Macro Recap: Week 4 & Week 5

Week 4: October 1 – October 7

Week 5: October 8 – October 14

These weeks have been WEIRD, like really weird.

Week 4 was punctuated by the marathon, which was awesome! But it made fueling really different. Instead of hitting my normal macros, I added LOTS of carbohydrates to prepare me for race day! I struggled with the reality that a lot of “fun” carbohydrates come with lots of fat, which isn’t ideal before a race… donuts, scones, pastries, cereal, granola… a lot of these things use butters and oils. UGH, YIKES. Finding pure carbs was harder than I anticipated, and I found myself eating Honey Stinger gummies (intended for DURING the race) the night before to get to my carb numbers!! But it was a good exercise in reading labels and being creative!

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My flat runner pre-race^^

However, I could feel the extra carbs do their job on October 7’s race and I definitely could tell why they’re so necessary! My physical body (legs, knees, ankles) gave out before my heart and energy did 🙂

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Week 5 was defined by lots of rest, which was hard for me!

These were my goals:

  • rest
  • yoga
  • sleep

As you can see, after months of training for a marathon, these things felt idle and passive! I had to let myself sit still and take rest days. Thankfully, skipping a workout usually meant more sleep in the morning or evening, which was quite positive. Though I did still feel EXHAUSTED, which I’m blaming on post-marathon feels. Thankfully, my friends and family were so supportive and congratulative. which made it a special week!!

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Some congratulatory flowers!! ^^^

Overall, these weeks have felt frustrating; my weight has been alll over. Honestly, I expected my weight to sky rocket before the marathon, and it DID stay quite steady but it went up AFTER the marathon by a pound or two and that hasn’t gone away. So I stayed really really steady this fifth week, but I felt I was getting more protein and less carbohydrates than usual, which I expected would mean a loss of weight weight… not so. I am still learning the ropes here on macro counting, so I know that this is just bio-feedback. Plus, I wasn’t spot on… I lacked super consistency, and I fought the “celebration” feeling of wanting to indulge post-marathon!

However, the freedom of the marathon ending felt dampened by my macros. It’s been one of the first weeks that I felt very BOXED in by my macros. I know that macros should give me freedom (if-it-fits-your-macros mentality) but instead I wanted to celebrate this week and eat unhealthily and drink alcohol freely and I knew that I couldn’t.

So I leave you with this list… as I’ve struggled with macros, protein is the constant!

Here are some of my MUST HAVES!

  • egg whites
  • eggs
  • chicken breasts (can be kept frozen, so they don’t go bad!)
  • ground turkey
  • some sort of vegetable (snacks, add in for eggs, dinner veggie)
  • lunch meat (mainly turkey! it’s low fat!) (and I like the Whole Foods brand)

The FULLER my fridge is with easy proteins, the happier I am when I get a craving!

Macro Recap: Week 2 & Week 3

I lied!!!! I said I was going to review just week two right now and be one week behind schedule, BUT, that feels hard since my mind is wanting to discuss week three right now since it just ended! As such, this review is going to be a TWO FOR ONE DEAL! And if you haven’t read Week One yet, find that here!!

Week two: September 17th – September 23rd, 2018

Week three: September 24th – September 30th, 2018

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Heeeey and look at me dancing this week at Glossier + A Sweat Life’s event at Morgan’s on Fulton – staying active has made macro counting a lot easier too!! 

And more importantly, I made it 21 days! And I didn’t even realize that until I started writing this post. Then I did some research on if this whole it-takes-21-days-to-form-a-new-habit thing is ACTUALLY legitimate. It kind of is… and it kind of isn’t… apparently this study thinks that it takes 66 days on average, so I’m not there yet!! But making progress. Progress > perfection.

Macros by Percentages

I also like numbers and details to make me feel better about what progress really looks like, so I did a little experiment. I ran the numbers to see how FAR off my macros I was each week ON AVERAGE – this will also enlighten you to how hard it is for me to actually NAIL my macros on a daily basis. In the table below, the percentages are how far away from my target number I was (over or under, so the percentage is simply how off, no matter the direction). This shows progress! Madeline also gave me better guidelines during week three for how to handle the need for additional hunger on days I did TWO workouts, and this orderly way of adding calories was HUGELY impactful.

To interpret this,  you could say the following – for example – “During Week Three, Julia over-ate or under-ate her carbohydrate target of 176 grams by 6.1% on average.”

I’ll also add that my protein goal is a range, so I’m least worried about missing that target.

Overall, this illustrates that as I’ve practiced counting, I’ve gotten better at it. My margin of error is DECREASING. That is how I’ll be counting success as I learn the ropes.

Carbohydrates Fats Protein
Week One 26.7% 11.12% 8%
Week Two 20.1% 14.2% 4.6%
Week Three 6.1% 6.8% 4.8%

5 Tips to Making It 21 Days

In light of the above, I pulled together my thoughts on how to keep on keeping on. I am NOT an expert (obviously), but this is just my two cents.

  1. Admit to yourself your current triggers.
  2. Make it non-negotiable and realize that compromise is key.
  3. Eat protein, eat protein, and then eat protein.
  4. Think about benefits outside the scale.
  5. Drink your body weight in water.

#1 – Admit to yourself your current triggers. 

I have both a social job and a social group of friends. Chicago has a great bar and food scene (and doughnut scene!). What does this mean?  I am HAUNTED by temptation.

The first week of counting macros, I had countless meals out and multiple nights that I tried to include alcohol in my macros. I would feel confident that because I pre-logged my macros, that I would stick to them. This was ineffective for a few reasons. Here is what pre-logging DOES NOT do for you:

  1. make cravings easier to avoid
  2. make “cheat foods” less appealing
  3. make alcohol more filling

When you include alcohol or sweets or “cheats” in your macros, they COUNT towards your day’s calories. Which means that if cookies or a beer is LESS FILLING than a cup of quinoa, you may be hungry. And when you’re having hunger pangs while trying to avoid things that you love to indulge in, this is a recipe for disaster!

My solution to this issue: Admit to myself when I couldn’t trust myself just yet. Say no to a few extra social outings. Eat SUPER clean, filling, nutritious foods for the rest of the days when I knew I wanted to use 50g of carbohydrates for alcohol/sweets/etc.

*I know that for some, the obvious answer may be to give up these things. I cannot exist in a world that makes me sacrifice things I enjoy because it’s bad for my mental state, so this is just my take on how I did it!

#2 – Make it non-negotiable and realize that compromise is key. 

This one kiiiiind of is just an extension of #1 but I wanted to give it its own light too. In my first few weeks, I would willfully go over my macros in situations that I hadn’t pre-planned and tell myself I tried my best. While giving yourself grace is SERIOUSLY VITAL, I was still not really giving it my all in these situations.

Here’s an example: This week I had the chance to have brunch with my friend – and I really wanted to! But I knew that the food she’d prepare at her place would be eggs, sauces, avocado, etc. I mean first of all, yum, and that would TOTALLY be okay, BUT I knew I wanted to eat a MASSIVE cookie from my favorite bakery to celebrate my final marathon training run and I needed at least 20g of fats set aside.

So what did I do? I compromised with myself. She had eggs and bagels, I had half a bagel and one egg, plain. And I brought a big thing of non-fat Greek yogurt and added just a bit of natural peanut butter. That way, I was getting much more protein than if I just ate a two egg bagel sandwich, PLUS I saved myself fats and carbs through being strategic.

I told myself that hitting my macros that day was non-negotiable, brunch WAS NOT an excuse, BUT I could compromise and I still spent a fantastic 3 hours with my friend eating brunch and catching up!!

#3 – Eat protein, eat protein, and then eat protein. 

This one is pretty complicated. JK. Find protein, include protein, prioritize it. It will KEEP YOU FULLER and it will force you to create balanced meals (in my opinion…)! I am lucky to be a carnivore and I see where a vegan – for instance – would struggle here for hitting protein but if you’re like me, animal products (especially lean meats) are crucial.

I honest-to-goodness brought chicken jerky to a sports bar on Saturday to snack on if I got hungry (I also ate a big complex, nutritionally dense meal beforehand!!). The entire bag of this jerky had 2g fat, 18g carbs, and 30g protein!! That was 100x healthier and more filling than anything I could have ordered off the menu, even the salads!

Protein is filling and is KEY for athletes or individuals trying to gain muscle mass, so prioritize it and it will keep cravings at bay!

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#4 – Think about benefits outside the scale. 

Since starting on this journey, my average weight has fallen about 2 lbs. Not bad, I think to myself, and then the doubt creeps in.

Is this worth the mind space? Is this worth the effort? Is this diet actually more balanced? Is this going to be worth it?

THEN – I remind myself how much more in control I’ve felt the past few weeks. Not in a ED sort of way (thankfully!! though I entirely see how macros could be HUGELY triggering for those with an ED past), but more so, I am being CONSCIENTIOUS about what goes in my mouth and how I fuel my life.

I am CHOOSING when I drink alcohol. I am CHOOSING to eat doughnuts when I want them. THIS IS EMPOWERING. I am not a victim to my cravings or to “bad behavior”. I am electing to act with intention when I want those things. That part of macro counting rocks.

So, focus on this part when macro counting gets tough. This element of it makes me believe it is truly sustainable and THAT is thrilling. Not to mention, 2 lbs is exciting and I DO feel leaner than I have in a long time!

FINALLY,  my IBS symptoms have been WAY less intense lately. Say what!! It could be a number of reasons: more Greek yogurt, higher protein, less fats, you name it. But I will not leave this out of a list of benefits macro counting has brought me.

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#5 – Drink your body weight in water. 

Sigh, this advice probably gets so old! Like why do fitness people always say it? I annoy even myself…. but it’s so true. Ugh. When I find myself unusually hungry any day of the week, I usually start to think to myself – damn it, have I had even 20 ounces of water today yet?!

Water is key, it makes everything inside your body work better, so just do it, just drink water. Put lemon in it, put limes in it, drink some sparkling water, add a bit of Crystal Light if you must, but just drink it, kay??

Well, now that I’ve written this novel, I’ll finally wind myself down – BUT please hit me up here or via Instagram if you have any comments or questions, or if there’s a specific sort of commentary you’d like for week four’s round up!!

Macro Recap: Week 1

Week 1: Monday September 10th to Sunday September 16th

For those of you who don’t know, I am counting macros for the first time.*

I add an asterisk there because I haaaave tried before but without much dedication. I am someone who NEEDS accountability to stay accountable, so I decided to join Madeline Moves’ 8-Week Program. If you’ve read Gretchen Rubin’s book The Four Tendencies (which I actually reallllly recommend) I am an Obliger… but I’ll save that for another blog post!

The set-up is as follows: 8 weeks of personalized macros, which can change based on the results of the prior week based on weekly check-ins that also include her weekly feedback on my thoughts, feedback, and experiences.

I sent Madeline my height, weight, and before/after pictures to track the journey! I also took measurements in early August 2018 that I’ve been working against.

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To discuss week one, I decided to answer a few common questions I’ve gotten:

Do you actually WEIGH your food?

She recommends using a scale and being VERY precise about measurements to get appropriately familiar with how much food actually weighs. Since I’ve been a lifelong calorie counter, I actually feel that I have a pretty solid grasp on a lot of serving sizes, so I didn’t get a scale originally but I decided to get one just a few days in, because I wanted to test my knowledge. I also crave boundaries in life, so I like the white and black nature of weighing food. I still eat out too often to measure 60% of my food, but I find that at home, I am measuring more often and liking the precision.

How on earth did you eat 155g of protein?

Eek. This one was SO DIFFICULT for me this week, and I am already doing better week two on actually hitting this number. Before, I averaged about 80-100g of protein a day before this journey, so that’s a LOT of ground to make up! Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there for new macro counters, so I googled like a mad woman! I ate more chicken in this first week than I thought possible. I also ate lunch meat if I was in a pinch (although I went VERY overboard one day on this, and I woke up the next morning THREE POUNDS UP due to sodium! So be careful, but I still am glad I picked this over blowing my fats and carbs on a snack besides lunch meat.

My protein go to’s on a daily basis:

  1. Vegan protein powder
  2. Collagen protein powder
  3. Egg whites
  4. Chicken breast + chicken thighs
  5. 0% fat greek yogurt

Where to find protein in a pinch?

  1. Walk to the nearest grocery store to pick up Greek yogurt or low sodium lunch meat
  2. Go to a sandwich or salad place and ask if you can have just a side chicken breast (they make look at you like you have 10000 heads, but I did this at the CHICKEN BISCUIT SHOP in my building, which is the last place you’d think I’d find a healthy meal, and their grilled chicken is BOMB!)
  3. Find a Jimmy John’s and order an Unwich with just meat and veggies
  4. Find a breakfast spot and order just a side of eggs (if you don’t need fats, then ask to sub egg whites)

What was the biggest surprise week one?

I found myself naturally improving my diet because I wanted to get the most BANG for my buck. I naturally started cutting out red meat and pork because I wanted to save my fat calories for nuts and eggs, which I simply enjoy more. I also realized that 9 pieces of candy corn have as many carbs as a rice cake, so I started to be way more strategic. I knew that I’d get more volume if I was smart about it, so I started reaching for more vegetables with lots of size but not too many fat or carb grams.

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Honestly, I had MUCH more fun than I expected playing the game of how-far-can-I-stretch-my-macros. There are days I lose at this game and it doesn’t go quite as far as I’d like, but overall, I feel like I’m getting the hang of it.

I realized also how many foods have sugar in them – my protein powder has much more than I realized, lunch meat has more than I thought possible, and fruit is chock-full of them! That last one is probably obvious, but when you’re tracking your foods, you start to notice “healthy” foods that tick up your numbers in areas you’re trying to save grams for the “cheats”… if I eat a whole cup of watermelon at lunch, that’s one less rice cake I could have for an afternoon snack. Not to say you shouldn’t eat fruit, but I learned it’s a balance.

What was the hardest part?

Besides hitting my protein numbers, it was alcohol. This will NO DOUBT continue to be the hardest part. Quite honestly, any time I’ve “dieted” this has been the largest struggle for me. I LOVE social drinking. It makes me happy, I think everyone is a bit happier after a single glass of wine, and I love margaritas more than you could even imagine. I know this is dramatic, but it’s the lifestyle I’ve been living and unwinding these ingrained habits will be hard. I associate weekends with alcohol, I associate celebrations with alcohol, I associate stress with alcohol, I associate brunch with alcohol, I associate football with alcohol… so you get it? While a few of you are probably like, omg this girl needs to get to AA, I think the rest of you probably relate or at least have friends (who are healthy!) with similar associations. I truly don’t believe I have a dangerous problem with alcohol, but rather that it’s ingrained in society for my age group and peer set.

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I don’t have an answer for this one today in terms of this challenge… I think I’ll continue to add alcohol into my macros where I feel that I need to, but perhaps the sacrifice of this action will begin to dissuade me from drinking as often. I already feel that this journey has challenged my social reliance on alcohol and made me question the extra calories, which – although a nuisance – has been very good for me.

Overall outcome: I felt leaner and my body “looked” more toned to me in mirrors at the gym. That said I was exactly the same weight at the end of the first week!!

What other questions do you have?!