Why Calorie Counting will Change your Life
I first started counting my calories in 2012. I had visited my mother-in-law in Egypt. The food there is not diet friendly and my in-laws would push me to eat more. They would worry I was not eating enough and I did not like their food. In 4 months of being there, I gained 10 kgs (22lb). I went back to Lebanon and at the airport, my dad looks at me and says:" what have you done to yourself?". My father also poked at my weight and it was a big shock for him the amount of weight I gain in such a small period of time. I wasn't feeling so great about my weight and my dad's natural unfiltered reaction to it did not help the situation. I needed to do something about it and that is when I decided to try and count calories. It was hard but I stuck to it. I remember being hungry a lot. As the days passed I got better and better at it. I started being able to eat half a bar of chocolate instead of 2 bars. I was able to organize my food based on how much calories I had left.
In a span of 5-6 Months I had lost it all. Since then I have been counting my calories. I have a friend who is a nutritionist. She said I still have to count my calories for another 3 years after I lose all the weight I want to lose. According to her, it takes the body 3 years to stabilize and know that this is all the food it needs. This made me realize that calorie counting is going to become a part of my life. So I need to know as much as I can about it It became this easy and fast thing that I do without thinking about. It became part of my daily routine rather than a hassle.
In all honesty, I do it on and off. I did not count my calories in both my pregnancies even though now I wish I did. If I am feeling down sometimes I will take a week off my counting. When I take a break from it becomes hard to get back to it or to cap the break at a week. It is so easy to give in and stop counting. That happened to me few times and it was a struggle getting back to it. So I don't recommend it. If you really needed the break then take it but make sure you know it is only for a few days. Getting back to counting will be difficult the first couple of days. It will feel natural again. You need to fight the urge to give in and give up on it.
I found it hard to keep track of the calories when the food I eat is Middle Eastern and is homemade. I started to look into different applications to enter my own recipes. I have been using myfitnesspal since 2012. My problem with this app is when I enter a recipe it asks me how many people it feeds. I find this is something hard to have an answer for especially one that is going to be consistent over time. I did not know how to look at a pot of rice and assume it will feed 4 people. This was not accurate and was subjective. So I looked up other apps and came up with a system that works for me. It seems like a lot of work and it is at first, but you enter the recipe once and the app will have it forever. I rarely need to enter a recipe now.
To calculate the number of calories in a certain meal, I had to decide what a serving is. For me, a serving is 200g. This is a set number that will not change from meal to meal or year to year. When I enter the recipe on myfitnesspal app it is hard to calculate the total weight of the meal. So I found there are 2 ways of doing it:
- I took the weight of the pot I cook in and saved it on my phone. Whenever I make a new meal I weigh the whole thing and subtract that from the pot weight. This will result in the total weight of the meal. I take that total and divide it by my serving weight (200g) and that should give me how many people it feeds.
- I enter the recipe on an app called mynetdiary and this app gives the total weight of the meal. I take that total and divide it by my serving weight (200g). This will give me the number of people it feeds. Then I go and re-enter the recipe on myfitnesspal and input the number of people it feeds.
I use the second option because for me I find it easier and faster. This seems like a lot of work but like I mentioned before, you do it once for each recipe.
In both options sometimes the number of people calculated is a decimal number e.g 10.2 or 10.5. In these cases, I tend to round the numbers 10 and 11 respectively. I choose to exaggerate the numbers than underestimate because I am trying to lose weight. So assuming I am eating more than I actually help too.
Counting calories helped me have some control over my weight and what I eat. It taught me to try and find alternative food or snack when I am hungry. To try to avoid the fatty food I am used to and easily go to. Also, It taught me to be selective with food. I look at something now and decide is it worth the calories I am consuming. I think of my calories as a currency that is running out. What I use it on is very important because once I am out I can not replace it or get a refill for the next day. Before if I didn't like something I would finish it anyway. Now I don't. I can not waste the little calories I have on something that I am not 100% enjoying. One of the tricks I tend to use to stay on track is that if I know I wanted to eat a certain meal or snack during the day. I enter it into the app while I am entering my breakfast. That way I get an idea of how much calories are left for the day while saving a spot for what I am craving at the time.
Do you know of a simpler way to add recipes? Is there another calorie counting app you would recommend?
As I was writing this post. I realized that once I have the total weight of my meal. I could enter that weight in the "how many people it feeds sections" in myfitnesspal. To know the number of calories on my plate. I would enter the weight of the food am going to eat in the number of servings required on myfitnesspal. My problem with this is there is it is not restricted. When I know my serving is 200g I try to eat that much which limits my intake. It is limitless and the only thing holding me back from over-eating is self-control. I lack self-control and if I had any at all I would not be in this situation.