My Revised Approach to Calorie Counting

Since writing out my goals for June, I’ve been struggling with my calorie counting goal and I’ve already used three of my six “go over” days even though it’s only the 11th of the month. And truthfully I think there are a couple of days where I was right on the line and I might have actually been over. I try to count my calories accurately but on some things like takeout I’m sometimes making my most educated guess, so it’s not an exact science.

I’ve lost about six pounds since I started really committing to making some lifestyle changes in April. While I’m happy that making small changes is working, I would like to be able to nudge my progress up a bit and I also need to figure out what the heck my long-term plan is for nutrition. I was looking at the data from LoseIt over the last couple of months and what I realized (okay, what I already knew but hadn’t actively spent time thinking about) is that on the days that I go over, I go WAY over. Even though I stick to my calorie count more days than I don’t, I’m wrecking my deficit by overeating on my cheat days.

I decided I need to overhaul my approach to calorie counting if I really want to hit my goal weight, which for the purposes of math is going to be 125lbs. That was what I weighed in 2013, the last time I was truly happy with how my body looked and felt. It may not be realistic to get back there, but even if I don’t quite make it back to that size I think that at least aiming for it will help me be more successful.

To figure out how many calories per day I would need to consume to hit a goal weight of 125lbs, I’m using Jordan Syatt’s calorie counting calculator. The whole video is here and is definitely worth watching, but to give a quick overview of the math: I take my goal weight of 125 and multiply it by 12. 125 x 12 = 1500, so I would need to have 1,500 calories or less per day to achieve a goal weight of 125lbs.

Now that I know the number of calories I need to stick to, my plan going forward is to average 1,500 calories per day, in the same way that I try to average 10,000 steps per day. That way, I’m not giving myself “go over” or “cheat” days, which seem to just trigger binge behavior for me and aren’t helping me reach my goals. Instead, I can consume my calories however I like, as long as my average daily calories each month stays at or below 1500 (this will likely be difficult to achieve in June since I didn’t start the month with this new way of calculating my calories, so I imagine my overall June results will be closer to an average of about 1600 calories, but 1,500 will be my goal going forward).

Obviously keeping track of my calories this way will require tracking. I log all of my food in LoseIt already, and at the top of the log it shows me my budgeted calories for the week and if I’m over or under budget. I went in yesterday and manually set the daily budget to 1,500, so that the app is aligned with my goal. I also have a simple tracker sheet in Excel that I input my daily calories into, with a separate tab for each month, so that I can keep track of where I’m at as far as monthly average. Looking back over the last year, my average calories per month has been hovering around 1700, which shows me why I’m seeing some slow weight loss but also why I need to change my habits if I want to reach my weight loss goals.

I started putting this into practice yesterday and I definitely know that it’s going to be difficult at first to adjust to having no “free” or “cheat days”, but the tradeoff is that I (hopefully) will make a little quicker progress toward my goal weight and get a handle on my indulgences. After all, beyond weight loss, my true life goal is to be healthy and fit, and I need to fuel my body in a way that maximizes that!

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