Counting Calories – Yes or No…

I recently read how counting calories is a bad thing, do a search on Google and you will find numerous posts all stating the same thing.

I disagree!

I have been using MyFitnessPal since late January (2013) and what it has done is open my eyes to not only the calorie content of products but also the nutritional breakdown of a product too.

When I started out I was consuming around 1000 calories just in a morning! This was just a bowl of cereals early on, I have to eat within half an hour of waking up otherwise I am starving, this was usually followed by some toast mid-morning after doing the school run and settling down to read my emails. I always thought my choice of breakfast was relatively healthy, that is until I started counting calories and realising that I was not only consuming far too many calories, but that reasonable diet I thought I had was in fact the complete opposite. To some extent it was reasonable, much more reasonable that the diets of many other people as I pretty much cook all meals from scratch, rarely have processed foods and even less often than that get take out or eat out!

You will have heard me mention before how that ‘suggested serving’ of cereal that you pour is in fact more likely to be 3 times than what is quoted on the box and I couldn’t believe how much calories there are in butter and marmalade!

Cue some changes…

It all started out with a lot of trial and error but rather than submit to the suggested serving of cereals, I now vary my breakfasts and feel much fuller for longer. I might have poached eggs on wholemeal toast (no butter) or perhaps protein pancakes topped with fruit. I still have cereals occasionally, but I rely on my scales to ensure I don’t have any more than double the ‘suggested serving’. I also try to have a protein packed breakfast where possible to ensure a steady release of energy as opposed to something that will give me energy for a limited period and then cause me to come crashing and reach for the nearest snack… again usually bad!

A lot of the concerns about counting calories were how it would lead people to make negative changes i.e. not eating foods such as nuts due to their high calorific content even though they are good for you. I have to say in my case this is untrue, I actually eat more nuts than I used to do because I have come to learn that they are an essential part of my diet.

Some also voiced their concerns how you can become obsessed with counting calories. I admit in the early days I would plan what I was eating meal wise so I knew how many calories I had left for snacks and treats and you could perhaps say this was obsessive, in my case I don’t think so, it had such little impact on my day. We have to take care and pay close attention to other aspects of our lives, so why not tracking your consumption? As time has gone on and my diet has become progressively better sometimes I don’t even log what I have had until the end of the day. The reason for this is that I have generally learnt what is high / low calorie and what is good / not good for you.

Another also felt that people would instead turn to diet products that are quoted as low-fat, low-cal and various other items in a bid to keep fat and calorie content down. Again not me, I have tried diet food in the past, mainly as one offs if they were on offer. But generally I found that they all tasted bland and I would then be reaching for something to satisfy me, not only that but if I knew I couldn’t make that particular meal from scratch for those amount of calories then I knew something wasn’t quite right and that meant processing!

I guess what this post is saying is don’t always believe the hype (especially in the trashy mags!) – find what works for you and you alone! I personally could not live off diet foods or severely restrict my food intake. Instead calorie counting has taught me to find better foods to consume and I now actually eat far much more than I used to eat before calorie counting. Secondly, do your best! Don’t let people put you down or try take you off course. Remember a diet is a temporary fix, one that you are likely to fall off from, learning about what you consume is something that will change your life and it is exactly what I intend to do! Slow steady progress means you are more likely to see continued results.

As always my diary is open to view on MyFitnessPal. You will see some days are better than others, in fact I had a bag of crisps today (Monday) but the rest of the day was pretty impressive! Well I think so anyway and it is a major improvement from 7 months ago!

This is what I ate…

Breakfast

  • 65g Serving of Fruit n Fibre
  • 125ml Milk

Lunch

  • Mushroom omelette using 2 eggs including yolks, cheddar cheese and semi skimmed milk cooked using Flora Low Cal Spray
  • Homemade Juice – Pineapple, Jalepeno Pepper, Spinach, Kale, Celery

Dinner

  • 175g Diced Turkey Breast in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce (using Cream Cheese, Gia Garlic Paste, mixed herbs and chestnut mushrooms) and cooked in Coconut Oil served with 75g Brocolli.

Snacks

  • x2 Nairns Oatcakes with 12g Peanut Butter
  • 50g Total Greek Yoghurt with 18g Granola
  • 30g Peanuts (I had these as I was low on fat intake for the day… our bodies need healthy fats to aid the absorption of essential nutrients!)
  • 1 Bag Salt & Vinegar Squares

I also drink lots of green and peppermint tea and water!

Total calories consumed 2087, with a pretty perfect nutritional split across carbs, fats and proteins. I did however burn 667 from exercise.

MFP Nutritional Breakdown

See… told you I ate a lot!

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2 thoughts on “Counting Calories – Yes or No…

  1. It sounds like you have made calorie counting work for you and as a general guide. I did definitely personally find it helpful in finding out that I was using all my calorie intake on non-nutritious high calorie foods (hello cake!) and it meant I could identify this and increase my intake of highly nutritious, protein rich foods which kept me fuller too! When reading this though I can definitely identify with some of the ‘traps’ you mentioned e.g. being a bit obsessed/cuckoo about counting, and trying to fool the system with low-fat low-cal ‘goods’

    So yes, definitely a useful tool, but am happy that I’ve reached the point where I just understand food and my body better and not have to use it 🙂

    • Exactly and I believe that is the whole point of calorie counting, especially in the early days so that you can learn what foods are and aren’t good for you so that it becomes second nature. I’m still experimenting with various foods so I shall continue to track my food intake for now but generally I know what I am putting in my mouth is good for me, but that takes a lot of learning and getting used to especially when there are so many quick fix solutions being marketed to us!

      Glad to hear you have successfully moved on! 🙂

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