scale weight lossSummer's tough, guys. There are so many weddings and birthday parties and barbecues filled with cake and buffets and beer and chicken wings. We've already told you -- we're ladies who eat. Depriving ourselves of our favorites (ice cream and, again, CHICKEN WINGS!) wasn't going to cut it, so we're learning to balance our sometimes-not-ideal diets with exercise and smart choices, but to be totally honest, it's hard, especially when life gets in the way.

Julieanne, who's currently at her third, maybe fourth, wedding of the summer can tell you just how hard it is to eat well and drink in moderation while traveling and partying, let alone find time and motivation to also work out. Carrie can commiserate about how hard it is to keep a food log (which almost every professional, including our trainer, Rowdy, says is key to losing weight) when you barely have time to answer the emails that are already piling up in your inbox. And Erin will gladly vouch for how difficult it is to order a sensible grilled chicken sandwich on a whole wheat bun when everyone around you is diving into cheese curds and deep-fried -- what else? -- chicken wings (especially on 30-cent wing night).

But guess what, guys? It's time to quit yer b*tching. We need to MAN UP. That weight isn't just going to lose itself! For those of you who've been following our 9 to Fine efforts (we apologize for leaving you hanging, we've been busy -- and embarrassed), you'll remember that our first progress report was promising. We all saw decreases in body fat and increases in lean-muscle mass. But as we settled in, got sidetracked and became more easily distracted, we've started to plateau and are all over the place.

We're now at what Rowdy says is a crucial part of any get-fit effort: Rhe part where we get discouraged. Basically, we need some major course-correction. So, here's what we're going to do:

1) Pay More Attention to What We're Eating
Once we got used to logging everything we ate in dotFIT, it was easy to say "Oh, look -- I worked out today, so I can still eat more and be under my target. Bartender, another beer, please!" (x3) or "I'm way under my caloric intake level for the day. Rowdy said a deficit of more than about 750 calories is no good. Eating this ice cream sandwich is the perfect solution!"

But that's not going to help us reach our desired 40/40/20 ratio of protein/carbs/fat. Do you have any idea how hard it is to try to get 40 percent of your calories in protein?! Here are some examples of our caloric intake from five days over the last month:

Nutrition is more than half the battle. We didn't come close to 40 percent protein on any of those days. And notice that the days with the lowest caloric intake also have the highest percentage of calories from fat. To really lose weight the right way, we need to fix this. Therefore, we'll be trading in the toast and peanut butter for a Greek yogurt and a hard boiled egg (or those single-pack microwaveable-egg-white things we talked about last week). Any tips on how to work more protein into our diets?

This is probably a good time to plug just how helpful Crunch's dotFIT is. The program is so simple and easy to use, and the amount of feedback you get is amazing. It seriously is like having a nutritionist, personal trainer and coach all in one. We've tried various calorie loggers in the past -- Prevention, Calorie King, FitDay -- but none of them are as thorough and complete as dotFIT, not to mention the awesome workouts and nutrition info it covers. Even if you're not a Crunch member, you can still use dotFit. It's $29.95 to start and then $9.95 a month. But if you do want to join a gym, Crunch is offering Lemondrop readers a one-week free trial and a bonus personal training session. Click here to go straight to the Crunch page to redeem the offer. OK, we're done obsessing (but if you want to know more, read our previous post here).

2) Work on Getting Enough Weightlifting into our Workouts to Make Sure We're Losing the "Right Kind" of Weight

Check out the graph below. That's Erin's lean-body-mass measurements. At the first check-in, she was right on track. But between 1 and 2, she saw a major dip. (That's when she was doing all that Cardio Queen nonsense.) The decline between check-in 2 and 3 wasn't as steep, but if she really wants to get fit, she needs to reverse that trend. And to do that, she needs to work out smarter and incorporate more weightlifting into her workouts. That's what's going to build muscle and increase her fat-burning ability during all that time she spends sitting at her desk.

Erin says: I'm the kind of person who needs some sort of empirical evidence to really believe. Enter my dotFit ExerSpy (which, yes, I'm still wearing, much to the shock/amusement of everyone in the office -- we're seriously obsessed). I've been using the "trip" feature to calculate my calorie burn during and after different kinds of workouts. The feature is essentially the same as the tripometer in your car -- zero it out before you start your workout and you'll see how many calories you burn in total as well as your rate of caloric burn per minute. (If you have a new, fancy car that shows your gas mileage, it's the exact same thing.) After a workout, I zero it out again then clock my calories-burned-per-minute rate for a few hours after I exercise.

Here's the thing: Whether I do an hour of straight cardio or split it between cardio and lifting, I burn about the same amount of calories. And when I lift, my accelerated post-workout burn rate lasts longer. Example:

1 hour of spinning burns about 350 calories at a rate of around 5.8 calories/minute.

35 minutes on the elliptical, alternating between 5 minutes on a level 10 intensity and 5 minutes on a level 5 (for example), followed by 25 minutes of lifting (squats, free-lifting or machines) burns the same amount.

But here's the kicker -- when I lift, I'm also increasing my muscle mass, which is going to burn more calories while I'm sitting at my desk all day (more on that -- including the numbers -- next week).

3) Stop Getting Discouraged
The bottom line is simple: We can't give up. Just because we've had a bad day -- or a bad week -- doesn't mean we're totally screwed. Each day is a new day with a new chance to get our fitness back on track. We started this thing as a way to support each other and have a community to lean on. So, if you haven't already, fill out a 9 to Fine profile and join our cause. We might just feature you in an upcoming story. (Get ready for our first batch of reader stories next week!)

In the meantime, please, leave your thoughts, questions, words of encouragement and tips on how to go from beach to barbecue without feeling like a beached whale in the comments below. Or ask us on Facebook or Tweet us (@lemondroptweets) with the hashtag #9toFine. We're all in this together, ladies.

Previous 9 to Fine Posts:
+ Week 1: An Introduction
+ Week 2: We Realize We Are Out of Shape
+ What Counting Every Calorie Has Taught Us So Far
+ Learning to Stay on Track
+ Cardio Queens: The Gym Mistake That All Girls Make
+ At Work, Happy Hour or Home -- How to Avoid Extra Calories All Day Long