June 10, 2012

Reader Questions & Answers #16

On Sundays, I will answer some readers' questions in a post. If you have a question that you would like me to answer here on the blog, just send me an e-mail with the subject "Q&A", and I may include them in a future Q&A post. They don't have to be about weight loss or running--anything is game!  (Remember, I'm not a doctor or dietician, or any sort of medical professional--I can only answer questions from my own experience).

Q. I was wondering how you budget your calories throughout the day. Do you try to stay within a certain range per meal? I am having a hard time figuring out how to space my calories during the day.
Another question: What does your shopping cart/pantry look like? What do you consider “must haves”?
A. One of the biggest differences from "this time around" losing weight (vs. the previous hundreds of attempts) actually lies in the fact that I budgeted my calories differently. In the past, I always used to "hoard" calories for later in the day. I would eat a miniscule breakfast (or skip it altogether), then a tiny lunch, a large dinner, and I would use all the rest of my calories for pre-bed snacking. But usually, what ended up happening, was that I would be starving by mid-afternoon and I would binge--then say, "Eff it, I might as well start over tomorrow and eat whatever I want for the rest of the day."

Obviously, that was not helpful! This time around, I did things differently. I spread my calories out and I wasn't afraid to use up all my calories too early. I found that by doing so, the urge to binge practically disappeared, because I was always physically satisfied.

To be more specific, I would generally eat about 350 calories for breakfast, 350-400 calories for lunch, 400-450 calories for dinner... plus an afternoon snack of about 200 calories and and evening "treat" of about 300 calories. I didn't adhere to this every single day, but this is a GENERAL idea of how I liked to spread out the calories. Doing it this way kept my hunger satisfied throughout the day, and I still had my special treat to look forward to before bed. 

As far as my shopping cart/pantry... my "must haves" are: oats, Smart Taste pasta, brown rice, canned beans of all kinds, canned tuna, pretzels, popcorn, peanut butter, almond butter, wine, Ezekiel bread, 1% milk, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, parmesan cheese, eggs, lean ground turkey, fruits and veggies (whatever is cheap or on sale--usually cabbage, apples, bananas, bell peppers, potatoes, onions). I'm probably forgetting some stuff, but those are things that I always have on hand.

Q. My questions is during your weight loss did you ever take weight loss aids, fat burners, etc? The crap that advertises that it can make you look like a swimsuit model? If no, did you ever consider taking any?
A. To answer both questions, no--I never took any weight loss aids, and I never considered taking any. I've never been a fan of weight loss pills, because I don't think it's reasonable to take them forever. One thing that I was adamant about from day one was that I wasn't going to make any changes that I wasn't willing to make forever. I knew I didn't want to take weight loss pills forever, so I never even considered taking them from the start. 

Q. I have a pretty simple question-  Why is your goal weight, your goal weight?  I forget the exact number you said it was, but it was only like 5 pounds from what you are now- why have you picked that particular number?  Won't your pants still fit the same and you'll look the same?  I'm working on losing weight myself and I haven't picked an exact number yet I guess because I don't know how to pick a number that far away. The difference between 132 and 138 seems so minimal. Did you have this number in your head when you started or did you zero in on it as you got closer?
A. This is a great question! This is definitely something I would have wondered before I lost the weight. When I was 253 pounds, I could gain or lose 20 pounds before I would notice it in my clothes. A couple of pounds made no difference at all. 
When I first started losing weight, I chose 126 as my goal weight--because it would be half of my starting weight, and I had this big dream of being in People magazine's Half Their Size issue. I got down to 128 pounds in 16 months--(the last 10 came off when my jaw was broken and I was on a liquid diet). Once I was able to eat solid food again, my weight jumped up to 137 ish, and I've had one hell of a time getting it back down. I remember feeling like 133 was my "cut-off" weight, where I felt good and all my clothes felt good. And once I was on The Dr. Oz Show, I no longer would qualify to be in People magazine whether I reached 126 or not, so I changed my goal weight to 133.
My body really likes the high 130's/low 140's. I can maintain this weight without counting every calorie, and still eating my daily treat. But my clothes don't fit how I would like them to. I don't feel as good as I did at 133. I know that five pounds seems like nothing, but at this size, five measly pounds makes a world of difference in my clothes. I have a pair of jeans that fit like a glove at 137, but if I get up to 139, I can barely get them buttoned. I have a dress that looks amazing when I'm 136, but at 138, it's a struggle to zip. 
At this size, EVERY POUND MATTERS. I'm sure that I'm probably the only one who notices, and it's truly no big deal if I weigh 138 forever instead of 133. But I think that by striving for 133, I'm at least not gaining back every pound I've lost. I'm always working at getting to goal, so maybe that is the reason I've successfully kept off 100+ pounds for almost two years now. 

And now a question for all of you...
Do you tend to spread your calories out throughout the day, or do you prefer to eat the majority of your calories at one meal?


  1. I prefer to spread my calories out, but I need to get better about not eating as many calories at dinner. I don't ever eat after dinner so I don't need evening calories unless I randomly have a glass of wine, but that doesn't happen often.

  2. I do the same thing as you where I spread them out. Occasionally I might save some for a dinner out or something, but I generally try to eat them spaced out and have snacks too. I'm the same way where if I eat too little for breakfast or lunch I am starving by the afternoon and I'll pig out. Balance is really hard, but always working toward it is what has worked for me.

  3. I'm *stil* trying to figure out how to spread my calories out. It's weird, I lost 150 pounds fairly easily, but the final stretch is posing so many problems! It's as if I've forgotten how to be successful at this. :\

  4. I use WW points plus and find that I must eat 19-20 points by the afternoon or I will be starving after work.

  5. I used to save them up and eat lots of snacks and a really big dinner or, if I was going to go out to eat, I'd save them up all day. I still suck at eating breakfast EVERY day, but I make sure that I use a healthy amount of calories for my meals and I don't snack as much!

  6. FairchildJune 10, 2012

    I find the quality of the calories helps a lot too. Fiber and protein are so important for me to feel full. If I just eat a bowl of oatmeal, then I am starving way before lunch. But if I add a couple of eggs, then I am fine. Fiber and protein combined for me are the key.

  7. I am trying to lose weight by eating EXACTLY the way you stated you ate before being successful... the saving all the calories for the last half of the day method. It sounds good in theory because I am usually hungrier later in the day, but I still find myself succumbing to binges when I get hungry, and like you, it is always in the afternoon. (I guess I am hungrier later in the day BECAUSE I don't eat much earlier -- duh!) It trips me up every time and makes me feel horrible about myself. So I am going to try to space them out more like you ended up doing... wish me luck! Hopefully this will end up being key for me in recharging my weight loss!

  8. If I am going out for a dinner or to a picnic or something, I'll try to hoard my calories by not eating a lot earlier in the day and/or doing extra exercise so I can eat those calories. [I eat my exercise calories, which I know is a debatable topic.] If it's a normal get up, go to work, come home sort of day, I try to spread them out.

  9. I tend to eat light early in the day, and save about half of my WW points for dinner. It's usually not a problem if I fill up with free fruits and veggies if I'm hungry throughout the day. I only run into problems when I don't feel like counting points or eating healthy.

  10. My highest calorie meal is usually breakfast. As I work out in the mornings, I have a small snack after I get out of bed (~100 cal), head to the gym and then breakfast afterwards (~400 cal). If I eat this much for breakfast, I don't usually need a snack before lunch to keep from being starving. Lunch is 400-450, afternoon snack is 100-200 and dinner is anywhere from 300-500. I'll reduce my dinner calories if I want a dessert treat. My aim for each day is 1600. So far I've learned that I MUST eat 1000 calories before I start to make dinner at night or I make terrible decisions in the evening.

  11. I used to hoard my calories for the evening as well, but that clearly doesn't work. I'm better at spreading them out throughout the day now.

    I have no idea what my goal weight will be. I;ve never in my life been skinny so I have no idea how I'll feel at 180, 150, 130 etc. People are surprised when I tell them my current weight, apparently I "carry it well" so 130-140 may not look right on me... so we'll see! I'll figure it out when I get there :)

  12. I like to spread them out. If I'm in the mood for really preparing something in the morning I usually try to get 450 calories for breakfast and 350 to 400 for lunch and dinner and then one snack - usually an apple and a piece of string cheese. Once or twice a week I have a splurge meal where I don't count the calories but I keep in mind portion size and try not to go back for seconds :)

  13. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Katie! You are so inspiring. I just recently started running again (and blogging for the first time!) and you have definitely been a motivating factor. Thank you!

  14. Hi, Katie. I agree with you about how just a couple pounds can make a big difference. I am on the short side and can definitely tell in my clothes when it's just one of 2 pounds difference.

    I spread my calories out throughout the day. I like to eat about 2 calories five different times a day and then eat about 400 calories for dinner. Works for now...

  15. I try to spread my calories out but notice I tend to eat more in the evening. I am working on eating a lighter dinner but my husband likes a substantial supper so it is a balancing act. I also have trouble with snacking after dinner. If I could cut that out, maybe I'd lose that 10 pounds...

  16. I love to snack at night! I save calories for dinner and maybe a sweet treat. It's a bad habit I need to knock off! But there's something so comforting about a snack with a tv show!

  17. When I'm doing what I'm SUPPOSED to I eat about the same amount for breakfast and lunch, maybe a little more for dinner. according to Bob Greene, we should eat the most calories at breakfast, a little less at lunch and the least at dinner, since our metabolism naturally slows down towards nighttime. And then to get our burner going we need to eat within a 1/2 hr. of waking up. It's a good theory...

  18. I love breakfast and look forward to my steel cut oats! I tend to spread my calories out pretty evenly throughout the day. As others have said, if I know we're going out to eat for dinner, I'll usually eat lighter during the day.

  19. Thank you for this week's questions. I can't wait to get down to my goal weight where I can feel each pound come off or go on. I've already lost 75 pounds, but don't seem to notice a 3 or 4 pound loss until I step on the scale. Thanks again for your inspirational blogging! I love it!

  20. AnonymousJune 12, 2012

    Eating at night is definitely a bad habit for me. Even when I have calories left over, it seems I still don't lose wt due to lack activity. Thank goodness my favorite night snack is watermelon- it use to be ice cream with peanut butter. Anyhow, seems like I eat mist of my calsbetween 11am and 6.
    I am strength training and eating several times a day to aid in muscle recovery and growth.
    Down 52 lbs since Jan '12 but still have 20 lbs to go.
    Ps- never considered diet pills. That stuff is crazy.

  21. I never got around to replying to your post from Sunday, but wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed it. I too tend to try and "save" my calories so I can eat more in the evening. I'm working on that.

    Your goal to get about 5 lbs. lower than you currently are, is how I am approaching my maintenance too. Last October 30, I weighed in at 139. I liked that! But my body obviously did not. Over T-giving and Christmas I gained 10 lbs. and cannot get it off. Now if I weigh in the 140's (usually 149) I'm happy. But I would like to get down to 144-145, not only is that a healthy BMI for my height (5'4"), it gives me something to work towards and keeps me on the straight and narrow as far as snacking goes. At least it does most of the time. I had a bad weekend, but got back "with it" yesterday and hope today will be a good one. I used to think that I didn't have your "binging" tendency, but now I think I do. Sunday afternoon, I couldn't quit walking to the kitchen and getting a few Biscoff cookies, or a finger lick of Cookie Butter, or some Hot Tamales. Yes I bought a bag of them. I put them in 120-calorie baggies and decided I would treat myself once a day or so. But I ate the last two bags of them Sunday afternoon! By suppertime I was stuffed, so supper was pretty light, but by then the damage was done I fear. Although the scale has not shown a weight gain YET, I know many more days like that will mean the scale will go back into the 150's, which is where it was registering before my surgery 3 weeks ago. I swore when I found out I would be off work for seven weeks, to recuperate from my hysterectomy, that I would NOT go back to work with a weight gain. I could just hear people whispering about me if I did, and I couldn't bear that. So far--so good. But you're right, even a few pounds at this lower weight makes a difference in how your clothes fit and I have too many new clothes that I don't want to grow out of. So with the philosophy of always trying to lose those last 5 pounds, maybe I can just MAINTAIN.

  22. I am a big breakfast person, so I did have to cut down on my calories at breakfast. I just had to make sure they were filling calories. And if we are eating out, I have to plan in advance. I'll eat a smaller, but more filling lunch (lots of leafy greens!) to save calories for dinner. But I still try to find healthier options on the menu! I just know that calories dining out are always more than we think. Also, while I generally eat "smaller" breakfasts and lunches, I do have little snacks throughout the day which include nuts, fruit, a piece of dark chocolate, and a piece of Babybel or string cheese. I'm trying to eat more intuitively, though, so that if I am not really hungry for those snacks, I don't eat them. ;-)

  23. I find the quality of the calories helps a lot too. Fiber and protein are so important for ours to feel full. Fiber and protein combined for ours are the key. And also follow some daily workouts.


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