I Followed The 80-20 Diet Rule And Tracked My Macros With MyFitnessPal—And I Lost 40 Pounds

My name is Tahirih Thach (@fit_withtt), and I'm a 29-year-old online nutrition coach and analytical data reviewer for a manufacturing company in St. Petersburg, Florida. After being prescribed appetite suppressants to lose weight, then regaining everything I lost, I started flexible dieting, tracking macros, and weight lifting. I've lost 40 pounds.

For as long as I can remember, my weight has fluctuated based on what was going on in my life. When college came, I dealt with sleepless nights and weekend partying and I gained the infamous Freshman 15, followed by the Freshman 30.

I struggled with figuring out my path in life. I went through a period of depression, and food was my outlet. Reflecting back on that period of my life now, I realize how poorly I treated my body. I would eat McDonald's every day, almost three times a day. It seems insane to admit that now, but with the stress of school and relying on school tuition for food, I didn't have much choice back then.

I dreaded going to my annual physical exam because I knew my doctor was going to comment on my weight.

At one appointment, he talked to me about using appetite suppressants. I was so uncomfortable with my body that I would've done anything to lose weight. After starting phentermine (which is used as a weight-loss drug due to the way it suppresses appetite), I started losing weight so quickly that I was almost 20 pounds down in a month.

But as you can probably guess, using diet pills was *not* sustainable. And one day, I decided to stop the pills and try to maintain my weight loss naturally. As soon as I got off of them? My appetite came back with vengeance. I put all the weight back on, and then some. I weighed more than before I started the pills.

It wasn't until years later that I found out that this appetite suppressant was usually prescribed to those were who were morbidly obese and looking to lose weight before weight-loss surgery. I still don't understand why my doctor suggested the medication to me because I felt I wasn't in dire need of it at the time. I was disappointed in myself for ever starting the prescription medication, but also glad I could now educate women on how a quick fix will never work long-term.

After my 26th birthday in June 2016, I hit 200 pounds.

I tried to lose weight on my own after getting off the phentermine by upping my physical activity. But with the increased activity, I started to increase my eating because I felt like I deserved the reward of it. I added in cheat meals, which backfired in the end. Although I was doing more cardio, I was still gaining more weight. I was at my heaviest, feeling defeated. I knew I needed to change something.

I was introduced to flexible dieting while scrolling down my Instagram feed.

I used to be an all-or-nothing type of girl with eating. But the idea of flexible dieting is exactly what it sounds like and includes the 80-20 rule, or eating nutritious good-for-you foods 80 percent of the time, and the "If It Fits Your Macros" (IIFYM) rule, which means you eat calories within your macronutrient (carbs, fat, protein) percentages. This way of eating is really a lifestyle change and less of a diet, and it really changed my thought process around eating.

Through my journey and education (I got my master’s in nutrition!), I learned that in order to lose weight, you have to be in a caloric deficit. I learned that with increased activity, I personally ended up eating in a caloric surplus rather than a deficit (hence the weight gain). The flexible dieting lifestyle helped me recognize that a calorie is a calorie, and while eating nutritious foods is important, there's no reason to freak out over eating a "bad" food.

As long as I stuck to my caloric deficit and ate within my planned macros for the day, I could eat healthy 80 percent of the time and indulge 20 percent of the time and still lose weight.

I stuck to the 80-20 and IIFYM rules consistently, though I still had days when I overate. But I never punished myself for that—I'm human. I tell people that I can have my cake and eat it too with the 80-20 rule. Eighty percent of the time I eat whole foods, veggies, fruit, etc., and 20 percent of the time I have treats like cake or fries.

This works for me because I never deprive myself. Depriving myself in the past always backfired. I'd eat salads all week and then binge eat chips on the weekend. But on this diet, I can have chips in moderation, and that little fix during the week is all I need.

I use the MyFitnessPal app to track my food and macros and that really helps me stay on track, even while eating treats.

Here’s what I typically eat in a day now:

  • Breakfast: Breakfast sandwich or overnight protein oats (some weeks I fast until 12 p.m.)
    • Lunch: Brown rice with quinoa, some type of protein (usually baked chicken thighs) and roasted Brussels sprouts
      • Snacks: Berries with Greek yogurt, protein bar, roasted nuts, or edamame
        • Dinner: Same thing as lunch (I usually meal prep for the day)
          • Dessert: Dark chocolate or peanut butter cups

          When it comes to exercise, I used to be a cardio bunny.

          But I realized that I was really limiting myself. When I started my weight loss journey, my brother had recently joined the Air Force and was in basic training, which meant lots of exercise in the gym to stay fit. He got me into the gym and helped me overcome my gym-timidation.

          When he got deployed, I learned how to weight train using bodybuilding.com's exercise library. From there, I watched a lot of YouTube videos to perfect my form while lifting. I loved it so much.

          In 2018, I received my certification in personal training. Now, I lift weights five days a week. I have one cardio/active rest day, and one complete rest day.

          Lifting heavy weights helped me not only lose weight and gain muscle faster, it also helped me gain confidence.

          The stronger I got, the more confidence I built inside and outside of the gym. I do what people call "powerbuilding," which is a combination of powerlifting and bodybuilding. It is empowering as a woman to lift really heavy weights. I perform progressive overload in my training, which means I progressively add weight as I continue to get stronger. Lifting weights is my therapy.

          These are the three tips that have helped make my weight-loss journey a success.

          • If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is something I tell my online clients. Meal prepping really changed my life. Not only do you know exactly what you're putting in your body, you're saving a ton of money by not eating out. Every Sunday, I block out at least two hours for meal prepping. prepare all of my meals for the week so when there are days I'm short on time or am too lazy to cook dinner, I already have a meal ready to warm up.
            • Instead of obsessing over the number on the scale, take measurements. This has helped me immensely on days that I've had a lot of sodium, or if it's that time of the month. It helped me understand how the scale doesn't tell the whole picture, and that bloating and water retention is a real and normal thing that everyone deals with.
              • Have an accountability partner(s). My fat-loss and muscle-building journey really began when I started working with a physique coach. The accountability helped me take responsibility because I didn't want to disappoint a person who believed in me. Not everyone will like working with a trainer, but find a friend or family member who is either more experienced than you or is navigating the same issues because you can rely on each other for motivation and accountability.

              I've lost 40 pounds overall, and it took me almost two years to reach a point of maintenance.

              It's been a rollercoaster of a journey. Some days I would take a few steps backward and find myself binge eating. But my habits were built by just trying to improve each day, whether it was by adding more weight to my barbell or eating an extra piece of fruit that day. I’ve learned that quick fixes backfire, and the all-or-nothing mindset is what kept me stuck in the yo-yo dieting cycle.

              Following the 80-20 lifestyle has really helped me heal my relationship with food. Any guilt I have around treating myself is short-lived, and I don't have food anxiety anymore. Focusing on macros and lifting weights helped me, too; not only am I physically stronger, my mind is stronger, too.


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