Thursday, April 7, 2011

Q&A Session: The Answers Part 1

I got lots of great questions on my blog post from yesterday, and I'm going to use a few blog posts to answer them so it's not too much at once. Here are my answers to the first set of questions!
1.) Do I need to eat my exercise calories? If I'm eating 1200 a day and burning 600 in exercise, does this mean I need to eat 1800 total?
Ah, the million dollar question. I've seen dozens of posts and message boards asking this, and it's a hot topic on here. I addressed it in detail in my Plateau blog, but to sum up my personal experience with this: When I started I rarely ate exercise calories. However, I was 75 lbs above a healthy weight when I started. So for the first 65 lbs, not really eating my exercise calories worked. I burned anywhere from 300-600 calories a day and I worked out pretty consistantly. Then I got to the dreaded "Last 10 Pounds" and my weight loss came to a screeching halt. And for a few months I tried doing what had worked for the first 65 lbs and wondered why I wasn't losing. I tried less calories, that REALLY didn't work. So I started eating more... and more. And now I'm averaging 1600 calories a day. And ya know what, I'm LOSING! I don't eat back every single exercise calorie, and on days I don't have a dedicated workout, I'm still eating 1500+. So it all evens out. But if you are close to a healthy weight or you have been eating low calories with high calorie burns for 6 months or more, there is a good chance you are going to have to eat MORE to continue to lose weight once you hit a plateau. And make sure you are honest and accurate with your logging. Measuring and weighing food really helps. 
2.) How long did it take you to get to where you are, weight wise, now?
 I started at 215 lbs in August of 2009, right before starting my final semester of college. I managed to "accidentally" lose 15 lbs that semester from having to walk up a giant hill several times a day to class and by eating less. That got me started and in Feb 2010 when I started my fulltime job, I committed 100% to it. I went from 200 lbs in Feb to 150 in December, so that's 50 lbs lost in about 10 months. After a 3 month plateau, I'm starting to lose again and my goal is 140.
3.) How do I feel about being smaller? How do I cope with still feeling like a "big girl" in my head?
It's something that I still deal with a lot. I do have much more confidence in myself now that I'm smaller, but growing up overweight is something that definitely sticks with you. Even though other people see me as being "tiny", I still think of myself as 9 lbs overweight. It's been incredibly difficult for me to get over the number on the scale, and the plateau was a challenge. I'm starting to get better, I accept that I'll never look like a Victoria Secret model in a bikini, but that isn't going to stop me from wearing one. It's just about finding clothes that fit me perfectly and having confidence that I look good. There's no reason to hide behind my weight anymore.
4.) Does my personal trainer have me do lots of circuits or strength training?
Oh yeah he does! That's the basis of my workouts. It's a 30 minute circuit and it's mostly intense strength training with cardio in it. We'll do lots of "knee ups", lunges and squats with a medicine ball, planks, crunches with a medicine ball (yeah, he loves that thing), and the strength machines. And then after the 30 minute session, I have to do 20-30 minutes of "good cardio" so the stair master or incline trainer or running on the treadmill. It's not easy, but I've definitely started to get some muscle tone and he's constantly upping the weight and intensity. I thought he was nuts when he handed me 12 lbs weights and said to do shoulder presses over my head with them. But I did it!
5.) How long did it take you to break your plateau once you figured out what worked?
It was a few weeks of eating more calories each day and upping my exercise by running (well, interval walk/running) 5K several times a week. When you're in a plateau, its usually because months of eating a high calorie deficit and working out daily has caught up to you and your body is in a starvation mode. It won't change back to working properly overnight once you change things. I didn't see any loss at all the first week. The second week I lost 0.3 lbs. Finally the third week I lost 1.2 lbs and this week I like 0.6. So it does take some time, and the loss might not be as fast as before the plateau. I'm aiming for between 0.5 and 1 lb a week to get me to my goal, some weeks it might even be lower depending on circumstances. So if you're currently trying to get out of a plateau, don't change things every week. Change your routine and give it 2-3 weeks. I know it's painful, but one thing I learned during the 3 months was that you just need to give it time for your changes to start working. 

I'll do another round of questions tomorrow. If you have more questions, please post them on THIS BLOG or send me a message :) 

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