Good morning! I slept horribly last night and just wasn’t in the mood to cook breakfast.
I had 3/4 cup Grape Nuts, skim milk, and banana. With a coffee, of course!
And, in relation to this AM’s post discussion, Grape Nuts is one of the only cereals I portion out, as it has 300 calories in 3/4 cup. It’s easy to go overboard on the crunchy goodness! 🙂
To Calorie Count or Not to Calorie Count?
Yesterday, I received a very interesting question on calorie counting. This question is worthy of a longer response AND input from readers, so here we go!
- Sarah asks, "My question is in regards to counting calories or more specifically, how to stop counting them? It is almost an automatic response to add them up for the day in my head. How did you stop counting? Any tips/tricks that might be helpful?"
I’m going to speak from my own experiences in answering this question. I began calorie counting about three years ago when I decided to buckle down about diet and exercise and finally lose the last stubborn 10 pounds.
I had a basic understanding of "if calories out > calories in = weight loss." I used an online calculator to figure out my Weight Maintenance Calories (according to the calculator, it was 1,650. I just want to say that I think this is too low. I believe my base is currently around 1,800). Then, I tried to create a 250 calorie deficit through diet and/or exercise everyday, and over time, I lost 10 pounds. After all, 1 pound = 3,500 calories.
My calorie counting began simply — I would tally up calories on a notepad. After a few weeks, I realized I needed to be able to compare day to day trends, so I began to use an Excel spreadsheet. The Excel spreadsheet slowly evolved into this highly detailed tracker that tallied my calories, fat calories, protein, carbs, saturated fat grams, sugar, fiber, etc. I kept a "data" spreadsheet so I could just copy and paste the information for my most common eats. After a while, I had about 200 foods in my speadsheet!
By this point, I had been maintaining my weight loss for about 6 months. And judging from my Excel spreadsheet, I was basically intaking the same amount of calories everyday. I felt I had a good handle on portion control. Basically, I was ready to quit calorie counting because (let’s face it) it’s a tedious and time consuming task, and you can’t go on counting calories forever.
Here are my tips for quitting calorie counting without gaining all your weight back:
- Instead of calorie counting, switch to "eyeballing" your meals and snacks for a week or two and then phase out counting and estimating all together.
- Rely on your own ability to portion control sensibly. You know what a normal serving of meat looks like!
- Focus on food groups, not calories. Look at the parts of each meal and make sure you have some protein, fruits, veggies, fats, and complex carbs.
- Seek out whole and natural food. It’s hard to go overboard when you’re eating steamed veggies and lean proteins.
- With plating your food, fill up on nutrient-rich, low-calorie foods like vegetables instead of piling on the mashed potatoes.
- Don’t freak out if you feel like you overindulged one day. Indulgences are part of life, and you aren’t going to gain weight from 1 weekend of eating tailgate food and drinkin beer.
- Exercise! The best way to maintain a weight loss is to stay active and challenge yourself physically.
Of course, the most obvious way to tell if you are eating sensibly without counting is whether your weight changes. If you are overeating, you’ll gain. I used to weigh myself weekly to keep tabs on my progress.
If you do gain after quitting counting, carefully consider what this means. I gained three pounds back after I stopped calorie counting, and then the gain stopped. I realized that my lowest weight wasn’t maintainable in "the real world." I could only maintain my lowest weight when I was counting, so I changed my expectations regarding my "happy weight." With the exception of a brief honeymoon-related weight gain (FYI which is gone now!!), I’ve maintained my happy weight for more than 2 years.
What’s your opinion on or experiences with calorie counting?
Thanks for the tips, Caitlin! You’ve got such a healthy attitude and outlook; it’s awesome!