Last month my husband (Roy) surprised me on Mother’s Day and got me a Fitbit. It had been something we both talked about doing, but I was genuinely surprised when he did (you can read about it here). I never expected it to change anything, which is kind of funny. I’m the person who keeps track of exercise, water consumption and so many other things already in Excel, and yet I didn’t think I would become as obsessed with what I’m putting into my body as I have over the last four weeks. Right now it’s not so much creating a diet plan as it is making me aware of what I eat and even more so… how I eat.
Now make no mistake, I was never in denial about being a bad eater. I love baked anything – cookies, cupcakes, sweet rolls, donuts and my greatest vice in the world is chocolate. I consume many sweets on a daily basis – they are my fuel. And regardless of what my eating or activity inventories show me, I’m not going to give them up – EVER. But that doesn’t mean I can’t cut back or limit how much I have per day. As much as I am against deprivation, I’m all about moderation. But now that I have imported the data for the last 28 days into my go-to Excel, I’m a little like – crap.
Some things came as a surprise and others just confirmed my supposed-to-be-shameful habits (I’m sorry, but I am quite shameless in regards to my love of sweets). Let me start with what I expected…
I expected that I consumed over 2,000 calories every day, but less than 3,000 – somewhere in between those two. I figured my carbs would be off the charts because sugar is my bestie. I didn’t give much thought to sodium or fat. I’m a tiny person, short and slim, so even though I know fat exists, and I probably have too much – it never really registers. And with sodium, I am mindful – I hardly use salt when I cook, always use unsalted butter… but I also have the occasional fast food so it kind of evens out. I get “low sodium” everything when I cook, but one thing of French fries from McDonalds or a taco from Taco John’s and that’s like a day’s worth of sodium. And let’s not forget snacks or condiments. Honestly, I think condiments are the biggest culprit because fast food is occasional, maybe even closer to rare, but I am a condiment queen. I always have been… though I think I’m starting to get better. (Now I’m measuring them out and trying to hold back… it’s weird.)
This is what I expected the last month to reveal to me, but in some ways I was very wrong, and other ways I was unfortunately spot on. My average caloric intake was 1683 calories per day, and I rounded up. In fact, only on five days did I even break the 2,000 calorie mark and those days were still low (2050-2250 calories). I honestly thought I would have more, so I was pleasantly surprised. Another surprise was carbs… I don’t need to really change anything there. I haven’t broken carbs down between simple and complex, because my dietary needs/restrictions go against the dietary norm. For example, fiber is my enemy. For medical reasons I’m supposed to watch that and not have that much, but this is one of the main source of carbs people usually stress is good for you. I think this is why I don’t really have any motivation to try and figure out my carbs beyond… well carbs. I never went over my recommended daily carbs though I did fall short on seven days, though three of those days just barely. Again, I was surprised because I eat bread, and prefer bakery items to candy, but there you have it.
Moving on to fat… well damn. I estimated that I can have up to 70 grams of fat per day based on my average caloric intake, but I went over that almost half of the time. My average for all 28 days was 75 grams, which isn’t that far off considering, but seeing my daily numbers made me realize I’m playing yo-yo with my fat-intake, which is not that great. Consistency is key and all that. To make matters worse, I did research on how many calories should come from fat, carbs and protein, and my fat percentage was too high for 23 of the 28 days. Eek! I didn’t try to break it down further, separating saturated fats and essential fatty acids because I have a life and I don’t have a computer system to spit out those numbers for me automatically – I’d have to calculate them myself. But I’ve always been militant about trans fat, so that number was a whopping zero (I was like this in high school and college too), and I’m pretty happy about that. I’m sure it’s not accurate, but l view trans fat as a manmade substance that your body can’t get rid of – ever. I have made myself believe this so if something has even half a gram of trans fat, I won’t eat it.
Anyways, back to caloric percentages… My carb percentage was fine or too low and my protein percentage was borderline too low. (It was too low on seven days, but all of the other days it was close to the lower end of recommended). The protein kind of surprised me to be honest because my actual recommended daily protein intake in terms of grams was decent. I am supposed to have 43 grams per day (rounded up) based on my weight and my average per day was 51 grams. I was only lower than this recommended intake on seven days, but a lot of those days my numbers were 39 grams or something similar, so I wasn’t far off.
My sodium wasn’t as out of control as I thought it would be. My average daily was 2726mg, when the recommended amount is 2300mg or less. I think this is because this is one thing I am very wary of and I try to watch it whenever I cook, and I cook more than I go out. Plus chocolate and fresh bakery items are not exactly rampant with sodium – thank God. It’s still not great, but looking at my daily numbers I’m not really sure what to do about it. Half of the time I was way under that 2300mg mark, but any time that I went out, had red meat or made a sauce (like a homemade buffalo sauce because I love making my own condiments) I went over by a lot. It was just another nutritional yo-yo.
And that about wraps up my eating report for the last month. Now I have to decide what to do about it. That’s easier said than done though. I mean I’m not really sure how to achieve what I want, but maybe I should start by saying what I want. I would like to improve my protein levels, not in terms of grams, but in terms of the percentage of calories that come from protein. I would like that to be around 20% (currently the average is 12% and the recommended percentage is 10%-35%). I would like my sodium levels to be lower, but I also don’t want to set myself up for failure so baby steps. I’m going to go for 2500mg per day, which is more than halfway to the recommended amount compared to where I’m at right now. I’m going to leave carbs alone, because they seem to be all right.
My biggest struggle is going to be lowering my fat intake and the percentage of calories that come from fat. I want to have no more than 70 grams of fat each day. That’s one goal. And as far as percentages – that is going to be baby steps, just like sodium. The recommended percentage is 20%-30% and right now my average is 40%. So for this next month I am going to work at keeping the percentage at 35% or lower. I’m really nervous about this goal in particular because I was only under this percentage on six days. That’s not even a quarter of the time!
Part of me wonders if I should even care as much as I do. Is this just one more thing for me to monitor and get borderline OCD about? But I want to be around a long time, and be the best version of myself. And that means being healthy. You only live once, which is why I’m not cutting anything out and I’m more interested on a month as a whole than I am on each individual day. But only living once isn’t an excuse for not taking care of yourself, or making unhealthy choices. So, I guess this is the beginning of a new Michael… I have a feeling this Michael is going to get on my nerves more often than not. Oh well! 😛