Thursday, March 15, 2012

Why I Stopped Counting Calories

I have tried several approaches to managing what I eat - the most recent failure was probably calorie counting.

I am sure that for some people, this works great. There are many products and services out there (most of them free, even) that help you count calories. In fact nowadays, you can get an app on your smart phone to input your food right away!

You can now obessively count every calorie that goes into your body.

I was using MyFitnessPal to do this for some time. I did successfully manage to lose a little weight this way.
In theory, to lose weight one must burn more calories than one consumes. I've also often heard 'abs are made in the kitchen', meaning what you eat is vastly more important that how much you can exercise - because you can not out exercise a bad diet.

So, then why did I stop?

For me, this was a terrible plan. I tend to become obsessive about things very easily. In a few short weeks I went from just being myself to being cranky, short with people, and obsessing over my next meal.

I mean - obsessing.

Based on the site, I was suggested to aim for 1200 calories a day. If you split that up between your 5 small-ish meals a day, then you could eat approximately 240 calories at a time.

If you slipped up and had a soda, however, you had to skip a meal to make up for it. Or if you exercised a little, that meant extra calories to spend!

In my case, I found myself scrimping on food during breakfast and lunch so I could have better dinners - or occasionally indulging on a candy bar to find out I couldn't eat the next two meals to make up for the calories.

There are smarter ways to go about this, I realize. I was so frustrated by such an arbitrary number. I was constantly hungry, tired, and moody. I lacked energy and my workouts were suffering. I finally, in a fit of fustration, mentioned all this to my trainer.

Her advice? For one, I probably need closer to 1800 calories a day based on my activity level (CrossFit is murder), and if counting calories makes me miserable - stop!

Stop? Is it that simple? Are all these articles I read about counting calories worthless? Is the idea not sound, was I doing this all wrong?

Well, it was that simple. There is no reason to continue on the path if it makes you miserable and does not work. The idea is sound itself, and for many people counting calories works just fine. It didn't work for me because I failed to address the real problem - what I eat.

If you eat 1200 calories a day in McDonald's, it is not the same as eating 1200 calories in lean meats, fruits, and vegetables. By sticking to such a low number and trying to spread them out - I never had the energy when I needed it. My sugar levels would drop throughout the day and make me insanely cranky. (There is a better word for this, but in the interest in keeping this blog family-friendly, I'll simply say it rhymes with itch.)

Since I stopped calorie counting, I've been more careful about what and when I eat. I know that if eat about 45 minutes before a workout, I'll have more energy. I also know that if I eat something sugary, like yogurt or fruit around 3 in the afternoon I don't 'crash'. I do not skip breakfast, and I try to eat some protien with each meal.

Over the past few weeks, I'm happier, more energetic, and I look forward to coming up with healthy meals. I'm cautious about serving sizes (a cookie is ok, a dozen is not) and I avoid my triggers. I don't keep snacks in the house, and I don't bake.

I have added some evening workouts (running and occasionally boxing) in addition to CrossFit, and this modified plan has really come in handy.

I don't have a clue how many calories I eat in a day, and I don't care. I eat when I am hungry and I listen to what my body tells me it needs.

No comments:

Post a Comment