Updated: Oct 19
One of the most challenging mental shifts someone goes through is accepting they have to eat to lose weight. The metabolic process starts when we eat. So when we eat chronically low calorie diets, we can unintentionally slow our metabolism down.
I completely understand why there is so much confusion. We hear over and again that you need to have a calorie deficit to lose weight. And that is true. A caloric surplus of even healthy food will cause you to gain, or at best maintain your weight.
So how can adding food make you lose weight? I'll explain here and share the exact strategy given to Tracy to lose 90 pounds and counting.
The two main areas we've focused on Tracy's program these last several months is dialing in her food and increasing movement.
Eat More of the Right Foods
Tracy openly shared how surprised she was once she truly starting logging her food. "I was surprised by how quickly empty calories added up. And how easily carbs and fats hit their limit before noon on most days."
Religiously entering every piece of food she ate, she soon realize she was eating way to many empty calories. There was little room for actual nutrition. It may surprise you also on how easily this happens, which is why we strongly recommend food journaling.
We made protein a game.
Everyday, carbs, fats and protein are in a race.
Tracy is focused on making sure protein wins. "It's interesting how carbs and fats appear in my tracker no matter what. Even with protein as my main focus, they both still make it in my macro counter. I've learned if I put carbs or fats in my meal first - I go over every time".
TIP: If you are struggling with your diet, track your food - especially on your bad days. Having the visual of the true results of poor choices usually helps get you back on track faster.
Balancing her macros was just one area we worked on.
The other was Tracy was chronically low on her daily caloric intake.
The main problem with that is it was keeping her metabolism slow and sluggish.
The other is the body will only do that for so many days. Sooner or later you will binge or at least consume way to many calories in a sitting "because you think you can afford it".
The truth is, just 3 slices of pizza puts the average person over their caloric intake needs for the day. So no, if you are trying to lose weight, you can't afford it - even if you had a day or two of low calories.
What you can and should do is find the sweet spot for you that keeps your energy up, fiber high, doesn't allow your blood sugar to crash, and you rarely feel hungry (not from a slow metabolism, but from eating enough).
For Tracy, that has been between 1800 and 2000 calories a day. But more than calories, she focuses on getting 1 gram of protein per body weight and keeping her carbs at about 150g. And those being primarily leafy greens and other vegetables.
"I can really feel the difference from one day to the next if I don't get enough food. My energy is low, my concentration is poor, and I can't workout with the same vigor." And possibly even more of an exciting breakthrough Tracy continues with,
"I used to think it's because my body was some how broken or I had to much stress. I now realize my low energy was coming from a slow metabolism and lack of food and exercise "
The other key to her continued success is added movement. Tracy still workouts at Pro Push three days a week. We switch every few weeks between HIIT, strength training, endurance training, and rest based training.
Tracy also added something. Something outside her comfort zone. She ventured out to a Cycle Bar, rides several times a week and loves it!
"I can really feel my body adjusting to all the exercise and in a positive way. I love watching the calories go up on my tracker and hitting those zone minutes".
She also continues to hike with family and make sure her daily steps are up.
At one point Tracy did hit a plateau. When she came to us looking for suggestions, the first thing we looked at was her exertion, not her food intake.
Our recommendation was to back off the cycling one day, because strength over cardio is better for the long term metabolic benefits. But, she needed to keep her steps up that day. Allowing for good movement, but also letting her body rest and inflammation reduce.
The month we made this adjustment, she lost 12 more pounds.
"It's incredible to me how the simplest adjustments have such a huge impact. I didn't need to reduce my food, but change my movement patterns." She also went on to say, "I'm still doing cycle bar and I'm kind of looking forward to my next plateau so I can add my fourth day back in."
So that's our update on Tracy and her goals to reclaim her life. She is doing it and we are cheering her on every step of the way. She has seen benchmarks on the scale she hasn't seen in decades. And that's ok! The point is that it was not to late for her to feel her best and it isn't to late for any of us either. We can and should step forward and try again and again if necessary.