Are you obsessed with counting calories, and accounting for every morsel you put into your mouth? Dieting and counting calories can be beneficial, and can help us “reset” healthy eating habits if we’ve over-indulged. But, for many of us this can become an unhealthy obsession. Here, I will show you how I stay on track without counting calories, so you can too!
There were times in my life that I have been obsessed with recording every calorie and fat gram I consumed. I have done this not only when I was trying to lose a few pounds, but also to maintain my weight.
For every recipe I prepared that did not provide nutritional information, I would enter each ingredient into a recipe calculator. Talk about tedious! Accounting for every calorie and every gram of protein, carbs, and fat eventually became a daily habit.
Honestly, I can’t say that I’ve ever really “struggled” with my weight. But, it’s always been a priority. I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable weight, with a fairly strict diet and consistent exercise. Through the years I have learned a lot by researching various diet programs, fitness routines and recipes for weight loss and maintenance. I work out at home reglarly, both on my treadmill and with DVD’s and my ultimate fave, Beachbody On Demand.
One day I decided that I was sick of feeling “obligated” to log everything I ate. The quest for healthy eating had become an unhealthy obsession. I realized that I knew what was healthy, what I was supposed to be eating, and how much I should be eating. I think you do too.
After years of experience and being obsessed with calorie counting, I finally realized that when it comes to our diets it’s not necessarily the calories that “count”, but these two factors:
- The nutritional value of the food we are putting in our bodies, and
- The quantity of the food we are eating
Stop Counting Calories for Good
- If you eat clean you don’t ever have to count calories – it’s hard to over-eat healthy, whole foods like chicken breasts and broccoli.
- When you eat this way, your body will tell you when you’ve had enough. However, when you eat unhealthy foods like refined carbs, you will always feel hungry, and your body will continue craving more of the same.
- Try to maintain this style of eating most of the time. Allow for a cheat meal or special treat like candy or a hot fudge sundae, but make this type of food the exception, not the norm.
- Limit carbs. When you do consume carbs, eat whole wheat bread, rice, or pasta. But don’t overdo it.
- Avoid drinking your calories. Sweetened drinks like calorie-laden coffees and sodas, as well as alcoholic beverages, add up quickly. They provide very little, if any nutritional benefit. They are not satisfying, so you will still feel hungry.
Practice Portion Control
- Use smaller plates and consciously try to start eating less at each meal.
- Eat slowly and without distraction so you can actually tell that you are no longer hungry.
- Measuring or weighing food can facilitate learning to eat smaller portions when you are starting out.
- Measure foods, specifically foods high in fat (salad dressing, for example). It’s easy to get off track by consuming too much fat. Measuring things like dressing will help you realize that you don’t need very much to make your salad taste great. You’ll also see that you can have the “good”, regular dressing rather than the yucky fat-free stuff, in moderation.
- Get into the routine of measuring anytime you use butter, oils, dressings, etc. You will eventually have a feel for what 2 tablespoons looks like drizzled on your salad. Once you do, you won’t have to measure anymore!
- Use a kitchen scale to quickly and easily measure your portions. I have this one and have used it for years.
- It really is no trouble at all to get in the habit of using this to keep your portions in check. I honestly believe that our struggles with weight gain are not so much the result of what we are eating, but the quantity that we eat.
Portion Control Containers
These color-coded containers are perfect for portion control, with no measuring or weighing required!
Are you trying to lose weight? Or, are you having a hard time getting back to eating right after a vacation or the holidays? If so, consider a portion control meal plan.
The Portion Fix system has healthy meal plans and recipes, tailored to your goals. You will know exactly what foods to eat, and how much, to get back on track. You will even learn how to incorporate dessert and wine into your diet, the right way!
No Food is “Off-Limits”
Obsessively counting calories is unhealthy. You feel guilty when you eat something that “tastes good” or is “unhealthy” or “fattening”. But, if you don’t indulge, you feel deprived.
Been there, done that! For me, that feeling of deprivation would lead to overeating unhealthy, fatty foods. But when I decided to stop obsessing over every calorie, that changed.
Now, if I want something “fattening”, I eat it. But, I don’t feel the need to go crazy, because I no longer feel deprived. I know I can allow myself this treat once in a while, in moderation. No food is “off-limits”.
Bethenny Frankel says this perfectly in her book, Naturally Thin. She says, “You can have it all, just not all at once.” I enjoyed this book, and recommend it if you struggle with diet and calorie-counting obsession.
But What About Exercise?
I’m sure you’ve heard these sayings:
“80% of the way you look is a result of the food you eat.”
“Abs are made in the kitchen.”
“You can’t out-train a bad diet.”
“You can lose weight without exercise”
All of these are true. But you and I both know that a healthy lifestyle involves at least some moderate exercise.
Track your movement instead of your calories
Tracking our steps and setting a daily goal is a much more positive (and FUN) method of quantifying our fitness efforts. Use an activity tracker like Fitbit or Apple Watch. Set a goal for number of steps or calories burned, rather than counting calories in every morsel you put in your mouth.
I have the Fitbit Surge. You have probably noticed that I wear it all the time, except when I am going out. Yes, it’s big and clunky, but it does the job!
I plan to eventually purchase an Apple watch. I love the way they look, and would definitely wear the Apple watch out with a casual outfit.
But, for the difference in price, the Fitbit does what I purchased it for – to count steps and calories burned. I love wearing it at home and while out just running errands. It’s fun and motivating to see how everyday activities make such a difference. Just by wearing it to the grocery store, you will see a noticeable increase in your steps for the day!
This is helpful for activity planning, too. I try to schedule my errands all together on one day. So on errand day, I usually plan to take off working out. This way, I’m still fairly active on that day, even though I am not officially “exercising”.
You Owe it to Yourself
Calorie-counting can be beneficial when you feel like you’ve gotten off-track. It’s fine to use it for a limited time, to “reset” good eating habits, say after a vacation or the Christmas holidays.
But stop wasting precious time each day logging the nutritional value of every morsel! Calorie counting, for many of us, can be an unhealthy obsession.
After all these years of “dieting” and “trying to eat healthy”, you know what and how much you should be eating. Practice being aware of what, and how much you consume. You owe it to yourself to stop counting calories for good.
You’ve got this!