My name is Christine and I’m a calorie counter.
Up until two years ago, I honestly didn’t know what a calorie was. I had a vague idea that it was somehow related to food, but having never paid much attention to diet or nutrition, I had no idea that calories were the key to weight loss. I kinda just thought that if I ate healthy food and moved a bit, I would lose weight. When that didn’t happen, I’d get discouraged and give up (usually after caving and eating something “bad”).
Learning about calories changed everything. I finally figured out why all of my previous attempts at weight loss had failed - even when I cut out junk food, I was still eating too many calories. When I actually started to track my food intake, it all clicked for me. I adjusted my eating habits to create a calorie deficit and almost immediately began to lose weight. It was like magic.
Even better, I learned that I could indulge from time to time and still lose weight. There were no longer any forbidden foods that I could never eat again. Obviously, I didn’t make it a habit to waste all of my daily calories on cake and chips but it was great to know that if I ate junk once in awhile, it wouldn’t derail my progress. As far as I was concerned, calorie counting was the easiest and sanest way to lose weight.
It wasn’t until I started reading healthy living blogs that it first occurred to me that there might be something inherently crazy about knowing off the top of your head how many calories there are in 4 ounces of chicken (it’s 120 in case you’re wondering). I began to read countless blogs written by reformed calorie counters who finally saw the insanity of their ways and learned to eat intuitively. It all sounded really warm and fuzzy and made me think I should maybe abandon my reliance on calories to figure out how much to eat.
But the more I think about, the more I’m convinced that intuitive eating would never work for me. I’m the kind of person who will always want to eat more than I should. I know this because I used to eat intuitively and my diet was horrendous - massive portions of refined carbs, no fruits or vegetables, no variety in nutrients. I ate whatever I felt like without giving it much thought, and this is what my diet looked like.
Now I know what you’re thinking – intuitive eating isn’t about eating whatever you want, whenever you want. It’s about tuning into your hunger signals and paying attention to your body. But personally, the idea of eating in a constant state of contemplation (“am I still hungry? Maybe I should set my fork down and think about it before I take my next bite!”) sounds far more tedious than simply serving myself a reasonable 400-500 calorie portion of a meal and stopping when my plate no longer has food on it. Obviously, if I’m still hungry, I’ll eat more and if I’m really full, I’ll stop myself (well, maybe not) but overall it’s a strategy that has worked for me.
I try not to get too obsessive about it. I accept that it’s all based on guess work and you can never really know how many calories you’re taking in. I regard it as more of a guideline rather than an exact science and that has kept me sane over the past two years.
So I guess I’ve come full circle in accepting that different strategies for weight management work for different people. From now on, I think I’m just going to own the fact that I’m a calorie counter – it doesn’t make me crazy. I liken it to keeping track of your daily expenses and making sure you don’t overspend. It’s a way of holding yourself accountable, especially when you know you have a tendency to overdo it if you’re not paying attention.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this – are you an intuitive eater or a calorie counter? Do you think calorie counting is a one way ticket to crazy town or an effective way to keep track of your habits?