Well, as I write this, 2019 is ending and so is the year I spent tracking my calorie intake for my 1 Million Calorie Challenge.
I fizzled out on a bunch of parts of the project that I thought I was going to enjoy, like recording videos, taking photos of food and really sticking hard to making better food choices within the calorie limit that I set myself, but life and my ability to persist on long projects got in the way a little. I am thankful though that I continued to track all year long, so I consider it a small victory.
How Did I Do?
In the end, I ended up with 142,461 calories remaining out of the 1,000,000 calories that I started with. This means that I ate 857,539 calories over the course of the year, or approximately an average of 2349 calories per day.
If I was wrong by around ten percent on my tracking, we get a likely more realistic number of 943,292 calories used for 2019, still short of my 1,000,000 calorie limit, but not nearly as impressive.
If I was wrong by around 500 calories per day, a number that a 2018 article from USA Today reports that calorie counters are off by, then my total for the year goes to 1,040,039. A full 40,000 calories over my goal!
I tried very hard to make sure that I was tracking high each day so that my numbers would be more representative of the year that I had, so hopefully, I am not off by ten percent or more.
I started the year weighing 295 pounds and ended the year at 276 pounds. A total loss of 19 pounds or what amounts to a loss of 1.5 pounds per month. I should note that at my lowest I did get to 266 pounds, a further ten pounds lighter. But with many days over my calorie goal in the second half of the year and a larger number of calories coming from carbohydrates, specifically processed sugars, I’m not too surprised.
I skipped breakfast 121 times, lunch 75 times, and supper 26 times. I had only 81 days without a snack. My median calorie spend for breakfast was 380, for lunch it was 640 and for supper it was 924. My median snack was 400 calories.
The most calories I used in a single day was 4118. The lowest was 0, when I tried a short fast a week before Christmas to see what it was like. I had ten days where I had less than or equal to 1,000 calories. I had sixty-eight days where I went over my daily limit of 2739 calories.
The first month where I had a day where I went over my daily limit was February around my mom’s birthday. The only months where I had zero days over my daily calorie limit were January, March, and April.
The month with the most calories spent was October with a total of 81,599 calories and the lowest was April with 63,660 calories used.
For most of the year, my weight hovered around 275 pounds.
What Did I Learn?
A big takeaway from 2020 was that it is easy for me to overeat and I often oscillate between over and under eating. Instead of having a relatively consistent amount of food each day, I find myself naturally going between around 1800 and 3000 calories per day. In retrospect, that doesn’t seem like a good idea and I need to do more research on this to better understand why I naturally do this and what it means for my overall weight and health.
My wife and I traveled for a month out of the year and I still tracked my calories, though being outside of my routine definitely made it harder to manage what I ate and there were days where I went over calories but I know it was due in part to my body trying to compensate for the amount of exercise I was getting walking around in the summer heat.
I also learned that food tracking seems frustrating to most people because they think they have to be perfect. I tried to track everything, often overestimating size or selecting something with higher calories in MyFitnessPal so that I could feel like I was on the right side of tracking. Tracking doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should be a strong guide.
I was also reminded of my inability to stick with things when doing this project. Yes, I completed tracking, but all of the secondary things that I wanted to do with this project all fell to the wayside. I also really didn’t think I would have so many days where I went over my calorie limit and looking back at all the red highlighted numbers in my spreadsheet make me feel like a failure, despite the other results.
Lastly, I learned that people wanted to see me succeed. Throughout the entire year, even after I had stopped posting on social media about the challenge, people continued to ask how it was going. Some people were apologetic, assuming that I had given up, others were openly curious, and still others just looked to make small talk, but it felt nice to be asked how things were going regarding this, and no matter my response, everyone was so supportive and encouraging. I think we all need to celebrate health victories, even the small or temporary ones, so that those that are struggling can hopefully be more open to sharing, more open to collaborating, more open to challenging themselves publicly.
Heading into 2020
So, I am sure you are wondering what I’m going to do in 2020. Will I continue to track calories? Will I do a more restrictive challenge?
There were times that I thought that my next step would just be making the challenge more difficult for myself and roll into 2020 with 200,000 fewer calories and do a challenge focused on staying under 800,000 calories for the year or maybe something like 750,000 to make it the three-quarters of a million calories challenge, but I decided not to do that.
I had a difficult time constantly tracking my calories, not because it was difficult, but because I was sick of making it a priority. I lost passion for this project about half way through the year, and decided around the same time that in 2020, I’ll be doing much shorter challenges in hopes of keeping my interest higher to improve my health.
I think that in 2020 each challenge will be between one and three months long. Each challenge will be focused on health. This means that I can go beyond just focusing on calories and work on my mental health, improving my general fitness through exercise, and/or continue to work on eating challenges.
My January 2020 Challenge
I am thinking that January will be intermittent fasting. I am considering a schedule of having 18 hours of fast time per day and 6 hours of available eating time. I’ll continue to track things like my mood, my weight, and other notes in hopes of learning new things about myself and seeing what I can take going forward.
Annie has said that she may try to join me on doing intermittent fasting, though her school schedule might make it more difficult to be strict on timings as we don’t want her to be in class and thus miss her opportunity to eat.
Other Challenge Ideas
Some other ideas I have in mind include:
- No processed sugar for a month
- Whole food, plant based diet with nuts and legumes for a month
- 1 hour of meditation and mindfulness per day for a month
- 5 Data points of emotion/mood tracking per day for a month
- 1,000 push-ups in a month
- 5 KM of tracked movement per day for a month
If you have other suggestions on things I could try, I’d certainly be interested in researching it and maybe adding it to my rotation. I know some of these might seem super easy to some of you, but I want 2020 to be more approachable, more flexible in what it lets me do, so that I can give more creativity, more energy to other pursuits but not completely lose track of needing to continue to learn more about my body and how to sustain a healthy self.
I hope you’ll all join me and find some small way to make 2020 a better year for your own health and happiness. Thank you again to everyone that took the time to encourage and support me in 2019!