Throughout my weight loss process, I have embarked on calorie counting probably four times.
Recently my sister started calorie counting and we were discussing it. As I pondered this, I realised I used to be able to look at something, for example a muffin and guess how many calories would be in it. I seem to have lost touch with that skill.
For my initial weight loss I did find that it helped me learn about caloric density and how much I should actually be eating in a day. I found it quite easy to hit 1300 calories at 110kgs; those calories are quite low considering my weight and activity levels.
Throughout my process I have gone back to it to gain that insight again into what my patterns and habits amounted to.
However, I haven’t calorie counted since I started really lifting or doing more serious programs in the gym. Lifting adds another element to macronutrient levels and the timing of these meals. Basically I went through some thyroid stuff, which made me really, really hungry ALL the time. Then I pulled myself back with intuitive eating once my hunger had simmered down.
Before I go further, intuitive eating is about listening to your body and feeding it what it wants and needs, when it needs it. I was then following something called the Clutch Cut plan (you can find it on Bodybuilding.com); which did work and I lost some weight because it was quite high in protein.
So I decided to give calorie counting another crack. Mainly, to regain some clarity about what my intuitive eating really means in terms of nutrients and calories. I set it at 1400 calories a day, knowing I would probably go over each day, which I probably shouldn't have done because I set myself up for failure. That was made up of 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% fat. I went with 40% protein because I do resistance training 5 days a week.
I’ve been doing it consistently for a week now, and here’s what I’ve learned:
1) I don’t eat enough protein
2) I eat too many carbs each day
3) Counting Calories is depressing – I have been reminded that counting calories sucks. You put in all your planned meals for the day and realise that you have 25 calories left to play with and you know you’re going to be hungry. I’m wracking my brain trying to figure out how to get more than 100g of protein in, when I eat it 5 times a day already; and without adding carbs or fat.
I’m also the kind of person who tries to get a lot of variety because a) I get bored easily and b) health, duh. So I won’t have protein powder more than once a day.
I turned down an invitation to go and get fish and chips because I knew it would push me WAAAYY out on my calories for the day; which is ridiculous.
I also feel like I’m tied to my phone entering all the stuff in. Even though the app has a Copy Meal function; this makes it easy when you’re repeating the same lunch as yesterday, today. It just seems like such a chore, mainly because it’s just no fun to find out all the sordid details of what you’ve eaten that day.
Also, I don’t lose weight like the computer says I should. At the end of each day when I finish my log, it says “in 5 weeks you will weigh 71kgs”... my body doesn’t respond that way, unfortunately. So I overanalyse myself, generally end up feeling like a failure and like shit.
So to summarise;
Obsessive/addictive to the point where I turned down a spontaneous outing
Not actually sure if all the foods are listed in there correctly
Very useful tool in terms of learning how many calories you should be having compared to what you’re consuming now.
Does work for many, many people – I have a friend that uses it all January every single year to help take any holiday weight off.
Also helpful to gain insight on where your calories are coming from – is it all carbs? Do you need more protein? Example, I found it easy to do 1300 at the beginning of my weight loss because they all came from carbs. I have learnt a lot more about macros now and know what I need.
Very useful if you want to pursue IIFYM or Flexible Dieting which is a more detailed approach to your macros.
It does work to gain clarity and knowledge around what you’re putting in your body. People do lose weight by counting calories. I just think that counting calories doesn’t necessarily mean that people have a good understanding of nutrients. You need to feed your cells with nutrients, not calories. And when you shift your focus, it becomes a little bit more complicated, but doable. Now that I’ve learned what I have been doing, I’m going to focus on getting those nutrient levels a little more and once I’m happy, I’m quitting counting calories.
My recommendation is to give it a go. You will learn a lot. I use My Fitness Pal, or another one is Calorie King. But please detach yourself from the obsession as soon as it becomes too intrusive. We get too caught up in the numbers and it’s not good for our mental health. Just be very aware of how your body feels and responds, your energy levels and mindset.
On another note, your body may not respond how the computer says it should either. Treat it as an experiment for a week or a month; this is not a commitment for life.
Comment below if you have done calorie counting before. How did it go for you?