It’s frustrating, right?
It reminds me of the expression, “A watched pot never boils”. It actually does, but what was the point?
Patience might seem like a luxury to many of us because our lives are so busy and taking care of our own needs takes a back seat to so many other priorities and demands.
“How the heck can I be patient when I’m always getting to things at the last minute or when I’m not able to be mindful about my choices?”is something I hear all the time from clients and I too, find myself getting caught in this trap from time to time.
When we count calories in and track every calorie being burned it makes us crazy and stressed which keeps the scale from moving and also shows up as poor sleep, headaches, hot flashes and fatigue. Sounds familiar?
On a more scientific level, cortisol levels increase when you put yourself into stressful situations and creates an environment for your body to want to hold onto body fat and potentially add to it. We already live stressful, busy lives and then we restrict what we eat and obsess over it. We might even be over exercising in order to burn calories which sends our cortisol through the roof. What happens? A gradually increasing waistline and less overall energy to get through our day. The total opposite of what we were trying to do!
Last weekend, I was participating in a mastermind weekend with 6 incredible women and this subject came up. 4 of us are active exercisers and specialize in fitness and wellness, 1 has always been petite and lean, 2 are healthy, but slightly less lean than normal and I am petite and lean, but have not always been. The stories were funny about how neurotic some of us have been about calories, but it also is scary! The pressure to be good, all the fun activities missed and most importantly, the constant reminder that what you look like is not good enough! Ugh, what a waste! Thankfully, they have learned from their experience and moved on to a healthy place.
In that moment of sharing I realized that we all carry that internal struggle to find balance and the perfect equation of calories in vs. calories out. The difference is how you deal with it and the story you tell yourself. The one woman that has been small her whole life probably has her genetics to thank for the most part, but she also is a strong believer in moderation and consistency. Have I seen her indulge in good food and drinks, of course, but there is always a balanced approach to what she does after.
In the last year, that has become my mindset and I have made a conscious effort to stop and think before creating an internal struggle of what I choose to eat and why. In the past, I felt justified in eating for enjoyment because I worked out a lot. I balanced my meals with protein, veggies and fruits, but always ended it with a sweet “treat” or included a healthy dose of bad carbs. I burned calories every day, so I could afford to eat the “not so healthy” things and get away with it. True, until I realized that I wanted to be better than that. I wanted my hard work in the gym to show on the outside (I admit it) and inside because I was living in a place of constant up and down. By refocusing my energy on my eating plan, really understanding the role of adequate protein, reduced “grain” carbs and increased healthy fats, I have gained perspective and a leaner body. Being aware of my “treat” habit and why I was relying on it to get me through my day has allowed me to take action before my stress levels force me over the edge and resort to old habits. I also have found a new appreciation for food and how naturally sweet fruits and vegetables can satisfy me because I “pushed” through the overhaul phase and opened a door to mindfulness!
So, here’s the simple plan for anyone wanting to create a healthy approach to calories in vs. calories out. Simply start by stripping down your meals and fueling your body for your expected energy requirements. Look at your plate at each meal as a 3,2,1 split. 3 parts “good” carbs, like veggies and fiberous, low sugar fruits, 2 parts protein, like lean meats, dairy, eggs and 1 part starch, like rice, oatmeal, potatoes, low “net carb” bread. If you’re a parent, you know how to split a cookie into 3’s when there’s one left and all 3 kids want a piece!!! Use that skill on yourself.
The second step, is exercising effectively to create a balance of calories in vs. out by burning your fuel. Weight training to build muscle is the #1 way to maximize your body’s ability to do this in the long term. Combining it with short spurts of cardio and sustaining a 30-45 min total body workout allows you to realistically create a plan that you can incorporate into a busy schedule. Don’t forget to make movement, of any kind, a part of every day. Walking, stretching, gardening, yoga, tai chi, etc. are great ways to reduce your perceived stress and balance out your calories.
Finally, take your time and be patient with yourself. Big change happens when you link small, positive choices together over time. Counting calories can be a great way to start an initial weight loss eating program, but make sure you don’t become too dependent on it. It’s amazing how quickly you become comfortable with eye balling a portion size or plate combination after just a couple weeks of eating healthy and wisely.