Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Does it Matter?

Today I read this article about counting calories and how "it doesn't matter."

I'm kind of conflicted by it, actually.

I get what the author is saying, in a way. But I also feel like the article is misleading in that its directed at people who are interested in maintaining their weight, not losing.

I think counting calories DOES matter. I have tried every weight loss gimmick on the market and the only thing that has EVER worked for me was counting calories eaten vs. burned.

Working at a calorie deficit works. Its science. And the thing of it is, is that is doesn't necessarily mean working out every day for hours. A friend from high school and I both used this method differently, with similar results. We both counted calories we ate and calories we burned. I did about 30-40 minutes of cardio every day with very little weight lifting and lost 20 pounds. She walked her dog twice a day for an hour or more and lost the same. She didn't go to the gym once. She chose to do longer, lower impact things to keep her moving and I chose shorter high impact workouts and they both worked.
Being mindful of calories is what we both did the same.

When you are trying to lose weight, calories DO matter. I'm not suggesting you kill yourself to account for every sip and bite. But (I think) having a nonchalant attitude about calories is what resulted in me putting back on the 10 pounds I had already lost. A daily calorie surplus of 250 calories each day will result in the gaining of half a pound in a week. I'm not making this stuff up. 250 calories a day may sound like a lot, but its only a small non fat latte with no whip cream.

I am not suggesting restricting anything. As a former eating disordered person, I know that restriction leads people down dark and dangerous pathways, many times without them even knowing it.
I'm suggesting working the things you love into your daily calorie goals. Its a give and take and you can do it without over eating. I remember there was one night where I was just hankering for a soda. I never have cravings for soda but when it didn't go away for three days, I decided to give in. All I did was take the half and half out of my coffee that morning and skipped the feta cheese on my salad. I got to have what I wanted and I didn't blow my day by tacking on extra calories.

Just to be clear, I do not advocate counting calories for a lifetime. (Who even has TIME for that?) But while you are losing, it is the most effective way (I've found) to get results. (Disclaimer: I am not an expert. I am just a regular old person trying to lose weight safely and effectively.)

Once you are in maintenance, then you can adopt the "it doesn't matter mentality" that the article refers to. That's just my opinion but this is my blog, so deal.
Although I am always interested to hear what y'all think, too. :-)


Anonymous said...

Humm, I am going to have to think about this. I don't disagree with the article in a few pounds up and down really doesn't matter. I don't think you should have to worry about counting every single calorie, but I would lie if I said I didn't keep a running estimate going in my head each day. That being said I have no idea how many calories I burn in a workout either. But if I have a good eating day I might do a lighter work out. So while counting calories is not really necessary or an exact science, the simple fact that to lose weight you have to burn more than you eat makes me think that it does matter. And I'm sorry if I have muffin for breakfast it triggers my carb drive and I end up craving more muffins and probably would not eat a lighter lunch or skip a snack, but hey that's just me:)

Becky said...

I'm with you Nicole, I won't skip meals or snacks just b/c I blew it at some point in my day. I'll just do a harder workout.
I think she brings up some good points in that we should go easier on ourselves, enjoy life and food and friends, and not obsess as much. But she's in maintenance. And I find it a little misleading for those still trying to lose weight. I read the author's blog and when she was losing, she counted every single calorie she ate. So it strikes me as mildly hypocritical that she advises others differently.
Not that we are in a competition with hundreds of pounds to lose, but think about the Biggest Loser. I highly doubt their trainers say to them "it doesn't matter." I would argue that the "it doesn't matter" mindset is what got them where they are in the first place.
It does matter. Calories do matter. But (and I think this is what Kath was going for) the self loathing and guilt and obsessive behaviors matter more.
I don't think its wrong (or obsessive. Trust me, I know obsessive) to count your calories. I keep a running tab in my head every day, too. And I always know when I've gone over (hello, beautiful glass of wine).
But saying to ourselves over and over, "it doesn't matter" when we mess up, I think, is the beginning of a slippery slope.
Instead, I'd prefer to say to myself "It does matter. Remember that it matters. Next time make the choice that shows you know it matters."

jilly said...

Ok, there's tons I have to say on this article and it might not come out as completely articulate. Yes, I agree that a more relaxed approach works better than a rigid one. Yes I agree that counting calories is more important to losing weight than maintaining. Yes, I note the hypocrisy of the writer who recorded everything she ate during her own weightloss journey. I do disagree with both eating less or exercising more as a way to compensate for a slip, but that's different matter. But there's a bigger point that's being missed here.

For example, the idea of being offered a muffin. What the author fails to point out is what you should do when you are offered a muffin. She says it's not a big deal, but- unless you live under a rock- you should be smart enough to know that a muffin has a lot of calories, regardless of knowing the exact number. You are then faced with a situation- do you eat the muffin? You can say no and hold out for a healthier option or you can eat and go from there. Why do we have to eat the muffin? What is the cost/benefit of ths situation? Don't say you shouldn't freak out, but say this is an ok thing to do i you look at the situation an decide it's worth it.

Does this make sense? Because it's all jumbled in my mind.

Sarah P said...

When I stop keeping track, I wind up letting something slip here or there and before I know it, I've lost some of my good habits.

I think keeping an eye on intake/output is important for losing AND maintaining. Otherwise, I will go right back to old habits.

I'm totally with you.