So on Monday of this week (October 21) I went to take my measurements. I’m about 3 weeks in, and it’s time to find out if what I’m doing is actually working.
The first thing I did in the morning was weigh myself. I like to measure on a completely empty stomach, but truth be told, I did have some coffee (no water though) because a.) the scale I use is in the office at work, and b.) if I show up to my job un-caffeinated, terrible things might happen.
So I hopped and the scale, and…shock and horror. 71.5 kilograms. That’s a pound lost. In THREE weeks. Not exactly what I was hoping for.
For those of you that don’t know, scale weight alone is not a reliable method to track fat loss and muscle increase. Depending on how big you are, the scale can fluctuate a lot, even if you weigh yourself at the same time every day.
Well shit, maybe I lost some fat and gained just enough muscle to replace the weight? I mean, it’s possible, right?
I then took my waist measurement to check…
85 centimeters. EXACTLY what it was when I started. I checked my chest, shoulder and arm measurements. Exactly the same.
Three weeks. No progress.
What I Did Wrong
When I was younger, I used to get extremely frustrated if I was trying to cut weight and the scale wasn’t moving. I’d get angry, start second guessing myself, blame the diet, and, ultimately, quit.
I figured that whatever diet I was on wasn’t working for me, and that the best thing to do was just give to up on it and try a new one later.
Or I’d somehow rationalize to myself that I didn’t need to lose fat and it was time to bulk!
Even a few years ago when I finally got the whole flexible diet thing figured out, I’d still fall into this trap.
And unfortunately, “quitting” the diet didn’t just mean going back to eating enough food to sustain my weight. Usually some form of intense feasting was in order.
These days, I’m a lot more analytical about things, and I try to learn from my mistakes. So after some careful reflection, let’s break down what went wrong.
1. Not Really Keeping Track Of My Food
I thought I did a good job of eating properly and keeping track of my food intake. But in hindsight, I definitely wasn’t as thorough as I could have been.
The problem wasn’t so much mealtime. For the most part, I ate the meals I had planned to eat, and if I had something different, I made a diligent effort to make sure it had as many calories as I was planning on consuming that day.
The problem was what happened in between meals. I see this a lot with people trying to lose weight, and I absolutely notice it in myself- we seem to think that just because it was small and it wasn’t a proper “meal” that it somehow doesn’t count.
A couple jelly beans at work here. A pastry there. Some cookies thrown in for good measure.
Well, sad to say, those calories seem small, but they do add up. Depending how careless you are, they can add up to a few thousand extra calories a week.
And in my case, they added up to NOT making any progress.
LESSON #1: KEEP TRACK OF EVERYTHING YOU EAT
Starting this week I’ve been a lot more vigilant about tracking what I’ve eaten. When you’re just trying to maintain your weight, you can afford to guess. When you’re trying to cut, you JUST CAN’T. Everything MUST be accounted for.
Another quick lesson- when in doubt and on a cut, be liberal with your estimates when you eat out and can’t calculate your calories.
Example- I had to go out for a work dinner on Wednesday night. And that work dinner just happened to be Korean BBQ.
Now, I was pretty responsible at the dinner. I didn’t drink (which is more than I can say for everyone else), and I didn’t eat until I was literally stuffed, but I did enjoy myself. I estimated when it was all said and done the dinner came out to anywhere from 1000-1500 calories.
The problem with this is that we all have a tendency to estimate down when it comes to our calories. I know I’ve certainly been guilty of this. It’s very easy to bullshit ourselves into thinking something’s only 1000 calories when it’s actually higher.
So when I logged my calories for that night, I went right ahead and recorded that dinner at 1500 calories. Better to consume too few calories on a cut than too many, right?
I know this seems incredibly obvious, but so many of us have the tendency to do this that it’s worth repeating.
2. Dealing With Overeating
I’m absolutely a firm believer that you shouldn’t plan your social life around your diet- you should plan your diet around your social life.
So the fact that I went out on the weekend to the closing party for my friend’s bar (RIP Bottom’s Up), had a few drinks and ate too much food doesn’t bother me.
No, the thing that bothers me is the fact that I didn’t factor it into my diet plan for that week.
LESSON NUMBER #2: OVEREATING WILL HAPPEN, SO PLAN FOR IT
For example, if I know I’m going out at night and I’m going to be doing a bit of overeating, I’ll deliberately keep my calorie intake REALLY low that day (500 or so, mostly protein) to “make room” for later.
Or, if I don’t particularly feel like doing that, I’ll keep my eating nice and light the following day.
Something to offset the additional intake.
I didn’t do that. I had like 4 brownies after lunch the day of…and the next day I went to Burger King!
It also bothers me that I didn’t show some restraint. Life’s too short to not eat delicious things. Going out and enjoying food with friends is just something that you should do once in a while, diet or not.
What you shouldn’t do is eat a bunch of food, and then go back for seconds and thirds when you’re already full. That’s just gluttony.
If you wanna get lean, you gotta show some restraint.
3. What Happens When You Get Sick On Your Diet?
This brings me to my second week, in which I ended up catching a cold.
This always seems to happen to me right after I start working out hard following a long break. And I guess it makes sense. Your body isn’t really used to you ripping into it with heavy weights.
I’m no immunologist, but to me it seems entirely possible that your immune system would be compromised for the first week or so of hitting the gym.
Now, I’m a bit of a baby when I get sick. So I temporarily put the gym on hold and just stuck to some light cardio. I also slept- a lot.
All of these things were the right move. While I’m a proponent of pushing through workouts even when you don’t feel up to it, I do think lifting heavy when you’re legitimately sick is pretty stupid. You’re just asking to make it worse.
Unfortunately, I also slacked off on my diet, and justified it to myself as a case of “aw shit, I’m sick and uncomfortable, so whatever, I’ll just eat comfort food“.
That’s fucked up son. There’s absolutely no reason I couldn’t have stuck to my diet.
Beside, it really wasn’t that bad. I slept 12 hours a night and recovered in less than 5 days.
LESSON #3: DON’T BE A PUSSY
Dude, it’s just a cold. Man up.
While I’m not happy that I didn’t make progress, I’m also not devastated. I understand that this is a process, and I feel like I’ve reinforced a few lessons by doing it. At the time of writing this, it’s now Saturday, and my week’s gone MUCH better.
I’m confident that the next time I weigh in and measure myself things will look better.