30-Somethings - New here, also question on counting calories

01-21-2012, 11:35 PM
Hello all!

I just joined up to get some support in weight loss. I find it helpful to talk about it with people, but my friends don't appreciate hearing about it all that much! haha.

So, I'm newly in my 30's. I've had pretty decent short-term success in the past just counting calories and getting in some regular (ish) exercise. But now, after yo-yo-ing for the past 5 years I find myself at my heaviest.

My question is about calorie counting. I spoke to a counselor fairly recently and he poo-pooed the idea of counting calories. He said it's too obsessive and makes you want to eat more in the long term, thus the weight gain. I understand this, and sort of agree with it. But I've tried South Beath, weight watchers and such and they have that effect even more! Obviously not depriving myself of food isn't working, so I have to do something.

So how do you feel about counting calories? And what is a good calorie goal range for a day? I aim for between 1500-1700, but I don't really have a basis for that except that it seems like a good range.

Thanks, I look forward to making progress with my new friends here :D

01-22-2012, 01:43 AM
Hi Cupid. I think when we start any diet, we become obsessed. We get mired in the details and then due to the reduced food intake we become obsessed with food. In the short run. Not sure that in the long run counting calories makes us want to eat more because I can say that personally counting calories has been to me a real eye opener.

Bottom line, any diet is reduced calories being responsible for the weight loss. Reduced calories is the common denominator, regardless of the program. I am learning, with skepticism, to respect the calorie is a calorie is a calorie mindset. The freedom in calorie counting is.....nothing is off limits. I feel counting calories has been the most normal "program" I've ever followed. If I want something I can either budget ahead of time for it, or I can in the moment take note of what I've eaten and make an educated decision whether or not it fits in, and if it doesn't whether or not to splurge anyhow.

What kind of counselor were you speaking with--was it a diet counselor? Was it a diet counselor who endorses a particular program?

Since you wrote that depriving yourself wasn't working---then don't deprive yourself. You need to put a plan in place and follow it to the best of your ability. Know your options and have those options available. Plan snacks and build treats into your program.

I am 52. I have been dieting since h.s. Either I starved myself, or I did Weight Watchers, or Herbalife shakes, or Slim Fast, and in my early 20s lost 30 pounds in just over 2 months on QWLC eating about 700/800 calories a day. Did any of that work? Sure. I lost weight. Did I ever maintain it? Not for long, no. It was a vicious cycle. I only learned recently that I have to eat healthfully for the rest of my life. I GET IT. Does that mean I'll never indulge in anything decadent or never eat poorly or too much? No. However, if I'm conscientious 99% of the time, those occasions when I overeat or plan for a celebration, etc.....do minimal damage. Damage that can be undone in the short term.

In July 2011 I joined WWPP b/c my employer offered the program at work at a discount. I received a 45% refund for attending 80% of the meetings. It ran 17 weeks. I had already started eating better on my own and lost 8 pounds before joining. I was super gung ho about it and gave it my all. By week 9 I had lost 4 pounds and was very discouraged. It wouldn't have been so bad had it been consecutive losses, but it was up/down/up/down and not enough to keep me motivated. I found the program not only disappointing overall but cumbersome when trying to break a recipe down to a points calculation. Also, the fruit issue (its "free" its not "free") was problematic b/c when you added fruit to the WW site's recipe calculator and it should come up as 0 points, points were indeed added to the portions. Anyhow, I double tracked 1200 calories vs. 29 points, and the difference was amazing....I was eating a LOT of food at 29 points. WW has since, in Dec. 2012, revamped its PPlus program to address a lot of dissatisfaction from clients with "less to lose" at 29 points across the board. Anyhow, I switched to calorie counting at 9 weeks in at a WWPP loss of 4 pounds, and by the end of 17 week I had lost another 16 pounds counting calories. Then, Thanksgiving, Xmas and New Years arrived and I ping ponged 2 pounds during those celebrations. This week, I am back down to 170 and looking forward to losing the next 10 pounds, having gotten back to being serious instead of allowing myself to indulge and basically maintain.

I'm totally sold on calorie counting, and I know I need to do this forever. Fortunately, we are all pretty much creatures of habit and the longer I do this, the easier it gets.

Good luck to you whatever method you decide to employ.

01-22-2012, 01:59 AM
I have found that counting carbs is much easier. I can eat until I am full, and will stay satisfied longer on high protein/fat. After the first week, my cravings for sugar and carbs disappeared along with my appetite. It is my new way of eating for life, not just a diet for me.

01-22-2012, 03:24 AM
I think whether it's obsessive depends on your point of view, your approach and your personality -- the other side of the coin is "dedication". Is a professional athlete obsessive if she swims six hours a day to reach her personal goal, or dedicated?

I have been counting calories for 3 years now, including maintenance. I try to go to the gym five days a week too. There are people I know who would call that obsessive, some of them fat, some of them naturally thin. On the other hand, they balance their checkbooks to the penny, and consider that to be a healthy financial habit -- I don't. And I have never had an overdraft either.

For me calorie counting is a routine habit, as much as brushing my teeth after meals, which helps to keep me healthy and gives me a dietary check which I clearly don't have intuitively.

To me, if it causes you stress or damages your health, it crosses the line into obsessive. Or if you have significant anxiety if you don't do it. But you have to judge your own personality.

ETA: Forgot the other part of the question. Everyone's calorie setting will vary depending on their metabolism, and how quickly they want to lose, remembering that a very restrictive allowance will cause many people to rebel and fail. You could also separate developing the habit of *tracking* from the start of *calorie restriction*, if you think that will be a potential source of anxiety.

When I started calorie counting, I first spent two weeks not trying to restrict, just carefully noting down what I normally ate. (With a scale and a measuring cup, which was a real eye opener about what kind of portion sizes I was consuming.) Then I set my LoseIt app to lose "one pound per week", which worked out to about a 3500 calorie deficit over the week, or 500 calories less a day -- for me about 1600 a day total. That turned out to be pretty accurate for losing one pound a week in the long term, although not consistently every week by any means. I also looked at the dietary guidelines on the Mayo Clinic web site which advised I try to eat at least 70 grams of protein a day, and between 25-30% fat, minimize saturated fat etc. As I planned out how to hit those goals it turned out I had to build more protein into my diet, and make the deficit by eating lower calories in carbohydrates and fat -- LoseIt and many other apps allow you to quickly check a running total of calories and nutrients like protein, fat, fiber etc. so it was very handy for that. So I ended up eating lots more vegetables and fruits than before (fewer calories but more filling) and slightly less bread, pasta, cheese, having dinner with no starch side dish but 2-3 different green-red vegetables, etc., though I still eat about half my calories in carbs. For about two-three weeks I was really pretty cranky; but at the end of three weeks I was also three pounds down. So that motivated me to keep on, and to channel my energies into finding great new ways to cook, explore some creative packed lunches, and try new vegetable and lean protein dishes. Especially ones that I can grab when I come home tired from work, which is dietarily a vulnerable time for me: 3FC was very helpful there! Somewhere in there I started losing cravings for sugar and fat too, although I am careful not to keep my danger foods lying around the house. And I have a freezer and fridge full of some great home made entrees, colorful vegetables, and a repertoire of lunch dishes to grab and go.

You could start by looking at what kind of record keeper would fit well into your life, and tracking what calories you are eating right now, and what kind of nutrition-- try searching the old threads for "calorie counting apps" or "record keeping". That could help you develop the habit without having to worry about restriction yet. Then you could try either for a deficit of a certain number of calories, or a percentage, like 20% less than you are eating now. 20% or 500 calories is an amount which is manageable for a lot of people (not too drastic) but does get you started examining your food habits, and get you to think about what are your vulnerable moments, when you are reaching for foods you might not need nutritionally -- that deadly 2-3 pm lull at work? After the stressful class when you want something to comfort you? Coming home from picking up the kids at school when the fast food sign beckons? Sitting in front of the TV after dinner?

01-22-2012, 08:20 AM
I disagree with the counselor you spoke to. I have found calorie counting the most reliable way for weight loss for me. Some of the previous posters have pointed out some good facts about calorie counting.

01-22-2012, 09:14 AM
Counting is the only thing that has worked for me long term, obsessive, yeah a little bit, but I'm obsessive anyway and would rather do this than be 268 lbs again, good luck!

01-22-2012, 09:30 AM
If you're like me, you got fat by eating mindlessly whatever looks and feels good at any old time. And the only way to lose that weight is to become completely mindful of what you are eating. Complete mindfulness, coming after years and years of complete mindlessness, is going to feel a little like obsessing over every bite. That's true no matter what method you use to achieve mindfulness - calorie counting, carb counting, South Beach (which still requires measuring and portion control and journaling), whatever method you choose.

Becoming aware of what you eat, after years and years of habits of eating without thinking beyond "hm that looks good", requires a high degree of attention, thought, and analysis which can easily be dismissed as obsessiveness. But I do believe it is necessary.

That said, while I have lost nearly 115 pounds by calories counting, for most of the first two years and 100 pounds of that process, I did not strictly count and record my calories every single day. I developed a staple rotation of meals and snacks whose calorie counts I knew, and kept an approximate tally in my head most days. I only did strict recording and journaling for a few days each month, as a sort of sanity check or reality check. When you are as heavy as I was, the process can be very forgiving and doesn't require such strict rigor. I lost the weight without writing down every nibble. It wasn't until I got closer to a healthy weight that I found I had to be more rigorous with my calorie counting.

In terms of mindfulness though, I was always fully engaged. The fact that I wasn't recording every morsel doesn't mean I wasn't focused on every food choice and mindful of how I handled each eating opportunity (even if I decided to make an off-plan choice occasionally). As I said, the mindfulness is an essential component.

01-22-2012, 10:37 AM
I'm not good at counting anything....calories, points, carbs. It overwhelms me and I feel frustrated at trying to figure out the value for every single meal and snack. I'm currently on a low carb diet for diabetes. My nutritionist has me on a 1500 calorie/30 g per meal plan. I focus on the 30g instead of the 1500. I find that by limiting my carbs I'm actually reducing my calories anyway. The only problem is that some days I'm not sure if I'm getting enough calories which isn't good either. I'm also struggling with feeling satisfied by my meals. A lot of times I feel deprived. And I have bad cravings. So I'm not really settled into this plan. But everything else I've done hasn't worked. I'm hoping I'll figure it out soon.

In the end it really does depend on the person as to what plan you should follow because we all react differently. I don't think there's anything wrong with getting obsessed about it as long as you're not neglecting other areas in your life. I'm the type of person that really has to throw myself into it to stay focused. But I do think that getting so obsessed makes me tired after awhile so it's harder to stay on plan. One day I'll accept that this is my new lifestyle and not think about it as much anymore.

Good Luck.

01-25-2012, 07:23 AM
I found counting calories very useful. Unfortunately, I have to stick to a very low calorie count to lose - don't know why, my body just works that way. Eating more than 1100 a day will stop my weight loss. What I like about it is that, if I have to go somewhere or need to eat something that's not on plan, I can just adjust the calorie count somewhere else. If I'm going out for dinner, I'll keep the bulk of my calories for the evening. I figure it works!