I had a conversation today with good buddy on sparkpeople about calorie range goals and how we tend to obsess about staying with in the lines ~ but how firm are those lines and what happens if you go outside them momentarily or even for an extended period of time?
From day 1 on spark (September 25, 2008) my "spark range" goal has always been 1200-1550 calories per day. I did my best to stick to this most of the time, but have to admit that my weekends have always sort of been "free". Weekends have always been my biggest obstacle as far as controlling my intake. We're always on the go, out and about, or attending an event that seems to make controlling my calories extremely hard. Despite that though I always considered my range was 1200-1550 and increasing that goal was pretty scary to me until recently after talking to a few people I decided to explore the idea.
So I got to thinking today, with all my splurges what is my "real range"? At the end of the day just what range was I TRULY eating in and how did that effect my weight loss? One of the biggest problems with weight loss is there is so much guessing with it. So much trial and error to see what works for you specifically. When I first started this journey my dietician sister gave me a really good piece of advice and I think it is something EVERYONE could use in their own journey "Think of your calories as a weekly average, not individual days". Our bodies fluctuate so much day to day and our calories burned daily changes too. You may have a day where you eat more b/c your appetite is fierce due to some major calorie burning, and you'll have days where you are just not that hungry and your intake will be lower. Some days 1200 just wont cut it neither will 1500, and some days I struggle to get to 1200.
So I went back to through my log to day 1 (another benefit of logging) to see how my eating has effected my weight loss - and just WHAT IS the correlation? What I've found was kind of surprising:
Just to set some over all guidelines before I share the results my range goals were:
36,00-46,500 (30 day months) 37,200-48,050 (31 day months) monthly average
8,400-10,850 weekly average
1200-1550 calories per day
Fitness goal was to burn anywhere between 2000-4000 calories per week
(Didn't track b/c I started on 9/25/09) But I DID lose 3 pounds in those first 5 days
October 2008 (31 days):
Monthly Average: 41,111 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1138-1468 (hit goal all 5 weeks)
Daily Average: 1326 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 9063
Days Worked Out: 23
Pounds lost: 9
November 2008 (30 days):
Monthly Average: 43,336 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1183-1543 (hit goal)
Daily Average: 1444 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 15,102
Days Worked Out: 27
Pounds lost: 12
December 2008 (31 days)
Monthly Average: 38,916 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 993-1534 (hit goal - was actually too low one week)
Daily Average: 1255 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 11,929
Days Worked Out: 20
Pounds lost: 10
January 2009 (31 days)
Monthly Average: 40,276 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1211-1465 (hit goal)
Daily Average: 1299 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 16,373
Days Worked Out:23
Pounds lost: 8
February 2009 (28 days GOAL was 33,600-43,400)
Monthly Average: 45,742 (OVER)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1206-2166 (Hit goal two weeks, OVER two weeks)
Daily Average: 1634 (OVER)
Calories Burned: 9,705
Days Worked Out: 20
Pounds lost: 4
March 2009 (31 days)
Monthly Average: 45,498 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1327-1664 (hit goal 4 weeks, Over 1)
Daily Average: 1468 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 8,200
Days Worked Out: 22
Pounds lost: 7
April 2009 (30 days)
Monthly Average: 45,622 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1145-1904 (hit goal 2 weeks, OVER 3 weeks)
Daily Average: 1520 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 13,097
Days Worked Out: 24
Pounds lost: 5
May 2009 (31 days)
Monthly Average: 54,912 (OVER)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1359-2297 (hit goal 2 weeks, OVER 3 weeks)
Daily Average: 1771 (OVER)
Calories Burned: 7,271
Days Worked Out: 11
Pounds lost: 2
June 2009 (30 days)
Monthly Average: 53,658 (OVER)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 976-2529 (UNDER 1 week, Hit Goal 2 weeks, OVER 2 weeks))
Daily Average: 1788 (OVER)
Calories Burned: 5,255
Days Worked Out: 8
Pounds lost: 2
July 2009 (31 days)
Monthly Average: 46,638 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1149-1868 (hit goal 3 weeks, OVER 2 weeks))
Daily Average: 1504 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 19,122
Days Worked Out: 21
Pounds lost: 6
August 2009 (31 days)
Monthly Average: 52,351 (OVER)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1501-2566 (hit goal 3 weeks, OVER 2 weeks)
Daily Average: 1688 (OVER)
Calories Burned: 8,846
Days Worked Out: 13
Pounds lost: 4
September 2009 (30 days)
Monthly Average: 41,454 (hit goal)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1027-1521 (UNDER 1 week, hit goal 4 weeks)
Daily Average: 1382 (hit goal)
Calories Burned: 11,364
Days Worked Out: 14
Pounds lost: 3
October 2009 (31 days)
Monthly Average: 51,252 (OVER)
Weekly Average: Ranged from 1202-2084 (hit goal 1 week, OVER 4 weeks)
Daily Average: 1653 (OVER)
Calories Burned: 13,520
Days Worked Out: 9
Pounds lost: 2
- -Most weeks I stayed in line Mon - Thurs but had a hard time with low numbers on the weekends.
- -With every spike or weekend indulgence I always snapped back to my range, even if it was short lived.
- -The MAJORITY of months I was with in range (8 out of 13)
- -Went OVER my goal of maintaining a 1200-1550 calorie daily average 5 out of 13 months.
- -In the months I went OVER my calorie goals I still lost weight, the number of pounds lost were considerably lower though than the months I stayed on track. Feb 5lbs, May 2lbs, June 2lbs, Aug 4lbs, and Oct 2lbs.
- -With the exception of September, each month I stayed with in my range I lost 5lbs or more
- -Exercise had a significant impact on my weight loss. Months I made it to the gym more than 15 days yielded more pounds lost. It was the calories burned that varied widely I didn't necessarily lose more weight with higher calories burned.
- -I managed to lose 22 pounds in the two months of the year the average American puts on 10 pounds (November & December)
- -I didn't specifically look at food trends, but I'd venture to guess the months I stayed with in range I was sticking to a primarily healthy clean diet, and the months I went over I probably splurged more IE less healthy food and more binges -- which goes to show eating healthy DOES effect your weight and your weight loss efforts DUH right?!
- -Even in months I lost a low # of pounds I still saw big results on my body -which backs up the significance of strength training. From Sept-October 09 I only lost 5 pounds but dropped a whole pant size.
- -My worst months were months I had events like birthday or vacation where I found it really hard to get back to my normal routine after days of splurges.
- -When I didn't like what the scale said or it refused to move I looked at measurements and clothing sizes and they were often more truthful than the scale.
What does this all mean for me??
Basically the reason I've been toying with upping my calories is basically peer pressure LOL. Not totally but I've had several people say to me I wasn't eating enough. So I thought okay I'll up my calories for a while and see if it makes a difference. I am burning a lot of calories (anywhere from 3000-4000 per week, working out 5-6 times) so maybe I need more food now that I'm at a lower weight (my body doesn't have the fat reserves it used to). My weight loss progress has slowed over the last few months - while still losing I'm only losing 2-3lbs per month which hey a loss is still a loss I know, and the last 10 pounds they say are very stubborn - so this I'm not surprised by. But the big question is what do I keep my calories at???
After look at the facts a few things are clear. First I need to be more consistent. The weekend eating out binges have got to STOP! NOT eating out is not realistic for me, there are just too many scenarios where it truly is our only option SO the best thing I can do is just start making better choices when I do eat out. It seems that the range of 1200-1500 calories per day is working for me, while I have days at 1200 i have days that are higher (sometimes too high to balance them out) I've lost nearly 80 pounds so far with this goal (even if I didn't meet it 100% of the time). I may not be meeting the goal daily, but like my sister said my averages are realistic I think. The months I had the largest losses I maintained a daily average of anywhere from 1300-1550. This seems to be what my body responds to so like ANEWAMANDA says, "If it ain't broke don't fix it" LOL. Some people may argue that this is too low, but truly my intake does fluctuate. Some days my hunger is really there and I'll have 1600-1700 calories that day (I always listen to my body-it knows best), but the next few days I may stick with 1200-1400 so it averages out. I think if its quality food I'm eating too, that will certainly help the situation.
SO basically bottom line I like my plan, it's worked well for me, and the numbers support that so I think I'll stick with it for a while longer. 8 pounds to go to goal, I'm in the home stretch now! If I still haven't reached my goal by December 31st (1 pound a week weight loss) then perhaps I'll re-evaluate!
I know this was a lot of info and number crunching, but bottom line I think its vital for anyone who wants to lose weight to track their progress, and log their food. Looking back now at the times where I was not losing much or nothing at all, I was still making progress - even though it was hard to see it at the time. Now looking forward I know not to get discouraged b/c as long as I keep doing what I've been doing I'll get there eventually. It's been so helpful for me in so many ways to track everything, not just for reflection but in learning about myself. It sounds corny but my relationship with myself has improved because of it!
So to answer my own question just how important are the numbers?? To me they are VITAL - I respond best to a regimented, tracked, structured system that holds me accountable and that for me makes the best results. I know now that I'm down to the last 10 pounds or so its not so much about the weight, but how much I love myself and over all I love my self soooooooooo much more than I did a year ago! Its important for me not to get wrapped up in the last 10 pounds or over obsess too much because looking back at the old 210lb girl I used to be, she would have KILLED to be 160-150 pounds, here I've far surpassed that so everything else is just icing on the cake - and I know I'll eventually get to where I want to be, just gotta keep chugging along. The changes I've made not just physically but mentally and spiritually are monumental. I will continue to track the numbers but also as goals evolve I am going to focus on another number - body fat percentage :)