By ALEXANDRA MATZKO
Hot weather is here, and it feels like the only way to survive the hot, sticky humidity is to show some skin. But maybe, like me, you’re loath to let go of your long sleeves and jeans. Yes. I’ll just sit here in my blazer with the blazing sun beating down on me during this two hour long brunch. No, I don’t mind perspiring so violently that my sweat drips onto the tabletop or that I have to down half my bodyweight in water in order to survive.
Showing skin can be uncomfortable, so uncomfortable that we’ll voluntarily add to our own discomfort in order to avoid it. Most of us are aggressively and desperately trying to look our best for this season of skin, and the formula to achieve a finer figure is always the same: create a calorie deficit. You must burn more calories than you consume. Forego that second glass of crisp, cool rosé. Push aside that sweet, creamy ice cream. This self-restraint should be easy peasy; it’s just simple math!
But, maybe you have been in a calorie deficit and surviving the past few weeks on a diet of “kale and dust” as Anne Hathaway once so eloquently described her meal plan in preparation to play Catwoman. Yet, the scale and your favorite skinny jeans aren’t giving you the feedback you’d expect. You’re putting in miles of cardio each day. You’re only eating 1,200 calories each day. Yet, the results refuse to appear. What gives?
Well, your loathsome low calorie diet may actually be the culprit.
How is this possible? And, how can you overcome it? Well, would you break into a happy dance if I told you that it involved your favorite treats?
Your body is constantly trying to achieve homeostasis, which is a fancy term for equilibrium and balance. If you suddenly cut 500 calories from your usual diet, your body goes into crisis mode. Alert, alert! We’ve got a fuel shortage and need all hands on deck! As you consistently continue to cut this amount of calories day in and day out, your body will fight and fight until it eventually adapts to this new fuel intake. It will change to accommodate and fully function on your new 1,200 calories a day. (Same goes for cardio that is always the same distance and pace.) Now, you’re in a weight loss plateau. Your body is no longer as efficiently burning those calories you need to achieve weight loss.
To beat your body, you need to trick your body. You need to change it up to keep your body from ever fully adapting. It was this concept that sparked the idea of the “cheat day” in the bodybuilding community. But, how can you incorporate treats on some days and still average let’s say one pound of weight loss per week? Well, it’s still a matter of simple math. In order to lose one pound a week, you need to create a 3,500 total deficit through adjusting your food and fitness. And, to keep from falling into a weight loss rut, you need to undulate your calories. Do not go for a consistent calorie cut every day. The best recommendations advise five days of cutting, one day of maintenance, and one day of surplus per week. Divvy out calorie amounts, so that you still end the week with around a 3,500 calorie deficit. Here’s an example for someone who needs 2,000 calories a day to keep her weight stable. (Use myfitnesspal.com or other online calculators to figure out your daily caloric needs. Remember, “moderate activity” means walking at least 4,000 steps a day.) I try to be pragmatic with my calorie spread by saving my high calorie days for the weekends and times when I know I’ll be eating more or have less control over what I’m eating.
TOTAL CALORIES DEFICIT
Monday 1,400 -700
Tuesday 1,400 -700
Wednesday (maintenance) 2,000 0
Thursday 1,400 -700
Friday 1,400 -700
Saturday (surplus) 2,200 +200
Sunday 1,400 -700
TOTAL DEFICIT = 3,300
So, not a perfect 3,500, but pretty darn close. And, I don’t know about you, but I’m a grumpy witch if I’m eating any fewer than 1,400 calories a day. If it takes me a little bit longer to lose the weight, I’m okay with that because I’ve developed a meal plan that I can actually follow and that doesn’t consist of just kale and dust. And, I have the extra calories to look forward to mid-week and on the weekend. The more realistic the goal, the far more likely that you’ll actually stick to it. I love that calorie undulation gives me little diet “breaks” every week, so it doesn’t feel like my diet is one long, long road of hungry misery.
So, if you find yourself frustrated by a weight loss rut, give calorie undulation a try. And, the next time you’re offered that scrumptious summer treat, happily accept and enjoy that glass of rosé or that big scoop of ice cream guilt free.