body chemistry does shift, so what worked for me last year may not work for me next year. That explains why my formerly foolproof low-carb kick-start did next to nothing this time around. What did work was basing my meals around the days’ activities, rather than just a concrete meal plan that didn’t take variable energy needs into consideration. The formula that I used to determine my caloric range is pretty complex. It involves establishing a baseline of daily calorie requirements, and then adjusting up or down depending on each day’s exertion. This works by creating a deficit, essential for fat loss, on the low-calorie days, while stoking the metabolism and providing ample fuel for training on the high-calorie days. I started off very scientific, figuring each calorie, macronutrient, and meal-timing down to a tee. While effective, the constant calculations quickly got old. I simplified this plan into something I can do almost automatically, and found that the results were just as good. Basically, I planned my high or low-calorie days according to my training schedule. On lifting days, I had 2 servings of starchy carbs, usually in the form of oatmeal, sweet potatoes or quinoa. Adding starch naturally brought my calories higher for the day, and gave me plenty of energy to blast through a heavy workout. On cardio days, I just had one serving of starchy carbs. Again, this adjusted the calories naturally, and required no thinking on my part. I planned my meals around what I would be doing in the 2-4 hours following them. Therefore, I kept my starch confined to the morning and afternoon, because I usually don’t need that type of fuel in the evening. On rest days, I kept both calories and carbs fairly low, but added a little extra healthy fat to keep me satisfied. This is the exact opposite of what I have done in the past, using off days as a re-feeding day in the hopes of saturating my muscles with fresh glycogen. It makes sense; if you’re trying to lose weight there’s no sense in filling up your tank on days you won’t use it, while running on empty on the days you do. The actual foods I ate varied from each meal, but always contained a protein, a little fat, and a carb source if needed. This small tweak in my diet yielded big results, and was easy and versatile enough that I’m still following those guidelines. My skinny jeans, which were beginning to become my archenemy, now slide on quite obediently. Even better than how I look, though, is how I feel. My energy level stays consistent throughout the day, and the 5 p.m crash is a thing of the past. I find myself needing less coffee, and even less sleep. It may have taken me a little longer to get here, but the results and lessons learned were worth every minute. If you’re trying to shake a few pounds, and are frustrated by your results, give my zig-zag plan a shot. You’ve got nothing to lose but a spare tire.
Erin stays busy pursuing her own fitness goals, and helping to educate and inspire those she loves to live healthier lives. A hair stylist by trade, she manages a salon, and is chipping away at a degree, ultimately in dietetics and kinesiology. She lives in South Florida with her husband and a “pound puppy” named Pedro.