What I Learned From Counting Calories for a Week
I have never been a fan of calorie counting. I know that it is all about the nutritional value of what your eating and not how many calories are in it, I am fully aware. But the simple truth is, you must burn more calories than you consume to lose weight. When I got stuck in a bit of a rut and my weight loss became stagnant I knew I had to try something different. So I decided to start counting calories to see how much I was actually consuming. Here is what I learned.
1. I Overeat
I realized that my meals were huge and super-calorific. I am not afraid of fat or carbs at all that I have noticed that as my meals contain a decent amount of dairy such as cream or cheese and carbs such as potatoes or pasta the calories can quickly add up.
I looked at what the calories would be on what I considered to be a "normal" dinner and it was almost 900 calories. I could not believe that I was eating that many calories but in hindsight my portions were huge.
So I altered the portions of all of my meals. I added less or even none of the unnecessary add-ons like cheese or mayonnaise. I found that the meals still filled me up perfectly, I didn't get bloated and I enjoyed each bite down to the last. I didn't miss the extras I would normally put on the plate as everything still tasted delicious.
That is probably the top takeaway I took from this "experiment". To really re-evaluate your portion sizes because I think a lot of us are eating a lot more than we should be.
2. I Can Eat as Many Vegetables as I Like
When I was adding vegetables into my calorie counter (I use the app MyFitnessPal) I couldn't believe how low the vegetables were in calories so I made the most of this, piling them on my plate as much as possible.
This was a great realization because even though I am slightly restricting what I eat, I can still fill myself up with amazing, nutrient-rich vegetables and it makes such a little impact on my calories for the day.
I also started to take into account that most of my plate should be vegetables anyway. You know how they always say half should be vegetables, a quarter protein, and quarter carbohydrates. Well, I would neglect this and often there were fewer vegetables than anything else on the plate. Now I am always ensuring that half my plate is filled with vegetables.
So if you are restricting your calorie intake, just make sure you fill up on delicious veggies and you won't feel hungry for long.
3. Being Active Helps a Lot
As the weather in the UK has gotten a lot warmer I have been cycling a lot and really getting out and about as much as possible. I have the app MapMyRide and it tracks where I cycle, how long and how fast and therefore can work out an estimate of how many calories I have burned.
This has been so eye-opening. Just getting out there moving and being active can really burn those calories. As my daily calorie allowance is relatively low, when I burn calories I can actually then eat more to make up for it.
Obviously, this has to be healthy calories and only works if your calorie allowance is close to your BMR (more info on what your BMR is here).
Also if I had gone slightly over my calories by dinner time, then I knew that I would have to workout and burn those extra calories either after dinner or the next day.
Remember calories don't need to be followed day-to-day but can also be looked at as a weekly target. Whatever works best for you and your goals.
4. Snacking Unnecessarily is Not Worth It
I know for a lot of people snacking is incredibly important, it's great for keeping your metabolism going and keeping you full. For me, I struggle to snack because of my taste in food. When I think of snacks I think of a chocolate bar or crisps. I don't really enjoy eating fruit or nuts as a snack so personally, I prefer just to eat my three meals a day. It's what works for my diet.
This means that if I am tempted to snack, and again these are normally snacks full of sugar then I can look at the calories and know that this snack will take from my allowance at lunch or dinner.
A chocolate bar can have 200 calories, that's mad. For the size of the chocolate bar and the fact you are just filling yourself with crap, is it really worth it? Maybe it is for you but it's good to have the awareness and make the best decision for you and your body.
But I would rather have that extra 200 calories at dinner to fill myself up with delicious protein and healthy fats, not sugary rubbish. So start taking notice of what you are "spending" your calories on.
5. I Stopped Picking at Food
Every time I eat, I calculate the calories for each item or recipe (this is nice and easy to do on the app, MyFitnessPal). Because of this, it is harder for me to add to my diary - a bite of my Mum's leftovers when she brings her plate out to the kitchen.
Therefore this acts as a repellent. I only want to eat things that I can put in my food diary on my app. So I have stopped eating my meal as I cook it, I have stopped picking at other little scraps and snacking mindlessly.
Because I bet you, if you actually could add up the calories of all those little mouthfuls you would be incredibly surprised. So just keep your hands to yourself and only eat what is really meant for you.
I never thought I would but I have actually enjoyed counting my calories and think it has made a huge positive impact on my diet. The biggest impact is my portion sizes and something I will be taking forward. And I am going to still count my calories. It takes a little bit more work but as I have lost a few pounds this week doing so, I have to be doing something right. What has been your experience with calorie counting?