Back in my pre-AFQ days, I always wondered why I couldn’t lose weight. I mean there were weeks that I did lose, but there were more weeks that I didn’t. Gah, frustrating! I truly had no idea why. If you’d asked me what I was eating, I would have said that I ate really well during the week.
I didn’t eat all that much. It was all low fat. I also only had one day where I ate whatever I wanted (cheat day), but it was just the one day and wasn’t that much food. I’d earned it because I ate so well all the other days. I would have guessed that I ate about 1200-1500 calories daily during the week if I had to put a number on it.
I usually had oatmeal for breakfast or cheerios or sometimes a protein shake. Lunch was either my go-to rice with peas and carrots (veggies!) and BBQ sauce or I’d have a diet microwave meal like a Weight Watchers or Lean Cuisine. OMG, I loved the Chicken Enchilada Suiza or the Butternut Squash Ravioli. Dinner was pasta or… hmmm… as I’m typing this, I honestly can’t remember what I would make for dinner back then.
It wasn’t much variety like it is now. I do recall baking chicken breasts a lot. Dry, rubbery baked chicken. Plenty of pasta, rice, and sides of green beans or broccoli for dinner. Just thinking back on portions that I used to eat, I’d now ballpark calories at about 1500-1800 per day. Let’s say 1500 if I stuck to it, but there were days when the vending machine or co-worker’s candy called to me and I’d guess 1800 on those.
I’m probably being generously low on those calories knowing what I do now, but let’s go with those numbers. The calories I needed to maintain my weight at that time were 2000 calories per day, so eating 1500-1800 calories would have me losing weight. In my example below, I’ll go best case scenario and assume that I totally ignored the candy and snacks all week and ate 1500 calories daily.
- Maintenance calories per day – 2000
- Eating per day – 1500-1800
- Deficit per week on non-cheat day assuming 1500 calories – 500 x 6 days = 3000 per week
So this would have me losing just shy of one pound per week. Even taking the worst case numbers of 1800 x 6, that’s a deficit of 1200 and about a half pound. Nice, right? Now let’s do a bit of real world math to show what was going on. FYI, this is based on what I really truly ate on Fridays back then:
Breakfast – I ate this breakfast every Friday for years. It was my favorite.
- 2 chocolate iced kreme filled donuts – 680
- Venti white chocolate mocha with whip – 580
Lunch – I opted for this because it was pretty much fat free and I knew I was going to have dessert with dinner. I was trying to plan ahead.
- 1 cup (measured dry) instant rice – 340
- 1 cup peas and carrots – 80
- BBQ sauce – 50
Dinner – I’ll give you two of my favorite Friday options.
- Bakery cupcake – 600
- Ribs and fries – 1320 (I didn’t even include the ketchup in these numbers, LOL.)
- Quesadilla salad – 1430
- Sundae – 800
- Chicken Tequila Fettuccine – 1010
- Bread with butter – 460
- Tiramisu – 820
- Ribs Version – 3650
- Salad Version – 3960
- Fettuccine Version – 4020
The ribs version would have put me over that day by 1650 calories, the salad version would have been 1960 over, and the fettuccine by 2020 . Side note: I have to laugh at the fact that I was better off calorie-wise with the freaking ribs and fries than the salad! These numbers assume that no one got heavy handed with the whipped cream, the salad dressing, the cheese…
We all know that the barista rarely puts just 2 Tbsp of whipped cream on a drink, so yeah. Right there, I’d eaten back nearly the entire best case scenario 3000 calorie deficit for the week. I’d also eaten way more than the more realistic 1200 calorie deficit. Six days of work undone in one. I say six days, but do you know what typically happened? Saturday I’d get up and weigh myself. OMG, the tears and horror.
The scale would be up a few pounds from the salt in the dinner, the extra carbs, the extra volume of food. I’d fling myself around in a temper tantrum wondering why nothing I did worked, then I’d usually end up picking and snacking or throwing in the towel on the damn diet. This resulted in finishing off the remaining calories that were left from the deficit. It also some weeks was enough to have me gain weight… on my diet.
It wasn’t until I started paying attention to how much I was eating and got realistic in true numbers that I realized just what I’d been doing. I really had no idea how easy it is to underestimate when you don’t step back and look at the big picture. Truthfully the Friday meals weren’t a lot of food, but they were all calorie dense and added up quickly.
I promise I’m not exaggerating with this example. I really did eat these things week after week which is why I gave specific meals. I really did wonder why I wasn’t losing weight. I really did say that one day, one meal, a salad wasn’t that bad. It was that bad and I’m sure many of you can see your own versions of this in your eating. Your food choices might be different, but the result similar.
A little knowledge and some cold hard numbers goes a long way. If you’re as confused as I was, try really tracking for a week and see how your numbers line up. It might not be pretty, but if you know then you can work to change it. Change may be hard, but it’s a lot harder to think you’re doing everything right and deal with frustration and disappointment week after week.
If you know someone who is going through this, share this link with them. If you’d like an objective look at your eating or to learn more about working with me on your own nutrition and workout programs, please let me know. We can talk about what we can achieve and assessments are free. I can also show you that small changes can make a big difference, and have you looking back with relief that you no longer undo your hard work.