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When to decide when to count calories?

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  • #16
    Calorie counting isn't as tough as people might think. One needs a few really low tech tools: a food scale, measuring cups, measuring spoons, a writing implement, and something on which to write.

    I'm guessing a lot of us eat from the same group of 50-100 foods. I have an excel spreadsheet (and a good memory for things like that) with the foods I eat most in calories per oz/tablespoon/etc. I admit, that was a pain to start, but it taught me a lot about what I was eating. While there are some less common foods that are hard to find data for (like bison liver), for the most part, googling "calories in _______" will get you the nutritional breakdown for almost anything we eat.

    Mark has a post somewhere on why people don't lose weight. And one of the reasons is simply eating too much. Whether used as a learning tool or as something one chooses to do forever, counting calories is one more tool to learn about food.

    When to start? I agree with Damiana - if the scale doesn't move for two weeks, you've entered maintenance territory. My other thought would be to start in the beginning, even if you're not restricting - you'll still learn.
    "Right is right, even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong, even if everyone is doing it." - St. Augustine

    B*tch-lite

    Who says back fat is a bad thing? Maybe on a hairy guy at the beach, but not on a crab.

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    • #17
      Calorie counting is relatively fast for me for lunch, since I bring separate items (a boiled egg, a can for tuna, x g of cucumber...) to work. But when you cook something, in a relatively large quantity like soup or stew, and then get yourself a serving; when you use meat with unknown fat content, or take a few slices of various fruit off the fruit plate - calorie count goes into the 'guess it' land or becomes really hard. Most software doesn't let you calculate recipes, so basically for each favorite recipe you need to add a day worth of food, write the break down down on paper, re-enter it as a custom food... I set up a lot of custom food twice in the past few years, since the first site I used started acting up and I went to the FitDay... On FitDay I have a list of 157 custom foods, and I think I had way more on the BuddySlim. And such simple thing as how much fat transferred to the food when you cooked from what you used and how much of it went onto your plate can throw off your total caloric count by like 10-20% on a low cal day (say you aim for 1200-1300 cals.).

      ...and then FitDay started working really slow, so you have to wait every time you update portions, and all that time, I sit there , thinking how pointless it is when one tbsp of almond butter can ruin your perfectly balanced meal plan or entering the same day over and over and over....

      I dunno, I just don't like it as much as I used to. Used to take a pride in my food logs. Now I fight for eating to become the way it was when I was younger, just, you know, eat. Not fuel up, not get the 9.5% fat and no more, not to make sure that calorie count is 1353 cals and workouts burn at least 1000 cals a day....So much time spent, and for what? If I can make my goal to not eat until I absolutely totally have to eat, and check my weight every day to keep hunger at bay longer or be a bit more permissive with it.
      Last edited by Leida; 07-25-2013, 02:47 PM.
      My Journal: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread57916.html
      When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

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      • #18
        I think that if you want to calorie count, just don't make those fancy meals and stews for a while. Eat the same meals in rotations over a week, and keep it simple. Before anyone complains about the monotony of limited meals, one has to focus on the goal, get lean, lose fat etc. if the motivation is strong limited meal choices for a while are a fair price to pay.

        I use My Fitness Pal app, supper fast. I don't log energy expenditure, just eat more on higher intensity workout days.

        So, meals are:

        Lunch - 150g og bacon or liver or tuna, 4 eggs, avocado and some salad, around 600 cals, I add olive oil to the non bacon meals.

        Dinner - 250 g of gradd fed ground beef, 150 g white fish, 200 g sweet potato, 200 g og spinach, 200 g of broccoli or something similar. 150 g white rice, coconut oil, butter on veg etc. around 1500 cals.

        Total around 2100 for the day.

        The app allows you to copy and save meals, so I copy from one day to the next and make small changes as needed.

        Near enough is good enough. I weigh, but if its a gram or two out, who cares?

        I love the food, not bored, if I have to do it for a couple of months to hit 10% BF that suits me just fine.

        Calories matter, and they 'matter' more when you are not reaching your goals.

        I think it is the first thing to look at before you start looking for the next best hack to try to turn things around.

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        • #19
          Originally posted by Leida View Post
          Most software doesn't let you calculate recipes.
          Try SparkPeople. Their sister site SparkRecipes lets you enter the ingredients list and then gives you the breakdown by portion sizes you choose.

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          • #20
            Originally posted by Stacy15 View Post
            I would have to be stuck for months, or gaining, before I started counting. And then I would count the week up, not the day. Some days I'm just really hungry, and others, not so much.
            OP if you wanted to count cals this is the method I would recommend. Run a deficit only over a week or fortnight. Day by day your diet should be varied alot.


            Sent from my iPhone
            A little primal gem - My Success Story
            Weight lost in 4 months - 29kg (64 lbs)

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            • #21
              Why vary it a lot

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              • #22
                Originally posted by thriveful View Post
                Why vary it a lot
                Well...
                I've written about this before and don't want to derail the thread but I will give an overview.

                1 our bodies expect variance in diet, from grok times and all that.

                2 if you eat the same every day your body doesn't get to rest from the stress of that particular eating style, can cause chronic issues.

                3 uses all your metabolic systems, not just the one's required for your particular daily eating style. This builds your metabolism, makes it stronger.

                Check out my sig if this has piqued your interest


                Sent from my iPhone
                A little primal gem - My Success Story
                Weight lost in 4 months - 29kg (64 lbs)

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                • #23
                  So, I eat beef, lamb, fish, offal, leafy greens, eggs, butter, coconut oil, avocado, every day in some combination and at varying proportions.

                  I would have thought that was variation enough?

                  To dismiss cico totally does not take into account a couple of things. In fact, I think the calories out is the messed up bit.

                  If one is making good food choices, then providing a baseline of calorific intake say 2000 cals per day, foes not mean that is all the energy you gave in the bank, obviously.

                  If you are eating a relatively low carb diet, compared to SAD, you may well use most or all of that dietary intake for metabolic functioning, but stll draw on fat storage to make up any deficit, due to energy expenditure, higher metabolic output etc.

                  So your body may be able to use 3000 cals for its needs, 2000 from dietary input, 1000 from stored fat.

                  So of course, when you body is healthy and you are active you can draw down on those fat reserves.

                  But if you eat more than metabolism and energy output require, you will add fat.

                  So counting calories to find you ideal input seems very sensible if you are not leaning out.

                  Just dismissing it as irrelevant seems absurd.
                  Last edited by thriveful; 07-26-2013, 05:38 AM.

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                  • #24
                    Figuring out calories for recipes is actually one of my favorite parts of counting. To my geeky mind, turning a recipe into a math problem only makes it better. I use the recipe function in LoseIt, on my phone, sometimes even as I'm cooking.

                    Fatty cuts of meat and other tricky ingredients, I just make my best guess based on info I found searching the web, try to err on the side of overestimating, and just go with it. I eventually got to where I was weighing everything, which went much faster. For recipes that make a large number of servings and aren't easily cut up into servings, I dump the whole thing in a large plastic bowl and divide the total weight by whatever seems like a good portion size. Then even leftovers are easy to track.
                    50yo, 5'3"
                    SW-195
                    CW-125, part calorie counting, part transition to primal
                    GW- Goals are no longer weight-related

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                    • #25
                      I think calorie counting can be helpful when you get started just to understand how much you are eating. You can at least get a ballpark on calories. I tend to eat the same things from day to day. I know on days I eat banana pancakes I need to go lighter on lunch and dinner. I know on protein shake days that I get plenty of protein. It's kind of helpful to at least know a ballpark on how much you eat.

                      Anytime I change up my diet, I count for a while just to know how much I am eating.

                      http://maggiesfeast.wordpress.com/
                      Check out my blog. Hope to share lots of great recipes and ideas!

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                      • #26
                        Try SparkPeople. Their sister site SparkRecipes lets you enter the ingredients list and then gives you the breakdown by portion sizes you choose.
                        I tried SparkPeople before I went to FitDay and it was maddening, with their pre-made meals and the necessity to enter the same food many times over because it was eaten at different meal
                        I can't stop making meals, because I feed my family. There is nothing fancy about a stir-fry or a stew or a soup. If calorie counting pushes someone to eat itemized, that's in my view is a drawback of the calorie counting.

                        Fatty cuts of meat and other tricky ingredients, I just make my best guess based on info I found searching the web, try to err on the side of overestimating, and just go with it. I eventually got to where I was weighing everything, which went much faster. For recipes that make a large number of servings and aren't easily cut up into servings, I dump the whole thing in a large plastic bowl and divide the total weight by whatever seems like a good portion size. Then even leftovers are easy to track.
                        Been there, done that. After 4 years or so it somehow lost its appeal.

                        The main argument for me though is that having that perfect food plan after many years of trying stopped working as a prevention of eating anything else. After a few years, if I was hungry and 'out of calories', I just ate more, added it to the counter, and... perfect plan went out of the window. If I powered through it and stuck to the perfect plan, I would break down two, three days afterwards. In either case, I wound up feeling guilty and ashamed. So, why the f**k bother? I am maintaining now higher than I want to be, but I can live without a print-out I carry along and strike items out, and spending an hour or more a day devising, planning, and endlessly thinking about food and how I can re-arrange a plan to have this or that.

                        Plus, I apologize for sharing, but the # of poops a day for my body is as accurate predictor of deficit and eventual weight loss as the calculator. 1 poop a day = maintenance, <than 1 = deficit, >1 = surplus. Like the clock.

                        Paradoxical, I think sometimes still that I would do anything to lose weight, but in reality, I do not want to fast for over 20 hours; I don't want to count calories or exercise; I do not want to eliminate artificial sweeteners on the low carb days or fasts, and I don't want to limit fruit. I suppose, that trying to get thinner finally grew old for me after 20+ years of trying. I just don't have the zeal no more.

                        In summary, the time to count calories is probably when you are new to it, and still thrilled by the prospect of losing weight or regaining health.
                        Last edited by Leida; 07-26-2013, 05:52 AM.
                        My Journal: http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread57916.html
                        When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.

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                        • #27
                          Originally posted by thriveful View Post
                          I think that if you want to calorie count, just don't make those fancy meals and stews for a while. Eat the same meals in rotations over a week, and keep it simple. Before anyone complains about the monotony of limited meals, one has to focus on the goal, get lean, lose fat etc. if the motivation is strong limited meal choices for a while are a fair price to pay.
                          I can attest to repeated meals, I think they're easiest. My lunch, Monday-Saturday, is the same thing. I buy a package of three or four evenly sized steaks and after cooking them, cut them into servings between 1/2-3/4 pounds..2-4 tbsp of sauerkraut, little bit of unsweetened shredded coconut, and occasionally fruit.

                          Dinner, however, I do change things up. As close to one pound as I can of steak in bone broth, wild salmon, mahi mahi, or shrimp..along with a big vegetable stirfry and the occasional sweet potato now. That's one reason I don't count calories...so maybe it was 13oz salmon vs 16oz...does that little of variance really matter? I don't see how.

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                          • #28
                            Originally posted by LauraSB View Post
                            Figuring out calories for recipes is actually one of my favorite parts of counting. To my geeky mind, turning a recipe into a math problem only makes it better. I use the recipe function in LoseIt, on my phone, sometimes even as I'm cooking.
                            See....I'm an English major...math is a dirty word..

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                            • #29
                              I've found tracking calories and macros to be very useful and enlightening for me. For example, I discovered that if my carbs drop below about 50-70 g a day, I nearly faint every time I stand up. If I keep my carbs at about 100 g/day, that doesn't happen. I use mynetdiary which allows recipes, custom foods, and has a pretty good database. I don't weigh my foods, but since my predicted weight loss tracks well with my actual weight loss, my estimates are good. I am one who loves playing with data and math.

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                              • #30
                                I think (know) counting calories also works well when you are at 13% bf and want to get to 10. This is the only way I have been able to get the leverage to lose that muffin top stomach. I have been eating primal/paleo for a few years on and off, vlc, etc etc. this, along with a meal frequency that suits me is providing the most consistent results ever.

                                Sure, I'm a vain 45 yo male with a six pack now, but I can also move well, lift heavy things, sprint etc. but doing all that and looking lean is the icing on the cake

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