Q: Is calorie counting the only way to lose weight?
A: Is it the only way to lose? No. Of course not. Is it my preferred method? It’s helped me to lose over the weight and keep it off for a few years, now.
We have to define a few things, here, in order to make sure that we’re referring to the same concepts.
Firstly, there are tons of ways that people “lose weight.” People mindlessly cut out entire food groups, avoid certain food items and stick to merely fruits and veggies all without counting a single calorie… and if that works for them, that’s awesome.
That would never work for me, and I know that. You’ve just gotta know what works for you.
For me, I had no previous knowldge of what to expect from certain foods in regards to nutritional content. I didn’t know that I should expect a tablespoon of butter to have more calories than the veggies I was putting it on, so to be more mindful of how much I used. I didn’t know that the mayonnaise I was putting on my bread had more calories than the bread in and of itself. I didn’t know that the bread on my sandwich was often more calories than the contents of that sandwich.
I didn’t know that the breading on my fried chicken was often more calories than the chicken itself. I didn’t know that the oil I fried my chicken in was more calories than itself. Hell, I didn’t know that I could enjoy the chicken without the breading or the oil… but the shock that came from the caloric breakdown of my fried chicken compelled me to learn how to enjoy it without either.
Calorie counting, to me, forced me to study labels. I learned where I could expect the largest quantities of fat. I learned where I could expect to find high levels of sugars. I learned where I could expect to find high quantities of salt. I learned where there were too many chemicals, not enough fiber, and virtually no nutritional offerings. I suppose that calling it “calorie counting” really doesn’t do it any justice when I did more than count calories, but calorie counting was the vessel through which I learned to understand food.
It became even easier when I branched out and began to cook on my own. Not only can I estimate how many calories are in a fourth of a cup of flour, but because I cook so often, I know how many calories are probably in that cake… those cookies… that cupcake. I know how many calories are in a 4oz piece of chicken, a few tablespoons of typical frying oil (or peanut oil) and the flour (and possibly buttermilk) used to fry it.
Calorie counting also freed me. It allowed me to learn how to learn to develop a balance and plan for social events when I can. If I know I’m going to have a day where I’m dining out at a fabulous restaurant with a in-house baked chocolate-raspberry lava cake that I know I’m gonna want? I can better prepare myself by eating differently during the day. Calorie counting freed me from feeling like I had to fear food and what it would/could do to me. Calorie counting helped me accept what I was eating, and helped me learn how to balance the calorie-heavy with the calorie-light.
For me, calorie counting was more than merely counting the calories. I learned food in a way that allowed me to branch off from calorie counting and to a more knowledgeable and comfortable form of eating to not only fuel myself, but enjoy myself in the process (“the process” being cooking, plating, dining and overall enjoying the time spent with my family.) I don’t have guilt or apprehension about what I’m eating. I know exactly what I’m eating and can accept what that brings to me – either a challenge of balance, or the comfort of knowing I don’t have to bother.
As I often say, with losing weight, it’s often about everything except food. In fact, the food is often the last thing it’s about for a lot of people. Once you get down to the brass tacks of it all and begin to learn to understand food again, you can, in fact develop a sense of what it’ll take for you to both live healthily and lose the weight. Doesn’t feel like it should be that simple, but it has been for me and that’s what I often promote here.