Because life is too short to give up good food for the sake of calorie counting…
Before I get started with this week’s blog post, I think it’s very important to go over a few things. First of all, I am NOT a fitness or nutrition professional in any way, and have 0 qualifications in this area. This post is based completely on my own research and experience over the years, and this does not mean that my methods will be right for you. We all have our own (wonderfully) unique bodies and minds that require vastly different approaches to fitness and weight loss.
Secondly, if you struggle with restrictive eating in any way, calorie counting may not be for you and this post may be triggering. If you think this may be the case for you, please look after your mental health and give this one a miss – I’ll look forward to seeing you for next week’s post!
With all the important parts said and done, let’s delve into the world of calorie counting without sacrificing your fun and social life!
During my monthly weight loss updates, I’ve mentioned a lot about how stripping back the layers of fads and unsolicited advice and focusing solely on calories has allowed me to reach my goals without feeling overwhelmed or overly restricted.
Having been calorie counting for a few months now, I’ve managed to get into a pretty decent routine. Here are the top 5 habits that help me get the results I’m after!
1. Don’t set your calorie target too low
This is so important, and I have seen tonnes of ‘calorie target calculators’ on the internet that recommend drastically low numbers, especially for those of us who are on the shorter side! Most macro calculators recommend that I stick to 1400 calories (or even less) daily, which for me is totally unattainable.
Also, if you drastically cut your calories all in one go, it’s going to be INCREDIBLY hard to stick to. When looking to set your daily calorie target, make sure to really do your research and consider your personal goals and what will work for you. If you’re looking for a good online macro calculator, I would highly recommend the JSA one for more realistic targets!
What I did at the beginning of my journey was get an idea of roughly the calories I should be eating using the JSA calculator. I then gradually worked my way down to this number. Slowly reducing your calorie intake is much more sustainable as it allows you to mentally get used to eating less, rather than having that shock to the system of a harsh change (nobody likes being hangry).
Also, if your body is used to you eating, say, 2500 calories a day, then you may not need to go down to 1700 immediately to see progress! When I began my weight loss journey, I was eating 1800 calories a day and consistently losing 1lb a week. Once that weight loss slowed, I dropped to 1700, and again to 1600 which I’m on right now. There was no need for me to immediately drop my calories down to 1600 to see results, which allowed me flexibility in my diet whilst also progressing well. And, it gave my body the chance to slowly adapt and avoid being hangry every day. Wins all round!
2. See you calorie goal as a weekly target, not a daily one
I’ve mentioned this one a few times in my monthly updates, but it’s something I’ve found extremely helpful. This is essentially what has allowed me to nail the ‘not sacrificing fun’ part!
Telling yourself “I MUST eat my exact calorie target each day” is not sustainable (for me at least). After all, we’re human! We don’t have the exact same level of hunger every day and it’s important to be mindful of this and listen to our bodies. Some days I naturally come in at under my daily target, and some days I feel extra hungry and go a little over. As long as it balances out over the week you’re golden! Don’t force yourself to eat if you’re not hungry, and don’t force yourself to not eat if you’re extra hungry – our bodies know what’s right for us!
3. Don’t feel you have to eat all of your exercise calories
There are a lot of different opinions out there on this, but I think I kind of have a ‘middle-of-the-road’ view on this one. Of course, if you’re expending lots of calories exercising you should feed yourself sufficiently, but I have also fallen into a bit of a vicious cycle with this before and used it as an excuse to overeat. Also, (I’m no expert but) I have read many times that fitness tracking apps and watches often drastically overestimate the number of calories burned during a workout.
This is why personally when I exercise I tend to eat up to my daily allowance as usual, plus a little extra if I’ve worked up an appetite or need fuel, without using the “I’ve burnt 400 calories, may as well have 2 chocolate bars that I don’t even really want because I’ve earnt it!!” logic. I prefer to see my exercise calories as extra fat burn, rather than ‘permission’ to eat more. On a side note, this feeds into the idea that you have to burn calories in order to ‘justify’ eating them, which isn’t a healthy mindset to be in!
4. Plan ahead and save for treats
For the past 4 months I have consistently lost 1lb each week. I also have a decent treat pretty much every week (and a small one most days!) Calorie counting often gets a bad rep for being restrictive, but of all the ‘diets’ I have tried, this has honestly been the most flexible of them all.
If I have a social occasion or night out planned, it really helps me to ‘save up’ calories throughout the week. Oftentimes, I don’t naturally need to eat my full daily allowance, so I might save 100 calories each weekday so I have a bit of lenience for my weekend shenanigans! It doesn’t feel like a hardship, but allows me to avoid making huge sacrifices to reach my goals.
Of course, you don’t have to do this and going over your weekly allowance sometimes isn’t going to ‘sabotage’ anything, but this is a great way to ensure you’re progressing towards your goals and also able to enjoy yourself regularly (which is SUPER important – no fat loss plan should make you feel as though you’re missing out).
5. Do not attach emotional value to calories/foods!
My last point is perhaps the most important of them all, and I really do believe this is something you should work on before you go on any diet that involves calorie counting. To be successful and stay happy whilst tracking calories, it’s incredibly important that you view it only as a tool.
Foods that are calorie dense are not ‘bad’, and foods that are low in calories are not ‘good’. During my weight loss journey I have been sure to not get caught up on whether what I’m eating is ‘good’ or ‘bad’. I literally eat what I want, but take note of portion size and how it fits into my targets. Sometimes I crave veg, sometimes I crave pizza or chocolate. Either is absolutely fine.
Have you ever used calorie counting as a tool on your fitness or weight loss journey? What are your top tips for making sure the method is healthy and sustainable in the long-run?
Check out my three monthly weight loss updates here:
PS. If you’re looking for a great calorie tracking app, I swear by Lifesum, I find it soooo much more user-friendly than MyFitnessPal!