When used correctly, food tracking tools like MyFitnessPal, or Lose It can help you to reach your physique and/or performance goals (or troubleshoot why you aren't reaching them). For EM2WL fam, these tools are also useful to ensure that you're eating enough calories, and getting in enough of the micro/macronutrients that tend to left behind when dieting. But even the most “accurate” of these tools leaves room for a margin of error.
For many, this margin becomes the focus, rather than the original reason they began tracking: the overall trend/big picture. Once focused on minutiae, tracking food can become a slippery slope, leading to obsession for so many people. Ironically, overly-obsessing about the numbers actually makes success harder to achieve.
Perfection when tracking can be hard to get away from. Getting wrapped up in the numbers can lead to an obsession with ALL numbers needing to be perfect. This includes numbers from your Fitbit, heart rate monitor, cardio machines, your body fat %, your scale number etc. ALL numbers are estimations and come with a large degree of variability, so learn how things work in the real world, rather than relying solely on how they should work on paper. It's not about you being perfect, it's about being consistent.
Use tracking tools responsibly, AND hit your goals – #likeaboss
There are ways to track without being obsessive. Start by tracking what you are already eating for a 1-2 week period and change nothing. This let's you see whether you are maintaining, gaining or losing weight. Then a decision can be made for your next course of action. Tracking allows you to see any patterns that might be taking shape in your habits. This can include not eating breakfast or eating too much at a certain time of day.
When you know your baseline, check our online calculator to find your TDEE level. Then you can see if this number needs to be higher or lower than what you are currently consuming. If your number is lower than your TDEE, consider diving into a metabolism reset. If the number is higher than it should be, then your reduction in calories is lower than maybe you thought it should be. (More food FTW!!)
For most, this approach takes away a lot of the obsessive tracking tendencies. It's much easier to focus on the small changes needed to increase or decrease your caloric level, without getting obsessed by the numbers. Tracking allows you to have an understanding of what kinds of food you like and what will help you reach your macro goals.
Regardless of where you start, tracking can be a very powerful tool in your fat loss efforts. When used as a tool and not as a crutch, you will be able to move away from tracking all together and enjoy your life tracker free.
When dieters first discover Eat More 2 Weigh Less, it's usually after years of caloric restriction that has hindered fat loss efforts. It can take a little bit of research and trust, but eventually reality sets in that perpetually eating less is NOT the answer. They buckle in, and after a full metabolism reset, re-enter the fat loss ring with renewed mental and physical strength. This is not an overnight breakthrough, however. Fat loss with EM2WL often occurs in at least five stages, or “a-ha moments,” being uncovered as the journey progresses. Some will go through the stages randomly, while most tend to handle them in order that follows. In the end, if does not matter which order they are taken in, but rather that they are all learned.
The first stage for fat loss is almost always finding out you need to eat more. Generally anyone coming from a 1200 calories diet plan, or 21 day fixes or anything that restricts the amount of energy you take in, will quickly realize that you were duped into thinking “Eat Less, Move More.” It is simply not true.
Our bodies are like an engine and they require energy in order to function correctly. Without the right amount of energy, the engine begins to wear down. So when we starve on 1200 calorie diets, it is not getting enough fuel to function properly and fat loss is hindered.
The realization that more food = more energy comes quick to most. For others, its a longer process to accept that yes, we need more food. When the connection has been made, almost immediately the outward signs of under eating start to dissipate. Nails start to grow, hair stops falling out, sleep is better quality, moods change for the better and general energy levels increase ten fold.
Eating more consistently
Right after the realization that we need more calories in our day, most of us will begin to place a focus on eating more calories consistently. This stage can tend to take a bit longer to uncover. It means hitting whatever target number you are supposed to be hitting, more than 80% of the time.
If calories change as little as 100-300, it can make a huge impact on our body's ability to function correctly. Eating more can have an impact on things like sleep, hair and moods. But it can still be hindering inward changes if the amount is not high enough. It can be the difference in eating 400 calories more than you used to, but not eating at your maintenance (TDEE) level.
Paying attention to macros
Once it becomes easier to consistently hit that calorie number, the next focus shifts to hitting your macros. Macronutrients such as protein, fat and carbohydrates are the main three your focus should be on. Fiber is also a consideration especially when it comes to your carbs. In the beginning, your focus is just getting your calories up to your proper amount. But eventually the shift needs to change to focus on hitting these macros in order to get the right balance of nutrients needed to sustain fat loss.
It is easier to focus on hitting these numbers when your calorie level is high, making it easier to keep hitting them when you cut your calories.
In the beginning, it is easy to just workout with whatever program or cardio class you enjoy doing. Going from couch to 4 days a week will certainly help you to see fat loss happen, but soon the results slow down or stop all together. This is when the realization that lifting weights is now needed in order to continue seeing that fat loss happen. It might be something you had heard about earlier in your journey, but this blind spot tends to hide until you are ready to fully commit to a strength training program.
Lift heavier weights
The final stage to fat loss is understanding that lifting weights is not just lifting a certain amount and stopping. It is constantly and consistently working on increasing the amount you lift. As you adjust to the weight level you lift, this becomes normal to your body. Therefore the benefits stall out and you plateau. By consistently challenging your muscles with heavier weights, it will always be working overtime to benefit from these levels.
While these stages can happen in any order to an individual, most uncover them in order – at their own pace. As a new “blindspot” is revealed to you, lean in…don't rush it, or attempt to avoid it. Truly understand what each stage means to you and spend the time needed in each one before working through the next.
Fat loss is a tricky problem for almost everyone. Of course we all want to get rid of unwanted fat on our bodies, but it is not as easy as “eat less, move more.” There is far more to it than that.
Ways to aid successful fat loss
Before you dive into the tweaks needed for this, familiarize yourself with our quick start guide. This will refresh your memory on how to begin your journey and what to expect. One of the main aspects to consider in this is a metabolism reset. This will be your biggest supporter to a successful cut phase.
When the time comes to reduce calories and begin your fat loss phase, cutting requires only a small amount of calories to be removed. We are talking 5-15% from your TDEE. The key is still to be able to eat as much as possible and still have a loss in fat. Following a 4-6 week cut phase, a jump back up to your TDEE level is necessary to remind the body of where maintenance is.
Think about it. If you cut your intake to a specific number, and do nothing more, then your body will adjust to that lower level and that becomes your new “normal.” Then when the plateau hits (which it always does) calories need to be slashed again in order to see a loss. Each step down will cause the metabolism to slow, thus making it harder and harder for fat loss to happen.
Just like your body adjusts to calories going down – it will adjust to calories going up.
By reminding your metabolism where maintenance is, the body continues to burn at the higher caloric level, giving you far more food to eat and still burn for fat loss. Every 4-6 weeks you should take one week off back at TDEE. If you choose to go 8-10 weeks, then a two or more week break is needed.
Biggest thing to remember is this is NOT a quick fix diet! Patience, Consistency and maximum caloric intake are what will help you be successful at fat loss.
Our last blog post touched on five workout tips to prevent (or breakthrough!) the inevitable plateau. Today let's take a look at how our eating habits can also cause a plateau, and 3 ways to avoid derailing our progress.
3 things to focus on with your EATS
Just as when mapping out how to workout for plateau-prevention, your food focus breaks down to three main areas of focus: Load, Frequency, and Type. Here's what to pay attention to for each area:
Load – This is how many calories you should eat. This varies person to person and no one should be in a blanket calorie range (uh hello 1200 calorie plans) By using our calculator, you can find out three different things, how many calories you need to maintain your weight (TDEE), how many calories for fat loss (Cut) and how many calories for muscle building (Bulk)
By knowing these numbers, you can cycle your intake around when you are on maintenance, when you are planning a cut and periods when you are building muscle.
Frequency – This is the amount of calories you eat, for whatever phase you are in, and when to change it up. Like our load, we need to change the amount of calories we eat at times to prevent a plateau from occuring. When in a fat loss phase, we should be taking a “diet break” (eating at TDEE) every 8-12 weeks for a period of 1-2 weeks. This will “remind” the body what maintenance is, so as we start to lose weight, our Cut amount doesn’t become our Maintenance amount.
Type – I’ll just say one word – Macros.
The type of food we eat does make a huge impact on our progress or our plateaus. Protein, Fat and Carbs are the most important ones to focus on to help make better quality food choices. If you are just starting out getting your macros into focus, plan on putting your protein goal front and center. Focus on one thing at a time and build up the habit, and this will set up your natural progression for better food quality.
By paying attention to these variables in our eating, we can stop a plateau from sending us down the rabbit hole and derailing any progress we might have had.
I’ve followed the EM2WL method for a few years (with great success!), and then last autumn, race season got a little crazy because I signed up for 2 half marathons. I enjoy running for the sanity-saving benefits (I have 4 kids ages 3-6!) but I LOVE lifting because I love being strong! Since I promised some friends I would run in the half-marathons, though, lifting had to take a backseat while I trained for those races. I was eating “enough” but noticing fat gain/muscle loss and started reducing my calories to try to tweak things. Obviously that was not the thing to do, as my body composition started getting worse and worse, despite eating fewer calories. I never NETTED below 1700 but with how much running I was doing, I still needed more, plus I needed to add lifting back in. (I wish I could go back in time to August 2015 when I started the crazy lowering-lowering-lowering of calories to tell myself to start increasing instead!! But lesson learned.)
Finally, this past January, I complained to my husband about how I couldn’t seem to lose the fat despite decreasing my calories and he asked “do you think you might need a reset? Are you eating enough?” and the light bulb went off. He stated that I can never claim he ‘doesn’t listen to me’ because he remembered my talking about EM2WL and metabolism resets and such a couple years ago! Haha! So at the beginning of February, I started increasing my calories to reach maintenance (2100-2200 based on my Fitbit Charge HR, plus more if I ran). I took pictures of myself before I started my calorie increase (photos on left in comparison shots).
My second half marathon was scheduled for the beginning of April, but I downgraded it to the 5k option because I really wanted to focus on regaining my lost muscle and not worrying about running.
BEST. DECISION. EVER.
I completed a 9 week reset and started a cut at 1900, which I quickly increased to 2000 due to lack of energy during lifts. I had already gained 10 pounds “at a deficit” while training last year that never came off, and then I gained 14-16 pounds during my reset. I started my cut and haven’t lost anything yet, but that’s okay because I’m still making gains in the lifts and that’s what I was mainly focused on. My lowest weight was 132 and I really loved my physique at that weight because I reached it combining running and heavy lifting (calories during cut were around 1800, so definitely following the EM2WL mentality!). Eventually I hope some of the fat will come back off since I’m currently hovering around 156-158 pounds (I’m 5’5.5”). My TDEE has also increased due to my increased weight, I suppose, so now I average 2300 without running based on my Fitbit.
This afternoon I squeezed into the clothes I was wearing when I started my reset, and those are the (tan!) pics on the right. The clothes are definitely tight, but I love how I actually have a better overall SHAPE than I did before! In a week, I’ll be starting a much-anticipated 2-week diet break. My lifting throughout February-April was starting over with StrongLifts 5×5 (since I’d lost most of my strength from running). I’m living in an apartment for about 6 months and don’t have access to my barbell but I did 3 weeks of NRoL Fat Loss 1, and am currently doing your heavy/light dumbbell workout at our apartment gym. Anyway, I just thought I’d share my in-progress story with you!
~mrs_dwr on MFP