Counting calories. So many people who are losing weight or getting fit count calories and/or macros. While calorie counting apps are incredibly useful, it is so easy to end up a hostage to counting calories. I know for me, personally, a lot of my day was spent figuring out what fit into my day and what didn’t. Another part of my day was spent worrying about whether or not my goal was set correctly. It is emotionally draining and mentally exhausting.
I lost a lot of weight counting calories. I won’t deny that. But then I gained a lot. And then I had trouble losing it again.
I learned a lot about counting calories throughout the years.
- Calorie counting can be useful
Calorie counting is a great tool to use when you are first starting your weight loss or fitness journey. Calorie counting for a month can really teach you a lot about what foods are worth snacking on and what foods are best left for “every-so-often” snacks. Calorie counting can open your eyes to how many calories are in some of your favorite foods and it can show you what you may need to moderate.
- Calorie counting can cause problems
Calorie counting opens your eyes to how many calories are in food which can, for some, make eating more stressful than helpful. It also is very hard to do long term. Are you going to log into an app every day of your life? If you find yourself in a position like I was, spending a lot of time obsessing over what would fit and what wouldn’t fit, counting calories may not be the best thing for you long-term. Many people I know have become obsessed with counting calories. So much that a day they go “over” can ruin their day. Even if it’s only 50-100 calories over! That’s not a healthy way to live your life. The extra stress isn’t any less healthy for you than an extra couple of pounds.
- Calorie counting is confusing
The more weight you lose, the more your calorie goals change. You may be told to eat more or less than you currently were. Either change can make weight loss confusing. Calories in vs. calories out, they say, but it is much easier said than done. Once you lose a certain amount of weight after eating at a certain deficit, your progress stalls and your calorie goals must chance and that can cause a lot of anxiety for people. I was progressing and now the scale isn’t moving or even creeping back up: I must be a failure. Not an uncommon thought. But you are NOT a failure.
That’s great, Carrie, but how did you STOP? Quitting calorie counting is hard. Especially when it is something you’ve done for a long time. In my case, I was quitting a 4 year habit. You think you’re going to end up where you started. You may feel like you’re not in control of anything anymore. It easy, but, let me tell you something: it was SO worth it! It may seem daunting at first, but here are the 4 things that really helped me stop counting calories.
- Delete (or modify) your app
I relied heavily on a calorie counting app and, while I didn’t delete it, I use it for the community support and for the recipe builder (so I can share nutrition content with others). If you find that you can’t go into the app without logging, just delete it.
- Use common sense with your food choices
Go back to the basics! The food pyramid is a great resource. Fill your plate mostly with veggies, then protein, then starch. If you can choose between and apple and chips, choose the apple. If you really want the chips, eat the chips but choose an apple for the rest of the week. It sounds super simple because it is! Eat nutritious food all the time and junk food in moderation.
- Eat mindfully
This can take some practice after using calories to tell you when to stop, but rely on your body to tell you when you’re full and when you’re not. Before you snack, think about what you’re craving and think about why. Could you eat some carrots and be satiated? If not, you’re probably not really as hungry as you think. Make sure your snacking isn’t mindless.
- Enjoy yourself
It is 100% ok to go out and enjoy yourself every once in awhile. You don’t always have to get salads or chicken when you go out to eat and you don’t have to only hit up the veggie trays at Superbowl parties. Every once in awhile, it’s ok to indulge and you shouldn’t feel bad about it!
See that picture at the top? I was counting calories in all of those photos, except for 2- the first one and the last one. The first one was before I decided to change my life and the last one was a month ago. The photo in 2011- I weighed 115 pounds. I was following my calorie plan. But I quickly gained back a lot of that weight because it wasn’t sustainable for me. After I gained back weight in 2012, there doesn’t look like much of a difference in weight for the rest of the photos. Even when I stopped counting calories, I didn’t back track. You don’t have to be scared of what might happen if you stop counting calories.
What will happen, however, is you will feel less stressed and more confident about yourself. You don’t need to rely on an app to help you lose weight. You can use what you learned from those apps to help you live a healthy lifestyle, but you do not need to rely on them to continue that lifestyle. That part is something you can do on your own!