This is important.
It’s fun talking about things that happened nearly a month ago and all, but at some point I feel like I should start getting into where I’ve been for the past two months and why I was barely blogging. I do have a few good semi-decent excuses (I went to boyfriend’s house for Christmas and didn’t bring my laptop, I was on a cruise without internet access, etc.), but those only cover part of the time that I’ve been MIA and only tell a very small part of the story.
The short version of the story is that I sorta just let everything in my life fall apart. But that version sounds sad, and the real story isn’t that depressing, so I’m going to take it upon myself to tell it in full.
Over the summer I read a book about habits which taught me about something really important: keystone habits. Keystone habits are that one change you make that then spirals outward into a whole bunch more habits, all as a result of that very first one. Ideally, and in my case, that habit and the ones resulting from it are positive. So in January of last year I started training for a 10k. That meant running on a regular basis, which led to learning about and starting to implement proper training habits, which led to improving my nutritional profile and starting to do strength training, which led to losing weight and feeling awesome about myself, which led to flossing and using mouthwash every night to be even more awesome, which somewhere in there led to using a to-do list to track everything I needed to get done (i.e. blogging) and do it on time so that I fell into super-productivity and amazingness.
It was incredible. I felt like I had every part of my life super under control – and it had all started with a random inclination to run a 10K in Disney World. The one small problem with this method of habit forming, though, was that as soon as one thing fell apart… it all did.
Phew! That’s quite the title, I know. I tried to come up with a shorter way to get the same point across but it just wasn’t having the same effect, so super long title it is.
I find myself talking to people about how I’m eating healthier or how I’ve lost a good amount of weight fairly often. Part of this is because I’m nearly always thinking about food – either planning out what I’ll eat for the day, talking about things I want to eat, or talking about things I shouldn’t/won’t eat because I don’t have the calories for them – and part of it is because when I’m not talking about food I’m often talking about running instead, which then tends to naturally bring itself around to talking about weight loss.
Anyway, after spending all this time talking to people about these topics I’ve noticed that, most commonly, I get one of two responses. And if you think about those responses for long enough, it’s a fascinating look into how our society feels about weight and healthy food choices. So here are some of the most common responses I hear, and what I’ve extrapolated from them:
I’ve referenced the fact that I’ve lost a significant amount of weight more than a few times on this blog. I use “significant” a bit loosely, because I’m very short and was never overweight in the first place, but what I’ve lost ultimately adds up to about 16% of my original body weight, so it’s no small matter. Anyway, clarifications aside, there has been a significant improvement in the way that I look and the way that I feel about myself this past year.
Most of the time, I feel awesome. It sound silly to say, but I will freely admit that I’ve spent a bit of time admiring my smaller stomach in the mirror, particularly once the two-pack I’m currently rocking started to show and I got a few new muscle lines I didn’t even know I could have. I feel more comfortable in my clothes – I started wearing tighter shirts and shorter shorts and dresses, and I didn’t think twice about it (when before I absolutely hated shorts because I felt like my legs were too fat).
However, it’s hard to feel good about the way that you look 100% of the time, particularly in today’s society, and I am no exception to that rule. Occasionally, even though I know with every bit of logic available to me that I am perfectly healthy bordering on fit, I still feel fat. And that can be really difficult to deal with when you’ve worked so hard to get to where you are.
I have to start this post with a biology lesson. You probably already know that there are three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat. These are our bodies’ sources of fuel, but they are not all treated equally.
The article I linked to above explains this quite well, and in more detail than I’m going to, but the short version is that carbohydrates are your body’s primary fuel source, largely because they are the easiest to break down. While your body can and will break fats and proteins down into energy, it takes longer than breaking down carbs and therefore, as a less efficient process, is not preferred by your body in most cases.
Fat contains the most energy potential per gram, so it is also commonly used by the body as a source of fuel – either in low intensity exercise where it has the time to break the fat down, or during endurance exercise in an attempt to preserve glycogen (sugar), which comes from carbs and is used by your body to create energy.
Finally, the least preferred source of fuel is protein. It is used in late stages of endurance exercise, when glycogen (sugar) runs really low and the body is forced to break protein into amino acids for fuel. However, this is not ideal because protein is much better used for other purposes – specifically muscle build and repair functions.
So that brings us to how low carb diets work.
This is a surprisingly controversial topic in the world of internet dieting, and it’s for a good reason. A lot of people will try to tell you that it’s not this easy because they want to sell you on something else (please note the literal use of the world “sell” here). However, the truth is, it really is that simple: if you burn more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Period. Full stop. You could eat nothing but Twinkies, and as long as it adds up to fewer calories than you burn you will lose weight.
So, if the only thing you care about is dropping a few pounds, that’s your solution: consume fewer calories, burn more, or both. As long as you do it correctly, it will work.* The problem is, losing weight is probably not the only thing you care about.