Its now 2 weeks until my sisters wedding and I thought what better way to make sure I keep in shape and fit into my dress than to monitor what I am eating. I have calorie counted for on and off for several years but until I completed my Nutrition coaching I never really understood how many I should be having for my goals. I always used to stick with what the app MyFitness Pal would set as my goal but in actual fact this does not take into consideration how active you are in your job and your fitness levels. It would be impossible for it to ask enough questions to meet everyones needs.
I would attempt to track what I was eating for a few months and then move on to some other fad diet never really getting anywhere or if I did have success I’d just put the weight back on as they didn’t give me the tools to go it alone.
Now that I actually know what I should be having I am amazed at how much easier it is to eat with in my calorie goal… for one I was not eating
anywhere near enough with in my allowance as I was always so hungry on what the app had set which for most women seems to be a consensus that its 1200kcals no matter who you are!
I do not think its something we should need to do but I do feel its a good way to train ourselves on portions so that we can then visually eat what we feel is with in our limit. Its far too easy to over eat even when you think you are eating healthily.
What are calories?
Simplified a calorie is a unit of measurement that tells you how much energy your body
will get from a food. Calories are essential for the human body to survive and function properly. Calories keep us alive!
Calories that we need come from 3 main food groups called macronutrients Fats, protein and Carbohydrates. Calories are also in Alcohol but alcohol has no nutritional value for our bodies.
- Fat provides you with 9kcals/g
- Protein provides you with 4kcals/g
- Carbohydrates provides you with 4kclas/g
- Alcohol is 7kcals/g
Why count calories?
I think we all know if we consume more calories than we burn even if we are healthy eating we will gain fat. Its easy to glance at the calories on a packet and determine if it is low or high in calories but they soon add up. The reality of tracking them on an app is quite honestly a ball ache and not something any of us really want to be doing!
I will not sit here and preach to anyone that you should track calories because I am very much for the idea of healthy eating with out making it complicated.. but in my own experience I have found it to be a useful exercise in training myself with portion control and knowing what foods work well together so that you do not in turn have a plate full of calories, and mindless eating. It has helped me to learn when I am “hungry” and when I am eating for the sake of eating!
You are also far less likely to eat something if you have to track it. It makes you accountable. I think this is why dieting groups work.. I just don’t agree with the principles of some of them especially the measuring of peoples weight as the focus. I used to find it quite demotivating as I was always one of these people that would not lose and when I did it was tiny amounts. It has its place but it should not be the only thing that we measure our success by…they never taught me portion control and I lived off plates full of pasta. It wasn’t for me but that is not to say it doesn’t work for others.
Weight as a measurement…
Its far easier to jump on a scale and see the numbers change than to measure your body fat so its easy to see why we have all become so focused on it but what weight doesn’t take in to account is the normal fluctuations of water and for us ladies menstrual cycles. It is not always an indicator of our success.
Does Muscle weighs more than fat?
How many of you have heard this saying? No of course it doesn’t weigh more! A lb of muscle is a lb of fat. Its just that a lb of muscle takes up a smaller space than a lb of fat.
Should you track your calories?
As I mentioned above for us to lose weight and more importantly fat we need to be in a calorie deficit meaning we eat fewer calories than our bodies will use.
Tracking calories would allow you to have that ice cream your wanting on a saturday night, or a yummy meal out, or the popcorn at the cinema. A treat here and there if you are not consuming thousands of calories in one day is possible without doing any damage to your efforts if you know how much you have eaten.
Its not something I would do forever or is it something we should become fixated on but if you are unsure of how much you are eating or sat there wondering why your efforts are not working it could be the tool to get you on your way to a healthier you.
The days we should probably add up what we’ve eaten are usually the days we don’t so maybe reversing that and tracking what you eat and drink on a heavy weekend will make us more mindful of it.
Would portion control be better?
Yes for sure it would be a lot less time consuming but unfortunately many of us really do not understand what a portion is. We all enjoy calorie dense foods, meals that are piled high with starchy carbs and processed foods full of sugar and fat. Even if we think we are eating healthily the calories can stack up if you eat too much.
For kids portion control is all thats important and making sure they are eating all their requirements of a healthy balanced meal. They should not be calorie counting!
Eating well will improve your health, skin, nails and hair as well as aid your fat loss once this is in combination with portion control and eating with in your target calories there is no real need to track calories unless it works for you!
How to track your calories…
My FitnessPal is the way I have done it. Although if your going to do this I suggest you find a calorie calculator online that will more accurately work out your allowance and then its very easy to manually input this in to the app once you have a figure to work with.
Most calculators will reduce your maintenance amount to fit your goal if fat loss is what your after it will reduce by about 10-15% or around 500kcals per day (250kcals if exercising). I strongly suggest you do not go any lower than this as slow and steady wins the race and your more likely to lose lean tissue mass than the desired fat. If you reduce it by too much you will not have the energy to do anything and your just going to fall off the waggon.
It will give you a maintenance calorie goal which is what you would consume to remain at the same weight and also a goal for if you wish to gain weight. This is usually a 10% increase from your maintenance calories.
There is no need to track your exercise within this app as the calories you will burn have already been accounted for on the calorie calculator. If you do want to track your exercise then avoid eating back these calories.
The calculator will work out your basal metabolic rate (BMR) which is the calories needed just to survive at complete rest, then it will determine how active you are and calculate a maintenance amount and a fat loss amount and one for gaining weight.
Avoid becoming obsessed with hitting your calorie intake exactly, as long as you are regularly getting within 50-100 calories of your daily target you are doing well and will make good progress!
Macros or macronutrients are the 3 main food groups that should make up your daily intake. These are usually worked out based on the grams needed on an individual basis as they are dependant on a number of factors. For now calorie counting should be the focus until you can do this consistently before going on to understand macros!
Tips for successful tracking…
Weighing foods! Is it a cooked or uncooked weight you are recording! For example 100g of uncooked rice contains 350kcal whereas 100g of cooked rice contains just 120kcal.
Focus on calories first! Once you have sussed this you can move on to understanding macronutrients.
Track it before you eat it! You can’t take anything away once its in your stomach.
Before you start making a meal, enter the ingredients into your app or scan the bar code on your food packaging.
Divide your calories between meals! If you are aiming to eat 2000kcal over the course of the day, roughly aim to eat 500kcals for Breakfast, lunch, dinner and 2 snacks!
Do not aim for perfection! It does not need to be exact so aim to keep it with in 100kcals less or more than your target.
Practice! Keep it up it will all make sense in the end!
Break it down into stages! Focus on your calories first then reaching your protein target and then the fats and carbs will likely sort themselves!
Lets hope in 2 weeks when the big day arrives my tips will have helped us all and our dresses will all look amazing!