One of the key factors in my 200lb weight loss, and my lifestyle/mindset/habits changes need to maintain that level of weight loss was being able to control my calorie intake. I am an analytically-minded person, enjoy creating spreadsheets, and crunching numbers. When I found out that there was an underlying math, I remember thinking “Um, why didn’t I know about this before? I was doing exercise I hated while eating foods that I hated, and all along I could simply be weighing/tracking/spreadsheet guru’ing my way to weight loss!”
The real truth is that while calorie tracking via weighing your food on a food scale is the means to an end, it is not the end itself. That end IS NOT weight loss. Rather, that end is an awareness of portions and foods that are in balance with our goals.
Or to be more specific, understanding what foods, in which amounts, allow me (and YOU) to achieve our goals, whatever they may be.
I still weigh my food and track my calories 8 years later because doing so acts as an accountability measure that keeps me honest with myself. One thing I’ve learned about myself these 8 years is that my natural mindset is the slippery slope of things not existing when I’m not keeping a close eye on them. Schrodinger’s calories. Do the calories matter if you aren’t counting them? Yes, but my subconscious doesn’t think so.
Here we are, and I’m asking myself the question, so, what would I do if I couldn’t weigh my food and track calories?
3-4 meals a day, single plate, no seconds. No snacks except for apples or bananas when necessary. No calories from beverages except for a glass of red wine or a single craft beer (12oz) once or twice per week. No dessert except as a treat, twice a month max, one REAL serving, not a plate full.
On a given plate of food, I’d strive to choose foods that are single sources of a specific macronutrient. For example, chicken breast is mostly protein, so it’s a source of protein. Rice is mostly carbohydrates, so it’s a source of carbohydrates. I’d avoid mixed sources, things that supply more than 1 macronutrient in equal proportion. For example, fattier cuts of meat have both lots of fat and lots of protein. These choices aren’t bad per se, it’s just that I know that my hunger is EASILY satiated by choosing high volume foods and that I’m more likely to have high volume foods by choosing foods that supply a single macronutrient rather than being mixed sources.
This would generally result in a lower fat intake. Not because there is anything wrong with dietary fat (fat doesn’t make you fat, over consuming calories does that), but because I know that when I personally eat higher fat, I have trouble not overeating.
My plate would be divided in half. Half would be green, crunchy, fibrous vegetables. The other half, I’d divide into 3. Protein sources would be 2/3rds, and a carbohydrate source would be 1/3rd.
This would allow me to quickly eyeball what I’m putting on my plate in nearly all situations, would address my huge appetite, and would on the back end, exert a measure of calorie control that would be in sync with my goals (to not regain weight and not be hungry).
I’d eat slowly. I’d eat without distractions (no phone, no TV), and before my meal, I’d express gratitude for it (not necessarily a prayer, but that works too).
I would try to do this 90% of the time, and not feel guilt when I don’t, but instead make it a point to think about why, and how I could do better.
What other hypothetical situations would you like to see me write about? Let me know by emailing me at firstname.lastname@example.org!