The Ins and Outs of Dieting: My Personal Experience

My clients are well aware that I’ve been cutting (fitness jargon for restricting calories or dieting) for a month now.  I’ll let you ask them how grumpy I’ve been, but I think it’s gone pretty well.  So without further ado, here are my thoughts on the road so far.

Why I Decided to Diet

The reason I’ve been doing this is not for the washboard abs or to be more healthy, I decided to do this in order to understand exactly what I was asking my clients to do.  I felt it was unfair for me advise my clients to do things I was not willing to do myself and to try to relate to them when I hadn’t put myself in their shoes for at least some time.  With that goal, here’s how I approached things.

What I Did

At the start of my diet, I calculated my resting metabolism to be somewhere around 2,400 calories per day.  That meant (according to the tool I used) I could eat 2,400 calories per day in order to maintain the weight I was at (180lbs).  That number comes from a calculator which takes into account my height, weight, and level of activity.  From this number I calculated a 10% reduction which is commonly agreed upon as a healthy place to cut at.  That 10% gave me a daily calorie intake of 2160 which I rounded down to a daily target 2100 (~12.5% reduction).  Beyond this target caloric intake, I didn’t restrict myself in any other way.  I did naturally fall into a pattern of intermittent fasting where I would eat most of my calories in a six hour window between 3pm and 9pm, but that was a convenience thing more than an intentional one.  I’ll look at fad diets in the future, but for my first nutrition experiment I wanted to keep things as simple as possible.

How I Did It

For the first three weeks of my experiment, I didn’t change my routine much outside of reducing calories.  I kept working out three days each week doing primarily a weight lifting split.  My food consisted mainly of a 550cal staple breakfast of 2 strips of bacon and 4 eggs (pictured above with banana bread 250cal extra), a 350cal snack at work (usually a sandwich with 4oz meat), and a simple dinner that changed daily ~800cal with a beer for the last 200cal.  Now the detail oriented readers out there will notice this adds up to 1900 and not 2100.  I did this intentionally in order to avoid underestimates (mostly at dinner or at restaurants) throwing off my plan.  In most cases I tried to overestimate, but this acted as an extra safeguard.  For the last week, I introduced a >30min cardio routine in place of my lifting routine do see if this would make any remarkable changes over a one week period.

The End Result

As of the end of the four week period, I reached a low point of 175lbs.  There was a little bit of variation in this number but there was definitely an overall downward trend.  Once I switched from lifting to cardio, I actually gained 2lbs on the scale.  This is a good reminder that the scale isn’t a great tool for tracking fitness or health.  The scale is only able to tell you how much you currently weigh, it isn’t able to track where that weight comes from though.  A term that gets tossed around a lot is water weight which is essentially the amount of water your body retains.  When you are more active, your muscles retain more water and make that scale number go up with no actual change in body composition.  This is most likely why I gained the two pounds when I included the cardio.  Even though I was still slowly decreasing fat levels (and muscle to some extent) by being at a caloric deficit, I was retaining more water than I was burning fat.

What I Learned

One of the biggest things I learned from this experiment was that preparation is essential.  If I was planning on going out with friends one night, I needed to eat less through the day so I could join them.  If I was cooking at home, I needed to make sure I had food on hand that wasn’t Ramen and peanut butter.  If I was going to be at work for 12 hours, I needed to stop by Kroger to get something that would keep my blood sugar up.