Earlier this year, I was in a frustrating place with nutrition and weight loss. I was eating healthfully and tracking everything. I was running higher, more consistent mileage than I had ever run before. But I was not losing weight. I even gained a few pounds. I was doing everything “right,” why was the scale still going up?
I identified a few potential culprits. One was age. I’m riding the tail end of my 30s and my metabolism is slowing down. Even with all of my activity, I am not burning calories the way I used to. Along those lines, I have been running consistently for a couple of years now, and my body has gotten fairly accustomed to and efficient at running. So I am burning fewer calories per mile. And even though I tracked my meals, I wasn’t terribly vigilant about weighing and measuring my food. I am sure I had some portion creep happening.
I needed to do something different. A friend had been doing an intermittent fasting diet where she ate very low calorie (500-700 calories per day) for two days a week and then ate whatever she wanted (within reason) the other days. That had been a great tool for her to lose and then maintain a very healthy weight. I knew 500-700 calories a day was not realistic for me, even for only two days a week. But I did try having two much-lower calorie days during the week. “Sadness days,” if you will.
Lose It, the calorie tracking app that I use, calculated that I burn just over 2000 calories on a typical day. On days that I run, I burn anywhere from 2400-3000 calories. I decided to eat 1300-1400 calories on Sadness Days, which is about 500-600 calories less than I was eating on a typical day. This would give me a significant calorie deficit without starving. On the other five days of the week, I made sure I stayed within my daily calories, keeping around a total calorie deficit of at least 500 calories (including exercise calories).
I started this about a month ago. I have lost about 8 pounds, after not losing any weight for months. I have a few theories about why that happened too.
The first and most important is that it was a CHANGE. My body had gotten comfortable with my regular intake and activity level, so having those low calorie days shocked it into doing something different.
Second, it showed me that it was okay to be hungry. After a lifetime of dieting, I have a lot of anxiety about food. I am ALWAYS thinking about where my next meal is coming from and if I have enough provisions to make it until then. This approach has shown me that even though hunger is not an awesome feeling, I can handle it and don’t need to be afraid of it.
Third, I am eating fewer overall calories. That is partially because of the increased deficit on Sadness Days, and partially because I feel satisfied with fewer calories on non-Sadness Days.
Don’t get me wrong, it is not easy. I spent one Sadness night dreaming about cupcakes, and then woke up pissed off that I couldn’t really have them. I have to plan my Sadness Days carefully to (a) limit calories and (b) reduce temptation. But as of now it seems to be working, and I think it’s been at least a little bit good for me.