special post: “calorie counting”

A question arose on a post, asking whether or not I aim for a certain amount of calories.  Great question.  And now I’ll take the time to respond with what works for me. 

I did calorie count at one point in my life when I was trying to gain weight.  When summer rolls around, my activity level can skyrocket due to hiking, walking, biking, running, etc.  Unfortunately, my appetite doesn’t always go right along with this and I can drop weight without even realizing it.  Now I’m at the point where I’ll just add in peanut butter, avocados, olive oil, etc. without giving calorie counting a second thought.  But for the first time I was trying to gain weight—about 3 years ago—I wanted to know where I could get a good bulk of calories from.

The past year has been completely maintenence phase.  No trying to gain weight.  No trying to lose weight.  Just hanging around a happy weight that can bounce as it pleases as long as my clothes still fit and as long as I’m eating normal and staying active. 😉  So the answer to the question now—at this point—is “no,” I do not aim for a certain amount of calories.  As long as I’m maintaining, I don’t see the need to know the number that I’m consuming (food is more then just a number after all!)  I’m a huge advocate of learning how to listen to your body and your own internal hunger and fullness ques.  This comes with time and I’m still in the process of being able to always listen when my body speaks (nobody’s perfect!.)  But it’s a process worth learning. 😀

Cons of Calorie Counting: My thoughts on calorie counting is that it tends to ignore the fact that a calorie is not just a calorie.  100 calories of Nabisco chocolate crunch cookies is not the same as 100 calories worth of an apple, for example.  I also don’t like that it teaches you to ignore your hunger and fullness ques.  That’s not normal.  It’s not how we’re made.  Some days you may need to eat more then other days and that is okay!!  It’s okay that you’re hungry at 8 and make a small bowl of cereal for yourself.  It’s okay.

Also, no two bodies are identical.  A calorie estimator is exactly that.  An estimator.  It could be off by hundreds of calories based on your own metabolism and daily activity level.

Pros of Calorie Counting—making it work for youI think there’s a concept behind calorie counting that might be helpful if you’re trying to gain or lose weight, and that would be keeping a journal of what you eat for 3 days or so.  This is what any registered dietitian might do when you go to see one, and they’ll usually have you write down what time you ate something and how you felt before and after.  Try doing this for two weekdays and one weekend to get a good general idea of what you’re eating and when.  This isn’t calorie counting but it holds the concept of it.  And it’s a good way to see where most of your calories are going (and whether you’re eating enough or too much!)

So, to sum it all up…no, I don’t estimate a number of calories (although I’d estimate that I probably take in about 2,200-2,600 on any given day.)  My goal is to feed my body with wholesome, healthy foods when it’s hungry and stop when it’s full.  It’s a simple concept but works like a charm. 😀 

Oh, and I posted the above a food pyramid which encourages physical activity and balance with food choices.  It’s a good, healthy concept to follow. 😀

Question: What are your thoughts on calorie counting?