How you can be mindful and aware of calories but still lose weight not having to obsessively count them everyday
This blog post has been buzzing around in my head for months now so I thought I’d actually take the time and get my thoughts down in actual words.
Over the past 16 months I’ve been actively getting healthier, eating better and losing weight. I’ve lost 50lbs in that time and I get asked on a near daily basis how I did it.
There’s been no particular plan, no crazy crazy crash dieting and I haven’t cut anything out. I’ve become more mindful of calories, filling my plate with more veggies and watching my portions. When I say this I often see a look of disappointment of people’s faces and I totally understand why. I’ve been there, wanting a quick fix to what actually is a more complex and long term mindset shift.
I won’t go into the details of how or why I first started making changes. You can read more about that here. Instead I want to chat a little about calorie counting and what part it’s played in losing weight.
Do I Need To Count Calories To Lose Weight?
The simple answer to this is no. There are lots of ways to lose weight that don’t require you to count every single piece of food that you eat. Some people cut out carbs, choose low fat foods or simply make better choices with the food that they eat, all of which can result in losing weight.
However you can’t ignore the simple science of calories in and calories out and any “diet” will only work if you are eating in a calorie deficit.
Some people love calorie counting and find it an easy way to keep track of the food that they are eating to either lose or maintain their weight. But for others it’s totally unsuitable. If you have a history of disordered eating or find yourself getting stressed or anxious about not hitting your target exactly, then it’s always best to avoid it.
For me, I found myself falling into the middle of these groups over the past year. Having knowledge of what I am eating has been really instrumental in losing weight but not to the extent that I track everything every day. So when people ask if I count calories I say no, I’m just mindful of them!
Calorie Mindful Not Calorie Counting
So how does this calorie mindfulness work? First of all I read the nutritional information on packaged foods to get an idea of the calories but also other important nutritional factors too. I won’t always chose the food with the lowest calories. For example if it’s a yogurt I might choose a higher calorie yogurt that has more protein as I know that will fill me up for longer.
The satiety value of food is so important but so are our cravings. If I really really want a particular bag of crisps then I’ll choose those regardless of their calorie count as I know it will satisfy my cravings.
Balancing nutritional needs has also played a part in my calorie mindfulness. If I really want chocolate in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed I will have some. If I was simply counting calories then I might just choose a 200 calorie chocolate bar as it fits into my calories for that day. But being mindful of calories alongside nutrition means that I will have some chocolate but I’ll also try to have a piece of fruit or maybe some chopped up veggies with it.
When it comes to home cooked food I tend to calculate the calorie count of a recipe when I first make it. That way I know what it is and whether is is low, medium or high calories. The next time I make that recipe I’ll know roughly where it fits on the calorie scale. So if for example I know I’ve eaten quite a bit for breakfast and lunch, I automatically have a bank of ideas for dinner which are lower in calories but I don’t need to start calculating them.
Also, being mindful of calories but not counting them daily has stopped me becoming obsessive and causing myself unnecessary stress. There are days where I know I’ve eaten well over 2000 calories but not knowing exactly how much means I don’t get overly worried. I just know I need to rein it in the following day. There are also days when I’m just not very hungry and this method of eating means I actual listen to my body rather than following a set guideline of calories or food for each day.
I know this method isn’t for everyone but it’s worked really well for me for over a year now so I thought I would share it here. Let me know what you think!