Last year, my weight loss was all over the place. I crash dieted, I binged, I hit plateaus, and it wasn't sustainable. This year I've been able to stay consistent and keep myself motivated, all because I've been better at tracking calories. The three biggest improvements I've made are:
- Measuring calorie-rich foods using a food scale
- Focusing on week-to-week weight rather than day-to-day
- Listening to my body and its caloric needs
1. Dangers of calorie-rich foods
While tracking intake on MyFitnessPal, you gradually learn that some foods that you previously considered "healthy" are in fact extremely calorie-dense. For me, these foods were nuts and hummus.
I personally was drastically underestimating how much I was eating. My "250 calorie serving" was closer to 500 calories and that was enough to make me plateau in my weight loss. I purchased a food scale on Amazon (~$13) to help keep me accountable and teach my about the serving size of these foods.
I diligently weighed everything I could on the food scale for a few weeks, but now I'm good enough at just eyeballing.
2. Day to day weight fluctuations
"The best diet is the one you can keep." I used to focus on the day-to-day weigh-ins and use them as signal for my success/failure in my dieting. This focus on day-to-day weigh-ins made my motivation towards my diet fluctuate, and ultimately break my routine
There are a ton of factors (carb intake, water weight, stress, digestion, etc.) that can influence your weight at any point in the day, and it's impossible to consistently be less weight day-over day.
Instead of focusing on day-to-day, I started diligently tracking each day and focusing on the week-to-week difference in min, max, and average weights. This has given me a better picture of my overall weight and it has also allowed me mental ease on the weekends when I have a cheat day.
3. Listening to my body
There are all sorts of BMI calculators on the internet, a ton of ways to track calories spent (FitBit, Apple Watch, etc.), and a ton of people and personal trainers who will tell you what your body needs.
It turns out, they're all wrong. They can give you a general idea, but every body is different and there is no magic formula to determine caloric expenditure. Notoriously, calorie trackers over-estimate your calories burnt (maybe this is by design to beat their competitors?)
By diligently tracking my intake and activity, I've been able to determine where to draw the line for maintenance calories and where to draw the line to hit my 500 calorie deficit per day.
This video by Jeremy Ethier elaborates on some of the lessons above and a few other reasons people hit plateaus in weight loss.