Calorie Chaos: Introduction

I am not that girl that obsesses over calories. No really. Well, maybe that one time. But mostly, I am pretty loose with keeping track of my eating. (Another bowl of ice cream you say? BRING IT!) Which is likely why I’m overweight to begin with. As much as knowing which PSL is the best can be useful, and setting a goal weight can be helpful, if you aren’t watching what goes into your mouth, you’re bound to keep packing on the pounds. I know most people realize this, but the key here is accepting what that really means. I’m not saying to never eat chocolate again, or stop eating pizza for a year, I’m saying that you need to accept that a) you are not eating well (because clearly if you were you would not be in this predicament in the first place) and b) if you are serious about losing weight, you will need to change (in part) what you eat.

So, take a deep breath and say this out loud with me:

I accept that I do not currently eat well and I accept that I need to eat better in order to lose weight and I accept that I will have to make changes to my diet to do so.

(Told you to take a deep breath.) There. That’s better.

Now what?

Enter the wonderful world of calories. Just like weight can be a useful way to track your progress, calories can be a great way to track what you are actually eating compared to how much you should be eating.

I’m going to get all sciencey with you here, so bear with me. Remember that whole Law of Conservation of Mass thing? Basically, mass can neither be created nor destroyed, just displaced. Which means, anything that you put into your body does not just magically disappear, it just gets reshuffled. Skipping the more complicated stuff, food is turned into calories (among other things but we are ignoring all that because it makes our heads hurt) and your body uses calories to do stuff (like make your head hurt). If you shove in more calories than your body uses, they get stored off to the side as fat (like that drawer full of random pens you have kicking around that just keeps growing and growing and really, who would ever need that many pens?) In order to lose weight, you need to make sure that the calories coming in are fewer than the calories being used (aka stop buying new pens and start using the ones you already have stashed away in your pen drawer).

If you want to delve deeper, check out the How Stuff Works’ article “When we lose weight, where does the lost weight go?”. I mean, yes this is also the website that has an article named “How zombies work” so I’m not entirely convinced of the article’s scientific accuracy, but the basic concept is there. And I mean, come on, it’s a pretty cool question to ask.

So how, exactly, do you track calories? I have no idea. But there’s an app for that! Actually, there are several apps for that.

As your beloved guinea pig, each month (or so) I will give a different calorie counting app a whirl and let you know what I liked, or didn’t like, or if I even actually stuck to using it, and I will post my reviews under the Calorie Chaos series for all of our benefits. You’re welcome.

This month’s contender will be MyFitnessPal. Boasting a ridiculous amount of add-ons and features like FB integration (um, no thank you?) and a private diary and a blog (yay blogs!), MyFitnessPal is totally free, takes about 5 minutes to set up, and will tell you, based on your height and age and weight and weight loss goal and magic, how many calories a day you should be taking in. You’re completely welcome to try it out with me this month so we can rant or rave about it together. High five! (Oh, wait, do the cool kids not do that anymore?) Fist pump! Yeah!

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Step 1: Schedule It

The most difficult challenge to weight loss is also the first you will come across, actually doing something about it. You’ve taken the first steps to acknowledge that something needs to change. You’ve let that sit in the back of your mind as your muffin top slowly engulfed your waist line. You’ve finally heard and accepted as true the word “overweight”. You’ve convinced yourself that now is the time to finally do this! You’ve (tentatively) decided to take action! And now, you have no idea what to do next. Which brings me to step 1.

The single most important thing you can do at this point is to schedule in work-outs.

Let’s face it, telling yourself that you’re too busy, or that you’ll get to it, or you’ve had such a long day at the office and maybe tomorrow will be a better day, ends up with you on the couch watching Game of Thrones and cursing Daenerys for being so darned skinny while eating a whole bag of chips and lamenting the growth of your recently named gut, Georgeita. (Kudos to Serious Tom who first named his beer gut George.)

Now, I have set myself the rather enthusiastic goal of devoting 5 hours a week to fitness. According to the Canadian food guide recommendations, adults should be active a minimum of 2 and a half hours a week. So I figure if I want to counteract the 40+ hours a week I spend sitting in a cube and if I want to actually lose weight, I would need to overshoot that target.

I just don’t have any time.

This  is probably the most used excuse. And I will have none of that!

If you manage to schedule in time to binge-watch Orange is the New Black on Netflix, you can schedule in time to be active. Now, I am not asking for you to devote 2 hours a day, 7 days a week to “lose 30 pounds in 3 weeks while doing this ridiculously over energetic spandex-clad work-out video”. I am asking you to a) be realistic and b) don’t be so realistic as to not schedule in any time at all.

I’ve broken my days down into two main time frames, AM (before work) and PM (after work). To start things off, I’ve picked activities that I am most comfortable with, eg. activities that I have tried to do in the past with some measure of success. I’ve also kept my weekends free, because the last thing in the world I want to do is hit the gym instead of my sacred Sunday morning Starbucks.

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If you’re any good at math, you’ll notice that I’ve only scheduled in 4 hours a week. I’m all about baby steps, and want to give myself room to grow. And also room to fail. I don’t expect to be able to jump into this schedule full swing right away. I figure it will probably take a month or so before I actually manage to roll out of bed early enough every work day to roll out the yoga mat, but I’m all about setting goals that I can work towards. Take a look at what your weekly obligations are at the moment, and work around them to try and integrate something as seamlessly as possible.

If you are desperately struggling to find time in your days, I would also suggest that you reconsider sleep obligations. Most of us have been lead to believe that you should ideally hit 8 hours of sleep a night, but recent studies show that the ideal amount of sleep for adults is 7 hours. With that in mind, you might be able to find an extra hour a day to devote to sweating instead of sleeping. And if you find that your 5 hours of sleep a night pattern has suddenly been banished, you might want to reconsider how much time you spend a night in front of a screen. Sorry.

Finding a set schedule creates an obligation that would otherwise be lacking. Putting off workouts to tomorrow is no longer an acceptable excuse. Treat your scheduled in time like any other appointment you make, and try your best to stick to it. If possible, you can even set times to stick to in an attempt to keep things on track. And if you’re as OCD as I can be, you can even schedule out everything else in your life, including dinners, blogging, and time with the hubby. No really.

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Reclaiming Skinny (def’n)

  1. To reclaim a previous state of skinny. To achieve weight loss through healthy eating habits, fitness habits, and lifestyle choices. To shed the office 30 and find general wellness.
  2. To redefine skinny. To recognize that skinny should not be considered a universal term. To find a personal meaning behind skinny and what it entails, including a healthy body weight and body image independent of unrealistic social expectations. To break free of fashion fitness.
  3. A blog that outlines a realistic approach to losing weight and offers firsthand accounts of the blogger’s personal weight-loss journey. A blog that motivates and challenges both the blogger and the readers to take on healthier lifestyles and reclaim their own skinny. A positive support group that explores the reality of losing weight in a world of social media, fad diets and fitness programs, negative body image, unrealistic expected time commitments, office jobs and Starbucks.

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