Calorie counting is something I’ve done off and on throughout the years. It’s one of my favorite hot topics to bring up with friends, because almost everyone has a strong opinion about it…
“Do you REALLY think that works?!”
“OK, but do you really count everything??”
“Dude, just eat as much as you want as long as it’s healthy…”
Regardless of your calorie counting opinion, the harsh reality remains that most of us DON’T actually know what we’re eating day in and day out. We know, to some degree, but if you were asked how many calories you’ve consumed today, would you know? Sure, it doesn’t always matter, but ultimately, we are what we eat and the amount of calories you consume can define how you look and feel.
The trouble these days is that calorie counting doesn’t guarantee you’re eating well and living a healthy lifestyle. With so much diet soda and 100 calorie packs lurking around, it’s easy to stay below your ideal intake for the day without actually getting the nutrients you need. So, what’s the point??
Well, I like to calorie count because it really brings me back to reality and forces me to take stock of everything I’m doing on a daily basis. What am I eating? What exercise am I getting? Why do I feel fat? What do I have to do to lose weight?
The first time I took on the challenge of counting calories, I stuck to the food industry’s tricks. I ate a lot of frozen meals that claimed to be a whole meal under a certain number of calories. I snacked on 100 calorie packs and took the approach of “forgetting” that my count existed when it came to cheat days or party nights. I felt hungry a lot. I was constantly angry that I wasn’t allowed to eat everything I wanted and I was convinced this was some form of personal punishment. I’ve come a long way since then and now my calorie counting looks a lot different. I’ve applied what I’ve done and what I know about a healthy balanced diet to the process. The result? I don’t feel hungry at all. Instead, I feel absolutely incredible and even during “off” days, I still know where I stand and go to bed satisfied.
WHAT ARE YOU EATING??
If you’re eating a lot of processed junk, you won’t be able to eat much if you want to stay under your goal. However, if you stick with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats, staying full and under your goal is a breeze.
HOW MUCH ARE YOU EATING??
When it comes to calorie counting, you’ll quickly learn that quantity is incredibly important. The more devoted you are, the more specific you’ll become about serving sizes. This is the most challenging when it comes to eating out. Restaurants, for the most part, do NOT serve you a single serving of anything which makes it hard to track. However, the better you are about serving yourself the “right” amount at home, the better you’ll become at spotting how much you’re eating out.
HOW MUCH ARE YOU COUNTING??
So what IS the correct intake of calories each day? Well, it depends on the person. Your height, weight, level of activity in daily life and weight loss goals will all be factors. The age old saying is that you have to consume less calories than you burn. This used to make no sense to me. I’d think, ok great, so if I burn 500 calories at the gym today I have to eat 400 calories??? No No NO! Surprisingly, most of us don’t really understand that our bodies burn calories all day long, just by living! That’s called your resting/basal metabolic rate. Whatever you burn through exercise will add to that total. For instance, if my body burns 2500 calories a day and then I burn 500 calories at the gym, that means I have to eat less than 3000 to lose weight. Ok, but how much less? Well, a pound of fat equals 3500 calories…. that means you need to have a difference of at least 3500 calories a week to lose 1 pound. Looking to lose 2 pounds a week? That means you have consume 7000 calories less than you burn throughout the week.
HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK??
The good news is, there are a ton of great apps these days to help you keep track of everything. Lately, I’ve been using My Fitness Pal and I absolutely LOVE it!! Unlike other apps I’ve used, My Fitness Pal has a food scanner that actually scans the bar code on packages for a quick and easy reading on exactly what you’re eating. It also introduces a community component and allows you to connect with people you know who are also using the app. You can commend them on a good workout, a day that was under their goal intake and more. At first I was scared to use this feature because I didn’t want people to judge me if I sucked…. I quickly realized that’s the point! Staying connected with friends and allowing them to see what I’m doing makes me hold myself a lot more accountable. My favorite part about this app though?? The Nutrition page!! This is a section dedicated to everything you’re consuming besides calories – the amount of fat, cholesterol, sodium, potassium, carbs, protein and vitamins you consume on a daily basis. Until now, I’ve honestly never known where I stand on all this. Now, I’m paying way more attention to what I eat and I’m looking at foods for more than just their calories.
To knowing what’s fueling your fire,