I was recently contacted by a lovely reader who is looking to get on the healthy eating train. She asked me a few questions and I asked her if it would be alright if I talk about it on the blog since I think it would make a great post.
Her questions are:
- Is calorie counting the answer and what worked for me.
- What motivated me to start and what keeps me motivated to eating well?
Just a really brief background on me and weight-loss for those that might not know that part of my journey. I was 60 pounds overweight and over the course of a year through exercise and healthy eating I was able to lose the weight. I have been in maintenance mode for almost a year now. And while I realize this is not about my husband, the effects of healthy eating changed him as well. He did not add any additional exercise into his routine, just from healthy eating and cutting out crap/processed foods, he lost 20lbs. Pretty fab, right?
This is a picture of Scott and I on our wedding day. It’s really hard for me to look at old pictures of myself because I realize that is not “me”. I’m somewhere hidden away inside. I don’t have many pictures from this time either because I couldn’t stand having my picture taken. Another indicator that this wasn’t “me”. The real me loved having her picture taken!
I’m going to split this up over a few posts otherwise it’s going to get super long!
Let’s tackle calorie counting first!
I did not, nor do I now, count calories. Several years ago when I had a false start (False Start: v. Where you try but only half-assed and are not really focused on the end goal) in trying to eat healthy I used a free online program to help me track food intake. I hated it. It was so tedious to try and input everything and remember what I had and how much.
It drove me crazy.
This time when I started, I wasn’t even thinking or looking at calories. I went by portions, hunger levels, and increased my fruit and veggie intake a great deal.
I decreased my portion sizes and if I wanted seconds I made myself really think it over before getting up and getting more. I wanted to make sure that I was still legitimately hungry and not just looking for something to do. That might sound silly but if my husband was still eating then I wanted to sit with him spending that time together. Which would lead to picking at food or eating more when I didn’t really want it. I only did it because it was there. That’s a topic that could be a whole other post! We’ve all been in that situation before I’m sure.
I learned to stop eating when I wasn’t hungry anymore. If I waited until I was “full” then I had already overeaten. This did take a while to adjust to and I had to pay attention to my body and what it was saying to me. That meant I had to slow down and take my time eating. Sometimes I’ll take a break. Put my fork down and talk with my husband. Drink some water. Check out my surroundings if we’re out to dinner. Something for just a minute so I can have a moment to see if I’m satisfied or still hungry.
I absolutely hate the “over-full” or “over-stuffed” feeling. Honestly, I hate it. It’s uncomfortable to me and I really feel like a bloaty blah. Because I hate that feeling so much I really try to avoid it. Which brings me back to paying attention to how I feel when eating and what my hunger level is like. At first it takes a lot of practice and focus but once you become used to listening to your body, everything becomes second nature. Of course there are times when I still eat a bit too much and become “too full”. I’m only human! But it’s not that often and the majority of the time I know my limits.
The only time I pay attention to calories is when running. I check my heart-rate monitor after a run to see what my stats are. I don’t do anything with this number other than record it so that in the event my HRM doesn’t work or I don’t have it, I will roughly know what I burn on a 4 mile run and so on.
That said, on my long run days I will take in more food to keep everything in check and balanced because I’m in maintenance mode now and I need to make sure I keep fueling myself and not creating a deficit. I’m still not counting calories though. I have no idea what the calorie amount of anything is! I just know what my usual amount of food is and realize I have to up that just a bit on more intense workout days, so I do. But I also make sure I don’t over-do it therefore blowing the workout.
Veggies and fruit started making appearances at every meal. Fruit at breakfast, veggies and fruit at lunch, and more veggies at dinner. Eventually my veggie and fruit portions got bigger while everything else decreased. Now I cannot get enough produce! Just ask my husband because he’ll tell you all about my produce love and how quickly I can get cranky when I don’t get it.
Produce and whole grains make my body feel awesome and like a well oiled machine. When I don’t get them I feel blah and my skin starts to turn grey. No lie! It has way less shimmer and UMPH. I look run down. My eye baggage starts collecting more baggage and I enter zombie mode. It’s not a pretty thing to witness!
Does this mean I think that calorie counting doesn’t work? No, because everybody is different and everyone responds to different things. Calorie counting might work out really well for you. Just as long as you don’t tell me that you’ve reduced your calories to 1200 a day because I will smack you. Women need more than that to thrive. In all seriousness. We need to fuel ourselves properly and feed our bodies. If we do not bad things can happen.
A lot of people have had success with calorie counting and measuring out foods for portion control. Eating healthy is definitely an experiment with ourselves. We need to learn how to listen to our bodies and understand what it is trying to tell us. Try a bunch of different things. Counting calories, not counting, measuring portions, eyeballing portions, and listening to your bod. You will find the answer but it might take some time. Patience is key.
Really for me it came down to listening and learning about my body. Understanding what fuels it the best and what it thrives on then making sure I provide that as much as possible. I do not like the way I feel when my body doesn’t get what it wants. Since I don’t like that feeling, I try to avoid it as much as possible. Yes it takes time to learn how to listen to your body. And yes you have to be strong enough to make the right decisions for it. We all have that strength and ability, we just have to trust ourselves and our bodies to realize we are doing the right thing.