Sunday, September 28, 2003
posted by Julie |
Finding calorie counting calm
I have a weird affection for my calorie log. It washes me over with immediate calm. Instead of feeling enslaved to it or punished by it as I first did when starting my weight loss, this tool has become my little beacon in a world of confusing and constant choices about what to eat and drink when.
I logged my eating and exercising every day while I lost weight. Every day for nearly a year. I never did that before in my dozens of previous attempts. I'd log for a few days, then believe I had a handle on my eating and drop it before it became a habit. The log often annoyed me, called for more time than I thought I had, but eventually the data became very valuable and helped me understand good days and bad ones, good weeks and bad ones. I learned a great deal about my self, my habits, my metabolism.
So I fired up my logging software today after not using it for quite a while. Since reaching my goal weight, I log only when the scale creeps up a good bit. On my body four pounds of weight gain can be accomplished with water fluctuation, but 5 pounds means it's time to count. Calories in, calories out.
Whether you choose to log on paper, online, or on your hard drive, the process is really pretty simple:
1. Count the food that goes into your face.
2. Count the energy you use up in exercise.
You are working toward two different goals, a number of calories (or points) for the day or week that you don't wish to exceed in food. And a number of calories, or minutes, per week that you want to accomplish in exercise.
For most non-athletic, adult women who want to lose weight and keep it off (that is lose weight slowly), your food number is going to be somewhere between 1,200-1,800 calories per day. Your correct calorie level is one that will allow you to lose .5 - 2 lbs. per week. It will depend on your weight and your metabolism.
(If your metabolism is naturally low or has been compromised, you may need to go a bit lower, but should have medical supervision before attempting it.)
For women, your exercise goal will be 1,600 - 2,000 calories, or 240 - 300 minutes of exercise per week. Men, your exercise will be the same, but your calories will be higher, by a good 500 calories or more, which is why we don't like to lose weight with you. We want your food.
These are simple goals, made simpler when you become fluent in the nutritional value of the foods you eat, the energy value of the exercises you like.
You become fluent by reading labels, consulting calorie counters, reading exercise-calorie charts.
You can, if you choose, become hung up on the long-term vs. short-term value of various exercises for overall calorie burning, the value of various nutrients for adding or preserving muscle mass, or you can keep it simple -- alternate aerobic with strength work, and count the caloric value or minutes of your work against your goal for the week. Simple.
You can, if you choose, change the ratios of your macronutrient values to see how your body reacts, whether you feel more energy or more hunger with higher or lower fats, carbohydrates, proteins. That work has certainly helped me over the long haul, or you can keep it simple and just count the calories.
You can count the trans-fats and saturated fats you eat compared with the other types, or just avoid those nasty fats altogether.
You can count your servings of fruit and veggies vs. starches and sugars, but I recommend you make up your mind to cut the sugars and limit the starches.
You can make things as complicated and confusing as you like, if that's what blows your hair back.
Or do the easier thing. Count calories in and calories out. It's this little thing, this tracking effort, that works to calm me down. It calms me because I know my weight is under control even if I didn't eat as many veggies today as I want to, even if there isn't a piece of fruit in sight of this hotel room, a veggie on that train.
If the week ahead churns along without me whittling away at my exercise goal, I will know it. It can't slip by me, because there it is, in my log, which is near my body, always. I can't forget.
It's a good crutch, this log. And right now I need it.
Never tried logging? Try it now for free at fitday.com. Or try any of the logging software packages (I use Healthetech's BalanceLog). There are many and multiplying online diet programs that charge a fee and offer their own food and exercise logging applications (Weightwatchers.com, ediets.com, ishape.com). Or try a notebook, a pencil, and a good nutrient counter. Give yourself a one-week trial, just to see if you think it's a useful tool.
FitDay's log online
Nutrition data online
Downloadable counter from Calorie King
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