Monday, June 18, 2012

To Count or Not to Count---THAT is the Question

Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows...Hahahahaha, nah, I'm joking.

What I'm talking about is counting. Counting calories. A lot of us do it. Few of us love it.

Some of us count calories as one tool in our efforts to lose weight. It's one way to see what our intake actually is- well, when we're completely honest about each and every little morsel that crosses our lips.

Counting our calories can be enlightening when it shows us not only how much but exactly what we're ingesting. It can be an aid in helping us adjust our daily eating plans. Counting calories can also frustrate the hell out of us when we go over our limit for a day. Or more. Which can lead to another day of overeating from the frustration of seeing that we overate the day before and so on. It can become a vicious cycle if we're not careful. And if our willpower is lacking.  

And now, as with most things, counting calories is the subject of a debate.

To count or not to count.

Brandon over at The Healthy Advocate believes that counting calories is a waste of time. He says that if you develop some healthy lifestyle habits, your body will 'count' the calories you need for you. Brandon suggests that we:
  • Get a restful night's sleep for at least 6 hours
  • Cut the sugar and the grains
  • Lower our stress levels
  • Get some sunlight
  • Exercise
Hallie at Daily Bites also makes the case for not counting calories. Her reasoning stems from her personal struggle to try to gain weight and she found that counting calories reminds her of the time in her life that each day was a struggle just to get through it. She discovered that finding a balance made all the difference and that assigning a number to food is not the best or healthiest idea.

I get what these guys are saying. And I've made pretty much all of the changes. But my scale continues to be stationary. Surely not counting calories wouldn't make that much difference in either direction...???

I do know that I can get so consumed with counting the calories that I lose sight of my goal- getting fit and healthy. 

According to WebMD , the concept of counting calories came about near the start of the 1900s. It seems that there was a scientist, Wilbur Atwater, who claimed that if you put food into a “bomb calorimeter” and burned it you could measure the ash and discover how much energy had been released. This could also be a measure of how much energy was in the food. Once this idea gained momentum, people started counting calories- which is figuring out how many calories are consumed with different types of food and then burned off while taking part in different activities.

So, are calories important? Sure. They’re just not the whole picture and we’re cheating ourselves if we think they are.
We all know that the type of calorie we choose will determine the effect on our bodies.  But, is it necessary to COUNT OUR CALORIES?

All I can figure is, IF it works for you- then YES, it’s necessary. IF it doesn’t work for you, then NO, it’s not necessary.  The main thing is not to get bogged down with the counting and realizing that counting the calories is simply one tool of helping some of us to lose the weight.

Like it or not, there is not one magic tip/idea/method/tool/pill that’s going to get us to our healthy goal weight. Nothing. We have to do the research, try a myriad of methods, sweatsweatsweat, etc. until we each find the thing(s) that work for us on an individual basis.

If you really HATE counting those calories but want to be accountable for your caloric intake, try these tips:
  • Eat smaller portions- yes, I know. We’re all doing this already. But look at your plate during your next meal at home and see where you can cut down. How large is your plate? Could you use a smaller one? (No fair if you pile the food up high in the shape of a mountain). 
  • What food is taking up the most space on your plate? If it’s protein or carbs, change it to veggies. Choose foods that use more calories to digest and metabolize.  If you eat foods that require a lot of work to digest, you can save yourself calories like foods high in fiber.
  • Eat the right kinds of calories. In other words, steer clear of the candy, sodas, sweets, desserts and take in more fruits, veggies, nuts, etc. Not only will you save calories, you’ll increase your health dramatically. 
So, all that wordiness to say- I am now going to try an experiment. I will continue counting calories through the month of June. But, beginning July 1, I will not count calories. I will, instead, be extremely mindful of the TYPES of calories I consume. I will keep a daily written journal of the foods I eat just so I can share with y’all at the end of July. 

I will be following a watered down version of the Gerson Therapy plan and a RAW diet. For 31 days. Without counting calories. I know that counting calories and eating MOSTLY healthy is not working to get the scale moving. I’m beginning to think it’s not doing so much for my health and fitness either.

I know most people don’t usually hear of the Gerson Therapy until someone they know (or themselves) have cancer but it’s not just a good idea once one has gotten sick. It’s good for general health and prevention- the detox alone should prove quite beneficial. Though there's no way I'm going to juice 13 times every day. Nope.

What I really want to find out is:
  • Is it important to count calories or just to make my calories count OR a combination of the two.
  • Will following a watered down version of the Gerson plan and eating RAW make a difference in my health and/or weight.
Yeah, I know it’s not scientific. But it’s what I’m going to try--I don't even know if I can stick to it for an entire month (and it was really stupid to pick one with 31 days). I will still check in with the Summer Sizzle Challenge- I wouldn’t let Rochelle down for anything! She’s such an inspiration to all of us! As a matter of fact, I doubt I would have come up with this plan if it weren’t for the challenge. 

Oh, and I’m not planning on eating anything and everything while waiting on July 1 to get here. 

Though it is tempting.


  1. I've tried the counting thing and I've weighed and measured but I just can't seem to stick with it. Makes me a bit crazy. Good luck.

  2. Counting calories drives me up the wall in such a way that I become obsessive and things get ugly. Whats working for me is the balance of foods day in and day out. grains, produce, healthy fats, and proteins.. in the right amounts at every meal. There is zero calorie counting and that helps me feel like I'm living a "normal" life if that makes sense :0) Good luck with your experiments! It definitely would be awesome if there was a "one size fits all" plan when it came to weightloss. Being so different its true what you say.. we all have to find what works best for us <3

  3. Like just about everything I get so obsessive about counting and writing everything down. I still eat the same things and I know the calorie count for them in my head. My scale has not moved in 2 years. Not up and not down. I have been beyond frustration. I have though thought about counting Carbs. Do you know anyone who has done that? I think if I kept a close watch on the carbs I consume, it might help me. Pam, you know so much more about this than I do I just wondered have you read about it?

  4. Jill- It makes me crazy because it's not making a difference anymore. Which is something I just can't figure out. So, it's time to try something new!

    CG- Oh yes! It would be great to have a one size fits all plan! I would love that! Funny how this all worked great for me for the longest time but not anymore. So here I go again. Searching for the next thing that will work so I can MOVE THAT SCALE! :)

    Kim- I haven't heard of counting carbs except to keep them at a minimum...the bad carbs anyway- like sugars and white flour, etc. But even if you're eating the whole grains, they should be kept in check. I think that a well balanced plan is best except that I don't like wheat products anymore. You could try limiting your carbs and see if that helps.

    Betty- It all worked so well for me for so long. But not anymore. Of course, age could now be a factor and that really sucks because I can't change that. LOL

  5. My daughter does a detox week every couple of months. She swears by it - among other things, like yoga.

    I have counted calories but like almost every other kind of writing list exercise, I can't stick with it. I've come to the conclusion that for me it's a burden and a barrier. I just changed my lifestyle and the calories followed in a proper line.

    Good luck with your plan. You always manage to stay on track no matter what you decide.

  6. Hi! I still haven't taken time to go to MyFitnessPal, which says to me that it's not something I want to get into. I am a former dietitian, and so I'm aware enough of my caloric intake. I can't trim back all that many calories each day. I wish it were that easy, you know? Just stop drinking soda, eating junk food, eating portions that are too large, eating dessert? I seldom do any of that anyway.

    The one and only thing that helps me lose weight is for me to consistently step up my activity by walking/jogging 12-24 miles/week. When I do that, I can consistently lose one pound each week.

  7. I have never been good at calorie counting. Right now with my low carb I am eating tons of fresh veggies, drinking water, eating nuts and also eating berries. I may go over on carbs because of the berries I eat with a 7 carb greek yogurt but I eat nothing else so this has got to be good for me.

  8. I hesitate to tell my calorie counting story because it's the opposite of what most folks struggle with. Some years back, I was going through a very difficult time and I was just too stressed to eat. I lost so much weight (I wasn't trying to!), that my doctor threatened to put me in the hospital if I didn't reverse the process. I had strict orders to eat so many calories a day. I had to count everything. Since I had so little appetite, I ate things that were loaded with calories. Healthy things, but high calorie. I gained the weight back and that was the end of it. Although my problem was needing to gain weight, it gave me a great deal of sympathy for those who have to be so mindful of what they eat all the time. It's not easy!

  9. I can't count calories or anything else, the very thought of it sends me into a spin.
    And, ironically, I've never been overweight in my life (touches wood).

    That said, i have absolute faith in you Pam. You have done so brilliantly up to now that I know counting/not counting will not deter you from your goal.

    lol re 31-day month comment!!

  10. THe not counting calories sounds like a good plan, then you'll know for sure which one to do. What exactly is RAW? Do you eat everything without cooking it first? It's really nice that you are willing to try these programs so everybody else can benefit from your info, way to go!

  11. I don't know the secret Pam. I wish I did. I too am stuck and have been for a while now. I count calories, I walk many miles and still I'm stuck. I'll watch and see how you do Pam. Maybe I can learn something from your experience.
    Take care Pam. I will be back in a week to check on you. Blessings my friend!

  12. Stephanie- Does she have any tips, perhaps? Any and all helpful hints are more than welcome! Thanks!

    Cathy- I wish it were that easy as well. I don’t do those things either- ever. And still, the scale is not moving. I know that increasing the exercise helps, but not sure I want to be exercising 10 hours every day. LOL

    Debby-Sounds like you’re on the right track for getting healthy and losing some pounds!

    GP- I know a few people who have had that problem too. I think it doesn’t really matter which way you have to go- up or down on the scale- you’re right- it’s just not easy! Glad you were successful with your gain. Weighing too little is just as harmful as weighing too much!

    Mimi- Lucky you! I never was overweight until about 15 years ago. And it’s just stuck with me. And I can’t seem to get it off. I think I don’t stick with any one thing long enough, or maybe I stick with it too long. LOL Thanks!

    JP- I don’t think I’m going to do it anymore. We shall see!

    Alessandra- RAW is using raw foods and nothing else, basically. Some recipes call for cooking others do not. But there’s no flour, butter, sugars, that sort of thing. It’s quite interesting and some of the recipes are really yummy.

    Julie- I wish I did too. This is beginning to suck. Big time. Have a safe trip- hug Mike for me! I’ll ‘see’ you when you get back!

  13. I don't count calories, i just make better choices 90% of the time. cutting major carbs like sugar and grains has really helped me lose a few lbs. sugar is my big problem so i really limit that or i'll just eat sugar ALL DAY LONG. one day a week i let myself go a little crazy and make bad food choices. I also do make my calories count. lots of protein and fiber.

  14. I'm doing the whole counting calories routine again. I'm finding it I can keep my cals just under 1200 (barely), but I would love to shave 200 per/day and that's just not an easy job. The important thing for is to eat highly processed foods and make sure I have a balance diet of lean protein, veggies, fiber, and lots of water. Best of luck to ya with your calorie counting!


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