While restricting daily calories to extremely low numbers is definitely unhealthy, regularly monitoring your calorie intake isn’t. In fact, in my experience it’s one of the only ways I can consistently reach my health and fitness goals!
Disclaimer: I am not a nutritionist, so please don’t take this as if I’m giving you personalized diet advice, because I promise I’m in no way qualified to do that. This is just what’s worked for me personally in the past and the themes I’ve consistently seen through research on the subject. I recommend going to see a nutritionist or talking to your doctor before making any major change in your diet, and of course what works for me may not always be what works for you.
First of all, I’m going to start by saying that eating in a calorie deficit is the only way to lose weight, as long as you don’t have any medical conditions which either enhance or obstruct weight loss, which is why tracking your calories is so important. I have always used an app called MyFitnessPal. You can’t counteract a bad diet with exercise, so you need to have an idea of what you’re putting in your body to achieve a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit is whenever you eat less calories than you naturally burn off in a day. You can find an estimation of your daily expenditure here. Once you know your average of what your body burns in a typical day, subtract 500 calories from that, and that’s around where you should be eating if you want to see weight loss at a healthy rate. (Just make sure you don’t eat less than 1200 a day, because that can harm your health in the long term.)
Personally, I stick to around 1300 a day if I’m trying to lose weight. Some days my average is more, and some days I my average is less, especially if I got a workout in that morning. But for me, 1300 is the number I stick to. It’s all about balance! It’s the long-term average that matters.
As you can see, both weeks had days where I was over my 1300 calorie goal. But the average daily calorie intake throughout the two weeks is 1314, which is right around where I want to be.
Before consistently counting calories, I was the victim of the yo-yo diet, which is when you lose weight super super quickly through extreme diet restriction, only to gain it back just as quickly because of a period of binge eating. It sounds counterintuitive, but consistently counting calories (but not restricting too much) helped me overcome that. 1300 calories is a level that is sustainable for me when my goal is to lose some weight. By filling my day with healthy, filling foods I never feel overly hungry or tired.
Despite seeing substantial weight loss through the past 8 months, (something I’ll touch on more in a later blog post) it was at a slow enough rate that it was sustainable for me. Yes, I lost 35 pounds, but it was over the course of about 32 weeks, which puts me at just over a pound a week. (For reference, a healthy rate to lose weight is 1-2 pounds a week.) I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m getting there. And once I get to my goal weight, I’ll increase my calorie intake to a level that helps me sustain that, and takes me out of the calorie deficit range.
Calorie counting isn’t bad. It’s the only thing that helps me be consistent.
I have terrible self-awareness when it comes to what I eat, so tracking it is the only way for me to keep an accurate estimate in my mind of how much I’m actually consuming. I’m the type of person where if I’m not tracking what I’m eating, I’m probably gaining weight because I tend to overeat. So that’s why I choose to monitor my intake, even if what I eat isn’t always perfect.
Monitoring and budgeting my calories is what helps me live a life I enjoy while also being able to meet my weight-loss goals. I can still go out to eat- I regularly enjoy a Whataburger dinner with my littles or a Torchy’s date with my best friend. I can eat what I want, in moderation, and still advance myself towards the body and health that I want.
Calorie counting, when done right, is not unhealthy. And counting everything I consume doesn’t make it an obsession. It’s just a tool I use to help me shape my body into the way I want it to be. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking something is unhealthy just because it takes some self-discipline and time to get used to it.
If you have more questions on this topic, I am probably not the right person to answer them. However, I would love to help direct you to a source that can answer any questions you may have. Just let me know.
P.S. If you don’t want to count calories, this isn’t me saying you absolutely should. I advocate for self love and body positivity for everyone. I just know for me personally, I feel more confident when I’m at a weight I like. And if you’re like that too, I wanted to share some tips on how the routine that works for me.