Calorie counting has become easily one of my favorite weight loss methods, pure and simply because it works. It is just simple math, and, while my test scores may disagree, I really can handle simple math. Losing weight is just a matter of making sure that you are keeping the energy equation off balance in the right direction. For more details on this, check out my very first post, all about calorie counting! Perhaps my favorite by-product of calorie counting, however, is the fact that you are practically forced to keep a food journal of some sort.
You can log your calorie intake using whatever method you prefer, but in this age of technology, I have come to favor more automatic, electronic ways rather than the old fashioned carrying-around-a-notebook-and-scribbling-madly-before-and-after-meals approach. Specifically, I use the MyFitnessPal app, but this post really applies to any method you choose.
There are really only two rules to follow to make sure that you are getting the maximum benefit from counting your calories and keeping a food journal. First, RECORD EVERYTHING YOU EAT, whether you feel like it or not. You might not think it’s important that you polished off an unplanned slice of french bread dipped in olive oil after you totaled up your meal and set down the phone, but that may have been an extra 200 to 300 calories, which can easily throw off your results if done consistently. Second, BE HONEST. This includes being honest about both portion sizes and ingredients. If you went out to eat and ordered chocolate cake for dessert, don’t use the numbers for “sugar free chocolate cake, 1 oz.” because you like that it has fewer calories than the other options. Self delusion really does not help with weight loss.
That said, if you can handle following the above two rules, all of the time, then counting calories can give you a huge advantage in your war on fat. In addition to helping you keep track of your simple math, calorie counting and food journaling also help in the following areas:
You can’t just forget that extra brownie or four you ate sneakily after dinner. You have to make yourself record it. And let me tell you, it is harder to admit to your phone (or notebook) that you overate than you would think. When the little green calorie deficit numbers turn into little red calorie surplus numbers, it really makes me feel bad, and I’m usually much less likely to overeat later.
However, horrible diet days do happen. There will be times when you go overboard. I, personally, like to go back and look at the record of it after a week or so, once the bloat and the disappointment in myself has faded, and see exactly what my weaknesses were so I know how to prevent the same mistakes in the future. As an example of exactly what I mean, I am going to transcribe one of my most mortifying recent diet disaster days for you now.
Breakfast, which ranged about four hours from eight until noon- 1540 calories (!!!!!)
1 cup 1% milk: 100
4 (yes, 4) pieces of Kroger’s Chocolate Trio Cake: 1440
Lunch – 253 calories
1 cup tuna noodle casserole: 253
Dinner – 720 calories
3 cups (that’s half a container, folks) Breyer’s Mint Oreo Blast ice cream: 720
Total: 2513 calories
That day was a sugary abomination that probably could have even given the ten people nearest me diabetes had I not been alone all day. Now you know what I mean when I say I have some crazy binge eating stories! Clearly, my weakness in this case was chocolate. Horrifying, yes, but good to know…
If you keep a record of what and how much you have been eating, it is very easy to look back at previous patterns and make changes. If you, for instance, ate a lot of carbohydrates for the past two weeks and didn’t lose any weight despite sticking to your calorie goals, you might try cutting back on those carbs in the next two weeks and still be assured that your calories stay the same. If you gain or lose weight, either way, you have learned how your body reacts to increased and decreased amounts of carbohydrates. And you can experiment like that with almost anything.
Also, I get bored very easily doing the same thing every day, and after about a consistent week of something, I start to wonder whether maybe I am missing out on something else I could be doing to get myself even better results (the ‘Day of the Chocolate Explosion’ notwithstanding).
Some weeks I eat what I feel like, and if it goes a little bit under or over my limit I don’t stress out about it too much. Other weeks, I like to see what happens if I get the number as close as possible to my exact calorie limit. I also like to experiment with whether I lose weight more effectively when I log my cardio workouts and eat back the calories that I burned off, or whether I just stick to a flat 1500 calories regardless of exercise. I will actually probably do a series of posts sometime about the results of my various experiments to help people who are also curious about how all of these minor changes work.Related Posts
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