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To Count or Not To Count

January 13, 2010

Well, Christmas, New Years, and the Wedding are all over.  That means it’s back to regularly scheduled programming here in Boston.  I originally intended for this blog to help document my journey to becoming a Fit Bridesmaid.  Well, I may be more fit than I was, but I’ve still got a long way to go.  And no more weddings (at least that I will be in) any time soon!

Over the past 2.5 months, I have really gotten my exercise down (which isn’t that unusual for me!).  Unfortunately, as I was just reminded on Caitlin’s blog “what we look like is 80% nutrition, 10% working out, and 10% genetics” .  Thus I really do need to focus on my foods.

This is where my question of “counting” comes in.  I did Weight Watchers for about 5 years.  The first year I totally changed my eating habits and lost 20 pounds in six months.  Then I graduated from college, went to grad school, started my job, etc.  and I let my eating slide.  Confession time: I have not gone to WW in about 4 months.  The reason is:  I wanted to stop focusing so much on food.  I mean BEING OBSESSED with food.  Every bite I just knew it was “good” or “bad”, how many points it was, etc.  I couldn’t STOP thinking about food.  Then I would binge.  Then I would be mad at myself and say “Okay, now I will be perfect!”  Oh, until the next time I did the same thing.  I had an all or nothing mentality.  You know that story about the carton of eggs?  Why would you drop all 12 if you only had dropped 1?  YUP I WOULD SMASH ALL TWELVE INTO THE GROUND!  (and then some!)

Anyway, for the past few months, I have been trying to just eat normally.  I have tried out some new healthy recipes, and began to read about nutrition and educate myself.  The good news is that I haven’t really binged (aside from an over indulgence in white wine) in the last few months.  Unfortunately, I haven’t lost weight either.

So I decided to count calories for the last two days.  I joined Sparkpeople (although I could just do it myself).  I didn’t want to count calories to the point of food obsession again, just for some information.  And it was interesting.

Here are my foods from yesterday:

Breakfast: 2 slices of canadian bacon + 1 c. of pineapple spears ~~ 162 calories

Morning snack: carrots + hummus ~~183 calories

Lunch: apple + peanut butter ~~ 508 calories

Afternoon snack:  chocolates + bark ~~ 180 calories

(I had to walk down the hallway to get my camera before devouring these pieces of chocolate.  How’s that for self control!) 😉

Dinner:  Southwest Shepherd’s Pie + 1/2 c. peas ~~ 472 calories

Evening snack: popcorn + almonds ~~ 272 calories

(I only ate a bit of popcorn, since the almonds filled me up.  I’ve decided to add them to my snacks.  They truly are so filling!  Weight Watchers had me shying away from nuts, at least when I was concentrating on Core/Filling Foods, since they weren’t “on the list”.  I understand that it’s very hard to have self control and “eat to satisfaction” when nuts are involved, but they are still so nutritious and filling when used correctly!)

So my total for the day was 1,777 calories.  In looking at my total for breakfast, no wonder I was STARVING by 10am! Therefore I decided to switch things up for today and eat more calories in the morning:

Breakfast:   apple + peanut butter ~~ 508 calories

Morning snack: carrots + hummus ~~183 calories

Lunch: New Orleans Chicken + 1 c. pineapple spears ~~ 329 calories

Afternoon snack:  almonds ~~ 173 calories

Dinner:  Southwest Shepherd’s Pie + 1/2 c. peas ~~ 472 calories

Now in reading “The New Rules of Weight Lifting for Women”, for me, he recommended about 1800 calories on non-workout days and 2100 calories on workout days.  So these should be about right on target.

Again, I was only doing this to gauge what I had been eating and see where I might be lacking.  The other thing I noticed, in looking at my two days, was that I don’t have a lot of carbs/whole grains.  I have been so afraid of breads and pastas, etc. for so long, I just don’t think to eat them.  I will try to add some in.  And according to spark, I have a bit too much fat, but it’s all from nuts, so I’m okay with it.

I think I might try to count calories some more and get myself “back to reality” and “back on track”.

Do you “count” calories or try to “eat intuitively”?  Any thoughts on my two days of eating?

Again, I should mention that all of these foods never left me feeling hungry (okay, except for my measly little breakfast on the first day, but I’ve learned)

By the way, I went to the gym this morning.  I’m switching my training sessions to Wednesday mornings in order to get at least one morning in.   I ate my apple and peanut butter before I went and was doing great until midway through the third round.  Then . . . nausea!  I got through it, but I had to sit down a minute!  Also, despite the fact that I was IN my bed by 10:56pm, I tossed and turned until at least 12:30am.  So I took a little nap after the gym this morning before work, which turned into an hour!  Oh well, hopefully I’ll get this sleeping thing down soon.  I need to replace the light bulb in my little lamp so I can read a bit before sleeping.  Hopefully that’ll help!

10 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2010 7:24 AM

    Ok. I am by no means an expert on this topic. The only thing I can share is that during college, I gradually gained 7-10 lbs from my high school weight. It wasn’t really a big deal to me, but in the back of my mind, I wanted to look a bit better. However, I had no idea what I could change in order to shed a few pounds since I was already working out 6 days a week for an hour or more! And I ate fairly healthfully. I did eat a lot of processed foods, but calorie wise I’m certain I was eating the right amount-not too much, not too little.

    Once I started graduate school and moved to a new city, I vowed to myself that I would try to lose the weight. I planned my meals, cut out desserts, continued to work out, etc. And it was too hard! I was always messing up and it put me in a funk about not being able to lose the weight. So I just kinda stopped worrying and started eating whatever I wanted. (But I kept up the exercise.) Somehow, in three months, I lost the 7-10 lbs! I have no idea how. I didn’t even notice until I came home for Spring Break and my mom commented on how I’d lost weight. I’ve come to the decision that it was because I stopped worrying about it!

    I think our bodies intuitively know how much energy we should be eating. If we just let our body guide our eating choices, eventually it will settle into our ideal weight.

    Anyway, I just wrote a book…I hope it was somewhat helpful.

    • January 14, 2010 10:37 AM

      Wow, that was a book! Yes, it is a fine line between watching what you eat and being OBSESSED!! Like I said, I did this as a “check-in” and for information. I really do not want to go back to counting. I’m hoping that just by focusing on healthy foods and staying active, this will happen naturally. Already back in December (after I had been trying to eat well for a while and started into my weight lifting routines), I had someone ask if I had lost weight. While I hadn’t, obviously changes were happening. I really want to relax about it and it will happen on its own. (Relax and not worry, not relax and eat CRAP!)

      Thanks so much for your thoughts!! =-)

  2. Angie permalink
    January 14, 2010 10:14 AM

    Hi Anne- I’ve been reading your blog since I saw it on Facebook 🙂 You know I struggle with weight but here is my opinion. I count calories. It just helps me to know about where I’m landing. It’s so easy to eat 4-500 extra calories when you’re not thinking about it. In a perfect world yes, we would only eat what we need, but our culture is so food centered, and junk food is so prevalent that I need something more to make sure I’m on track. Plus I have 25+ years of bad habits. I use a free online program from that I really like. You can track calories, add your exercise and run all sorts of reports (burned vs. eaten, nutrition breakdown, averages, track weight, and more).

    I work out 5-6 mornings a week, 3x strength+cardio, 2-3x just cardio. 1500-1800 calories a day- low on cardio only days, high on lifting days. 40% calories from carbs, 40% from protein, 20% from fat. I try to eat my carbs (ie quick energy) earlier in the day so they have time to burn off.

    Of course I still have cheat days or little treats, but having to enter them and see visually what that looks like with my nutrition helps me to stay focused and really choose when I really want the treat, or when I’m just indulging because it’s there.

    • January 14, 2010 10:36 AM

      Angela! You look so good now! I do appreciate that by tracking you have to be accountable to yourself. Maybe I’ll lok over at fitday and check it out. Again, I’m just trying to not be too obsessed with food. The problem is IT’S EVERYWHERE!!

      Thanks for reading and for your thoughts. I know it’s a very tough subject and no one has the real answer.

  3. January 14, 2010 4:56 PM

    My lord do I understand this problem of the food obsession and feeling like it’s always on your mind. I counted religiously for a while and it ended up leading to a lot of anxiety. Though I’m still glad I did it, because I learned a TON about the macros of what i was eating. Now I am able to really just mentally guesstimate about where I am in my head. I have a good solid idea every day of what i’ve eaten within a few hundred calories. Right now, that’s working great for me. And i believe strongly in not changing something until it stops working for you, ie. if my weightloss start stalling, i may start counting more exactly again, but not until then.

    making big batches of food really helped me a lot as well. it makes me feel like i’m not CONSTANTLY cooking and cleaning and prepping. Many suggest sunday and wednseday as prep days for the rest of the week’s food. it also has helped me to come up with some easy staples that are nutritious and delicious and non-thinking. for me, fake parm (grilled chicken, tom sauce, green beans), pumpkin protein pancakes, bacon+eggs, steak+veg, shrimp+broccoli stir fry…. things like that.

    finally, I’m going to say (hopefully with no offense taken) I have BIG issues with WW, for some of the reasons you mentioned. I know it’s changed a bit recently and has begun to address some of these issues, but I think it’s very difficult to get enough healthy fats or protein following WW points, and not nearly enough emphasis is placed on them. I can’t get behind something that’s going to have some crazy processed fake oatmeal cookie product for 1 pt but assign a billion points to almonds. I’ve seen a lot of people successfully lose weight on it, but whether or not they really eat WELL following WW is highly debatable imo.

    Also, totally OT, but I thought you might appreciate this read about supplements vs whole foods :

    and finally, ON TOPIC, a FAVORITE nutrition series of mine from one of my favorite nutritionist, John Berardi. This pretty much sums up what I believe and would aim for (just linking part 1, i’m sure you can find the rest lol) :

    oh and PS. I do intend on eventually doing a nice big nutrition post on my blog. hopefully you’ll find that of some interest in your reading when I get around to it 😛 and sorry for another novel reply.

    • January 14, 2010 5:33 PM

      Yes, I understand your issues with WW. They did change about 5 years ago and added the “Core” plan (now known as Simply Filling) which focuses on a list of whole foods and eating to satisfaction. When I originally lost the weight it was using the counting plan, although I’ve had some mild success with Core over the last few years.

      I think that WW is great for someone starting right out of the gate who has NO IDEA what they are doing. I mean I went from eating crap to healthier eating processed crap to eating less processed more whole foods to whatever the hell I’m eating now.

      The past five years may have warped my relationship with food, but I do know a heck of a lot more than I did five years ago. And can probably guesstimate what is a correct portion size, etc.

      Look forward to your post on nutrition. I’ll keep doing my own research for now as well.

      Thanks, Katie!

  4. January 14, 2010 5:37 PM

    I also meant to say that I my other reason for quitting WW was that it gave me an unhealthy obsession with the scale. Like I would try to avoid salty foods the day before weigh-ins. Then if I was up one week (despite feeling great and feeling great about what I had eaten or even not!) I would feel like a HUGE FAILURE! And the shame cycle would start again.

    I know it’s not FAILURE but FEEDBACK, but still. It’s so hard facing it every week and not getting results.

    • January 20, 2010 8:22 PM

      I’ve been meaning to add… I recently have totally overhauled my weighing because of similar feelings. I used to weigh daily, in the AM, same clothes after peeing (aka some conditions). Supposed to be the best way to weigh ( ha ha ha…bad pun references), but it was putting a lot of pressure on me and I was getting overly focused on the numbers. So lately I’ve only been weighing at the gym, that way I know that conditions are NOT the same every day and when I see fluctuations, I know that I CAN’T pinpoint the reason. It might be what i ate, bloating, i haven’t peed, what i’m wearing….who knows what. This way I really just watch trends and can’t get focused on the specific number because I know it’s going to be so different daily. I don’t know if that’s something that would be good for you too but I’ve found it surprisingly good for me for the time being 🙂


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