Saturday, November 1, 2008

A New Plan of Attack

So maybe you noticed I lost a bunch of weight and then I stopped losing, then started gaining, and have been fighting off the returning pesky pounds for several months. If you read my earlier post today, you know I am annoyed with this. Obviously I need a new plan. And I think I have it!

This might sound lame, but gimme a chance to explain. I think this will work for me, and just maybe it will work for other people who are going, "What am I gonna do??? I can't seem to get it in gear! I need to lose weight!! UGH!!"

I pretty much lost all this weight by counting calories. I just logged everything I ate on the free site, sparkpeople, and kept it to a certain calorie level: 1800 to start, and then working my way down to 1500 calories per day. When I got tired of counting calories, sometimes I took a break and just kept a tally in my head, or eyeballed my food, or just ate a lot of fruits and veggies and no junk. Which works fine, unless you get your taste for junk back, which I have. But I am convinced that calorie counting is THE ONE THING that definitely WILL work for just about anyone. It's free, it's relatively easy once you're in the habit, there are no inherently off-limit foods, and there are no special programs, books, or equipment needed. If you are stuck, why not give it a try?

Anyway, obviously, I am not *working* my calorie counting like I used to. Problem being, I tend to want to eat in the late afternoon and I go over my calorie level. I keep starting over, but those calories count. So I am stalled.

Enter my big idea: a MONTHLY calorie budget. I posted earlier about every calorie counting, and how people tend to think of a 24-hour-day as a "diet unit." But if you have a bunch of good days a just a few really bad days eating too much can halt your progress. Well, how about this. You take the number of calories you should eat in one day (for me, 1500-1600), and you multiply that by the number of days in the month (30 for November). You get a calorie budget. This is the number of calories you should eat for the month. For me, taking 1600 times 30 days, I get a calorie budget of 48,000 calories for November.

Now, how does this help me, any more than setting a goal of 1600/day? Well it helps because it makes me look at the bigger picture. It makes me accountable in a broader sense. It's easy, when you have a daily calorie budget, to go over your calories by a bit, and then think, "oh well, I blew it. I will just eat as much as I want and start over tomorrow." But with a MONTHLY calorie budget, every bite counts. You have to stop and think: "hey, I only have x number of calories to spend this month, so I need to spend them wisely. If I overeat any MORE tonight, I will have to eat less all month to make up for it." This has helped me already today, because when I was grocery shopping I really wanted a big ol' sub slathered with mayo and loaded with meat and cheese. But I didn't want to spend my precious calories on THAT. So I had some turkey and a pear instead.

The beauty of the monthly budget is you can consciously save up extra calories for a treat, or you can just go along doing your very best and then IF you mess up, you will be fine. If you have an extra-hungry (PMS?) day, you can allow more of your calorie budget on that day and fewer calories on the days you're not so hungry. You just sit down at the end of the day and subtract the calories you ate from the budget, just like a grocery shopping (monetary) budget. Then you can take the amount that is left for the month, divide it by the number of days left, and that gives you an idea of how much you can eat per day for the rest of the month.

"What if you binge and end up the last week of November with no calories left?" Well, obviously, that's what we are trying to avoid. I don't think that will happen for me. I plan to work hard to make that NOT happen. And because this is interesting, and more like a game, or even a challenge to me, it is more stimulating and enticing than the same old calorie counting I'd been doing.

Okay, so that's my new plan. If things DO get out of hand and I end up using too many calories early in the month, I plan to "earn" more calories for the budget through exercise. It would have to be EXTRA exercise on top of what I already plan to do (bike 30 minutes 6x/week and strength train 3x/week). A half hour on the bike, and the bike tells me I burned 200 calories. So I can add to the calorie bank that way if I need to.

You're probably either going, "dude, she has really lost her marbles," or "wow, that's brilliant." But let's just see how it works for me. I gotta do SOMETHING new to get me going, so this is it. If you want to join me, go ahead and start tomorrow. Just take the number of days left in November times your daily calorie goal and start keeping track of what you eat! I know FOR A FACT that if I eat 48,000 calories this month, and no more, I WILL lose weight. No doubt. Stay tuned to see :)


kilax said...

Go for it! Putting it all in perspective, like you said, IS going to help.

I count calories too. I personally know it is the best way to do it for me!

Super Healthy Kids said...

It's Brilliant! I think that would work for me too because I think if I screwed up for the day, I may as well binge. But that attitude would eliminate that reasoning.

Anonymous said...

I hope this works really well for you. It is similar to the Weight Watchers point system, in that you can earn extra points for exercising and you have extra points each week to use for days when you need extra. Go for it! I'm looking forward to seeing your success.

Mirtika said...

Weight Watchers does a form of this--allowing you to "flex" points across a week's span.

I think for folks who can do the budgeting things (it does require accountability), it should work.

It's the keeping track that can become the sticking point.

I know I HATE writing my calories/points down. However, that's effective for me. I just need to quit bitching and moaning and get my journal again. Writing it down makes you SEE what you eat day to day, and it does add to that whole perspective. When I was doing a chart (tedious as heck), I saw the indisputable fact. Days of fewer calories = less weight. Days of more calories= standstill or more weight.


But boring all that charting.


Name: Lynise said...

I hate to rain on anyones parade but this method is inherently flawed as our bodies can only process so much food in any given day therefore if we don't use up the calories consumed in that day then it doesnt take long to register a gain.

The plan sounds good, but based upon how our bodies work it would still be easy to not lose weight as one very high week would counter act an 'on track week
then it would take another week to actually see a gain.

I have looked up the 'input/output' info that is written by doctors and don't believe this plan can actually work as it goes against the time factor needed to digest and use up calories.

Name: Lynise said...

oops, that should have said it would take another week to actually see a loss. (so three weeks of the month used, just for a small one week loss)

Anonymous said...

I do the same thing, but weekly rather than monthly.

Basically, I do the zig/zag method of calorie counting. It's also called "calorie shifting method". That means I eat less, or zig, 1200-1500 calories three or four days in a row and then zag with a 1800-2000 day on the next day. Repeat.

Works for me because I can plan ahead with events, etc. and know it fits into my "budget".

I've lost steady weight (40 lbs) over 6 months and I don't feel like I want to rebel against a strict plan. Sure, it is still very strict and requires serious discipline, but psychologically I find it to be freeing because I can control my decisions about how many cals I consume that day.

All the best. I love your perseverance!

bbubblyb said...

I have Jillian's (from biggest loser) book and she suggests calories by the week. So I think this can work. But I wonder if a month isn't a bit long?

Simply Chanelle... said...

awesome awesome awesome idea!

i think people failing to look at the big picture in dieting is such a big mistake and if they "fail" in one day, it totally derails them.

going month by month lets you know you're living LIFE and every day of eating is different!


sonia said...

Hi Lyn - I found your blog the other day and have read most of your archived posts. I think you are an amazing inspiration, and, honey, you have kept 40+ pounds off - WAY TO GO! I'm looking forward to reading more of your posts. You are an excellent writer, and are truly any inspiration.

elife said...

I like this idea a lot. It seems that it's how "naturally" thin people eat. They have a big night out, and then compensate over the next few days.

moonduster said...

Good luck with this new plan! I weigh-in weekly, so I may try it some time on a weekly basis. I kind of do it anyway. If I go 100 calories over on one day, I try to go under by that much the next day.

Mrs. Jelly Belly said...

I also found that my "need" to eat was strongest in the afternoon and I fixed that by planning my snacks.

I journaled IN ADVANCE everything I was going to eat for the day, calories already totalled, and planned for the snacks that would get me through the afternoon.

Good luck with your new plan. I admire your perserverance.

Lady In A Net said...

I faced a similar problem earlier this year. I joined Weight Watchers for about the 50th time but I swore I was determined to make it work this time. What happend in weeks 7 and 8, I started eating what ever I wanted and couldn't really control myself. I continued to go to weigh in and was struggling mentally to figure out a strategy to get back on track and lose my weight once and for all. By this time I was 250 pounds.

Like you, I blog to help me keep focused on what I need to do take off my weight. What I discovered was that it wasn't my management of food or even the exercise that was the problem. It was my state of mind and until I got to the bottom of what drove me to eat I would never take off the weight. I started blogging about my weight loss in March My progress has been steady emotionally, at the scale and in the gym. Each day I tackle they craziness that is in my head that drive me to eat for comfort.

I found your blog while looking for inspiration to get me through a difficult time. The scale isn't moving, although I have been doing everything right and its messing with my head. Your blog helped me remember that this is a life long process and the weight is not going to fall off and that it is possible to take off my weight. Stay strong and focused.


MizFit said...

echoing what has been said in that it sounds like a good idea to me as well!

Vickie said...

I think that it might be helpful to keep track of it daily, weekly, monthly (all of them) so that you have a little picture, medium picture and big picture all going on at the same time. This will keep you on target each day amd make it easier to have the over days and the under days work out to an even balance.

I think just monthly is too big of a picture.

My oldest is going through exactly this same thought process his first semester at college - only it is $$$ and not calories - he is learning how to make his $1000 food allowance last for a whole semester. He has to look at each day's target/allowance in order to have his $$$ last the whole semester.

GroverGreen said...

Lyn, please understand that my comments are made with love, compassion, and understanding. :)

I think you're kidding yourself with the monthly calorie idea. You're looking for permission to eat more than your daily alloted calories without really grasping the need to cut back to compensate on other days. Try and imagine what those days will be like if you only have 1200 calories left to eat that day. Can you really do it? If your average calories are say, 1500 and you have 1800, 2000, and 1700 days in a row, are you really going to eat 1200 calories for the next three days to compensate? Have you ever managed a 1200 calorie day, let alone three in a row?

What if you have a 3000 calorie day? How are you going to make that up?

The problem with the budget analogy is that if you run out of money by the end of the month, you can do without until the month is over. We can't do that with food. If you run out of calories before the end of the month, are you simply going to stop eating? Not very likely and certainly not very healthy!

In my opinion, you should try re-learn eating within your calorie range every day -- the way you used to -- before you try calorie cycling. I think you're resisting the idea of staying within a daily calorie range because yes, it's hard and takes consistency and self-discipline but -- it's the foundation of weight loss. It worked for you before and it will again.

Anonymous said...

I can only speak for myself and am not giving you advise: This type of thinking always gets me in trouble. I am a compulsive overeater who must simply abstain from my binge foods and be honest with myself about eating an appropriate amount of food each day. I have to live my life and make my food choices One Day at A Time as if I were an alcoholic working to stay sober. I attend support group meetings and I use other spiritual tools. I certainly don't know what is best for you, and I wish you well as you try this. Take care.

Tanya said...

I think any plan that works for you is a great plan. Personally, I know that I couldn't do it. I would end up having to exercise 12 hours a day at the end of the month to try to "earn" enough calories to eat.

Lyn said...

Thanks for all the comments! I want to take a second and clarify a bit here~

I am not using the Monthly Budget as an excuse to overeat junk on some days thinking I will make it up later. I am using it to AVOID binge eating as well as to train myself to think in a bigger picture.

One of the nice benefits of this way of counting calories is that if I have a day when I eat more calories, I have a whole month to "absorb" the damages. For example: many times in the past I have eaten too much, say, 2000 calories in a day. In order to 'make that up' I would have to subtract 400 calories the next day, and that's tough to do sometimes. But if I distribute that 400 calories over the whole month, I just have to cut back 13 calories per day. Maybe it's a head game, but I have found this whole weight loss thing to be a head game for me.

Anyway, my point is, this is not a license to binge or eat trigger foods; it is a motivation to avoid them and eat clean so I can stay within my budget all month long.

And grovergreen, yes, I have had many 1200 calorie days along the way. You can get a lot of volume and nutrition in 1200 calories if you eat veggies! But since 1600/day is my ballpark range, I try and stay near that number most of the time.

For those struggling, trying SOMETHING is better than giving up and doing nothing. I am going to succeed at weight loss, and maybe this will help me along the way!

Watch and see.

Deb said...

Put me down on the "Wow, she's brilliant" side. I had a friend who did a similar thing, only she tracked weekly calories. It worked for her. I definitely think it's a way to keep the bigger perspective in view.

Paula said...

I hope it works for you. I know it would never work for me. The thought of having to add up numbers for every thing I put in my mouth would drive me completely over the edge. It just seems that with this plan you have to constantly think about food day and night which I don't believe is how naturally thin people eat. Isn't the whole point to make food something we do to stay alive, not something to obsess over? My husband has never had a weight problem, and I watch what he does. He always makes the healthiest choice in any restaurant. He rarely snacks. He walks every day. He always says I don't let anybody else dictate my portion sizes, since eating out is always about three times as much food as we should eat at one time. I personally think his way of eating makes sense, and he couldn't tell you the calorie count of anything. I wish you all the best though Lyn, if it works for you then that's great.

Dinah Soar said...

Your monthly calorie plan may work for you. We all are very different and what works for one may not work for another. I think it's a great idea to shoot for an average per day over an extended period of time. That is what I do--though my time period is ten days. And that is why I only weigh every 10 days.

I don't think you'll be any worse off by trying this method--if it doesn't work then you will be closer to knowing what will work.

One thing I've read that might help manage hunger is that our bodies tend to expect the same amount of food each if we've been eating diet sized portions, then have a couple of days where we indulge, our body expects the increased amount of food to continue--hence we have to fight off the impulse to eat. So--guess what I'm saying is--that we do better with a routine of eating less. But life happens doesn't it? And sometimes that it easier said than done--heck--forget sometimes--it's always easier said than done.

As for the afternoon snack--just decide it is o.k. and figure out what you can eat that you really like that will do the least damage. I had to do that--include an afternoon and late night snack because I stay up really late--don't go to bed until 6-7 hours after supper--so no wonder I get hungry. And I'm not a huge breakfast eater, and eat a light lunch or eat very early, so it figures I'm going to need a snack around 2-3 if I eat a light lunch at 11am.

We just have to work with our body, our appetite, our situation, et al. With the holidays coming too I think we must allow some holiday goodies. We can figure out how to fit in some stuff without a lot of damage. We CAN do it!

new*me said...

getting a GOOD Feeling about this one Lyn :) Lookin' forward to awesome results for you in Nov!

Lynne said...

An interesting concept and I will read your experience with it... My fear would be that i would end up with a week to go and no more calories! Do you fast til the end? Do you severely restrict the last few days if things are tight? Do you know that Thanksgiving is at the end of the month?

Another idea may be to start counting your calories at the worst part of your day so that you can limit your calories when it is easier to do so... Boy, if I just took 1/2 the advice I spew, I would be thin as a rail!!

Onward - Downward!!

Heather said...

I think that sounds really great,and I hope it works for you. to me, the key to losing weight and keeping it off is finding something that works for YOU and is customized to who you are. sure WW is great, counting calories is great, all the other diet plans are treat, but they are one size fits all sometimes. they dont fit for everyone, and that is why people often fall off the wagon. I think tailoring something that does work some times to you so that it can work all the time is great, and this could just be your ticket to finding what works for you forever.

Hide those cookies said...

I agree that most plans make us think in terms of 24 hours. In a way, that's a good thing, because it reinforces that no matter how bad your day was, you can start over in the morning, but you're so right about a couple off days really gumming up the works. This sounds like a fun and interesting plan!

I feel your pain. My weight's been on the upswing as well. It's helpful to know I'm not alone. Thanks for your honesty in your blog!

Kimberly said...

Everyone is different and you have to find something that works for you. So you haven't lost your marbles, you are simply looking for what is going to be what you can stick to. I think its great.

Pandora said...


I've been reading and cheering you on for seven months...and started by reading all the archives. I hope this works...the concept sounds good but a month feels like a really long period. When we teach kids to budget we start with a week and then extend.

I hope this works for you, you have made such progress...even if you were never to lose another pound! You have also taught so many of us so much.

I tend to find that for most things we need not one strategy but several. This is a new one for you, I hope it is a HUGE SUCCESS! Hugs and good wishes


JT said...

Lyn, I salute you for what you have accomplished and appreciate all the good info you have on your site.

(Disclaimer: if you are feeling very vulnerable and need a shoulder and someone to agree with you about how hard, hard, hard! it is to lose a pound, delete this comment now. What I most admire about your posts is their honesty, so I feel owe you the honest comment that follows.)

That said, I hate this new idea. I love playing around with numbers, so I'm sure I would have fun following it, but I am extremely suspicious about it's ability to help.

What you said in the past about starting RIGHT NOW to correct mistakes (next meal, not tomorrow, not Monday, not Jan 1st)--that was the right idea. This monthly budget thing is completely the opposite. After all, if a month is good, why not a year, or ten years? Hell, let's calculate all of the calories we're allowed till age 100 and get going! We can always earn them back with exercise when we hit 95 or so... (um, except that we'll probably hit our lifetime max in about two years following this system).

Hey, I know you've been struggling and you need to try something. I would suggest instead going back and reading your posts from the first six months. There was better advice there.

Lyn said...


See my above comment (scroll up) where I addressed this concern.

I never changed my opinion that starting RIGHT NOW to correct our eating IS a key to weight loss. That and a monthly calorie budget are not mutually exclusive. I am counting calories, same as I was before. The only difference is HOW I am moderating the number of calories I eat per day.

Whether it works for me or does not, I am not afraid to try. If more obese people would just keep TRYING instead of giving up, I think the success rate for weight loss would skyrocket!

Sarah said...

I'm super excited about this! Check out my month!