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Calories revisited

This past week or so, I have been feeling really good about my food choices. I also feel like I have found a healthy balance again (i.e. not eating an entire loaf of French bread and box of cereal in a few days).

I feel like I’m back in control!

Therefore, I have decided to back off of calorie counting for a while. I had started doing this at the beginning of the year (January 4th) after overdoing it over the holiday break and especially when I began the Pound for Pound challenge in February.

Sure, it took a few months and a few setbacks to get here, but I’m in a good place again now and don’t feel the need to do it anymore for the time being at least. Personally, I think its okay to go back and forth with anything health-related that you do, depending on the situation.

No decision I make on here is forever.  I’ve changed my mind about my diet, about running, and a lot of other things over the past three years. There are things I don’t anticipate changing that sometimes do. I remember saying on my blog that I could never be a vegetarian, ha!  And I actually like to change things up from time to time, I think it goes with the seasons and keeps things exciting for me.

I shared a lot about my personal experiences with calorie counting back in February 2009.

You may also remember, I last gave up calorie counting (and weighing!) in May 2009 and did great until the summer when things got out of whack.

I went back to what I knew would work — food journaling and accountability — in September.  Then, in October I did a 30-day vegan challenge which is now responsible for my new way of living!

Even though I’m taking a break from counting anything, I’m still going to use my journal red notebook to plan meals, jot down notes and thoughts about my eating and workouts but there won’t be any numbers on there for a while. I just don’t need to spend time adding them up and would rather use that time for finding new recipes to try out!

I believe the best thing for me to do is to listen to my body for hunger cues, eat only when I am hungry and fill up on nutritious, whole foods.

But for me, it’s hard to do this all of the time and there will be occasions when I get out of “harmony” with my body, which is when I usually go back to tracking but only temporarily while I get balanced again. I know there are arguments on both sides of calorie counting, but I think it is up to the individual, their situation, and what is healthy for them.

For me, it is helpful to see how much I have “let go” and to become aware and focused on healthy eating. It’s also interesting to me to see how my body needs more certain days and less on others. It’s never the same! It is also one of the tools that helped me lose 70 lbs. But I know a lot of others out there, like fellow blogger Meghann, who were successful with weight loss and did not count calories.

So if you don’t need it, then don’t bother with it. It does get old sometimes and doesn’t give you the whole picture in terms of nutrition. And while this didn’t happen to me this time, calorie counting can also become an obsession and cause you more stress than it will help you.

So I’m not giving it up completely, I’m just taking a break from it for a while. We’ll see how it goes.  I’m confident that with my vegan diet, blogging regularly again, and a renewed focus on more whole and less processed foods, I can do just fine. I’ll still pay attention to the calorie counts of certain foods but I won’t keep a tally.

And by “do just fine” I mean I will be able to stay positive, energetic, balanced, and either maintain my weight or lose a few pounds. I did pledge to lose 10 pounds through the challenge!

This is just my story and my experience. I’m not trying to give anyone any advice other than search inside yourself, learn from your experiences, treat your body well and stay positive always.

Back on track

I just wanted to take this moment to share something with you today. You might remember, back in July, I was experiencing a slight weight gain that startled me a bit. I was also tired, somewhat unmotivated and bored with my “routine.” The summer seems to be a time of temptation for me too, with holidays, cookouts and birthday parties galore.

Once I did some investigating (thank goodness for this blog), I found that I was eating too much and exercising too much for my body. I had lost a bit of control. I also had a sneaking suspicion that some of the sugary foods I was eating were not only NOT satisfying me, but that they could’ve been increasing my hunger.

I decided to start with reducing the sugar in my diet first (checking labels, cutting back on fruit and watching “bad” carbs like baked goods and processed snacks) and I was immediately impressed. My energy was better. Food tasted better. Workouts were more productive. It’s amazing how getting a chemical out of your body will do that 😉 I also realized how carb-dependent and heavy my diet was and I made adjustments to that as well. There is nothing wrong with carbs…I just had that “pyramid mentality” of thinking I needed at least 7 ounces a day and that’s just not the case.

Then, just 8 short weeks ago today, I got really serious. I started counting calories again, though not obsessively, and I realized that I had been eating more because I thought it was what I had to do, instead of listening to my body and paying attention to my habits. Once I started tracking, I could see what days resulted in what calorie intakes and it all started making sense again. I don’t set a range for myself, I just tally up what I have for the day. I know I’m going to have to eat more on days I work out, around my menstrual cycle, and due to some other biological factors. Somedays, especially if I’m not very active, I will eat less.

But having that sheet in front of me also showed that I sometimes eat out of stress, boredom, etc. and I believe I have remedied that now. I think I might almost be a recovering emotional eater! Tracking my meals also helps me plan for the week and be super efficient at grocery shopping. I’m spending less money now and using up lots of things that have been sitting around the house for too long.

I have a very healthy relationship with calorie tracking now. I don’t try to limit my numbers or beat myself up if they go above a certain range. I just live.

And I have noticed that since I’ve been doing that, reducing sugar, and controlling portions again, I eat much less. I don’t eat out of habit or by the clock anymore. I’m not eating a certain number of calories because so and so eats that much. I have stopped comparing myself to other people, other runners, other women my age and size. We are all so different!

I eat when I am hungry, with real foods that I want to eat (not that I think I have to) which satisfy me, with an occasional “treat” (but not every day). Sometimes I don’t need a snack after dinner. Sometimes I don’t need one mid-morning. Sometimes I have a light lunch or a heavy dinner. Sometimes I’m not hungry for breakfast first thing in the morning, so I wait until I am.  Nothing wrong with any of that.

On the exercise front, I have still been working out 5-6 days a week. But I’m not killing myself anymore. I still get a good mixture of cardio, weight training and yoga when I have the time. But I went from sweaty, long and intense workouts that made me want to pass out to shorter, more moderate level workouts that still make me sweat, but don’t zap my energy for the rest of the day. That don’t leave me too tired that I can’t do anything when I get home from work. That don’t make me extraordinarly hungry for the rest of the day and so on. I don’t rely on “calories burned” to determine the quality of my workout anymore. I don’t set time limits…even small bouts of exercise are effective.

Right now, the only thing that matters to me is that I am moving. That I am having fun. That I am honoring my body by giving it what it needs and not pushing it too hard. A little pushing is okay 😉 If I need to rest, like yesterday, then darn it, I will rest. There is nothing wrong with taking a day (or two) off now and then. And naps are such a good thing too!

I also weigh myself reguarly, one time per week, always on Monday mornings before I eat breakfast. I find it is a good way for me to start off the week. Whether it is up or down, it gives me the motivation to set some weekly goals, even if that is just to keep doing the same things. But this works FOR ME and I know not everyone can see it this way. In fact, I used to let a weigh in disrupt my entire week. Now, it is just a side note. I’ve even had slightly “up” weeks since I started this new “track” but I haven’t let it affect me negatively.

Well folks, it has all paid off. In the last 8 weeks, I have lost exactly 10 lbs. I am still not back down to my “happy weight” yet, but I am very happy with where I am at right now. I feel great and I feel the healthiest I have EVER been. I love my diet, my workouts, and the way my clothes fit. I love not being stressed out about food or exercise anymore. Everything seems to be back on track.

I just want to say that if there is something you are struggling with in your life, including weight, don’t give up. Don’t succumb to the stress and the pressure. Search yourself, be intuitive and find a healthy balance for you and only you. Use others as inspirations but not guides. Listen to your body and only speak to yourself positively. If you think you might need professional help, don’t be afraid to seek it out. I think it takes more bravery to do that than anything. You are worth it.

Be kind to yourselves and each other. God bless 🙂