I intended to blog twice last week, but settling into my new Parisian home was more time-consuming than I imagined! As I mentioned in my last post, I lost 5kg (11lbs) during my month in Guatemala – and I’ve managed to keep it off, so far.
What I ate
I stayed in a homestay, meaning that three meals were prepared for me each day. As I was not in control of the food, I didn’t stress about how many calories I was eating, or the macro composition of each meal. It was the first time I’ve been in such a position since I was a child!
Breakfast was carb-dominant with either pancakes, waffles, french toast or a big ass bowl of Cornflakes with fruit. Sometimes we had eggs with beans, bread and fried plantains.
Lunch and dinners varied, and about one out of every three meals was vegetarian. For protein, we had things like chicken thighs, steaks and crumbed chicken burgers. It was all incredibly delicious!
I typically had one snack between lunch and dinner, which was either something traditionally Guatemalan like empanadas, pupusas, tostadas or fried plantains, or something to help us cool off like frozen yoghurt, a smoothie or ice cream.
Sometimes we ate out, but it was always something typically unhealthy like nachos, curries, burritos, burgers or pizza (our version of “white people” food).
We were also drinking alcohol four or five nights a week.
On paper, it’s hard to imagine how I could possibly lose weight eating all this, right? But, if you look closely, I only ate maybe 1,500 calories a day – far less than what I eat normally. Given that I was also exercising for hours a day, my output was significantly higher than my input.
It just goes to show that calories are indeed king. I followed a predominantly carbohydrate-based diet (I would have been lucky to hit 70 grams of protein a day), yet I still lost weight. Obviously, I must have lost muscle as well as fat, but I hope this shows that you don’t need to choke down chicken and broccoli all day long to lose weight.
I think stress plays a huge role in fat loss. Any time I have lost weight in the past, it has always been when I am very relaxed. I almost always lose weight on vacation, despite eating and drinking more.
This trip was incredibly relaxing. It was probably the most relaxed I’ve felt since I was about 19!
Being relaxed, not only on a day-to-day basis, but also regarding my food intake, seemed to do wonders. I had minimal control over whether I lost or gained weight during this trip, so I just went with the flow. And my body responded positively.
When you are trying to lose weight, the worst thing you can do is to constantly put pressure on yourself and second guess everything. When you are in a calorie deficit, your body is already in a stressed state, so weighing yourself every day or frequently bemoaning your love handles is only going to make the situation worse.
I know it’s easier said than done, but try to relax. If you are working with a coach and/or following a specific nutrition plan, try to sit back and let it work naturally. Only check your progress intermittently (once every week or every other week), and try not to be frustrated if things don’t move as quickly as you would have hoped.
One other thing that contributed to my weight loss was the insane amount of cardio I was doing. I’d estimate that, between walking, salsa lessons and nights out dancing, I was doing at least 25 hours of cardio a week (as well as four resistance workouts a week).
I typically discourage people from doing large amounts of cardio to lose weight, as it’s difficult to sustain and can make weight loss more difficult over the longer term. This is because you will need to do more and more cardio to reap the same benefits, and your body will become perpetually stressed in the process.
I knew that I was only going to be working out like a machine for a month, and most of the effects would be counterbalanced by my otherwise stress-free life, so I deemed this okay.
One last thing it’s important to mention is that I was able to achieve weight loss while eating very non-bodybuilder foods because of my high and healthy metabolism. A few years ago, I no doubt would have gained weight eating and drinking like this.
Now, my body will respond to an extreme calorie deficit pretty quickly (yes, 1,500 calories is extreme for me!). The diet and intense exercise regime was only temporary, so my body could respond without getting burnt out.
Since I left Guatemala, I’ve been following sensible practices to ensure I don’t regain it all straight away. I’ve been watching my portion sizes (I’ve found that my stomach has indeed shrunk and I can’t eat as much as I could before, anyway!) and have been trying not to indulge in too many French pastries and cheeses.
I wanted to write this post to show that it is possible to lose weight while eating “normal” (I refuse to call them “bad” or “junk”) foods, provided your metabolism is functioning properly. In the interests of full disclosure, I had food poisoning twice (where I didn’t eat a single thing for four days total) and there were a couple of other personal factors at play.
It’s nice to know that my body does respond pretty quickly, if I ever decide I want to get in better shape. For the moment, enjoying delicious croissants sounds like a much better idea!
Have you ever lost weight while breaking typical diet rules?