I Hate Calorie Counting

Posted: July 19, 2014 in About Me
Tags: , , , ,

I’ve been working on this post for a bit and it’s still a jumble and I’m having a very hard time organizing all my thoughts and feelings on this. Please take this as a rough draft, even though I am posting it.

So to start I hate the idea that is perpetuated by the media and weight loss industries that fat people just have no idea how much we eat, we have no concept of calories, and what we really need is to track everything we eat so we understand how much it is. As if fat people all just spend our time constantly shoveling whole cakes into out mouths with no concept that a whole cake is a lot of calories. Because if we are fat we must be eating a lot and if we eat a lot, obviously we just have no conception of that or else we wouldn’t eat so much!

Of course the reality is that most fat people have counted calories before. And speaking personally, I have on and off counted calories for years. I was in middle school when I started, I think. I counted calories in middle school, in high school, in college, in grad school, and after. I can more accurately estimate calories in things than many naturally thin folks who have never been in a position of paying very close attention to calories in everything they eat. Anecdote time- I had a thin doctor, who decided to ignore very serious health issues in favor of focusing solely on my weight, who asked what I ate regularly (at a time I was calorie counting) and she estimated the calories to be about 3x what they were (I knew, because I was measuring and tracking everything I ate). She then told me to eat less and gave me a sample meal plan that was slightly higher than what I was eating, along with telling me I needed to stop lifting weights because it was a waste of time and that I need to focus on cardio to lose weight (which is clearly the only reason, ever, to workout).

So having done the on again off again calorie counting- it’s fucking exhausting! It really is. I know people who do it try to downplay it and say it’s so easy. And it’s not really hard-hard, but after awhile I just get so sick of obsessing about everything I eat, and trying to hunt down nutritional info when I eat out, or feeling like I can never eat out or go to a party and eat there or just live my life because it all revolves around needing to know exactly how many calories I’m eating, and then spending time logging everything I eat, and measuring, and then writing down the nutritional info, or looking it up (this part is at least faster with online tracking, though if something isn’t int he database you have to add it. When I started for the first several years I did it all on my own without online databases though). The time does add up, but it’s more than the actual time that goes into it.

And so I’ve yo-yo-ed with it. Like so many other fat folks. I count calories and then I get exhausted with the process (and often not seeing any results or eventually plateauing or even regaining despite staying low on calories) so then I stop. And then after awhile of not I feel like I have to start calorie counting again. I have to try to lose weight. It’s pretty much a moral imperative in our culture if you are fat to try to lose weight and to count calories to do it.

This is why 2 years ago, I made a new years resolution to not go back to counting calories that year.

Instead during the time I was not counting calories I just focused on trying to eat healthier. Trying to eat foods high in nutrients, and follow my own natural hunger cues, but not really obsessing about certain foods being off limits or if I ate a lot when eating out on occasion or at a party.

Well, now I’m back to counting calories sort of. Macros started me on it. Hearing so much about macro ratios and the benefits this can have for lifting. So I started tracking to pay attention to macros and to increase my protein which, since I don’t eat a lot of meat, has not been very high.  Of course tracking macros has by default lead to tracking calories too. Which isn’t my focus, but its still there.

And I hate feeling like I’m just counting calories. I hate seeing the calories.

For myself, I also know that seeing calories tends to trigger negative mentalities and habits. Like the mentality that I should be eating very, very little. Even when I know that is counter to my current goals (build muscle! Hard to do if you eat nothing.) everytime I start counting calories it makes me start thinking I should barely eat anything.

So now I find myself in this frustrating place where I am trying to track stuff to focus on the macro and protein side of things to help make sure I have the best fuel for building muscle, balanced with the difficulties triggered by tracking what I eat and counting calories.

  1. Jay Unwin says:

    Very strong article, lots of interesting points very well made. Although calories are important by default (energy balance) counting them is ironically rarely the best way to control them. I try to steer my clients towards focussing on nutritional value rather than calories. After all, you can eat only junk food and still be in a calorie deficit but that will be no good for long-term health! Great post, thanks again, I’ll definitely be following 🙂

  2. G says:

    This post wasn’t a jumble at all! I think you expressed very succinctly the burden of calorie counting and how it intersects with “just counting macros”.
    And I am right there with you on macros. I, too, started tracking again to make sure I was getting enough protein, and it turned out that it triggered me to start restricting again, which was something I’d resolved not to do. But once I started thinking about macro ratios and aiming for a specific amount of protein, a ‘cap’ for my calories fell right out of it and there I was. Next thing I knew I was trying to get under my “calorie goal” and watching the scale for change.
    I’m not living that way anymore, but one thing I did take away from it was to make sure to include high-protein foods in volume at meals, and to prioritize protein over carbs (i.e. if I want a second helping, take more chicken and not more rice). And I have a better idea of how much protein is in food, so I don’t have to check and log it.
    Sorry for the short novel here! I hope you can find a place where you’re getting the nutrition you need and not obsessing.

  3. lozette says:

    I’m like G and you, I feel I need to track protein but that leads me to tracking calories which leads to mental badness etc etc. I hate it. I don’t think I get enough protein, but I’m trying to remedy that without tracking macros (by adding an extra protein shake to my day when I can manage it). It’s tough, though.

    • ebay313 says:

      My hope is that if I can get the hang of getting enough protein I would get to a point of knowing what that looks/feels like without needing to track. Right now tracking has taught me that I often am not close enough to protein targets even when I think I am- it’s hard without eating a lot of meat. Even when I add a protein shake with two scoops of protein powder I’m still usually under my target.

      • lozette says:

        Me either really … I *think* should be getting about 160g of protein a day (following the 1g of protein for 1lb of bw thing) but I only get 100g or so, even using protein powder! It’s very hard.

  4. […] I’ve talked before about the yoyo aspect of it. That I’ve been down this road and eventually I get burnt out on worrying about my weight and counting everything I eat and obsessing over it. […]

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