Today started with a yummy breakfast of gingerbread and an egg puff (made from one egg and 1/4 cup egg whites).
The gingerbread was made by roommate/landlord/friend Janet and was soo good! I ate this breakfast at about 6:15 am, and somehow it had the power to hold me over till 1:15 pm. That’s 7 hours! Of course, this wasn’t intentional, but sometimes that happens at work, right? So as you can imagine, I was starving by lunchtime. I went for the chipotle apple fish, broccoli, and acorn squash. I was hungry, so I went to the carnitas station and got a side of beans with a dollop of salsa and guacamole. The whole meal was delicious!
–> looks HUGE but was just a side! (Photo updated 2/26/17)
Calorie Counting Journey Part 2: Signs It’s Working Against You
Today got me thinking about calorie counting, and since this week is low key for cooking and recipes, I thought this would be an excellent time to continue sharing my calorie counting journey. In Calorie Counting Journey Part 1: Weight Loss, I mentioned the many benefits of calorie counting, including familiarizing yourself with portion sizes, accountability, and results.
The fact of the matter is, though; calorie counting is not a way to live your life forever. On the other hand, like many diets, it can be a paramount gateway to a permanent healthy lifestyle change.
The question is, when do you know it’s time to make the leap and let go off logging every calorie? The answer is that when the strategy turns from helpful to working against you, it may be time to reconsider your approach. At the beginning of graduate school, I was in my third year of calorie counting. At this point, I was pretty much a calorie index just about as good as any Internet site. I could spit out how many calories were in just about any food, including restaurant meals. Not a bad skill to have for someone who wants to be a Registered Dietitian. However, I was also struggling with calorie counting in many ways.
One of the ways I struggled with calorie counting was entering the binge and restrict cycle. Being extremely detail-oriented, I stopped adding foods that weren’t exact. Meaning if I went out to eat at some casual Thai food restaurant, for example, instead of logging something close to what I ate, I figured it was a free day. Free days usually resulted in overeating in anticipation of the impending doom of the next day’s calorie restriction.
When the next day came of great calorie counting, I would often ignore my hunger and satiety signals — eating when I wasn’t hungry because I planned to have something and then enduring hunger pains later because I had already eaten everything in my calorie limit. I had lost touch with the actual reason why we need to eat, to fuel and nurture our bodies. Instead, the food was about weight control and will power only.
I was also spending hours planning every single calorie and every single meal. Then I would spend even more time looking at the results and the nutrient breakdown to see how well I was doing “nutritionally.” If I went over on a “bad” nutrient like saturated fat, sugar, or sodium, then I would be hard on myself. I would think I’m going to be a dietitian, why can’t I do better than that?
Most importantly, I began to struggle to keep my weight stable, and I was not losing weight as I wanted. My body had adapted to a strict number of calories every day and was accustomed to using them VERY efficiently. I didn’t realize it, but I had screwed my metabolism… dun dun dun. Going over 1200 calories caused weight gain (which I saw because I weighed myself daily) and cut under didn’t produce as much weight loss as it once had. There was a small focus on the quality and health of the food and its ingredients, but not nearly as much as the calorie load. I lived every day playing a numbers game that started with my weight in the morning and ended with what the calorie count/workout net total was.
Even though I knew that these issues were problems for me, I wasn’t sure if any other way to control my weight. I thought I HAD to count calories strictly, or I would end up gaining all the weight I had lost back. In hindsight, it was a miserable way to live life, it didn’t feel healthy at all, and it added a lot of unneeded stress to my relationship with my boyfriend (now fiancé).
Stay tuned for more to come on Calorie Counting … in Part 3: Remembering What Food is for… I’ll try and recount how my first weeks and months went not calorie counting after years of obsessively logging. In the meantime, do any of these apply to you? If so, you may want to start thinking about whether that lifestyle is still actually beneficial or if it might be time to switch up your tactics.
5 Signs Calorie Counting is Working Against You:
- Treating days you can’t log as free for alls creating a binge and restrict cycle.
- Obsessing over or beating yourself up over the nutritional breakdown of the record.
- Turning down invites to go out because you cannot log the food.
- Eating when you are not hungry and not eating when you are hungry.
- You are struggling to maintain weight even at low-calorie levels.
- Calorie Counting Journey Part 1: Pros & Cons
- Calorie Counting Journey Part 3: How I Stopped Counting & Started Living
- Why 1200 Is Not The Right Number <— one of my most popular posts
- What Is The Best Weight Loss Program < —- read this before going on another diet!