The surprising reason why I haven’t been able to lose weight

The surprising reason why I haven’t been able to lose weightRemember when I signed up for the Tone It Up Bikini Series Challenge after the Phoenix Marathon in February, lost an inch or so, then gained it all back (and then some) a few weeks later?

I decided to do some research into why I’ve been struggling this time around to get down to my racing weight for the Goodlife Fitness Marathon in October, which I can usually do when I really put my mind and body to it. And although summertime BBQs, patio drinks and chips and salsa has contributed somewhat to my predicament, the surprising reason why I haven’t been able to lose weight comes down to approximately a handful of berries, a lick of peanut butter, and a couple more pieces of my daily dark chocolate quota (yes, I’ve started eating chocolate again – but not as much!) per day. So roughly 150-200 extra calories per day.

Those few extra nibbles a day (which I accounted for in MyFitness Pal) added up to a small weight gain and now maintenance, even though I’ve been in a small calorie deficit almost this entire time. Which wasn’t actually as much of a deficit as I thought, based on MyFitnessPal logging data from two years ago when I made a concentrated effort to lose weight.

Before we take a look at the numbers, keep in mind I’m a perfectly healthy weight and think snacking is awesome. I advocate for balance, not restriction, and don’t believe people should always be monitoring calories eaten and burned—just making sure they’re eating good, nutritious food about 80% of the time, rounded out with yummy treats, because #YOLO. In this particular instance, my goal is to lose roughly 5 lbs of body fat so I can hopefully achieve my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon in 2018. I have to run a really fast time in order to qualify (3:35) and ACTUALLY GET IN (under 3:30), so the lighter I am (to a point), the faster I’ll be.

My FitBit and MyFitnessPal data

My basal metabolic rate (basically how many calories I need just to sit around and grow hair and nails) is about 1,300 – 1,400 calories per day (to figure out your BMR, this is a good calculator to use). To get my daily calorie needs, I use the Harris Benedict Formula and multiply my BMR by 1.2, which equals about 1,600 -1,700 calories. This is what I need to eat to maintain my weight. To lose weight, I’d need to be in a 250-500 calorie per day deficit, which can be done with a mix of reducing my calorie intake and exercising/moving around more. Keep in mind these are all just rough estimates, and other factors can contribute to weight loss and gain such as sleep, stress and hormones. I’ve played around with these numbers before with predictable results, which is why I’m fairly confident about how much energy my body needs to take in to fuel my activities.

The calorie amounts listed below are net calories, meaning it’s the calories taken in and expended, not just the calories eaten. I ate between 1,800-2,000 calories per day when I was trying to lose body fat a few years ago.

Net calories from December 30, 2013 to February 2, 2015 (about 5 weeks)

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Average: 1398.4 net calories

Nutrients from December 30, 2013 to February 2, 2015 (about 5 weeks)

fitpal2

Averages

  • Protein: 115.2 g
  • Fat: 52 g
  • Carbs: 266.2 g
  • Sugar: 101 g (whoa!)
  • Fiber: 36.8 g

When I ate like this for just over a month, I lost about 4 lbs.

Now let’s compare that to a snapshot of last month-ish.

Net calories from May 16, 2016 to June 19, 2016 (about 5 weeks)

fitpal3

Average: 1645.4 net calories

Nutrients from May 23, 2016 to July 3, 2016 (about 5 weeks)

fitpal4

Averages

  • Protein: 93.8 g
  • Fat: 76.2 g
  • Carbs: 264 g
  • Sugar: 70.6 g
  • Fiber: 51.4 g

Though I ate slightly more protein and less fat back in January 2014 (but more sugar!), I’d say the comparison really does come down to those 250 extra calories per day, since I can say my stress and sleep levels are pretty close to what they were a two years ago.

The point of me sharing this with you isn’t to highlight the importance of monitoring calories in and out when it comes to fat loss, but to share the effectiveness of mindful eating. Small treats here and there really do add up, especially when you’re trying to lose weight. This isn’t to say you can’t enjoy snacks and tastes and nibbles now and again, but if you’re eating in a deficit with a goal to lose weight and are frustrated by the results so far, mindful eating could be the key to help you breakthrough your weight loss plateau.

Are you a mindless snacker? Have your tracked food intake before in correlation with weight loss? Do you currently count calories? Have you ever counted calories? 

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Thanks Amanda for the link-up!