Friday, May 20, 2011

Guest Post: No more counting.

My name is Kate...
and I was a fat teen, a fat geeky teen. I used food as a comforting best friend. It never was mean, always made me feel good and was always around. Growing up, I always assumed I would be fat, that gaining weight was what adults did. That was one fact of life that could not be changed.

Until I changed the facts. After experiencing the theft of my pick up truck, nearly six months of insomnia and the comfort of McDonald's I made the wonderful decision to look in the mirror. I hated what I was, I hated getting winded walking up a flight of stairs and more importantly I hated the fact that I was the cause of it all. So with much encouragement from my new found (at the time) sweetie, I started working out and became The Shrinking Geek. I worked out until my feet hurt but I started to lose the weight. Then I had more energy so I started eating better and better.

Now I live in Wisconsin and spend my time indulging in all my favorite geeky activities, working out, blogging at and watching the scale slowly go down and down. Some day I will wear that Princess Leia gold bikini...

First thing first, I do not count calories any more; at least not as most people would recognize it.  I have been traveling this slow methodical weight loss path for so long that counting often slips my mind.  I almost always know what and how much I am putting into my body, however.  The other day on Facebook I saw my sister in law in shock over the amount of food, the breakdown of carbs and such.  She started the classic first step, a food diary and a calorie counter.

Do you remember first counting calories?  I do, vividly.  The first time you see that bag of “healthy” baked chips at 140 calories for 10 chips.  Heaven forbid you eat a candy bar and see the 290+ calories.  And how about that bowl of healthy granola you ate every morning only you never measured a serving size so that first morning you realized you were eating 460 calories of cereal and 160 calories of 2% milk.  The numbers can knock the wind right out of your sails.

The natural, human response to this sudden knowledge is to stop eating, apparently.  You just stop eating as much as you can.  We have been trained to “understand” that fewer calories equal greater weight loss.  That is true, for as long as you maintain your starvation rate of 700 calories. Eventually you become so hungry you start a binge that involves dipping everything into massive amounts of chocolate and scaring your family. That is where we fail, we either make a mistake, give up or we become more even more restrictive.  Where is the fun in life when you can’t eat?

Most of us struggling with weight loss have to work through the fear of calories, food and whatever you food-vice is i.e. sugar, carbs.  For some people they eat a controlled diet, learning to count calories and ride this through every up and down.  The fact is most of us can’t do that.  I am a self described geek; I have tried apps, websites and software to count them for me.  It is never that I forget or feel bad for what I eat, I stop eating.  I over analyze every piece of food in my mouth.  When I actively count calories I never really break 1000 calories without feeling guilty.  

People never do the math on how much they SHOULD be eating or they don’t do it honestly.  There are a few different ideas out there on this topic.  I, personally, use a BMR calculator and eat at about my goal weight.  The reason is because I want to lose weight slowly but continually.  This has been the best method for me because I rarely feel “hungry” hungry.  The BMR calculator works like this, you look at your weight and activity level and using math to figure out how many calories you should be eating.  There are simpler charts out there but here is my favorite calculator  There are a few fundamentals to keep in mind as well, such as any number under 1000 calories a day could throw your body into starvation mode and a body in starvation mode eats its muscles not burn the fat.

What can we do to over come this shock?  I think every person has to figure out what works for them. The easiest thing you can do with this calorie information is to use it.  Spend a few weeks learning what you eat daily food costs in calories.  The truth is most people generally eat the same food or type of food. Once you integrate this information into your active memory you really only need to think about the extra food you add on an irregular basis.

I know during the work day I eat about 900 to 1000 calories all day long, literally I am snacking all day.  The food I snack on is always measured out.  I eat on most days granola or some whole grain cereal, a serving of nuts or unsalted seeds, 2 or 3 piece of fruit (like an apple, a Clementine and something) and most times a sandwich or just more cereal.  Those are the foods I can count on eating every day, add in a cups of coffee.    That leaves me about 500 to 800 calories for dinner or snacking at night.  It’s easy, I am in just enough control that I am never really hungry or binging.

The biggest thing you can do is not beat yourself up or obsess.  Remember that you want to lose weight for ever and what you do to lose it must work with your lifestyle.  You can not live your life with out ever having chocolate again and most people can not document what you put into your mouth every day.

This works for me; it has enabled me to have lost over a hundred lbs.  I lose small amounts every week but I am always losing something.  I also am very human, and if I stop at Walgreen’s to grab toothpaste or nail polish occasionally I fall of the healthy path and buy those Reese’s cups I always want.


Missy said...

So glad you posted here! I'm now following your blog, as well. What an inspiration you are!

Jason said...

Kate is spot on! Most people have no idea how much food they actually eat, even people who claim to eat healthy! Then when you compare the amount of calories in a candy bar to, say, chicken breast, the sheer volume of food you can get away with eating is astounding.

Eventually we get over the desire to consume tons of food, and our tastes even change as we stop eating certain kinds of things (snickers bars) all the time.

It's awesome when your "counter" kinda goes on autopilot and you don't have to even think about it anymore. Your perception of what is the right amount of food is correct, and it feels great!

Well done, Kate! Thanks for being an example to so many!

-jason (another shrinking geek)

Meg_Meyer said...

For me, the food journal, helps to see where my calories are coming from and noticing patterns. Like one cocktail leading to three, or being surprised that the handful of gummy worms are 360 calories of corn syrup. Yes, I already know that these are not ideal foods, and I don't beat myself up if I give in to a craving.

But, seeing the pattern and making the decision about which splurges are worth it and which are just self-abuse (McD's) are essential to shifting the psychology of what I put in my body from self-loathing, to self-loving.

And it's really cool to go back on a day when I'm feeling off - and see what I did or didn't eat the day before and make the mental connection between the two.

But I totally agree with Kate on the not-obsessing thing. Especially in the beginning, try different things and discover what works best for you! :)

Meg Meyer - the Belly Dancing Interweb Geek

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