Failing to plan is planning to fail

Few days ago I wrote a blog post about ‘predicting the future’ and during the past few days I watched a ton of videos, listened to many podcasts and read a lot of material on the topic of predicting the future. Hm… it turns out – you don’t “predict” the future. You invent it.

Essentially it boils down to what we know already – you’re either creating the world according to your own plan or you are assigned a role in another person’s scenario… It’s really a choice we all have and there are practically no exceptions to this rule. Design your own future OR live the life passively and merely react to all the situations that are coming your way…

I love the analogy which Earl Nightingale used in his program “The Strangest Secret”:

Think of a ship with the complete voyage mapped out and planned. The captain and crew know exactly where the ship is going and how long it will take and it has a definite goal. And 9,999 times out of 10,000, it will get there.

Now let’s take another ship and just like the first and only let’s not put a crew on it, or a captain at the helm. Let’s give it no aiming point, no goal, and no destination. We just start the engines and let it go. I think you’ll agree that if it gets out of the harbor at all, it will either sink or wind up on some deserted beach and a derelict. It can’t go anyplace because it has no destination and no guidance.
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Counting calories and tracking macros

I’ve written down several goals for me to achieve during this lifetime. That was already a few years back, when I first learned that you actually need goals in order to achieve them. I know, this sounds totally childish and naive, but have look around you – you’ll see people of all walks of life, living their lives without having defined any goals whatsoever, neither short term nor long term goals. Yep. Crazy shit, once you realize that…

Actually, it seems to me that most folks live that way. And, what’s more – you can easily recognize them by their usual mantra: “Thank God it’s Friday”. To paraphrase what Jim Rohn said in one of his seminars: when such people reach the end of their lives, they probably go: “uh, thank God it’s over…”. Is this not sad?

Perhaps now you’re thinking: “WTF is wrong with this New Life Guru dude? His heading reads “Counting calories” but he’s writing about life goals. TF, man…?” Well, it’s because the two topics are connected in more ways than one. Let’s switch to the topic of counting calories and tracking macros (macronutrients) and you’ll see what I mean.

Not sure if I mentioned this already in one of the previous posts, but I’ve been trying to get lean (Men’s Health-cover-page sort of lean; check out the photo below) since… dunno… ever. And from time to time I managed to come close to this goal, albeit with mixed success. I wanted, you know, the usual stuff: sixpack, biceps veins, big round shoulders, V-back etc… I literally followed all kinds of fitness and nutritional trends but – the “mixed success” remained. I never got really shredded the way I wanted to.

Setting goals
Visualisation of my goal

That typical “yo-yo effect” was never a problem for me because I love working out, I love to look at my pumped arms after a workout, I love the sixpack burn. But it was a roller-coaster ride all this time. Down 15kg, up 10kg, down 5kg, up 15kg… neverending.

Until I finally understood: it was because I didn’t have a plan. No plan? You’re lost. Sure, you can wander around until you eventually find (or don’t find) what you’re looking for. But, believe me – reaching the goal by following a carefully designed plan is much easier. And it’s probably less time consuming, too.

So I started counting calories and tracking macros (Fat, Protein, Carbohydrates). There is a plethora of “Calorie counter” platforms in the Internet. Enter your height, current weight, age, activity level etc. and it spits out your recommended daily calorie intake, depending on your (fitness) goals. I used several of these counters and took the average value: I’ll be within my desired caloric deficit range if I consume between 1900 – 2100 kcal per day. And just BTW, being in a caloric deficit for a certain period of time is the only way one can lose weight.

If I manage to stay consistent this time, I’ll reach my fitness goal by December 2020. Oh, yes! It’s a loooong process. You know, if getting fat took years, even a naive (optimistic) person like myself should be aware that it’s going to take more than just a few weeks to get ripped.

Of course, just counting calories is BS. Because if you eat a ton of carbs but very little protein – you could end up being “skinny fat” (because you’ll lose weight mostly by loosing muscle mass, not fat). Unless of course you’re an athlete preparing for your next marathon race…

In order to keep muscle mass AND lose weight one needs to consume enough protein every day. “Uh oh, but – how do I know if I’m consuming enough protein?” That’s where tracking macros comes in. And this is also where it get’s a bit… complicated. One can of course track macros with an ready-made app (and there are so many out there), but you know me – I’m a DIY type of guy, so I made an “Excel” (actually “Numbers”) table where I would type in the info from all the nutrition labels of my staple food, enter quantity of each food item I’ve consumed and the formula would calculate calories and macros. Easy-peasy. Later on I even added price per 100g, just for fun. Oh, and a graph which updates automatically. See below.

Daily calorie intake
Counting calories works! (along with tracking macros)

I started counting calories one month ago, on May 10th. The first 10 days went without any problems whatsoever. I’d get up, open Numbers and enter the food quantity in the calculation sheet. BTW, it’s amazing how little food is needed (i.e. “allowed”) for 1900 kcal semi-vegetarian diet (with a target of ca. 30% protein).

Than came that May 22nd. A friend asked me to help him move from his old flat to the new one. And – you know me, I’m always glad to help. After we moved everything and installed laminate flooring in his new flat, he took me out for a dinner to a Balkan-Grill place. We started with a bean soup, continued with Burek and a Šopska salad, a “few” ćevapčići and… when I came back home and googled the nutrition information for all the food I ate – I was shocked. A total of 3200 kcal. Fcuk, man. How come? Well, easy. That Lepinja or Somun (bread) alone is easily 300-400 kcal. And Burek? Šopska salad with cheese and olives? Ćevapčići? But ok, everywhere in the net you’ll find that simple advice for binge eaters: don’t worry, just continue living your life as if nothing happened… and that’s what I did.

Until that May 31st came. I went to visit friends who… surprise, surprise – fired up the grill. That wouldn’t have been the problem, had I not already eaten my daily portion. Oh, yes, I almost forgot – I usually eat only one meal a day (usually during the morning hours). And I’m quite consistent with that one-meal-a-day and I actually like that regiment a lot. This time (remembering the “lesson” from just a few days ago) I went easy on them ćevapčići and all the other yummy stuff they prepared. So I ended up at “only” 2790 kcal for that day. I have to add that I went there by my new trike. 20km on the way there + 20km back, so… I guess I used up some of that “fuel”, pedaling for 40 km.

Next day when I woke up I felt so tired and my quads were hurting like hell. I cooked my favourite Red Lentil Dahl and ate a ton of it. Bam! 2675 kcal. Uh… it’s the fat in the coconut milk that gives you loads of calories… 😉

For the next few days I stayed within “limits”. Until June 6th. Falafel. And haloumi. And humus. Oh, man. Eating out is totally counter-productive when you’re counting calories. Daily total: 2632 kcal. By this point I had already thoroughly screwed up my daily caloric average… Oh, well…

Two days ago I had an appointment in the morning, therefore I could not eat at my usual meal time. I just ate a bit of something and went to the appointment. Didn’t even have time to type all the info in the sheet, but instead wrote the quantities on a piece of paper. Oh, yes, regarding quantities: I bought one of those small kitchen scales. Otherwise I’d never know if a “spoonful of almond butter” is closer to 10 g or 40 g. And it does make the difference (in this case: 90 kcal vs. 360 kcal). Kale or brokkoli don’t really matter if you consume 90 g or 140 g – it’s really not a biggy. But calorie dense food such as nut butter, oil etc. does matter. After I came back home, for some reason (which is totally beyond me) I started binge eating protein bars. How crazy is that? Not chips, not sweets, but protein bars. Crazy. 😊 I totally lost control. I’d eat one protein bar and write it down on that piece of paper. And another protein bar. And of course write it down. And another. And one more… I ate 6 protein bars that afternoon. No, I’m not kidding. In the end, when I entered all the info in the calculation sheet, I was at 3752 kcal, thereof 193g protein and 160g carbs. Oopsy…

But, ok. Next day I ate my (carefully planned) meal as if nothing happened. I even forgot to eat 20 g of Almond butter which I planned, but realised this only in the late afternoon… 180 kcal less than planned. Heh. You know… moving on…

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