Hi Everyone !
Well this was a fun week…counting calories and all.
Fasten your seat belts and grab your favourite veggie dish because it’s going to be a bumpy read.
A little bit of backstory : I used to have a pretty severe eating disorder and counting calories was a daily routine for me. Long story short, I was calorie restricting in order to lose weight.
Now that this is in the past, I got really curious and decided to look into it again.Should we really be counting calories ? Is it good for us ? Is counting calories efficient for weight loss ?
After all those years, all I have is memories of me reading labels, searching for calories, and doing more math than I had ever done to make sure I would not exceed this fictional goal I gave myself.
So I decided to go ahead and try it again since it is still recommended by many fitness and nutrition “experts”. Now that I am healthier and my relationship with food has changed, I thought that it would be interesting to see how my thoughts on weight loss and calorie counting have evolved.
Again, I feel like I need to say it. I am not a professional, nutritionist or doctor. I am just a random girl on the internet talking about life and experimenting stuff.
Just like my week without coffee, I set some rules that I made sure to follow during the week.
- No cheating. Stay true to the amount you eat. No matter how low or high
- Record everything you eat ( duh )
- Take pictures for more accuracy
- Weigh myself before and after
Just to clarify, I mostly took pictures of the amount of calories I ate every day and some pictures of the data offered by the app. This article will not include pictures of food.
To come with me on this journey, I choose the app Myfitnesspal. Mainly because It was the most popular on the app store and it was free.
Here is what they say on their website page : “We believe — and medical studies prove — that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to simply keep track of the foods you eat. Gimmicky machines and fad diets don’t work, so we designed a free website and mobile apps that make calorie counting and food tracking easy”
Let’s do it then, let’s get on to the review.
My first task was to set up everything and weigh myself.
As you can see, I went for “losing weight” and selected “lightly active”. I wanted the review to be as accurate as possible. Being a freelancer and aspiring writer, I spend most of my time writing inside. The daily activities are biking, going grocery shopping or going out shopping. Nothing exciting really.
Then come more specific questions : How old are you ? Where do you live ? Your weight, height and how much do you aim to lose per week. Now that’s really interesting to me.
As you can see, I played by the rules and picked the recommended option which is losing 500 grams a week. When I tried to select the last one, the message on the right popped up. Now, I could argue with the phrasing of the alert but instead, I will give the app a thumbs up for warning people of the unhealthy consequences of a super fast weight loss.
The option stays available though. But again, smoking is bad for you and you can still buy cigarettes. A whole other issue.
Below you will find my beloved diagnostic.
Now the old me would have thought : “What the hell. That is so much food.”
The 23 years old me loudly said : “What the hell. I am going to starve !”
The result really got me thinking and I went into a little google search; how many calories per day does the rest of the web recommend for weight loss ?
For reference, I only selected the first sites that showed up within the first page of results. I did not pick and choose, I just clicked on the first links I saw.
I took the first screenshots when I was waiting for my train back in Paris, so the results you’ll get if you try it yourself might differ. Just putting it out there.
Right. So for all the sites, they calculated my BMI and recommended calories intake by taking my age, weight, height and gave me an answer based on the information I provided.
If you want to try this at home, your answer will most probably be different. Again, the whole experience is based on me.
- The first site on the left was cancer.org which recommended to cut 250 calories out of the “normal” amount in order to loose weight. So that would mean eating about 2141 calories a day.
- The second result comes from healthstatus.com which gave me a little weight loss table. Nice of them to offer me some options.
If I follow my less 0.5 kg a week recommended by MyfitnessPal, it would have to pick the first option: eating 500 calories less or 1625.45 per day.
See the difference already ?
- Myfitnesspal : 1560
- Healthstatus : 1625
- Cancer.org : around 2141
Authority Nutrition says 1655 calories a day to lose weight “the healthy way” whilst the calorie control council gives me around 1800 calories a day.
Amazing how easy it is to find this kind of diagnostic on the internet and as you can see above, they don’t seem to agree on my calorie intake for weight loss.
My week counting calories
Now that I have set up my app and done my research, it was time for me to get into it.
So this was my result for day one. As you can see, I went overboard and ate 1772 calories instead of the 1560 goals.
Because I was hungry ! After diner I really felt like I hadn’t been eaten enough and had more food.
I entered the results after every meal and I have to say that myfitnesspal will not let a day go by without reminding you to log in your meal. Not a day passed without a little pop up holding me accountable.
I am not bashing the app. It is actually pretty complete and offers to follow you all the way, it even gives you a breakdown on how much you have been eating for every meal. I did not have much use of the progress section because, let’s be real, I only used the app for a week and deleted it on Monday.
This app has been on the market for years so feel free to download it and have a look at it yourself if you’ve never used it before.
Summary of day one : I am starving. But still optimistic. Every new habit needs a period of adaptation.
Tuesday to Friday
Tuesday : Still starving. Was busy as well so no time to exercise. Ended up eating a complimentary meal to try to fight the hunger.
It’s weird because I don’t feel like I ate that much but the calories don’t lie, right ?
Wednesday : If you look closely, I ate more than I was supposed to, but ended up with a spare 99 calories because I exercised. I believe I walked for two hours this day.
Thursday : Over 100 calories. Which I really think is not that bad. But now I am starting to stress out about the results. Doing a kind of review halfway I am worried that of course nothing will show because I was not strict enough. Which is a bad sign if you ask me.
Friday : Just like Wednesday. Some calories I could have used. I did not feel very hungry on Friday. I don’t know if it is because of the heat. But the exercise again helped. Maybe this is the key. But exercising every day ? How is that healthy ? When do the mind and the body rest ?
PS : The picture is a representation of my face going back on everything I eat in a week. Also, I needed something to cover the ugly blank space. Sorry.
Summary : This is a long long week. And I am exhausted ! This is not a way to live. I can’t believe I did it every day for years. It is also good because I can see how far I have come. And I have never been so proud of myself.
So far, counting calories is not for me. Could I switch sides if there is actually weight loss ?
Final Days : Saturday to Monday
Final Thoughts & Results
Facts : I registered seven days worth of food. I ate less than I am used to and exercised but gained 200 grams.
How do I feel ?
I feel like I wasted my time. This week seemed so long, and for me, it was a burden. I had to count everything, eat smaller portions, tell myself : “Oh no you can’t eat that”.
I hated to have my week ruled by calories. Everything was about not eating too much there to prevent overeating later and not about listening to my body anymore which I learned to do in recovery.
I remember staring countless times at my fridge as well. Wondering what I could eat or what I want to eat but won’t be able to.
I have nothing against the app because it is a useful tool. Even when I ate out, it was able to find the dish and the restaurant and register the calories which is pretty impressive. But for an every day and long term use ? No thank you. Overthinking my food is not for me anymore.
If I want to lose weight, I would rather exercise a bit more or cut down alcohol instead of counting everything I eat.
I could have been eating 1560 calories of junk food a day. Would I have lost weight ? Following the logic of calorie counting I would have because I was exercising and eating the recommended amount of calories.
My relationship with counting calories have not changed. I still think it it unhealthy. The only way I would be doing it and exclusively for a week again is because my doctor tells me that I am losing weight or gaining weight and ask me to record what I eat.
I don’t know if I am biased because I used to do it and that my mind automatically rejects the idea and associates it with an unhealthy habits. Maybe.
However, I am still struggling to see the benefits. Faster weight loss ? But what about your mental health ? Focusing on numbers instead of listening to your body ? That surely can’t be healthy.
Glad I kicked this old habit out.
What is your experience with calorie counting ?
Would you do it ? If you have, did it work for you ?