Here we go again! The baby is two weeks old, and it’s time to get back to the gym. It’s also time to start my counting calories and working my calorie cycle plan. Here goes!
I believe that goals should be SMART — Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Reasonable, and Time-bound. Because of that, I believe in demonstrating accountability with concrete numbers and not making excuses when I screw up.
At two weeks postpartum the scale said 191.2. Tuesday was my birthday, and we went out to dinner. I made good choices in general, but the (cough) martini and salt content of my dinner upped my number almost a pound from the day before. Still, I can’t be upset about having lost 33 pounds in the two weeks since the baby’s birth.
Here’s the quick and dirty:
- Beginning weight: 224 pounds
- Stretch goal: 124 pounds (1oo pounds total)
- Current weight: 191.2 pounds
- Percent to goal: 33%
- Bust: 43″ (no change)
- Waist: 39″ (2″ lost)
- Hips: 47″ (2″ lost)
The plan is to reach my first goal of 180 pounds by my six week checkup with the midwife. To achieve that goal, I’ve come up with a fitness plan and a calorie cycle that my family doctor has signed off on.
I know I said last time that I’m planning to run a half marathon in February, and that’s still on the books. However, I need to spend the first month rebuilding my cardiovascular fitness and allowing my joints to restabilize from the pregnancy hormone relaxin. That’s actually the perfect amount of time, because it allows me 12 weeks to work my half marathon training plan before the Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World.
Since we’re headed into the colder months, I’ve listed treadmill and/or elliptical for my walks and runs. However, it was over 80 degrees here today, and I’ll definitely take advantage of the beautiful weather and exercise outdoors while I can! On to the plan:
- Sunday: Treadmill and/or elliptical
- Monday: Cardio dance and full body weights
- Tuesday: Pilates Reformer
- Wednesday: Cardio dance and upper body weights
- Thursday: Spin and yoga
- Friday: Treadmill and/or elliptical
- Saturday: Cardio dance and lower body weights
A conservative estimate puts my calorie burn at around 2,500 during the week for cardio. I don’t count the burn from Pilates, yoga, or weight lifting in general because those numbers are seriously skewed.
I like to employ calorie cycling to keep my metabolism guessing. There are some high days and some low days, but they average out to 1,700 calories.
- Sunday 1,900
- Monday 1,500
- Tuesday 1,800
- Wednesday 1,400
- Thursday 1,800
- Friday 1,600
- Saturday 1,900
You’ll notice that my days don’t seem to match up. That is, I’m working out hard on lower calorie days. It seems ridiculous I know. However, I’m also gone from the house and more distracted on those long gym days, so as long as I eat enough protein, I’ll be fine. If for some reason I’m not, I’ll switch my days around.
Weekend days need to be high for me because that’s when we eat out. There’s nothing less fun than ordering broiled chicken and plain broccoli when your family is living it up, so I like to give myself a little cushion to compensate for that. As you can see, planning is essential to the success of a calorie cycling plan.
Why Calorie Cycling?
I learned about calorie cycling when I did Weight Watchers back in 2005, when I was trying to lose the baby weight after my first baby. I didn’t think much about it until I hit a plateau with number three. After being stuck for more than six weeks, I remembered the plan and decided to give it a try for myself.
It took me about six weeks more to go from 150 to 133 pounds, at which point I started eating maintenance calories, being as small as I cared to go. I was amazed at the results and was hooked on calorie cycling. I even cycled calories for the first three months of maintenance to pare down my exercise schedule a bit and not gain.
Calorie cycling is about getting around the body’s tendency toward homeostasis. You’re tricking your body into believing that you’re not dieting, so it doesn’t feel like it’s starving and hold onto every calorie.
If you lift weights, there’s an even better reason to calorie cycle. You see, because you’re giving the body more calories (and more protein, if you’re careful about your macros), it’s less likely to catabolize your muscle, meaning a leaner figure and faster gains.
The biggest obstacle to a successful calorie cycle is self-discipline. If you don’t have it in you to allow yourself to feel hunger at times and have some lean days, calorie cycling just isn’t for you (and there’s nothing wrong with that).
Another required component is tracking your calories. There are several sites that will serve this purpose, like Sparkpeople, Fitday, and Calorie King. I log my calories every day, along with my water intake, daily exercise, weight, and measurements.
Start Your Own Cycle
If you’re interested in starting your own calorie cycle, you’ll probably want to start with a ten day period of intentional overeating. You don’t need to go crazy, just eat about 500 calories over your maintenance calories. This is enough time to trick your body into breaking out of fasting mode and thinking you’re going to feed it normally again.
Then you’ll start your cycle. There are two ways to do it. Most people cycle a different number of calories each day like I do above. Others choose to do a five day low/two day high cycle. Five days per week they eat below their maintenance calories, and two days they eat over.
It’s easy for people who are disciplined through the week and want to splurge on weekends. If you want to lose two pounds per week, you’ll need to eat about 1000 calories under your maintenance level, then eat about 750 over on weekends. This is really a big difference, hence the reason I don’t like it.
I find that eating that way makes me more hungry Monday through Wednesday, comfortable Thursday and Friday, then positively stuffed on the weekends, and that’s just not physically comfortable for me. The smaller swings on a daily basis keep my body guessing, but my appetite in check. Works for me!
The X Factor
Certainly there’s a mental readiness component to weight loss, or else everyone would be at a healthy weight most of the time. Your X factor may be the things your parents taught you about relating to food (a big struggle for me personally), lack of time or financial resources, physical limitations, etc. I’m losing weight so that I feel better, look better, and am able to live my life better.
I’m taking my own advice for ways to stay motivated, but I know that a big part of it is just putting one foot in front of the other, in the literal sense. It involves getting my gym clothes on and going even when I don’t want to, because the discipline of daily exercise translates to other parts of life.
Green smoothies and gym time await, and I couldn’t be happier. I know the initial excitement will wear off eventually, and that’s where the discipline comes in. Here we go!