I believe eating can be intuitive. I really do. But if there’s anything my 80 pound weight loss taught me, it’s that I am a calorie counter. As someone who lived the majority of her life overweight, struggling to losing weight and yo-yo dieting, I know myself well enough to know I have zero control when it comes to food.
Eating intuitively, with no rules or boundaries, listening to an internal hunger or fullness mechanism to stop eating, sounds entirely magical. Perhaps even more magical when you’re a reformed overeater like me. Or maybe it sounds magical even if you aren’t, and you just think cupcakes and cookies are two things that trip the wires in your brain that tell you when you’ve had enough. For me, I don’t have those mechanisms. I can go on eating forever.
I know eating in an intuitive way exists and for those who can eat this way, I imagine it’s a whole wide world of wonderful. I imagine it must be the most liberating feeling.
Despite the way it may seem to a non-counter, those who count calories have found (hopefully) a healthy number range for their bodies. I realize some people take this to the extreme and restrict food to the point of under nourishing their bodies. I’m not one of those people. I’m the opposite. Calorie counting is what works best for me. I need boundaries when it comes to food, otherwise I under consume one day and binge the next. I’ve been down that yo-yo path and I never want to go back.
I like to compare calorie counting to sleeping. Ideally we’d all fall asleep when we’re tired and get up completely rested. However, it’s not that simple. We live in the real world, with real stress, hard work, a crazy multi-tastking society that push us to not rest as much s we know we need to. Still, we value our sleep. We need sleep. Over the course of our lives, we’ve discovered the number of hours of sleep we need for our bodies to properly function. We stick to that number as best we can. Yes, our level of tiredness varies day by day and yes, sometimes we don’t need the same amount of sleep every day but still we try to adhere to a schedule that we’ve learned overtime works best for us.
Calorie counting is no different than sleep. It provides a standard that you attempt to maintain day to day. There’s nothing wrong with calorie counting. It’s setting a goal and structure around your eating behavior which I believe people who are overweight really need. Regardless of how active you are, you are what you eat. If you’re like me and have a tendency to over eat, then becoming aware of how much you’re eating and what triggers that behavior is the key to unlocking your weight loss.
Let’s face it. Obesity is a serious problem in our country. Access to unhealthy food and huge portions is a problem too. Have you seen the portions restaurants serve? They’re 2-3 times what we should be eating in one setting. Children are more overweight now than ever before. The overly processed and sugar ladened foods aren’t helping either, but sugar & processed foods are just one component of weight loss. At the end of the day, you can be eating the healthiest of healthy foods and never lose a single pound. Why? Because you’re grossly unaware of how much you’re eating.
When I finally got serious about my weight loss, I tracked my food with the LoseIt app which I still use to this day. Back then I was eating somewhere between 2,500-3,000 calories a day and I wasn’t very active. The average female range (depending on activity level) is 1,800-2,220 calories a day to maintain current weight [Source]. Starting the habit of tracking what I was eating, not only helped me lose the weight but also made me more conscious of my poor eating habits and gave me the boundaries I desperately needed with food.
Whatever your range may be, the point is if you’re eating above that range then you won’t lose weight. In fact, you may be slowly gaining. You have to eat at a deficit to lose weight. Some people take this to the extreme eating at extremely low levels and counting every morsel & crumb. That’s not healthy or the purpose of counting calories. Losing weight safely means (to me) subtracting 100-200 calories from your number. Yes, your weight loss will be slow but that’s the way to keep your body safely nourished while you’re going through your weight loss process.
Ever since I started counting calories, I’ve maintained a daily goal number. That number has gotten looser and much less rigid in the past few years as I’ve been in maintenance mode, but I’m still aware of it. I don’t track everything I eat to a tee like I did before. In fact, there are days I don’t even enter my calories in my app. Tracking my food intake for many years taught me how much food I should be eating every day. It adjusted my behavior. Now I can count it in my head without thinking too much about it.
Calorie counting has gotten a bad rap. People can disagree with me, but I disagree back. I believe it is entirely possible to have a healthy relationship with food and be conscious of the calories you’re consuming. It’s not a prison of numbers. It doesn’t have to preoccupy your mind, your whole day or your life. Calorie counting allows people who are overeater type A, like me, to plan ahead and feel reasonably in control. I think intuitive eating is fantastic if it works for you. I’d even call it ideal if it worked for everyone. It’s something I hope to achieve someday. But for now, I’m comfortable calorie counting and I’m not ashamed of it. I’m a calorie counter & proud of it. Weight loss isn’t a one size fits all. Everyone has the responsibility to discover what works best for them and this is what works for me.
As always, consult with a medical professional if you are considering weight loss. I encourage you to know your numbers and understand your behavior with food.
Are you an intuitive eater or calorie counter? Do you have control with food? Everyone is entitled to their opinion so please respect mine as I do yours.
Linking up today with Amanada @ Running with Spoons
Lots of Health, Food & Love,