Are you frustrated with counting calories and tracking everything you eat? Find out why I’ve stopped counting and why you should too!
Happy New Year!
With a New Year comes a fresh start! I know for many of you, that involves making resolutions to tighten up your nutrition, get in some exercise, and see some results!
I’ve personally never been one to make New Year’s Resolutions. To me, the word “resolution” has become so overused that it doesn’t mean anything anymore. How many times have I made “resolutions” only to be broken a few days or a few weeks later.
Instead, I like to look back on the previous year and see where I can improve upon myself and then make a COMMITMENT to change. A commitment to myself and to my family that I will become a better person. Whether that’s personally, spiritually, physically, etc.
This year, I have been inspired to change the way I treat my body.
Now, you’re probably wondering what that means exactly. I eat healthy, I workout every day…what could I possibly change?
Well, there are some things you may not know about me. And one of those things is that I’ve been obsessed with counting calories and macros for the past few years.
It started when I was severely overweight after I had my children. I joined Weight Watchers for the first time. As you know, Weight Watchers wants you to count “points.” Every food has a point value, and you get a certain number of points each day.
Shortly after, I got sick and tired of going to meetings and paying for Weight Watchers, so I started using the 21 Day Fix system. Rather than counting points or calories, I was counting portion sizes. This was a real eye opener for me. It allowed me to balance my meals better between protein, carbs, and fats. I had great success eating this way for a while.
I became obsessed with counting my “containers” each day. I filled out the tracking sheets and made sure not to go over my daily allotment. But then I read about macros and the benefit of counting macros to see better results. While the 21 Day Fix system was great, I just felt I needed more carbs and less protein and fat.
So I ditched the 21 Day Fix portion system and started counting calories and macros instead. Each day, I opened up my LoseIt app and faithfully recorded my calories and macros for the day. However, after a while, I noticed that I was still getting really bloated in the evenings, to the point where I looked 6 months pregnant!! I also couldn’t get rid of those stubborn love handles!! I would try and eat less and exercise more, but nothing seemed to be working.
This is the point where I started listening to a lot of podcasts about health and nutrition. And that’s when I came to the conclusion that I was going to follow a high fat, low carb way of eating.
In just a week, I saw amazing results. My bloating was gone and so were those love handles!! Plus, I felt so satisfied all the time. My cravings were completely gone, I LOVED the food I was eating, and my family also loved the food I was making them.
I was still obsessed with counting my calories and macros. I HAD to hit that 60% or more of healthy fats each day. I HAD to hit that 20% or less of carbs each day. I HAD to hit that 20% or less of protein each day. I HAD to manipulate everything I was eating to reach these targets.
It was exhausting to be honest. But in my mind, I thought if I didn’t do it, I would go back to that tired, depressed, overweight mom I used to be.
And then it dawned on me.
Over the past 8 years, I’ve been counting, tracking, and totalling points, portions, calories, and macros, that I’ve stopped listening to the signals in my body.
Since switching to a high fat, low carb way of eating, I’ve noticed that I’ve become much fuller than I used to be. When I ate high carb, low fat, I was always hungry. But now, I can go for hours and hours without eating, and it doesn’t bother me.
However, because I was still tracking my macros so closely, I was still eating by the clock. I was still forcing my self to eat when the clock said 1 pm, 4 pm, 6:30 pm, and 8 pm…even if I wasn’t hungry….or even if I was hungry before then!
I was even weighing myself every couple of days to make sure I wasn’t gaining weight.
Finally, on New Year’s Day, I thought enough is enough. The way I’m thinking about food and my body is abnormal. It is a disordered way of thinking in my opinion.
So why do I keep second guessing myself? Why do I feel the need to be in such control of my food all the time? Why do I get stressed in eating situations, like going out for dinner? Why is my cycle off? Why do I get anxious about missing a workout? Why am I not trusting my body?
I’ve been eating healthy, whole foods for the past 2 months and by now, my body knows what’s good and what isn’t good for it. I’ve tossed the popcorn, protein bars, and licorice and opted for whole foods and I’ve never felt better. My body wants to be healthy and balanced.
So why, when I was halfway through my meal, was I thinking “Wow, I’m not that hungry..but I have to eat this because (insert any reason: it’s so long until my next meal, I won’t have any food around for a while, etc)?”
It turns out, that little voice in my head telling me I’m not hungry is my body’s way of saying it’s in it’s happy place. By pushing and prodding myself to eat no matter what, I was going against my body in the worst possible way.
I have FINALLY REALIZED that measuring and counting what I’m eating is a complete waste of time. My body knows when it’s hungry and it knows when it’s full. It also knows what it needs to eat to feel good.
So what have I done to STOP COUNTING and START LISTENING TO MY BODY?!
I’ve ditched the eating schedule.
I’ve been practicing Intermittent Fasting for almost two years now, and I’ve loved it. However, I was always waiting until 1 pm to eat my first meal – no matter what!! Even if that meant I was absolutely starving. So now, I listen to my body when fasting. If during my fast I become extremely hungry, even after drinking a bunch of water, then I’ll have my Fat Burning Latte! And if I’m still really hungry before 1 pm, then I’ll start eating my first meal, even if it’s only 12 pm. If you’ve tried intermittent fasting and failed miserably, then don’t sweat it – it’s just not for you – and that’s COOL!!!
I’m also not eating by the clock anymore. After my first meal, I may eat 3, 4 or 6 hours later depending on how I feel. If I’m really hungry, I eat. If I’m full, I don’t eat. It’s as simple as that. Even if it’s 9:30 at night, I’ll eat a snack if I’m hungry!
You may be wondering, “how do I know if I’m really hungry?” Here’s what I do. First, I drink my keto lemonade. If I’m still hungry after that, I ask myself, “do I want some raw veggies?” If the answer is yes, then I’m definitely hungry. If the answer is no, it’s probably something else triggering my hunger like thirst, cravings, or boredom.
I’ve gotten rid of the scales.
I’ve gotten rid of all the scales in my house – body scale and food scale included!
Weighing myself weekly and seeing a “certain” number on the scale was becoming depressing and wasn’t helping my body image. If the scale went up 1/2 a pound, I got depressed and usually took that out by punishing my body more during my workouts. If the scale went down 1/2 a pound, I got happy and thought I could eat more that day and treat myself. See what I mean? DISORDERED!!!
I also don’t use the food scale anymore. Now, I’m not saying that you should get rid of your food scale too. If you’re new to eating healthy, I think it’s good to know what a proper portion size looks like. But if you’ve been eating healthy for a long time and measuring/weighing your food, then you KNOW what a portion of protein looks like, you don’t need a stupid scale to tell you EXACTLY how many grams you can eat. Like I said, stop eating when you’re full! It’s really that simple.
I’m taking time to decide what I want to eat.
When I was tracking my macros all the time, I was basically eating the same things day in and day out. This allowed me to always be on point with my calories and macros. But, after a while, that gets pretty boring. I stopped enjoying the foods I was eating. It was like I HAD to eat that, otherwise I might not hit my macros and I might gain weight. Seriously?! Yep, that’s what I thought.
Now, I have no idea what I’m going to eat during the day. Okay, that’s not 100% true. I still have my Shakeology daily as my first meal because I LOVE it so much and it makes me feel good. And, I do plan our dinners out for the week so I know what to grocery shop for. But, if I don’t feel like the dinner we have planned that night, then I switch it to something else I feel like. I also don’t plan my other meals. Sometimes I’ll feel like having a big meal in between my Shakeology and dinner, sometimes I just need a little snack. Sometimes I need a large meal before bed, or sometimes I need nothing if we’ve had a big dinner.
But I always have healthy whole foods on hand so I can just grab what I feel like and eat it. Some of my favourites include: celery and almond butter, turkey and avocado wrapped up in lettuce leaves, Beachbody Performance Recharge, fat bombs, kale, cabbage, or cauliflower pearls sauteed in coconut oil, mixed greens with homemade ranch dressing, hard boiled eggs, nuts, leftovers, etc.
I’m not in a panic if I don’t know what to have. I just open my fridge and ask myself, “what do I feel like today?”
I no longer classify myself.
I used to classify myself as a “clean eater.” Well, what exactly does that mean? Does that mean because I choose to eat healthy foods I’m “clean?” If I choose to eat something not so healthy, does that mean I’m “dirty?”
Many people ask me if I’m eating “keto.” While I do follow a “keto” style of eating, I don’t classify myself as following a strict keto diet. Others ask me if I’m “Paleo.” While I do follow some of the Paleo philosophies, I do not classify myself as strict Paleo. People ask me if I follow the “Bulletproof Diet.” While I do agree with many of their guidelines, I do not follow the diet exactly.
If I stick myself in a certain box, then I start to have limiting beliefs about what I CAN and CAN’T eat. Instead, I have the “intention” to eat low-carb, high-fat rather than “I must eat low-carb, high-fat.” Having the intention of eating that way is much more freeing.
I no longer believe that calories matter.
I used to count EVERY single morsel that entered my mouth. There were even times I spit out a bite of something delicious because I knew I would have to count it. And God forbid if I was OVER my calories for the day!!!
But what I’ve learned is that if you’re eating healthy, eating when you’re hungry, stopping when you’re full, CALORIES DON’T MATTER!!!!
Since changing the way I eat to include more healthy whole fats and less carbohydrates, I’ve noticed that I can actually eat a lot more. At first, I was sticking to the # of calories I ate before, which was around 1800 – 2000. But I started losing more and more weight eating that many calories. That told me that I needed to eat MORE!! So I increased my calories on LoseIt to 2250. But looking at that number each day made me nervous. I wasn’t trusting my body to eat that much. I was still aiming to eat 2000 calories.
I told you I had disordered thinking!!
That’s why I ditched using the app and now just eat!! I don’t worry about the “number” of calories I’m eating each day (which is pretty inaccurate anyway.) I eat when I’m hungry and I stop when I’m full. One day I may eat more, one day I may eat less. One day I may intermittent fast with water, one day I may add my latte (or 2!) I LISTEN to the signals my body is giving me. I know what it feels like to be fueled by fat – and it feels great!! I’ve never felt better and enjoyed food so much!
Are you wondering if you can do this too?
You might be thinking, “Jen, that’s awesome you can do this! But, I don’t trust myself. I would eat cake everyday if it was up to my body.”
This isn’t true!! Your body WANTS to be healthy. It’s giving you signals all the time. When you eat vegetables, how do you feel? GOOD! When you eat chocolate cake, how do you feel? CRAP! When you eat a big salad topped with hard boiled eggs, bacon, cucumber and smothered in a nice oily dressing, how do you feel? GREAT! When you eat a half dozen cookies or a bag of chips, how do you feel? GARBAGE!
The signals are all there!! You just have to choose to believe in them. If we just get out of our own way and let our bodies do the talking, we’re very likely to see the changes we’ve been searching for.
Repeat after me – I AM SAFE! I CAN EAT!
Eat until you are full. You don’t need to restrict. You don’t need to count. You don’t need to weigh. You don’t need to go to bed hungry or wish you had a different body.
I’ve been so surprised with how my mind and body have reacted to this mindset. I actually CRAVE the healthier foods. My body is searching for all the healthy stuff. My body wants to be whole, healthy, and happy.
It’s our choice. Food is food. We feel like it has control over us because we have GIVEN it control! It’s time to take our power back and see food just as food!
Be gentle with yourself. Be kind to yourself. Be open to letting the healing happen within yourself. And remember, I’ll be standing there beside you the entire way 🙂