Counting calories. The good, the bad and the ugly!
So for those of you who don't know (if you don't where have you been hiding, he has told everyone!!!) our very own OW is on a beach body mission for the summer and currently doing a 6 week trial of counting every calorie to see how lean he can get himself.
Both David and I have done this (and still live off the photos!!) but it is a fantastic learning tool when it comes to understanding nutrition, calories and getting lean.
Anyway, enough from me. Over the next 6 weeks OW will be blogging about his journey, his struggles and his wins when it comes to tracking calories, alongside dropping some useful tips and hacks for those of you looking to do the same.
FIRST WEEK OF TRACKING
Counting calories. A dirty word, some may say obsessive? Or is it necessary?
Having trained hard and always had a fairly good diet I’ve never fully committed to prolonged periods of tracking my intake daily. Sure, I’ve used MyFitnessPal (MFP) a lot, and I’ve been acquainted with measuring and logging what I’ve eaten, however I’ve always let it tail off or not been as “militant” as perhaps I could have been. Mainly because I’ve had the knowledge and ability to lose a bit of weight if needed here and there but just tightening up on my calorie intake.
However, I’ve embarked on a 6 week strict diet, and I’m sticking rigidly to it. This is for vanity reasons (yes - I can be vain, who knew), but also this is a good challenge and experience. Mostly though its so that I can have a better knowledge and understanding, and to be able to give more guidance and advice to you guys.
So what have been some of the pitfalls, observations and lessons from my first week?
Firstly; that dieting is HARD at times. This is not to say that its always going to be tough, but a change in your lifestyle and a dramatic drop in your calorie consumption per day, is a bit of a shock to the system.
Gone is the habit of reaching for a snack here and there when you feel like it and not having to worry about it. Everything that passes the lips is logged; coffees, juices, nuts, fruit, etc. It all adds up. A flat white
Secondly, you will try to look for extra calories to add to your diet, whether trying to reduce the calorie deficit or think that going over one day will be fine because you’ll adjust for it the other, chances are you wont! Well certainly not on the average days throughout the week.
Be vigilant and detailed when logging your foods on MFP, there will be several options for each item added, make sure you pick the correct one with the right nutritional information. A good example of this, was an issue I encountered the other day, I scanned the barcode in for my Sainsbury’s Stir Fry veg, I’d cooked it in the low cal oil and only soy sauce, so I knew it would be fairly low in cals. However MFP put it in my diary as 450 cals for 2 bags of veg!! Now that couldn’t be right surely? On Further inspection, the packet has cooking instructions to use 15g of Veg Oil per bag, easily adding 200 cals that I didn’t consume. While this is an example of overestimating calories, it is normally a case of underestimating cals that is detrimental to progress.
Eat nutrient dense and calorie low foods! What this means is; eating a lot of veg/salads etc to accompany your meals will help keep you full. This is called Volume eating. A bag of salad and veg to go with your protein and carb sources with keep calories low but also its a lot of food and you will feel full after. Whereas if you go for avocados, cheese or humous, or anything else which is calorie dense then you won’t be able to eat as much of it, and probably feel a bit unsatisfied and hungry.
A few observations:
- Be honest with yourself, how much of that cake/bread/mashed potato did you really have?
- Prepare your own food where possible, take packed lunches, you’ll then avoid the potential to get it wrong or eat a meal out that may put you over your calories for the day, or just leave you with very little for dinner when you get home.
- Have the right tools to make your life easy, scales are a must.
- Work out when you like to eat your calories throughout the day. Do you like a bigger lunch and smaller dinner? Or vice versa? Is a decent breakfast a must, or will a few boiled eggs suffice with a coffee in the morning? Balance it out to suit your preferences.
- Have someone to keep you accountable - who’s checking up on you? I have Dave and Ash checking up on me, and annoyingly eating chocolate in front of me haha.