Calorie Counting and Weight Loss!

You might remember back in May when I posted about how I had gained a couple of pounds and was looking to cutback and focus on portion control?  I seemed to have the right idea and was off to a good start.  I started doing the Skinnygirl Daily Cleanse and immediately noticed a difference with feeling bloated and ‘heavy’.  I’ve continued doing the cleanse each day and really like it.  The problem is that those couple of pounds have turned into about 5 pounds more than my goal weight and I never really lost them and kept them off.  Michael and I like to blame it on the “Marathon Hangover”.  The hangover happened to him after Chicago and happened to me after Boston.  What is the hangover?  It’s basically when you have out done yourself with running and the thought of doing any sort of cardio over a half an hour makes you cringe.  It’s when dinner and drinks with friends sounds better than the gym and you continue to eat like your training to run 26.2 miles but don’t have the workouts to back that up.  The marathon hangover is great for about a week…maybe two or three.  When it goes on for months, the scale starts to tell you the party is over.

As I was complaining over vacation while lounging in my bikini that my arms looked less toned and my abs were disappearing Michael made a profound statement.

You have two choices:  Keep eating like your training for a marathon and ACTUALLY train for another marathon or eat less.

Since teacher training starts in 3 weeks a fall marathon will not be happening and so I’m going to have to learn to eat less.  It’s easier said than done, really.  For the last year I’ve been training for a marathon.  I literally don’t remember what I ate or how much I ate when I wasn’t training for a marathon.  What I do know though is that I like the way I look and my body as it is when I’m training for a marathon.  So for the first time in my life I’m going to learn how to eat less.  The words “No, Thanks” when asked if I want seconds will actually be words I speak going forward.  If you are someone who knows me well this is shocking.

I started counting calories on Sunday.  A friend recommended using the My Fitness Pal App on my iPhone and I have to say it’s pretty easy to use.  I signed up and created a profile, entered my age, my height and my current weight.  Then I entered my goal weight and choose how quickly I wanted to lose weight.  I opted for the 2 pounds per week option so that I could lose these pesky 5 pounds before teacher training.  I also told them I have a sedentary job (i.e. desk job) and workout about 5 times per week.   The app told me that I burn about 1850 calories/day in my normal activities.  To lose the 5 pounds in my goal time I would need to cutback to about 1200 calories/day.  Now, this seems a little absurd to me because I feel like I’d be starving if I ate 1200 calories/day.  As part of the app you enter in your exercise and this adds the calories burned to you calories/day count.  I end up being at about 1500-1600 calories/day after working out.  This seems pretty reasonable and achievable to me.

Sunday I chose to really cutback and see exactly what 1200 calories/day is like.  I really have no concept of how much food 1200 calories versus 2000 calories is or what a typical amount of calories for breakfast or lunch is like.  Calorie counting is not something I’ve ever done.  So on Sunday I stuck to lean foods and a lot of fruit and veggies.

Sunday’s Food Diary

Surprisingly, I wasn’t starving and felt completely satisfied the entire day.  I even got to enjoy an ice cream sandwich!

Monday and Tuesday I headed back to work and just tried to keep my eating routine as normal as possible.  I felt that it was worth it to see what a “normal” day in terms of eating was like.

Monday’s Food Diary

What I learned is that I did a great job of eating healthy and spreading my calories throughout the day but completely over ate at dinner.  I’d been to a new hot yoga class and by the time I got home, I was starving! Michael made homemade tacos that night with 98% lean ground turkey, lettuce, tomato, and onion with re-fried beans on the side and homemade guacamole with 2 avocados.  I ended up eating 4 tacos, chips and guacamole and  a cup of beans.  In other words, completely overkill! I then proceeded to eat another Skinny Cow Ice Cream Sandwich.  After having a similar pattern show up on Tuesday, I realized that dinner was my problem.  I consume about 1000 calories for dinner.  Most nights when I finish dinner I am close to full if not full so eating 1000 calories is not necessary.

On Wednesday I resolved to start cutting back and focusing on eating about 1500 calories/day.  I continued with my normal eating habits throughout the day and then really focused on portion control for dinner.  What we cook and eat is not in itself bad, it is the amount.  I felt like Wednesday was a much better and balanced day.

Wednesday’s Food Diary

I ended up coming in at about 1400 calories for the day.  I felt really good throughout the day and never felt like I was starving myself.

So based on what I’ve learned here’s my plan for going forward:

  • Aim to keep breakfast around 300 calories.  Eat light cereals, cottage cheese and yogurt with fresh fruit on top.  I plan to stick with my regular morning coffee with skim milk and Truvia.

Special K with Skim Milk, Raspberries and Strawberries

  • For lunch I plan to eat around 400 calories.  I’m focusing on cutting back on carbs so salads and sandwiches made with wraps or thins are going to be my goto’s.
  • I’m eliminating the yogurt or granola bar I used to eat in addition to some fruit in the afternoon.  I’ve found that just the fruit is enough to sustain me throughout my afternoon workout and keep me satisfied until dinner.
  • For dinners, Michael and I have both agreed to limit and cut back on carbs.  We are going for chicken, and lean meats, fresh fish and lots of salads and veggies.  We regularly eat like this so it’s not a huge change.  For me, the portion control will be key.  I’m going to try to put together a dinner plate with enough calories but not too much and control myself from reaching for seconds.  Slowing down and enjoying each bite will go a long way.

A Healthy Dinner Plate

  • We’ve also eliminated sweets from our house.  We bought Skinnycow Ice Cream Sandwiches and Edy’s Whole Fruit bars to satisfy our cravings.  Both are relatively low in calories and fats compared to the other options out there.  I plan to limit myself even further by determining two weekday nights and one weekend night to enjoy sweets.  However I decide to enjoy that throughout the week is fine but I definitely don’t want to be indulging every night.

As for calorie counting, I plan to count until I naturally want to eat about 1500 to 1700 calories/day.  I think this goal will give me the opportunity to learn portion control and have a better understanding of what I eat everyday and how it can affect my weight.

Losing weight is only a small piece of the changes that are happening! Now that we are all settled since I’ve moved in and vacation has passed Michael and I are trying to create a healthy routine where we both can accomplish workouts and eat a healthy dinner together.  I’ll be back tomorrow to talk about the routine, a new yoga studio I’ve found and more! 

Have you struggled with weight loss and portion control?  Have you counted calories before? What kind of patterns do you have when it comes to food and eating?

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13 thoughts on “Calorie Counting and Weight Loss!

  1. Erin Madore (@IamCre8tiveSoul) says:

    Thanks for sharing your first step in creating a healthy routine!! I love hearing about others experiences with counting calories. I’ve tried doing this quite a few times and honestly it’s never worked for me (http://www.creativesoulinmotion.com/2011/11/the-scoop-on-calories-carbs-and-keeping-it-real/), I’ve also tried cleanses and given them up too (http://www.creativesoulinmotion.com/2011/09/giving-up-the-cleanse-what-i-eat/). And it’s not because I don’t the will power or dedication it’s because they just weren’t working for me!

    The thing is, I love love to eat greens, veggies and fruit and as a Vegan/Vegetarian that’s primarily my diet but sometimes I tend to eat too many chips and have too many beers… when I find myself slipping down the unhealthy slope I have found that rather than counting or cleansing I simply CLEAN UP my diet (http://www.creativesoulinmotion.com/2011/09/giving-up-the-cleanse-what-i-eat/). I cut out most sugars and processed foods and focus on fresh, whole, natural food that fills me up. For me this works great! It helps me reconnect with my values and good habits and lets the bad habits and addictions (like to sugar) drop away.

    On the other hand my mom has actually lost 17 pounds counting calories and she likes it. She likes the control and the knowledge that counting gives her.

    My point? I think it’s best to figure out what works best for you. Try different things but don’t be scared of saying, “that’s not for me.” Listening to our bodies and nourishing rather than restricting will make living healthier easier and more enjoyable.

    Wow, I didn’t mean for this to be so long! And I didn’t mean to spam you with links but I just wanted to really get my points/feelings across LOL

    Hope it helps!

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    • liverunloveyoga says:

      Thanks for your comment and sharing! I normally do what you do but that’s not working lately because I have no concept of how much I am eating. This is a nice experiment to understand it. I’m with you, different things work for different people. And listening to your body is above anything else. Great advice and thanks for the links!

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  2. Jess Sutera says:

    Ohhh we should totally talk! I’ve been calorie counting for about a year+ and have found it to be THE most effective thing for me. The trick is to eat CONSISTENTLY the same amt of cals everyday no matter what workout you do, no matter what your plans are (eating in, eating out with friends, glass of wine, etc.) — consistency is the key. AND NOT eating 1200 cals, that is WAY too low!! That’s the one thing I hate about the food logging apps. their math is totally screwy. If you want to talk more about it, I’d love to — you know how to find me 🙂

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    • liverunloveyoga says:

      I’d love to chat more! I don’t plan on counting for too long, just long enough to get a sense of what I eat and how much I should be eating! No worries, I am eating more than 1200 calories. I realize that is low. That’s what the calculator said but now I’m figure it out more on my own and will adjust that accordingly. It seems like 1500 is low but 1700 to 1800 is pretty perfect in that I feel consistently satisfied but never full or starving. We need to plan a meet up very soon! I’ve been meaning to email you all week!

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      • jobo says:

        I would have written EXACTLY what Jess said! I was like 1200 cals?? that is WAY too low! Those apps are horrible at telling you what calories to eat!! And accounting for workouts should not change your calories at all. It’s the same, no matter what. No peaks and valleys and your body learns to consistently ‘want’ the same calories every day, whether you worked out or not. That has been huge for both of us! Good luck!! You will do great, your plan for your meals is perfect. And isn’t it crazy when you see your habits once you track them?? My fail was always weekends. I’d do great all week then totally TOTALLY blow it out of the water on weekends!!

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      • liverunloveyoga says:

        No worries, I actually said 1200 is way too low as well. I’m more or less just using it as a tool to see the trends in my eating habits and get a sense of where I can cutback and what x amount of calories looks like. I’d like to be between 1500 and 1800 calories assuming 1500 is a day where I am not very hungry and being mindful of that. It’s been really educational to learn that I over eat at dinner as I always felt I did well with dinner. Now I am more mindful of what I eat and can stop when I feel satisfied now full like I normally do!

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  3. runcupcake says:

    It’s like we’re in sync or something! Kevin and I are doing a very similar thing right now, even though I’m training for a fall marathon (kind of…meh). We have a goal that we both want to have six packs by Columbus Day weekend!

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    • liverunloveyoga says:

      Hahah! Seems to be a trend lately! It’s hard to know how much to cutback and adjust your eating for your exercise, especially when you are training for a marathon. That mentality of “I’m running a marathon and can eat whatever I want” isn’t always correct. I hope you get your six pack! Losing weight is SO much easier with a partner!

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  4. Breanna says:

    I’ve been counting calories since I was about 12 years old, so about 8 years now. That is when I started my battle with anorexia nervosa, but that is a another story for a different time. Now I count to make sure that I don’t fall back into the eating disorder- I usually just don’t eat if I am unsure about the calorie content.

    I am really happy to hear that you are allowing yourself to have sweets several evenings a week. Not only will this fulfill cravings, but it can help you to stay mentally well. I give myself one “free” day each week, a day where I don’t count calories and try not to worry about it. I allow myself to eat some sweets on this day.

    What I worry about is that you say that you “plan to count until I naturally want to eat about 1500 to 1700 calories/day…” This may be harder than you think. I am pretty dependent on counting calories (not good) and don’t want to see someone else develop obsessive compulsive tendencies like this as well. While you may be trying to “train” your body to naturally consume this much, you may also be training your mind to think in an OCD like pattern. Please be cautious of this.

    Also keep in mind that those calculators can lack a degree of accuracy. They generally tell me that my resting metabolism is around 1700 calories / day, but I know mine is closer to 2000. You’ll feel fine on a diet of 1500 calories/day for about a week or so, but beyond that your body could start to fatigue if it is too much lower than your natural metabolic rate. All I ask is that you be aware.

    Good luck! 🙂

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    • liverunloveyoga says:

      Thank you for your comment! That is a long time to be counting calories. I have a pretty healthy diet already with lots of whole foods and lean protein. I just struggle with portion control as I can truly be a bottomless pit but lately I’m not balancing my portions and exercise correctly. I do plan to listen to my body which I have always done, if I am truly starving I will certainly eat! I say 1500 to 1700 calories now but I have only been counting a few days, I’m sure I will learn more and adjust. It’s more or less just learning what 1500 calories looks like and what foods I eat that are higher in calories and when I overindulge (like dinnertime). Ultimately I’ll stop counting in about a month. I certainly don’t want to be come addicted to it or develop any habits like that! Thank you for your concerns and advice!

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