It was actually pretty easy.
I downloaded, and religiously use, MyFitnessPal (free) on my iPhone. Please note I’m not associated with the app in any way. But read on for more details (including a bunch of actual steps I took, and a sample food log).
Over the past 6 years of serious rowing (4 years college + 2 years elite), I pretty much just assumed that I could eat whatever I wanted, and I’d continue losing weight, because I perceived that I was burning so many calories from training between 12-18 hours a week. However, after dropping from 200 to 180 in my freshman year (due to a huge increase in training volume), I leveled off around 185 for the next 5 years. I’d have small dips in the spring as we went dry, and generally would be a little heavier (187-189) in the fall/winter. The winter increase was a result of the holiday parties and food and a greater focus on schools (finals week) and a decreased focus on training (down time + on your own training time). After graduating, I expected that I would drop pounds as I’d no longer have access to an all you can eat buffet 3x a day and would instead be cooking for myself. However, I still wasn’t dropping weight. I thought I was being healthy, as a general day consisted of: yogurt, oatmeal, raisins, nuts, string cheese, peanut butter & jelly on wheat bread, cliff bar, chicken Caesar salad, and lots and lots of dinner. On top of this, I was on my feet all day teaching, with 1-2 workouts on the water or erg. And still, nothing happened. In fact, I became more cemented at 185, with my range now fluctuating between 182-189.
When I decided to transition to triathlons, a couple of things became clear to me: 1. My foot speed would be largely dependent on weight. 2. My aero-ness on the bike would be largely dependent on body mass. 3. I needed to lose weight. I did some reading up, and talked to my girlfriend and brother, who helped me make a couple of key changes to my diet (some I had already done, but some may be new to you):
1. No soda, at all. I haven’t had soda in a couple of years. Replace soda with water. It doesn’t hydrate you, despite what Sprite commercials will say. I will admit I for a very long time still drank a ton of Red Bull/Monster, but even that I have swapped out for the sugar free/carb free type.
2. I had to make the very tough decision to cut out sour gummi worms + gummi bears, completely, from my diet. My love for them is unlike any love I have ever felt for another human being. If I could stop myself from this one single type of candy, there would be so many less Wawa/Quikcheck/corner store runs that result in a lot of bad news. I’ll still buy candy occasionally, but my desire for other types (with the exception of Cadbury eggs…) is not nearly as strong. To help keep these desires down, I chew a LOT of sugar free gum. Stride Mega Mystery is a personal favorite right now.
3. Swap regular orange juice (very high in sugars) for OJ 50%. It’s essentially watered down orange juice. If you can’t afford to buy this (its more expensive), just add water to your OJ. But in general, drink less OJ. Replace with water. Same for milk. Swapped 2% out for 1%, and then swapped that out for skim milk.
4. On any dairy products, buy the low-fat version. I’m not ashamed to admit I live on Weight Watchers String Cheese – 2 sticks = 100 calories.
5. Buy measuring cups! Holy crap, I do not know what a serving size is. Its easy to briefly glance at the back of a box of X and see that it has 150 calories in it, but then you realize thats in 2 tablespoons… I’m looking at you, peanut butter! A tablespoon, if you are guestimating, is the size of your thumb. Lifehacker has a bunch of great articles about how to do this. But seriously, buy measuring cups.
6. Use said measuring cups! And apply their sizes to the nutritional information printed on the back of processed food!
7. Be honest with yourself, and track everything you eat and do in MyFitnessPal. Its got barcoding system that is great for processed food, so its got the information pre-loaded in there for you. I also weigh myself every single day and add it in, to get a more clear picture of my average weight (which still fluctuates about +/- 5lbs throughout the week and weekend. But I always record my weight as soon as I wake up, after peeing, and naked. I am now consistently at 178 and I’m not really “trying” to lose weight anymore, although as I get closer to race season, I’ll try and go under 174 (total weight loss = 14lbs).
Thats about it. I’m sure there are other minute details I’m missing, but those are the big ones. I use a couple of heart rate monitors to track my work during training, and use those calculations as starting points in measuring output (calories burned).
Here is a “standard” day for me:
Breakfast: 1 cup frozen fruits dethawed, 1 cup Special K fruity mix cereal, 1 small Greek yogurt (usually honey/caramel flavored). Total cal = 280.
Workout 1: variable based on swim/bike/run
Snack: 1 Bagel Thin w/ 2 tbsp of Peanut Butter & Co. Total cal = 290.
Lunch: 1 Bagel Thin w/ 4 slices of turkey, 2 slices of low fat provolone cheese. Total cal = 280. 2x Weight Watchers string cheese. Total cal = 100.
Snack: Cliff Bar (Oatmeal & Raisin). Total cal = 240. Red Bull 8.4oz, Sugar Free. Total cal = 10. Keebler 100 calorie bag, chocolate covered pretzels. Total cal = 100.
Workout 2: variable based on swim/bike/run. 2 workouts/day will put me anywhere between 800-1500 calories burned.
Dinner: chicken Caesar Salad (~640cal), salmon w/ couscous & vegetables (~740 cal). Snacks if I want them/need them.
I shoot for no more than a 500cal deficit per day. Anything greater than that and I’ll make up for it, and some, the following day.
This has been plenty long enough and more than enough information. Good luck!