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Featherweights For those with just a few pounds, or trying to lose those last few pounds.

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Old 07-23-2010, 05:43 PM   #1
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Default Do you think you HAVE to count calories to lose weight?

I'm so conflicted on this issue. On one hand I know the science behind weight loss and that counting calories works. On the other hand I know myself and that I can get highly obsessive with food if I'm counting calories. Also, I love to cook and entering every ingredient into Fitday or whatever to get the calories is such a pain. Plus it drives me nuts when I have NO idea how many calories is in something when I go out or eat with friends. Like what's the point? I also have this weird obligation when I know a plate of food has 400 calories or whatever that I eat it all since it fits in my daily calories and if there's some left on the plate that I'm wasting calories. I know this is crazy, but I do it.

I also feel counting calories isn't sustainable in the long term and that once I stop I'll gain it back. But I know to lose the last little bit of weight counting calories will probably be necessary.

What are your thoughts?
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Old 07-23-2010, 05:55 PM   #2
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I know that all I need to do is cut out sugar. I have only lost weight once before, and that time I got down to 113 by simply avoiding dessert. (I gained it back by going on vacation, eating dessert and a whole lot more, and then never getting back on the wagon.)

This time I counted. I don't know why: I think I felt like I was supposed to, even though I was able to lose effectively before without doing that. As it turned out, counting actually messed me up for a while because I cut my calories too much and didn't lose. But, when I figured out a range, I was fine. I lost 21 pounds counting.

But, that said? I think I want to go back to just moderating dessert. Counting calories is too obsessive for me, and my metabolism doesn't require it. I think I do myself more harm than good counting calories. I will find myself over and over eating under what my body has proven it can handle without my gaining weight, because I am so focused on a number.

I can eat a lot without a problem. I knew that once. I still know it now. So why is it so hard now for me to accept it, when I never worried about such before I counted calories?

Last edited by Petite Powerhouse; 07-23-2010 at 05:59 PM.
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Old 07-23-2010, 06:03 PM   #3
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instead of counting why don't you really just pay attention to what you're eating. make sure half of your plate is covered in veggies and maybe use a smaller plate.
i know what you mean with eating all the calories in a day! i do that too, even if i'm not hungry.
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Old 07-23-2010, 07:56 PM   #4
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Hi! Well I know for sure that South Beach Diet, and I think Atkins Diet (and Sonoma, probably some others), don't count calories at all, they are all based on food choices. The theory being that if all the foods you choose are nutritionally dense AND in proper portion sizes, you'll be OK in the calorie department. That's the theory at least, I think the portion size screws people up (me included).

My experience, briefly:

I dropped 13 lbs to 129 (I'm 5'6") on South Beach, not counting a single calorie.

Then I gained weight and trying South Beach again wasn't working - I suspect I was eating too much cheese/nuts, etc. and not enough veggies (which wouldn't be the case if I had done South Beach by the *rules* and paid attention to # of servings/day etc.)

So I went to calorie counting. That's when I found myself budgeting for all kinds of crap in my 1400 calories. It was shocking what I could justify

Now I do a hybrid - I plan my foods by South Beach principles (lots of veggies, no sugar/white flour etc), AND I count calories for accountability but I am mostly focused on good nutrition. I think once I am confident that I can plan good meals/days I will drop the calorie counting.

When I have a day of good choices and then check the calorie count, it is almost always between 1200-1400. That's amazing to me. I've checked it repeatedly.

But it's those "good choices" that I struggle with <sigh> ...

ETA: To address your actual question, I don't think you have to count calories - it just helps if you need to tighten up your diet a bit and see everything laid out for analysis, if you will. I find tracking good for a lot of reasons - it is helping me see my fiber intake, carb/fat/protein ratio (although that's a WHOLE 'nother topic about what is the right ratio), sodium, etc. etc. But like you, I don't know yet if I want to - or even could - do this forever.
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Last edited by EmmaD; 07-23-2010 at 08:03 PM.
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Old 07-23-2010, 09:16 PM   #5
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I know I have to. It doesn't mean you have to.

I cook a lot out of Everyday Food so it has the nutritional information in there. If I'm using a recipe that doesn't have nutritional information, I use sparkrecipes. Also, I just switched to Daily Plate and find it a lot more user-friendly than Fitday.

When I go out to eat I do my very best to choose carefully and then enter my very best and most honest estimate of what I eat. Unless you eat out a lot, being off a few hundred calories won't kill you (I really don't eat out very much).

As far as feeling obligated to eat all my calories -- I never feel obligated to eat them all. If I come in under one day, I just save those calories so I can go over on another day. It's all about averages, after all.

Lastly, I don't foresee stopping. I plan to count calories forever. If at some point I find I have learned to eat more intuitively or I have gotten so used to eating certain things in certain combinations that I don't have to count them, that will be nice. But I love my new shape so much that counting calories forever is an absolutely reasonable price for me to pay.

But, as I say, that's for me. You have to find something that makes you happy and sane and is sustainable. If it doesn't meet that criteria, it's just another drop of the yo-yo.
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Old 07-24-2010, 09:38 AM   #6
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I've been counting calories for at least 6 years I don't intend to stop, I like it it keeps me accountable. Some days are awful some are really good... \

As EmmaD said I know that when I have a good day and input the data I'm also usually at about 1200-1400 calories... So I do intuitively know when I haven't done well, and this is usually when I eat too much sugar or carbs, so eliminating sugar and bad carbs is key...
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Old 07-24-2010, 10:34 AM   #7
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Several years ago, I shed fifty pounds without counting calories. (I had collected those fifty during a major life change, over about a year and a half.)

Without keeping track of exactly what and how much I was eating, for me, meant that I would eat what I wanted, and a few pounds would creep back on. I'd cut out some things, be fine for awhile, get sloppy, or eat because I wanted to tranquilize myself with food and not deal with what I wanted not to have to deal with. I fiddled around in a ten to twelve pound range for about nine years. Early this year, that ten-to-twelve-pounds-fiddling-around became a few more pounds.

As someone here so aptly put it, something clicked! I lost fifteen pounds by my usual methods and then realized I was going to need something more, and would need to change my lifestyle, habits and thinking, f o r e v e r. I looked up things, read and read and read, calculated, and ended up finding 3fc as a new, if determined, calorie counter.

I have found out that the formulas for calculating calorie needs in the dozen books I've looked at, the online calorie calculators, and many folks' opinions, about what someone else should or shouldn't weigh, eat, etc., don't work for me.

I was already eating very healthfully, making almost everything from scratch, no sugar, no wheat, no trigger foods, no processed foods, many things organic, no sodas, no alcohol, and so on.

I now need to keep track of what I eat and make sure I only eat nutrient-dense food, that is good for my own needs, and when I need them. By writing down what I eat and when I eat it, I can note when I feel better or worse.

Counting the calories is a method that works well for me at this point in my life. I don't know if I will count calories for the rest of my life. I do know that I need to hold myself accountable for what, how much, and when I eat. Writing it down helps me take better care of myself.

Some count only carbs, some follow a predetermined regime so that they don't have to weigh, measure, count, and look up these things, others do something else. I like choices. Calorie counting, for me, gives me choices.

I now know at what food intake levels I maintain the weight I now have, and at what levels of cutback I can lose weight without feeling weak or having urges to eat things I usually don't want. I know that by cutting back by not very much, I can move forward in becoming sleeker and fitter, without jeopardizing nourishment or triggering metabolism slowdown.

Hope this is of some use to you.

Am sending you good thoughts for success in whichever method you choose.

Last edited by SilverLife; 07-24-2010 at 10:40 AM. Reason: corrected error
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Old 07-24-2010, 12:01 PM   #8
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Thanks for the input guys it gives me a lot to think about. I think I'm going to just try intuitive eating for awhile and if (when?) the scale gets stuck then rethink things.

Silverleaf - we've been eating a lot of organic lately and I think it's been a big reason why I've broken through my 135 plateau.
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Old 07-24-2010, 01:36 PM   #9
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Not only did I count calories to lose weight , I count calories to maintain that loss. It's much easier than having to wear xlarge clothing again.
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Old 07-24-2010, 02:32 PM   #10
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For me, calorie counting was a binge trigger. So, I'm working at the intuitive eating thing because I want a direction that will be sustainable for me.
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Old 07-26-2010, 11:26 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by ainsleymom View Post
Also, I love to cook and entering every ingredient into Fitday or whatever to get the calories is such a pain. Plus it drives me nuts when I have NO idea how many calories is in something when I go out or eat with friends. Like what's the point?
What are your thoughts?
That was my thinking as well. I lost weight after second child 10 years ago with calorie counting and I managed to maintain for 9 years. I don’t know how, as I never counted calories after I reached my goal. I guess your body get used to small portions and your brain trained very well on which foods are high in calories.

Any way, I managed to gain 16 lb in 2009, well, a lot of big changes and stresses in life, so I guess I really comforted myself with potato chips too much.

When I decided on Jan 4, 2010 to get rid of my extra 16 lb I started to count calories and lost around 7-8 lb in first month , but then because of the “pain” of counting I decided to try ‘Intuitive eating” – didn’t loss anything , but didn’t gain ether. Then I tried Low Carb for 2 months. I saw 129lb tree times on the scale and I did see 135 lb. Weight would jump like crazy up and down. After 2 months of low carbing I lost 1 pound.

Here I am back to counting calories again to finally get back to 124, so based on my experience I have a bad news for you…there is no pleasant or not painful way to loss weigh but hard work. Good luck.

Btw, we are the same height and I am so surprise how big difference 5 pounds makes, don’t you? I think my last pounds all hanging on my belly, which I never had before, even with 2 kids, I managed to have flat stomach before I gained weight.
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Old 07-28-2010, 12:41 PM   #12
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No way do you have to! It's a great tool for many people, but I am not one of them!! I lost weight pretty easily just by making good choices. I gained some of it back once I started making poor choices again (and I was fully aware of this.) Now I'm back to my better choices and it feels great. I would give calorie counting a try if I struggled to lose weight my way, but it works and feels comfortable for me.
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Old 07-30-2010, 10:07 AM   #13
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I know I have to. It doesn't mean you have to.
^This. I too can be a bit obsessive, but over time I've learned to relax and I usually have a pretty good idea what I'm eating whether or not the cals are provided. I also know that a slip every now and again isn't going make me gain back all my weight overnight. I fully intend to keep counting long term, and I'm not sure if or when I'll stop. It's so easy for me now I don't even notice I'm doing it. But this is what works for me and I can see how it wouldn't work for everyone. That said, after I gained my baby weight I lost it (50lbs) + another 10 lbs by just watching my portions. I then maintained that for about 4-6 months by continuing to eat that way and then I needed something stricter to get these last 30 lbs off. So anything will work as long as you stick with it. Good luck!
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Old 07-30-2010, 12:11 PM   #14
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It's impossible for me to count calories because for some reason, I don't believe calorie counts. It can say right there on the package that it is 100 calories. And I say, "No that's too tasty, it must be 200 calories." So whenever I calorie count, I always round up by 50-100 calories. And as a result, I undereat.

I know, it's completely crazy. But I'm totally irrational about calories.

Instead I believe in portion control. I love to measure food. I will gladly measure 1 T of olive oil as one serving. But I don't count the calories in it. I eat pre-measured foods that are nutritious and delicious and I have been losing weight doing it.

My system isn't perfect as I avoid foods that I don't have a measurement system for. But for the most part, I eat nutritious meals.

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Old 08-08-2010, 04:16 PM   #15
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I know I'm obsessive with counting my calories at times, but I know that if I didn't count my calories, I wouldn't have been successful. Now that I've met my goal weight though, I want to lose a bit more weight, but I'm not completely strict with counting. I'm weaning myself off of counting.
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