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Posted on Mar 28, 2011 in Weight Loss, Weight Loss 101 | 26 comments

Weight Loss 101: Getting Started

First of all, thank you all so much for your kind comments in response to yesterday’s weigh-in post! I really couldn’t have gotten even this far without all of your support. And while I still have a little ways to go, it’s kind of strange to have such confidence that I’m going to actually get to my healthy weight this time! Who knew? :)

So, my first post in this whole “Weight Loss 101″ series o’ mine explained my weight loss story, how I decided to finally start doing things the right way, and listed some resources where you can do research on the proper way to lose weight before actually changing anything about the way you live. Today we’re going into some action items. You ready? :D

*Disclaimer: I am not a professional nutritionist, registered dietician, or medical doctor. All following information is simply based off of my own experience and research in attempting to live a healthier life.

Getting Started

While in the first post I went over some resources and tools for you to look into prior to starting your weight loss journey, these are now my general weight loss tips and to-dos:

1. Figure out your current caloric intake.

rapid_weight_lossBefore you even start dieting, you need to figure out how many calories you’re actually consuming. Carry around a small notebook for the day, or download an iPhone/Android app, and log every single thing you’re putting in your mouth. This includes not only meals and snacks, but that peanut butter finger you’re sneaking after breakfast, the two Hershey’s kisses from the candy jar at work, and don’t forget about LIQUID calories! You may not even be aware how many little things you’re overlooking on a daily basis, and those little things literally add up.

2. Calculate your BMR.

Weight LossWeight loss really is pretty simple math. Calories consumed – calories burned = weight gain/loss/maintenance. It really is that simple! You can easily figure out how many calories you naturally burn just by being alive (your Basal Metabolic Rate) utilizing one of the ten kajillion online BMR calculators out there. Just remember, the more overweight you are, the more work it is for your body to function and the more calories you’ll burn naturally. For example, right now (at 196 pounds) my BMR is 1728.5 calories/day. However, at my starting weight of 246 lbs, it was 1946 calories/day. That’s over a 200 calorie difference that I now have to make up by either further limiting my intake or upping my exercise and burning more throughout the day.

3. Start Losin’

weight-loss-tips1 pound is said to equal about 3500 calories. So if you know how many calories you burn, and how many you’re consuming, you can calculate your intake/outtake for a 500 calorie deficit and lose 1 pound a week. If you discover that you were previously consuming 2300 calories a day, lower it to 1800 and see where that puts you. I started out by lowering my caloric intake to 1500. Obviously, the heavier you are to begin with, the more calories you’re likely to burn just by breathing and thus the more weight you’re apt to lose (I lost nearly 11 pounds my first week – unthinkable!) Use a calorie counter to help you with this! Estimating in your head will NOT be enough in the beginning. You may be able to get to that point in time, but for now you really should be counting every single thing you eat in order to get a realistic perspective of how to balance the rest of your day.

4. Eat! (Nutritiously.)

Healthy_FoodI know that I’m putting a lot of emphasis on calorie counting here. And I do think that is important, and is the most integral tool in how I’ve lost my weight so far. However, I made the mistake when I started this journey of only concentrating on the caloric content of food, and not any other nutrition facts. I was living off of frozen Lean Cuisine dinners and diet sodas for the first few weeks before I started getting really tired of eating all that processed, sodium-laden crap. So, my suggestion for anyone who is contemplating starting a journey of their own is to start eating whole, nutritious foods right off the bat! The good news is that many of the foods that are so good for you, are also super low in calories! You can eat more, get more nutrition, and feel less deprived. That’s a win-win-win in my book. :)

Go crazy with your fruits & veggies, though be wary of high-calorie ones like , potatoes, avocados, and bananas. Definitely eat these nutritional powerhouses – they taste awesome, after all! — but just be sure to factor in their caloric density. Leafy greens, apples, pears, citrus fruits, sweet potatoes (different than reg. potatoes), celery, broccoli, berries, tomatoes, mushrooms, sea vegetables… the list is endless. And delicious.

Stick with lean proteins – poultry & fish. Red meat is much higher in saturated fat and calories. Obviously don’t deprive yourself of steak if you’re feeling a serious craving for it, but measure your portions (a 3-ounce portion of meat is about the size of a deck of cards.)

Try out new ways of cooking that don’t require the use of lots of oil or butter. Steaming is a fantastic option. In fact, I would say to cut out butter as a cooking ingredient completely if at all possible, replacing it with heart-healthy olive oil instead (but still be sure to calculate the oil into your daily caloric intake!)

Replace all white flour products with whole wheat. If you’re going to be eating things bread, pasta, and rice anyway, you might as well make it better for you, right? Go for the whole wheat varieties of these carbs. They are better for you, will keep you full longer, and taste really good! I love the hearty texture of whole grain bread (and be sure you’re getting “whole grain” and not just “multigrain” varieties — they’re not the same.) Try Ezekial 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Flourless Bread for something different (and uhhhmazing!) Just be aware of the fact that just because it’s whole grain (and good for you) doesn’t mean you can eat as much of it as you want — I’ve made this mistake more than a few times, haha.

Sidenote: If you have an issue with the heartier texture of whole wheat pasta, my suggestion is to overcook it. Cook it longer than you’re “supposed” to, and it will more closely resemble the softer, looser texture of white pasta.

Enjoy nuts, seeds, nut butters,  with a conscience. These are amazing for you, and will help keep you full and satisfied. However, they are also VERY calorie-dense. Just measure out your servings and you’ll be fine!

If you don’t already own a set of measuring cups, spoons, and a food scale, invest in them. Measuring your portions takes time and can be kind of annoying, but is especially important in the beginning. I bet you’ll be surprised from both sides when you actually start measuring. For example, 2 ounces of pasta (about the width of a quarter when you wrap your hand around it) is admittedly less than thrilling when you measure it out, but 2 tablespoons of peanut butter is actually a lot! I was really surprised by how off my own personal estimations of portions are.

I feel very strongly that you need to have a realistic idea of how many calories you are consuming and burning in order to lose weight properly. My weight loss journey has NOT been a miraculous, speedy one! It’s taken me almost 8 months to lose just shy of 50 pounds, and I’m most definitely not done yet. But I really feel, and believe me, I know how hard it is to hear, you have to lose the weight slowly in order to do it right. I’ve lost weight quickly in the past (crash diets, Atkins, etc.) only to have it surge back in a vengeful fury weeks later (and naturally, it brought along a few extra pounds, too!) You didn’t gain 20, 50, or 100 pounds overnight, so you can’t expect to lose it that quickly either.

I hope that someone is able to find these posts helpful! Please comment with your own weight-loss tips, to-dos, or regimens! Look forward to future posts covering fitness (what I’m still working on most!) and meal planning (another thing I suck at, but want to improve on.)

26 Comments

  1. Great post! A lot of awesome healthy eating tips. Setting realistic expectations is the hardest part- we all want to believe that we can slim down really quickly, but as you noted it takes time! and it takes work- but it’s worth the effort. Since i’m a VERY visual eater, my one food tips is, whenever i make pasta or rice dishes at home, to fill my bowl with uncooked spinach leaves first and then put the spaghetti/fettucini/macaroni/rice on top of it. It makes the bowl look much fuller so you feel like you’re eating more than you really are (plus you get healthy extra greens!)

    • LOOOOVE that idea!!!!

  2. One way that I maintain my weight is by eating often in small portions. I generally have about 6 meals a day. It sounds like quite a bit, but just take the regular 3 meals, split all of them in half, and consume every 3-4 hours. I find that my energy levels stay at a constant level throughout the day and it prevents me from feeling the beast of starvation, or the uncomfortable fullness of over-eating.
    Also, finding a way to force exercise in your daily routine. I make myself walk the distance from work to home every night. Now I’ve just done it so much that my day seems incomplete without my 4k walk.

    Great advice about the whole wheat stuff. That was one of my first steps and I found that it really made a difference. Bravo!

    • Great point, Rei! I can’t believe I didn’t mention the whole eating more frequently but smaller portions! That’s definitely been an integral part of my diet. It’s so counter-intuitive, because it honestly feels like I’m eating ALL the time, but I’m actually eating less OVERALL than I was when I was doing 2 – 3 squares a day (before I started dieting, I *never* ate breakfast.) So it’s like, win-win! Feels like you’re eating more, but you’re losing weight! :D

  3. Don’t forget to try and stay stress free! Stress has a massive negative effect on the body and can hinder progress. It’s good to have positive influences that will help motivate you and generally keep you positive as you go forward with your personal quests (weight loss and others really).

    • That’s a really great point, Chris. I definitely have a MUCH harder time losing weight when I’m stressed, both because I think I’m less able to sleep well, and my body doesn’t work quite as smoothly, and because I want to EAT when I’m stressed! Hahaha.

  4. Gretchen, how EXTREMELY helpful!! I have friends who ask how it is that I lost weight/am losing weight and you hit every nail directly on the head. Now, all I’m going to have to do is direct them to your blog and this very post so that they can get started. The MOST HELPFUL thing I found was that BMR link, I mean wow. There are so many websites out there that can help you “measure” what you do or don’t need, you never know which one to use. Well, that link and the subsequent links after really helped put into perspective calories and daily intake. I can’t wait to show this to my mom who is currently trying to lose some weight. :) thank you thank you thank you.

    • Thank YOU for this comment, Jomarie! I’m so glad to hear that listing out what methods I’ve used for weight loss is useful. I agree, that BMR calculator is really useful — and it’s eye-opening! I think that (esp. for women) we don’t have a very realistic idea of how much we should really be eating. We all hear “2000 calories a day” all the time but it’s rarely ever that cut-and-dry. The only thing I’d add about BMR though is that this particular calculator is really calculating your absolute, most basic BMR. It’s not factoring ANY kind of activity, so even if you’re just walking around throughout the day, as long as you’re not on like, bedrest you’re probably going to burn a tiny bit more than the number it shows.

  5. Great post!

    I lost about 15 lbs 2 years ago and I used Weight Watchers — I thought their tracking system worked well for me and was pretty easy to learn. The only advice/tip I have is that if you have one “bad day” to pick yourself up and start over right away — don’t wait until tomorrow to have a fresh start — make your next meal a healthy one.

    • That’s a great point, Holly. I definitely used to fall victim to that kind of thinking all the time, like “Wellps, I’ve already eaten this one slice of pizza and ruined my diet… I might as well have 3 more!” kind of stuff. It was a difficult transition for me but I do believe now even when I indulge, and sometimes overindulge, I know that I can just count it as what it is and try to make my next meal back on track. :)

  6. Great information! I have the biggest struggle with starting….I just need to get started with tracking what I eat everyday. I think with anything…if I could track my food for a month…it would become a habit. Then I can focus on calories, etc. Gotta get on track! Love reading your blog!

    • Thanks Caroline! Hopefully this post gives at least one or two good tips for getting started. I’m serious when I say that calorie-counting is SO much easier for me with a little help from technology. There are websites that have all the info in there already, you just have to pick your food, and most of them have an app for your phone to go along with it. You can totally do it!! :)

  7. Really great blog! A quick question….are you eating only the calories calculated by the BMR calculator? For example, my BMR was 1458, so would I only eat 1458??

    • Great question! So your BMR is being calculated solely on the amount of calories you burn by being alive – basically as if you were sleeping. That being said, if you move around at all during the day, you’re going to burn a little bit more than that (just a smidge more if you have a desk job and are a couch potato like me, haha, or a lot more if you’re a 5-mile-a-day runner!) So if you wanted to simply maintain your weight, you would probably be eating around the same amount of calories as your BMR (maybe between 1500 – 1800, or more depending on how active you are that day.)

      If you’re looking to LOSE weight though you would either eat less than your BMR, or exercise more to build up more of a deficit (but it isn’t recommended to eat less than 1200 a day either way otherwise your metabolism slows down anyway and it defeats the purpose.)

      I hope this helps explain it! I’m not a professional when it comes to this stuff or anything, but I’m always happy to at least try to help, haha. :P Feel free to email me if you have more questions, Lauren!

  8. I’m very thankful that I have found your blog. I wasn’t looking for a weightloss blog either. I found you because of your “Hunger Games” post. :-) My weight IS an issue and has been consuming my thoughts for a while. It is time to do something about it and your blog may be just the motivation that I’ve needed!!

  9. wow, 11 pound lost in your first week, great.
    I’ll have to try keeping a record of what I eat each meal.
    Great idea. :)

  10. Yeah, I am very much into fitness and weight loss myself. My diet plan looks something like this: banana and oatmeal for breakfast, eat anything I want for lunch, fruits for afternoon snacks and protein (mostly fish) for dinner. I try to avoid starch six hours before going to bed. Keep up the good work, Gretchen!!

  11. I keep my old photo when I was 25lbs. less weight on my desk.It gives me daily motivation. I am very good with maths of how many calories I consume and burn daily. I exercise 30 minutes a day. I lost 15 lbs in 2 months. The secret is stay consistant and do not quit.

  12. Amazing Post! I like this site very much.Really your post is helped me greatly.Your creative written is reminded me. I also write blog about wight loss with Videos check it out –

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  13. Although I agree with your approach overall, I did find that I had more success by reducing my fruit intake. I think a key to much health is balance and one thing we must remember to balance is our pH. Many fruits can be more acidic than we need, where as more greens such as broccoli and kale have a tendency to reduce the acidity of our system. The more we get away from a acidic lifestyle, the more we are likely to approach an idea weight which will always be lower. The other interesting thing that I learned the hard way is that there are many “health foods” that impeded my weight loss efforts. Once I eliminated those foods, the pounds melted off. I have since become a student of healthy eating and lifestyle. Keep up the great work and posts. Thank you.

    Sabina

  14. As far as food is concerned, counting calories worked pretty well for me. I ate a lot of variety but just kept track of intake. Losing weight is basically just simple math.

  15. I don’t know if anyone else is like me, but my phone is my technological twin. Meaning, I always have it with me. Anyway, I downloaded the MyFitness Pal app onto my android and absolutely love it! One of my favorite features about it is that it allows me to look up food by restaurant, which is very helpful considering I work in one. It is also available for Iphone as well.

    Here is my problem, because I work in a pancake house I am CONSTANTLY tempted with junk food. Does anyone have any advice regarding how to overcome that temptation? It is SO dang hard sometimes!

  16. All great tips Gretchen!

    My healthy swaps include brown rice and sweet potato. I absolutely loveee sweet potato! I even make a sweet potato protein shake and its delicious!

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