Each year, often after New Years, I embark on the unraveling of damages done by bad holiday eating. Mind you, my bad holiday eating isn’t terrible, but the volume alongside the dip in off season training equals weight gain. Lately I have heard many people refer to the ‘Covid 19’ like the ‘Freshman 15’, and thought I would talk on some of the things I find to work the best for weight loss.
First I will say that for the most part my diet is pretty clean. I don’t eat much in terms of sweets or processed foods. Pizza once a week is a standard, and steak or beef is maybe once or twice a month. My family go to is ground turkey, chicken thighs, pork tenderloins, and some seafood. Rice and potatoes. Fruits and veg. Beans. I have not been to a McDonald’s or similar in at least a decade.
So where do I fall short? For me it is the volume of food I typically eat. On pizza night I will finish a medium pie on my own and may look for more after that. What can I say I get hungry. This is especially true when the meal tastes good, and one thing the pandemic has done is grow the family cooking abilities.
Now with my only 70.3 of the year done (aka the longest off-season ever), it seemed like a good time to take stock of my own weight position and see where I stood relative to years past.
As it was this morning I was 5-6 lbs. over my normal Ironman race weight, and where I would say I might normally be at this time each year. Obviously things this year are very different, but it feels like a good time to focus on food and diet for a few months to ensure I don’t hit the holiday’s already in a bad spot.
I have learned some things that work better for me than others through a lot of experimentation and practical application. For example, I did a one week juice detox one year, and almost passed out during a run. I have also done a one month vegan program that I found very hard to maintain when I did not know where I would be for lunch. My wife and I have also done Engine-2 for a month (I made the Engine-2 lasagna which made my kids cry). Another detox program / diet I did enjoy was Whole 30. This was a 30 day program creating basically an elimination diet. I did feel great on this but it isn’t practical to maintain long term, nor is it meant to be. Keto, Paleo, Mediterranean…the list goes on. For me and what I do though it really comes back to a few simple rules. Clean whole food and 80/20. What does that mean?
For starters I don’t find it possible to be perfect forever. It takes a lot of planning, time, and effort to never go off script. Especially in business lunches or social situations where someone else has ordered. I also get hangry (look it up, it’s a thing), so if lunch is chocolate cake I am eating it regardless of whether it is the best for me. This is where the 80/20 rule comes in. Eat good food 80 percent of the time, and relax for 20 percent. If you want a burger go for it. Ice cream no problem, just don’t down a bottle of Coke everyday and expect great results.
In terms of clean food, we try to shop and eat organic whole foods whenever possible. Lot’s of vegetables and beans, less meats. Good oils, and not really much dairy. Fruits are a normal, especially frozen organic blueberries in a morning shake. Not much pasta. Almond milk a limited dairy. Now with all that said, how do I know what and how much to eat, and what do I do when I get hungry and want a snack?
WeightWatchers to the rescue. I know, it sounds odd. I am an athletic person who is not overweight, but I find WW has been the best realistic way for me to track what I eat and fit in things I might not be expecting. The reason is that they assign points to everything, and you work off an allocated point system each day. As I started to track food again this week, my program allows for 23 points a day. To give an idea, a cup of rice is 6 points, but chicken breast is 0. Most fruits and vegetables are 0 points, eggs are 0, and the list goes on. So there are a lot of things you can eat that don’t directly count towards your daily limits, relieving some of the pressures of going hungry. Pizza is point expensive so is whiskey or wine, but this forces you to choose. It also helps people to really understand that a glass of orange juice is 6 points and the sugar may not be worth it.
How long does it take to cut weight? Now that I am a bit longer in the tooth, I don’t normally see any movement for the first 2 weeks. But after I hit a groove and have been steady, I will see about 1 pound a week loss. It normally takes me 2 or so months to get to my ideal racing weight and then I try to keep of the good habits as long as I can.
Will this work for everyone, no I don’t think so, but there are a lot of options out there. I think that the structure and planning I put into WW works for me, and allows me to keep a high energy level throughout the day. I don’t fixate on the food like I did with other programs. I can make adjustments for parties or other get together’s without too much concern for going off track. A solid diet plan should reflect your own goals, be realistic about how it can be accomplished, and hopefully not be the all encompassing thought throughout the day. Enjoy the food, enjoy the workouts, and don’t let either get in the way of the other.