Running on my recovery plan is progressing. I’m a little surprised at some of the tweaks and niggles I’m still feeling three weeks after the Big Day. My legs are sore and tired, and I’m suffering from some tendonitis in my right knee. Mostly I’m still feeling fatigue. I took an unscheduled rest day Wednesday, and I knocked the warm down mile off my slow and easy mile intervals yesterday. But, I’m still able to put one foot in front of the other, so eventually everything will sort itself out.
Today is Friday, so it’s weigh in day! But, before I spill the possibly ugly truth, I wanted to take a couple minutes to talk about my downfall when it comes to weight loss. Face it – for us runners, it’s relatively easy to burn a few hundred extra calories a day. But, if you’re like me, it’s also relatively easy to lull ourselves into a false sense of security that because we put that extra mile or two in, we can take that extra slice of cheesecake or scoop of ice cream.
Through my own trial and error, I’ve found the best way to fight the extra dessert is to track my food intake. When I first started tracking a couple years ago, I was floored by the number of calorie tracking websites on the Internet. It took me a while to figure out what was important to me about calorie trackers:
Let’s start with problem #1. I LOVE TO EAT!! I love trying new foods. I love varying my diet. I love to cook too. As a result, my breakfast may be menudo from a local Mexican restaurant, followed by a sushi dinner from a Japanese restaurant. Then, tomorrow, I may throw together some gumbo for the family, followed by lunch the next day at In-n-Out. The bottom line is whatever I’m going to use to track my calories needs to have a food database that supports my eating habits. Not all food databases are created equal.
Here's a prime example. Say you went to Costco this weekend. You bought some blueberry muffins. You have one for breakfast. You go to Sparkpeople (http://www.sparkpeople.com/) and type in "blueberry muffin" in the food searcher. Here is what you will see:
The first thing to notice, is that there are no Costco Blueberry Muffins on the list. So, we are left to guess at that point. Seemingly, a Starbuck's Blueberry muffin might be close. So we'll choose it. Here are the gory details about the Starbuck's Blueberry Muffin:
But, in actuality, the Costco Blueberry Muffin leaves this one in the dust! Over at Calorie Count, we look up the Costco Blueberry Muffin (which is on their list):
That's a whopping 61% more calories! It becomes easy to see how not having the right food on the food list can make a significant difference, even when you think you are trying to do the right things!
Bottom line is check out the food database for the stuff that *you* eat. Not the stuff that you *should be* eating.
Setting Your Goals
Your food tracker should be able to handle your weight loss goals. Most do. But make sure that the tracker that you use supports your goals. Some require you to enter a weekly goal. Others require an end weight and date driven goal. Some track fat %. Know what is important to you *before* you invest weeks in tracking calories.
Also – be aware of this little gotcha – most food trackers also have the functionality to enter your exercise with caloric intake adjusted accordingly. But, caloric output is estimated by the program. Some do a better job than others. Take these calculations with a grain of salt.
Face it, if it’s not convenient to enter the what I’m eating when I’m eating it, it ain’t gonna happen. That is why I have settled on an iPhone app called LoseIt!
Entry of your goals are pretty easy - enter gender, birthdate, current weight, goal weight and weekly weight loss goal. The program then calculates your calorie budget and you're ready to go!
The program is easy and intuitive.
Not only are there the standard foods (e.g., bread, milk, eggs, etc.) but food are also categorized by manufacturer - like in this search for Grandma's Oatmeal cookies:
Then, what absolutely blew me away? A entire database of restaurant food! I can enter my In-n-Out Double-Double!
So What Does It All Mean?
In theory, it should be as simple as do what you’re told and everything else sorts itself out. I can tell you from experience though, it isn’t always the case. The bottom line is all of these numbers – whether it’s your calorie budget, or your calorie intake, or your exercise output, are estimates. So, whichever software you decide to use, you will need to experiment a little. Set up your goals. Judiciously track your food. Check your results. Tweak here and there. And most important? Don’t get discouraged!
Last week’s damage? Down 1.8 pounds from 222.8 to 221.0!!!