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Is A Donut Calorie Really The Same As An Apple Calorie

​This article has been transcribed from Episode 55 of the Fitness Simplified Podcast. You can listen HERE
Kim Schlag: [00:00:04] Welcome back to the Fitness Simplified podcast. I’m your host, Kim Schlag. On today’s episode, I had the opportunity to coach a lovely woman named Kim. Kim is a New Yorker and she is on the cusp of turning 50 years old and she’s really frustrated with why she can’t seem to lose that last bit of weight that she’s been trying to lose.
Is it the carbs? Is it that she’s not eating clean enough? Is it her age? Is it menopause? What is it? So, we talk all through this and along the way, Kim has some really big light bulb moments, including one about calories: are the calories in an apple really the same as the calories in a donut? Don’t doughnut calories just make you fat?
Let’s go.
Hi, Kim. Welcome to the Fitness Simplified podcast!
Kim: [00:00:53] Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Kim Schlag: [00:00:55] Absolutely. I’m super excited to chat with you today. So, Kim, tell us a little bit about you. Where are you from? What do you do?
Kim: [00:01:06] So I’m from New York. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m 49, really struggling this year with turning 50 and of course the pandemic does not help. So, it’s like 50 and then the pandemic, I’m like, “ahh!”
But I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m on long Island, just outside New York City. I work for a labor union on Long Island, but we also have an office in Manhattan, so I’m in and out. My son lives in the city, so…
Kim Schlag: [00:01:45] And are you working from home now?
Kim: [00:01:48] I am part-time. So, I go into the office every other day and we’re kind of staggering people in and out. So, it’s like every other day I get a little bit of a normal schedule, you know? So that’s good.
Kim Schlag: [00:02:04] Got it. And when do you turn the big 5-0?
Kim: [00:02:08] In September.
Kim Schlag: [00:02:09] All right. I’m right behind you, October 7th. That’s when I turn the big 5-0.
Kim: [00:02:14] I’m September 8th, so there you go!
Kim Schlag: [00:02:16] One month ahead. And so, you’re really struggling with that?
Kim: [00:02:19] Oh my God, this happened with 40, too, was like the year turning up to 40, I struggled with it and then when it came, I accepted it and it was fine. I mean, what’s the alternative? Right?
Kim Schlag: [00:02:33] Nothing good!
Kim: [00:02:34] Exactly. Exactly. But yes, 50’s like a big number to me.
Kim Schlag: [00:02:39] What does it mean to you? Like in your mind, what does it carry?
Kim: [00:02:43] I think it means like, I’m halfway there. Like, I feel like halfway done. And I don’t like that feeling, you know what I mean?
And I don’t want to get old to where I can’t do things that I want to do. So, I’m just wrestling with that. I gotta try and change my brain on that, but I’m struggling with it.
Kim Schlag: [00:03:15] Yeah, I actually had a very sober moment on New Year’s Eve this year as somebody at a party I was at was like, “Hey, it’s officially the year you turn 50!” And it hadn’t bugged me until then, and all of a sudden it was like, “wow, it really is. Here we are.” And the same things you’re saying — I worry about, wow, I have already lived half of my life, at least. It’s a sobering thought.
Kim: [00:03:46] Isn’t that crazy to even think that? Like, just yesterday I was in high school. What happened?
Kim Schlag: [00:03:53] Do you still feel in your mind, do you still feel young?
Kim: [00:03:57] I do, I do. I don’t understand when people say, “Oh, well, I’m 35…” I could still be 35, I feel. I’m like, “where did the 40s even go?”
Kim Schlag: [00:04:10] I totally feel that way. I remember in my 20s and in my 30s thinking 50 was really old, but now that I’m about there, I still feel the same. I don’t feel old.
Kim: [00:04:22] Yeah! And I even had it in my brain the other day, I’m like, “okay, how old was my mother when I had my son?” Like, I’m trying to think, I’m trying to remember my mother in her 50s. You know what I mean? To see where I line up. It’s crazy. It’s crazy.
Kim Schlag: [00:04:44] I know, it is. It is crazy.
And then I know for you, let’s talk about the question. You messaged me on Instagram with a question, and it sounds like in a lot of your life you struggled with your weight and got ahold of that in your 40s. Did I get that correct?
Kim: [00:04:58] You did. I just, I just recently feel like– I went on a program called Met-Pro for the first time and I recently  lost like 24- 25 pounds, which I really, really struggled with.
I mean, I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life, even as a young kid and I’ve yo-yo dieted throughout that life. And I started doing Orange Theory about five or six years ago and really found a love for fitness. Ran a couple of half marathons, I’m hoping to get a marathon in before I turned 50 — I don’t know if that’s going to happen now — but yeah, so I just struggled back and forth.
But with Met-Pro, where they talk about like metabolism and stuff, I was really able to lose like 23 to 24 pounds, but I really struggled with this last 5 pounds and it’s funny because after I messaged you, you said you had a post on this and to look back through your feed and see if I could find it.
And I did. And I read it. And one of the things that you said, and I keep trying to answer this question for myself is like, “why do you want to lose the 5 pounds?” Is it the number on the scale? And I feel like it might be, and maybe I need to change that up.
Maybe it shouldn’t be for the number on the scale because like you said to me, you have to dial in your nutrition really hard. It’s crazy, but I am so good I can’t even tell you — this whole month of April, if I’ve eaten out once, that’s it. And only because it was my anniversary.
It’s like I really dial in my nutrition, so I think to myself for 5 pounds, do I want to make more of an inconvenience of dialing my nutrition in? I haven’t found my why.
Kim Schlag: [00:07:29] Yeah, and it’s a really good point. What it takes to lose the first chunk of weight is different than what it takes to get super lean, to lose the last 5 pounds somebody has in their mind. It takes a lot more effort.
And you’re exactly right with that question that stuck out to you of, “what is the reason I want to do that?” And look, some people really want to do it and that’s fine. There’s no reason a person can’t. But the level of adherence that you need with your diet, the level of what you might need to give up in terms of going out to eat and social drinking and all kinds of things like that. Is it something that you want to do, is the question to ask. And it sounds like you’re just not quite sure yet.
Kim: [00:08:15] Yeah, I mean, I don’t drink and that’s fine. I feel like if I have to dial in any more, it’s kind of like– the way I can explain it to you is: I ran a half marathon recently in March and when I came to the end of that training cycle, I was just burned out. And I feel that way with this. Like, I weigh and measure my food all the time because I know portion control is an issue for me.
You could tell me, “Oh, that should be the size of your palm.” “Yeah, well, I’m Italian and the size of your palm and the size of my palm are very different.” You know what I mean? And I know that about myself. So, I weigh my food all the time.
I feel like I would be really burnt out to dial it in even more, you know? So, then I think, “okay, well maybe
it’s not the number on the scale, but I do want to get lean,” and maybe that’s where I can draw that distinction. Maybe I could get rid of the number on the scale if I feel like I’m not toned and I’m not lean.
I don’t know, are those two things the same?
Kim Schlag: [00:09:33] They are not necessarily the same. They are not.
A person could stay the same weight on the scale, lose fat, gain muscle, and look very different. It’s called body recomposition.
Why don’t you tell me some more? Let’s hear some more about how you lost this last 25 pounds.
What did you do nutritionally? What did you do with exercise? And what have you been doing after that? Tell us what you’ve been doing most recently as you’re trying to lose this last little bit of weight.
Kim: [00:10:05] So, my nutrition, I actually went to macros, which I have never done before. And I also went to eating every two to three hours.
So, I eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and then I have a snack in between each. Right now, I’m on maintenance, which I’m at about 1600 to 1700 calories a day and I live for that. I feel like I always ate too little. Like I never ate enough. I was always at 1200 calories or less.
So, I feel like I definitely eat enough. I do Orange Theory, I run, I am an avid biker, I’m an avid walker and hiker. I do some sort of exercise every single day. If it’s not Pilates and a walk it’s a 15-mile bike ride, it’s a run, I will do something every single day.
And I do try one day a week to do nothing. It may be  a walk or something like that, just to give my body a little bit of a break. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Orange Theory, but it’s like strength and cardio.
Kim Schlag: [00:11:39] Do you mind telling me how tall you are and how much you weigh?
Kim: [00:11:43] So I am 5’3″ and I’m 146 pounds.
Kim Schlag: [00:11:50] Okay. And your calories are about 1600 to 1700 on maintenance. What were they when you were working on weight loss?
Kim: [00:12:01] They were kind of all over the place. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this program, Met-Pro.
Kim Schlag: [00:12:07] I am not. I have never heard of that.
Kim: [00:12:09] Okay. So, it’s all about metabolism, and it’s like bringing up carbs and lowering, carbs and protein and getting your metabolism to rev up. So, I don’t know a hundred percent. It was like I had an app and some days the calories were still the same, but it was less carbs, you know what I mean? So, I might not have any sweet potatoes or anything like that.
Kim Schlag: [00:12:47] Got it. So, you might have less carbs, more fat?
Kim: [00:12:49] Correct.
Kim Schlag: [00:12:50] Okay. And so, you’ve been at 1600 to 1700 and you’re maintaining your weight. How long has that been?
Kim: [00:12:59] Like five weeks.
Kim Schlag: [00:13:01] Okay. And so, you messaged saying that you’re really frustrated you can’t lose this last little bit. When you were trying to lose that last 5 pounds or 10 pounds or so, and before you transferred to maintenance, what were you doing? Were you still doing the Met-Pro?
Kim: [00:13:18] I was. So, I’ve been between 145 and 147 probably since the end of December.
Kim Schlag: [00:13:33] Got it. And so, you’ve only specifically been trying to do maintenance for the last six weeks?
Kim: [00:13:39] Right, because I kind of gave up. I kind of gave up because I was like, “I just can’t get rid of this 5 pounds.”
And I felt like I was paying for a program that I knew how to maintain, right? Obviously, like I’m not moving off this 145 to 147 number, which by the way, is a very big deal that I’m even mentioning that number out loud. That has taken me years to be able to do. I just want to acknowledge that.
I’m saying it like it’s no big deal, but the last time I was 140 pounds was probably the year 2000, so it’s been a long time. But anyway, so it’s probably been since December. And I would go up, and I would go down, and I would eat carbs, and I wouldn’t eat carbs, and I try and do this and that.
And you know, I would do no strength training, only cardio. I took out any type of lifting weights, but again, that just was not making me happy. I like to lift weights and even just going through your page I’m like, “should I be lifting more weights? Maybe I should come off the cardio a little bit and lift more weights.”
Kim Schlag: [00:15:00] And is your weightlifting typically the Orange Theory piece? That’s your weightlifting component?
Kim: [00:15:06] So that was, I also do body weight. I have somebody who I do Pilates with, that’s an instructor, and she helps me with getting body weight exercises in.
So, I have like a little thing in my house, right? I don’t have your setup with a bar and any of those types of apparatus, but I have weights, like dumbbells, and straps, and all that kind of stuff.
Kim Schlag: [00:15:45] Got it. Okay, so with your nutrition, think about this time period from like December up until you made the decision to be on maintenance. Think about that time period. Can you think of anything that changed with your nutrition from the time period before then until then?
Kim: [00:16:08] No. And I’ll tell you, I write down every single thing that I eat. And I’m a vegetarian/don’t eat dairy, but I eat fish.
So, I’m not quite a vegan, but I kind of sprinkle in things, right? But I haven’t eaten dairy in years, so I mean, I’m pretty limited on my diet, right? It’s not like there are many foods that I will eat that I could cheat on, right? A cheat for me is like a non-dairy ice cream, and I’ll get that once in a blue moon at the food store.
So, I’m pretty much very the same. I’m in what I eat every day, like I have a repertoire and that’s it. You know, I cycle through it.
Kim Schlag: [00:17:05] Gotcha. If you were to think about your nutrition in that time period and you were trying to think like, “okay, what is one thing I do really well? And if there was one spot I struggle with my nutrition, what is that?”
What would be the answers to those two questions?
Kim: [00:17:22] What is one thing that I do well? I would think that I meal prep. And I feel like I’m really good at that. You know, I like to prep out my meals the day before, even the week before. I’ll cook on Sunday and have everything set because it’s just easier for me.
And then there’s no discussing, right? “What am I gonna have for lunch today?” “What am I going to have for this?”
What is something that I don’t do well? You know, going back to the weighing — maybe two tablespoons of almond butter is not two tablespoons of almond butter.
Kim Schlag: [00:18:08] Tell me more about that. What would that look like?
Kim: [00:18:13] I always use a tablespoon, and I always try and do a level, but if there’s a day where maybe I’m feeling a little bit hungrier, maybe I’ll have, I won’t put the knife across it to make it level.
Kim Schlag: [00:18:34] Gotcha. And I will say that level of precision with a lot of things doesn’t matter super much, right? But when we talk about super calorie-dense foods like nut butters, those calories can add up really, really fast. And that, I think, is a good spot to look, because when I hear your numbers, that you’re 146 pounds, that you’re maintaining on 1600-1700 calories, that doesn’t really add up to me.
That should still be in weight loss for you. I would expect that you’d be losing weight somewhere between 1450 and 1750 — that those would be solidly fat-loss calories and that your maintenance calories would be closer to 2000. That’s what I would expect.
So, you know in recent weeks that you’ve been around 1600 to 1700 on paper, I would expect you to be losing weight at those calories.
Kim: [00:19:29] I know, right?
Do you take into account, when you’re  telling me 2000 on maintenance, which mind you, I love that number. That would be great — I don’t know, does body type matter? Like ectomorphs and–
Kim Schlag: [00:19:51] Nope. Not body type, not your age. Your movement, absolutely, but you’re a person who, just by your own description, you move a lot.
If you were super sedentary, I would say, “okay, we’d want to keep your calories on the lower side of that number,” but still at 1600 I would expect you would be losing some weight.
My best guess at what is happening here are things like what you just described with the almond butter, that you’re just not quite eating the calories you think you are and you’re actually eating closer to that 1900-2000 mark, and that if you can get those calories down, that you will for sure lose weight.
That’s the nutrition piece of it. What are your thoughts when you hear that? Does that make you annoyed?
Kim: [00:20:39] It doesn’t make me annoyed, but it makes me skeptical, if that’s fair. It’s kind of like, I definitely don’t think that I’m eating 300 calories a day, you know  what I mean?
So, let’s just say my spoon is a little bit full on almond butter. I mean, I would have to eat two more tablespoons a day just to get 200 of those calories. So even if it was an extra hundred calories on the almond butter, let’s just say in the morning, everything else is pretty much weighed, so I’d be surprised at 300 calories, but I will definitely dial that in.
Kim Schlag: [00:21:28] Yeah, and I wouldn’t suspect that it’s coming all from that exact example, but what I am suggesting is there are little things like that that are likely adding up. So almond butter, maybe putting a little bit more olive oil than you think you are, you know, there are typical spots that I would have people look: if you like to have treats, are you having more than you think? Are you having extra handfuls here and there, or are you having bites of food while you’re cooking? And all of this sounds really minimal, but if you’re thinking like, “Hey, where could 300 calories come from in a day?” I could have easily hit an extra 300 calories right there.
You know, if you have an extra hundred calories in almond butter, and look, I know that can go really fast. Like, you lick the knife, you get a round scoop, that’s a hundred calories right there, right?
You add some extra oil into something, you snack while you’re cooking dinner, you have a bite of your partner’s cake, you know, just like one bite — and that doesn’t feel like much, and it’s not, it’s just when it adds up throughout the day, you could have brought yourself to higher maintenance calories than you think.
But here’s my other question for you:
Let’s say I’m totally wrong. That’s not the answer. What do you think it is? In your mind, what are you suspicious is happening with you?
Kim: [00:22:51] You know, I don’t know. That’s why I’m here asking you. It’s like I feel like I really try. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t eat out. You mentioned olive oil, I don’t even cook with olive oil. I cook with low sodium veggie broth and water. When I tell you I’m pretty dialed in, I’m pretty dialed in. And that’s why I think like maybe one day I need to have a little bit more calories to juggle things up.
Kim Schlag: [00:23:30] Tell me more about what you think about that. Tell me more about how that works in your mind.
Kim: [00:23:35] Well, I did hear you had another podcast with somebody who was going on maintenance, I forgot her name, and  you had said do two or three days at a certain calories and then do two or three days at a higher calorie. I forget the exact example, but to kind of change it up a little bit within there. And I wonder if that is something that would lie help me. I’m not sure.
Kim Schlag: [00:24:11] And that’s a really great strategy and you could absolutely do that. We could talk about where you might want to break your calories up in that way.
There’s no magic to it. Those numbers, switching them up, they would still be in that target range that I just said — I’d expect somewhere between 1450 and 1750 you’d be losing weight. And you could absolutely set it up in a structure of four days a week, you eat 1450 to 1550 and three days a week you eat 1650 to 1750. The reason that works really well for people is about adherence because they have those days where they know they have 1650 to 1750 and they can get the extra whatever their yumminess is that they want, and it helps them adhere to their calories better.
Does that make sense? Versus just saying, “every day I have 1650 or 1550,” right? So, some people really like that. It’s called calorie cycling and it’s a really good strategy. There’s nothing physically about the body that’s going to somehow stoke your metabolism, make your metabolism rev faster doing that. It’s literally straight up about adherence.
Kim: [00:25:19] So this brings me to another question that you say a lot is a calorie is a calorie. So, like, bananas, just for comparison’s sake, right? Like high glycemic index, right? So, let’s just say that’s a hundred calories. So that hundred calories of a banana is the same as a hundred calories of an ice cream?
Or half a cup of ice cream, let’s just say is a hundred calories. I know it’s not, just hypothetically.
Kim Schlag: [00:26:00] So the answer is yes, and the answer is no. So, my coach, Jordan Syatt, talks about this. I love this example and I use it all the time.
Let me ask you this: is walking a mile on the pavement, the same distance as walking a mile on sand?
Kim: [00:26:19] Yes. It’s the same distance, it’s just harder on the sand.
Kim Schlag: [00:26:24] It might feel harder on the sand, right? But it’s literally the same. And it’s the same way with calories. A hundred calories is always a hundred calories.
It’s a unit of measure, just like an inch or a mile is a unit of measure. It doesn’t change. If I’m measuring a piece of paper versus how big a leaf is or whatever, it doesn’t change. An inch is an inch, right? It’s always an inch, but, and it’s the same with calories, the nutrient composition is different, right?
Is a banana more nutritious than ice cream? Yes. There’s going to be more vitamins and minerals in there, in that hundred calories. But that is not going to affect your weight. That could affect your health, right? If you eat mostly ice cream, you would likely not be a very healthy person, but it doesn’t affect your weight except in as much as how filling is a hundred calories of ice cream, right? That’s not going to get you very full.
And so that’s where we get into the discussion of how does eating nutrient dense food help you stick to your total calories, right? And so, if you’re eating things like salad and fish and those kinds of things, that’s going to help you be able to eat more food for the same number of calories than if you were eating donuts and pop tarts. Does that make sense?
Kim: [00:27:37] Yeah, 100%. That does.
Kim Schlag: [00:27:43] I know it can be hard to wrap your brain around because so many people talk kind of out of turn about this, right? People are like, “you know, calories aren’t always a calorie,” but what they’re really saying is the nutrient composition that isn’t always the same.
And it’s really misleading to people who hear it and think like, “wait, I can’t necessarily eat ice cream, but I can eat bananas to lose weight.” And in reality, if you keep the calories the same, you can have either or both.
Kim: [00:28:10] Yeah, it totally makes sense to me. I don’t know, though, it would scare me to open that door to myself, right? Like, even just white rice versus brown rice. I think I would be nervous to eat white rice over brown rice. As silly as that sounds.
Kim Schlag: [00:28:
29] So you currently don’t eat white rice?
Kim: [00:28:31] No. No, I don’t.
Kim Schlag: [00:28:33] And you don’t do it because…
Kim: [00:28:37] Because I feel like if I’m going to eat something, I want the nutrients from it. I feel like white rice is like eating iceberg lettuce, right?
Kim Schlag: [00:28:52] Well hey now, there’s nothing wrong with iceberg lettuce, either!
Kim: [00:28:59] No, I know, but iceberg lettuce from what I’ve heard is iceberg lettuce is like water. If you want nutrients, you have romaine, you have butter, you have whatever kind of lettuce, right? But I guess what you’re just saying is very true, even in the lettuce spectrum, right?
They’re all the same calories, I would gather. I don’t know that, but then you’re only talking about the nutrients. So, I guess words matter, right? So, we should use the words that apply and it would be more nutrients than calories.
I just, my whole life, I’ve never thought of it like that. I’ve always thought, you know, you’ve got to stick to the “good foods,” you know, regardless. I mean, of course, thinking of calories, but getting the good foods in.
Kim Schlag: [00:29:57] And I totally agree. Whether a person’s goal is to lose weight or not, my goal for everybody I work with is to have them eating a diet that is going to nourish their bodies, right? And so, the rule of thumb for me is 80% to 90% of your food choices, of your total calories, should be minimally processed, nutrient dense food sources, right? Stuff that grows from the ground, stuff that has a face, all of those kinds of things.
The rest of it, like 10% to 20% can be literally whatever you want. If you like Cheetos, have some Cheetos. If you’re having most of your diet in nutritious food and — and this is the key where weight loss comes — you’re hitting your calorie targets, it’s not going to make a difference in your weight loss.
Kim: [00:30:42] Okay. That’s like a whole new concept for me. I can understand it and it makes sense to me, but it definitely is a different concept for me. Like, I’m running through, you know, I’m like, “alright, Cheetos, how many calories would Cheetos be and how many Cheetos can I have?”
Kim Schlag: [00:31:00] And I have no idea because I frankly don’t like Cheetos.
Kim: [00:31:06] No, that’s okay. I don’t either.
Kim Schlag: [00:31:08] But I like chocolate pop tarts and I’m having one later, and it’s, I think, 180 calories. And that’s not a whole lot of calories, right?
Kim: [00:31:16] No, it’s not.
Kim Schlag: [00:31:19] So here’s my question for you, it sounds to me like you’ve really worked hard to focus on nutritious food. In your mind there’s this really important idea that clean food equals weight loss.
Am I, am I understanding that correctly?
Kim: [00:31:34] I don’t know if I think it goes to weight loss, and maybe that’s where, I mean, maybe you kind of just like, you know, when you get a light bulb moment, maybe you just opened that door to my light bulb.
I don’t think that it’s weight loss, but maybe I just think that it’s better food for me. Maybe I need to start thinking of it differently. Maybe I need to start just thinking of a calorie as a calorie and see how that goes.
Kim Schlag: [00:32:06] You know, I think it’s useful for a couple of reasons. One, it’s useful because– you know a word you used a few minutes ago when you were talking about rice, you actually use the word “afraid.” You said, “I would be afraid to switch to eating white rice from brown rice.”
 And that’s a really interesting word choice, right? That there’s some level of fear there about not eating the healthiest food. And honestly, we don’t need to go off on this tangent, but white rice actually is very nutritious.
It has different vitamins and minerals than brown rice, one is not actually healthier than the other, they just have different nutrients. But it’s a really telling word that you actually use the word “afraid,” and I think a lot of people feel that way about food, that either they’re afraid they can’t lose weight, right? Or they’re just convinced that they can’t be healthy if they include anything that’s “unclean.”
Kim: [00:33:05] Yeah. I think I just had a very big light bulb moment. I think you’re right. I think I’d have to look at that differently.
Kim Schlag: [00:33:14] I’m glad. And I think it really can help to have a sense of peace around food and not have food guilt and have this sense of freedom around food. It doesn’t, however, pinpoint the one issue that you really brought to me, which is, “I friggin’ want to lose some weight here,” right?
It can affect that in that it can affect adherence. So, let me ask you this: do you ever have some foods that you’re like, “that’s not really in my approved food list, but I have them sometimes,” is that something that happens?
Kim: [00:33:43] Yes, but very occasional. I feel like I will lose control. Do you know what I mean? I don’t want to, I guess that’s– wow, even just saying this is weird, right?
I really try and stay away because maybe a half a cup isn’t enough for me. I need more than that and that is not satisfying. Then I would eat the whole thing, right? So, if I buy a pint of ice cream, I want the pint of ice cream. ‘Cause if I only have half a cup, then it’s like I’m sitting on the couch, I’m like, “wow, that ice cream is calling me in the freezer.” If it’s not there, then I don’t even think about it.
Kim Schlag: [00:34:35] Right. So, you don’t have a sense of trust around your behavior around food, it sounds like.
Kim: [00:34:43] No, but yet I’m so good. So, I’m sitting here thinking that’s so stupid because I can be very controlled around food and it’s okay.
Kim Schlag: [00:34:54] So tell me more about that. What are some of the evidence you have in your life that you can be moderate around food? Talk about that for a minute.
Kim: [00:35:07] Well, if we’re having people over and I make food. Say I make a big ziti or whatever, I can have a portion of it and I will make sure that I have a lot of veggies on the side. And I will plan that, you know what I mean? I know I can do that.
But I also know– and you know what I’m thinking is maybe this is like from my Weight Watchers days, you know? I mean, I was on Weight Watchers for a long time and one cup of pasta just never cut it for me. And they were all always about portions, right? It was never the calories, it was points. So instead, maybe in the calories, if I would have thought about it, I could have had two cups of pasta if that’s what I had chosen, ’cause I don’t eat pasta a lot, but that would be okay.
But I never did that because it was always like I always went to just the cup because it was however many points, and I had so few points to go around and I didn’t want to waste it on certain things that I liked because it wasn’t filling or it wasn’t whatever.
Kim Schlag: [00:36:31] Yeah. And look, Weight Watchers is not the worst diet out there, but it definitely has its drawbacks. And one of them is that it can give us a distorted view of the calorie values of food. And I don’t remember how many points pasta is on Weight Watchers, I can imagine it’s a good handful at least though.
And so, it might have felt to you, let’s say it was five points or six points, and if you want to have two servings, that’s 10 points, that’s probably half your points for the day. When in reality you could make two cups of pasta work into your calories.
So, I did Weight Watchers and one of my big aha moments about Weight Watchers came years after I had done it. So, I lost 10 pounds on Weight Watchers.
I was very heavy at the time. I had lost 10 pounds and then I just moved on from it and did another ridiculous diet back
then. But years later I found out that a donut is like 250 calories. Well, donut was like 12 friggin’ points. That was half of my points. And I was like, “wait a minute. I could easily fit 250 calories of a donut into my day.”
And that was such a moment for me that I had really skewed the calorie content of food from my history with Weight Watchers.
Kim: [00:37:48] Well you just blew my mind with the donut.
Kim Schlag: [00:37:52] And not all donuts, right? Donuts are really fancy these days, right? Like there can be very high calorie donuts. This was like a straight up Dunkin Donuts chocolate glazed donut.
And when I found out — I was in my early 40s — and I was like, “it’s 250 calories? Why have I been afraid to eat a doughnut all this time?” Because I didn’t think I could lose weight and eat a donut.
Kim: [00:38:12] Yeah. And I guess that that’s what I feel like too. Yeah. So maybe you’re right. Let’s go back to that question.
Yes. I’m going to answer that question. Yes. I’m scared to not eat healthy food because I’m scared that I’m not going to lose weight.
Kim Schlag: [00:38:29] And so knowing that you can include those foods –now, it is important, especially in your situation, you’re looking at losing the last 10 pounds here –you know, you do want to make sure you have those in your calorie target. If you say that you’re eating one donut, you want to make sure, “okay, wait, is this donut the 250 calorie one from Dunkin Donuts? Or is it the 600 calorie one from the specialty shop?” And either of them can work in your day, you just want to make sure that what you’re logging is what you’re eating. That really, really matters.
Okay, so I really want to make sure we get to the root of the issue, which you brought to me, which is, “I’m in my 40s, I feel like I can’t lose weight.” And I know you totally get what I’m saying about calories, but you still seem a little bit skeptical that there’s a way that in your, your daily diet, you’re not eating the calories that I’m saying you might be eating.
And my question for you is if that’s not what’s happening — so, if weight loss comes down to a calorie deficit and you think you’re in one, why else would you not be losing weight? Like what reasons run through your mind?
Kim: [00:39:38] I honestly don’t know. And now that you’re saying that, and only because I’ve been using MyFitnessPal now for like the last five or six weeks, you know, I gain back, in exercise, 300 to 600 calories a day. And so even if I was over a couple of hundred calories, and I know you say though, you shouldn’t eat those calories that you’re gaining back, right?
There was one day where I did, out of five weeks. So, I don’t know what that answer is. I guess I will have to dial in 100% and see if that moves the scale at all.
Say I dial in for two weeks, would that make the scale move?
Kim Schlag: [00:40:37] I actually tell people not even to consider whether you have made good progress until you have been consistent for a month.
So, four weeks at the calories. And again, any calorie target is a starting point, but I would be totally shocked if you didn’t lose weight at the calories I was just talking about there.
But if you dial your calories and hit those calories consistently, you’re accurate with your tracking — and we’re talking nights and weekends as well — you definitely don’t want to eat back calories burned from exercise. Those are extremely inflated numbers. That is definitely a spot to look at. Either turn that feature off or just ignore it.
And if you do that for four weeks — and I want you to do these things, right? You’re going to take pictures of yourself from the front, both sides, and the back. You’re wearing as little clothing as possible, you’re going to take measurements with a tape measure, you’re going to take your scale weight. How often do you weigh?
Kim: [00:41:46] Right now, probably  every third day. I could weigh every day, but I try not to.
Kim Schlag: [00:41:51] Even, every third day is good. Definitely multiple times a week. I prefer daily. It just gives you more of a trend, so you have more data. If you can psychologically handle that. You don’t want it to be like, making you in a bad mood versus good mood based on what the numbers said, but definitely multiple times a week. Like I said, I prefer daily. And then notice the fit of your clothes.
If after a solid month of hitting those calories, even nights, even weekends, you see zero progress in any of that, then it’s time to look at adjusting the numbers. If you see progress in any one of those areas, you’re on the right track.
So really looking over time, but it really has to be a solid month and it has to be with adherence of at least 90% or above to those calories.
How does that sound?
Kim: [00:42:45] Yeah, it sounds good. It sounds like I want to see if I could do it. I can do a month. A month is not, you know, the rest of my life. I could do a month.
Kim Schlag: [00:43:01] I will tell you, if somebody says they’re in a calorie deficit and they’re not losing weight, the couple of issues that we have are: first of all, you just got done losing a whole bunch of weight. How quickly did you lose that 25 pounds?
Kim: [00:43:15] Like eight months.
Kim Schlag: [00:43:16] Okay. And you were losing all the way up through December, right?
Kim: [00:43:21] Correct.
Kim Schlag: [00:43:22] So we would assume you’re not having any actual kind of issues with your metabolism. So usually if people tell me like, “I can’t lose weight and I’m worried there’s something wrong with my metabolism,” what I tell them is go to a doctor and have them run all the tests, get a full metabolic cart, have them check all the things. Just so you know, right? But it sounds like there’s not even a reason for you to do that because you’ve just lost all this weight. But that’s one thing I would say to people.
Usually what people are going to do if they go and actually do that, they’re going to find out there’s nothing wrong with them. But I like people to really be able to grasp onto the idea like, “my body is not broken.” Because people think their bodies are broken a lot, and it’s hard to be successful when in the back of your mind you just wonder like, “is there something wrong with me?”
Kim: [00:44:02] What would a metabolic profile look like? Like a panel that you went to the doctor for? I mean, I know I just went because, you know, the other thing that we didn’t touch on — and I mean, we could have a 16-hour discussion on that too — is menopause, right? And I know I just had my hormones run, and I am definitely in menopause and I’m no longer perimenopausal.
I am menopausal, but yet I still was able to lose that weight. And I wonder if that helped, coming out of peri-menopause and going into menopause.
Kim Schlag: [00:44:47] So here’s the thing with perimenopause and menopause and weight loss, this is an area I talk about all the time — just because of my own story, because I’m in perimenopause and I talk about it a lot, I have attracted a lot of clients who are also in either perimenopause or menopause and have helped lots of women lose weight through both of those stages.
And when it comes down to weight loss, your body works in the same way. It is a hundred percent still calories in, calories out. It’s not like “I’m in menopause, I can’t lose weight.” What happens is that we get so many extra hurdles during the time of perimenopause, and some people are even having those symptoms into menopause, that it tends to make weight loss harder.
So, if you’re not sleeping, that is a huge one for people because you have more cravings, you have lessened satiety, you don’t maybe make the best choices because you’re tired. You’re not moving. That’s a really big one. If you’re not sleeping at night, a person
is likely not going to be moving throughout the day nearly as much.
And for all of those reasons you’re not going to lose weight, right? It still comes down to total energy balance at the end of the day. And so those extra hurdles are problematic, but it’s not like something in your body switches enough to prevent you from losing weight. Does that make sense?
Kim: [00:46:05] Yeah. It goes against what I was told, but yes, it does. I mean, it’s good to hear. It makes me hopeful.
Kim Schlag: [00:46:13] So tell me about that. Just like generally in life it goes against what you’ve heard or what? Talk to me about that.
Kim: [00:46:20] I guess I felt like hormones make your body work differently, right? Like, maybe you hold onto water more, maybe you process food differently, maybe you’re not going to the bathroom regularly. Those kinds of things, you know? You could be tired more so you don’t want to work out. That’s kind of just always what I thought.
Like, you know, hot flashes of menopause, right? That that does something to your body. Do I know what it does? No.
Kim Schlag: [00:46:56] Terrible, terrible things. I’ll tell you that.
Kim: [00:46:58] They totally, really stink. I agree. I just feel like maybe I felt like it was going more towards your metabolism, but I mean, you make sense, right?
The way it seems, and this is so funny, I’m going to use this word, is that you’re simplifying it, right?
Which is like your whole podcast, which is great. And I feel like if it was that simple, why can’t everybody do it?
Kim Schlag: [00:47:30] That is a really good question. You’re not going to like the answer, though.
Something can be super simple to understand and really frigging hard to do. That’s the reality of weight loss. Weight loss is fairly simple. Look, our bodies are complicated. Do hormones matter? They absolutely do. If you had any kind of medical condition and you went to the doctor and were treated with medication because of hormones, you know what would happen?
You would then have a level playing field and calories in, calories out would still be how you would lose weight.
So, in absence of any kind of medical issue, it’s always calories in, calories out. And so, weight loss really is this hard. It is really hard because food tastes delicious and it’s there all day, every day, and constantly being aware of, “am I taking the right number of calories” is really hard to do.
Kim: [00:48:30] It is. It really is hard.
Kim Schlag: [00:48:32] And that’s where people struggle. It’s not mysterious. There’s so much about it that is just made to be so mysterious and when it’s mysterious and confusing, in some ways it’s easier for us because we’re like, “well, you know, there’s something wrong and I don’t know what it is.”
But when it comes down to like, “wait a minute, it really has to do with me sticking to this amount of exercise and sticking to these calories,” it’s hard. It’s hard to do.
And that’s not saying, by the way, that there’s nothing that changes with your body as you age because absolutely, after the age of 30 we lose muscle mass unless we’re actively keeping that muscle, unless we’re actively building our muscle. And that can have a small impact on our metabolism. It’s not great at, you know, as estrogen inclines, it has a super tiny effect on our metabolism. It’s not enough to keep you from losing weight. But those things can add up. And we have control over that muscle piece if we strength train and eat enough protein.
So, let’s talk about both of those real fast here.
So as far as protein, I know you said you’re tending more towards pescatarian, correct?
Kim: [00:49:44] Correct.
Kim Schlag: [00:49:45] So how much protein do you think you get in a day?
Kim: [00:49:48] So I knew you were going to ask me this question, so I did go into my app to look and I get anywhere between 80 and a 100 a day. And I did my calculation, I should be more than that. I have no idea how I would eat more than that unless I ate some more egg whites or maybe some more protein powder.
Kim Schlag: [00:50:09] So do you use protein powder now?
Kim: [00:50:12] Sometimes I do, yeah. Not every day. And I like it, so it’s not a problem for me to have it and I’m going to say it goes to this like thing that I have in my brain, like it’s processed, it’s probably not the best, but if protein is protein, then does it matter? No, right? My new way of thinking.
Kim Schlag: [00:50:37] I know, I know. And here’s the thing, isn’t it interesting that this goal you have in your mind of being toned and healthy — building muscle can be a huge component of that, both for the physical, physique aspect of “this is how I look, I look toned,” and from that, “as I get older, I can be healthy and do things.” I can bend over and pick things up and do all those things that we want to do for our own self-care. Building muscle can be hugely important. Yet there’s this part of you that is so interested in not eating “unclean” foods, that you’re actually not eating enough protein because you’re worried to eat the protein powder.
Kim: [00:51:16] Yeah. That’s so screwed up. I’m going to change that. I’m going to change it. I’m going to change it.
Kim Schlag: [00:51:26] You can change it. Not that I feel like most of your diet should be protein powder, but especially for people who don’t eat chicken and beef and all those things, having a good quality protein source, you got to get your protein from somewhere.
And so, having one shake a day from protein powder is a really great strategy. And you can look for ones that don’t have lots of added ingredients. You don’t need to get something that has tons of added ingredients. You can look for ones that are just straight up whey protein or pea protein or whatever it is that you want to have.
So that’s one good strategy. So, what did you say you were out?
Kim: [00:52:01] Between 80 to 100 grams.
Kim Schlag: [00:52:06] Okay. So, I would definitely not go below the 100. I would stick to a low end of around 105. So, you’re definitely not so far off on that end and just shoot for 105 to 130 grams of protein and just shoot for that low end now and work on getting that moving. Adding the protein shake and can help with that. Increasing your portion sizes of whatever else you’re eating, so eat more fish at dinner, eat more egg whites at breakfast. That’s a really easy strategy.
Again, it’s just more of the same thing. You don’t need to look for loads of different protein sources, but stick with the ones that work for you and eat bigger portions of them.
So that’s the nutritional aspect of building muscle. Then the other piece to tackle is the strength training piece.
What I see is you’re a very active person. You do cardio, you do the Orange Theory, you do the Pilates, and that’s all fantastic. And if you love it, keep going with that. The one thing I see missing, with regards to building muscle, is a dedicated strength training program that’s really focused on the strength piece.
Orange Theory’s strength training component is much more cardio based. It’s much more about keeping your heart rate up, right? Keeping in that, that target heart rate zone. It doesn’t lend itself to actually building muscle. And so, adding in three times a week of actually progressive strength training, working on getting stronger at squats — and they don’t need to be barbell back squats — it can be literally a dumbbell goblet squat and dumbbell deadlifts and squats and deadlifts and pushups and rows and all of these things. And working on getting stronger at those is the other component of building muscle.
And doing those two things together, having enough protein, getting in your strength training, working on getting stronger across time, those two things can
be what brings you both that toned physique and the ability to be healthy and be independent as you age and be able to move well.
Kim: [00:54:29] Okay. And only three days a week, you’re saying? Like, three days a week for an hour? Three days a week for a half-hour?
Kim Schlag: [00:54:36] You know what, it’s not so much about the time. It’s more about the quality of the work you get done in that time.
So, finding a program that has you working on those moves I said, you know, squats and deadlifts and bench presses and pull ups and pushups and doing those things.
Most of my clients train for about 45 minutes to an hour. You shouldn’t need to be in there for more than an hour. You might mean to only be in there 40 minutes. So, it’s never about the time, it’s about the quality of work you do in that time.
And three days a week is plenty. An Upper body day, a lower body day, and a full body day –that’s plenty. People who really like to lift, I have plenty of clients who do, and they do two upper body days, two lower body days.
When you do train, do you like the strength training part of that?
Kim: [00:55:36] I love it. I love the exercises of it. I definitely do. And I see what you’re saying about it being a little bit more cardio-based.
Kim Schlag: [00:55:50] Yeah, it’s really fast moving. It’s harder to get stronger at those exercises when you’re like, “I’m going to do this thing really fast and I’m gonna run over and I’m gonna get on the treadmill really fast.”
There’s nothing wrong with Orange Theory at all, that’s not what I’m saying. It just doesn’t lend itself to building and maintaining muscle so well.
Kim: [00:56:09] Yeah, I agree with you actually on that a lot. I like the idea of just concentrating on that for a bit and then seeing how that goes for me.
I really do because it’s probably gonna benefit me more in the long run. Because I do do my cardio on my own, also. I love to bike ride and I love to run and I keep that up all year round, so I don’t need to do that in a gym, right? So, yeah. I might have to really think about changing that up. I mean, yeah.
Kim Schlag: [00:57:02] Well, we’ve given you a whole lot to think about here.
Kim: [00:57:06] I know, my gosh. I feel like I just went to therapy.
Kim Schlag: [00:57:13] We have such deep held beliefs about nutrition and fitness, and a lot of times we’re not even quite sure what they are or where they came from. We just have this general sense of, “well, I heard that it’s hard to lose weight in menopause. That’s what I always heard. Like, I heard it.” It just has always felt really mysterious, right?
And that’s honestly, I have to tell you, that’s literally why I do what I do. That’s why I’m online. That’s why I do this podcast. That’s why I have my Instagram account. That’s why I take clients. Because I was that person who was so confused for so long and I thought that it was mysterious. And when I realized it’s not mysterious at all, it’s actually very simple. It’s just stupidly hard. That’s why I do this. To help people realize it’s not so confusing, it’s just figuring out a way to make it work in your life and get past the hard.
Kim: [00:57:59] Yeah. I mean, I definitely love your Instagram. I’ve never reached out to anybody on Instagram and your posts definitely speak to me and I think that, of course, because you’re a woman in perimenopause and, being honest about it, it’s rare to find that. And I appreciate that because I’m all about that.
Kim Schlag: [00:58:26] Well, I’m super glad you did reach out!
Kim: [00:58:31] Yeah, look at that. Who wouldn’t thought?
Kim Schlag: [00:58:35] Look, I want you to keep in touch with me. Take those pictures and measurements and all the things, stick with the calories, and I’ll double check those numbers again and I’ll message you after. Just so we have a totally clear number that you’re going to really stick with, and then let me know how it goes.
Kim: [00:58:52] I definitely will. I really, will. This was great. I really, really appreciate it, Kim. Thank you very much.
Kim Schlag: [00:58:59] Thanks so much, Kim!
Kim: [00:59:00] Okay, bye, bye.
Kim Schlag: [00:59:07] Thanks so much for being here and listening in to the Fitness Simplified podcast today. I hope you found it educational, motivational, inspirational, all the kinds of -ational. If you enjoyed it, if you found value in it, it would mean so much to me if you would go ahead and leave a rating and review on whatever platform you are listening to this on. It really does help to get this podcast to other people. Thanks so much.