*FAIR WARNING!! This blog post is mostly about calorie counting (a non-diet diet), staying healthy and weight loss guidelines – just so you are aware of that before you start reading. Now that that is out of the way, I hope you enjoy it 😊
I was scrolling through my emails this morning and came across a term I’ve never heard before: “quarantine 15”. I may not have my foot on the ball when it comes to memes and that sort of thing, but I even I could tell that this was a creative play on the well-known freshman 15. For those of you who don’t know the origin, it’s essentially a joke (that has some truth to it) that freshman or first-year university students put on about 15 pounds in their first year due to the newfound freedom. All of that dining hall food and takeaways for study nights add up and hence comes the freshman 15.
I came across this “quarantine 15” when I read through a health and fitness blog that I subscribe to, and I thought that it was such a smart play on the current situation. While we continue to face the coronavirus, there is a lot to stress about. The health of ourselves and our loved ones, the status of our jobs, the status of school and in general just the uncertainty of when life will even have a small semblance of normality again. We are all living in an incredibly stressful period, and normal is no longer anything like it used to be. We’re all being encouraged to stay indoors as much as possible, we can’t go to the gym, and grocery shopping is now more about buying what can last than what is the healthier option. Add all the stress and cabin fever into the equation (and for some that can mean turning to food and eating their feelings – which isn’t a bad thing it happens to all of us myself included!) and it’s no wonder this joke came into play. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily a good thing.
The problem with this new quip is it brings newly fuelled attention onto our bodies and more importantly, that the shape and size of our bodies is the most crucial aspect to focus on. Looks and image have always been at the forefront of society (let’s just look at social media and general media and see which types of people get the most likes or feature the most) and that has never been great for the mental health of people trying to make significant lifestyle changes. But add on top of that this global pandemic and everything that has come about because of it, making people feel self-conscious and possibly embarrassed about putting on a little extra weight is not good at all. This is a difficult time, and as such, it is much harder to maintain the healthy lifestyle we had before the pandemic hit. As such, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about calorie counting.
Okay now before you all brandish weapons and start making threatening remarks at your devices, let me first make a few things clear. I do not like diets, and I’m not the type of person that thinks being skinny or incredibly muscular defines how beautiful you are. Aiming to be the thinnest or to look like a model or actress is highly unrealistic. It can also be incredibly harmful because everybody is different, and not all of us are meant to look like Victoria Secret models. No matter how much we starve ourselves, that just isn’t going to happen. However, that doesn’t mean that we can’t be healthy, and this brings me to my reason why I don’t like diets. Diets usually mean restricting or completely eradicating certain foods from your diet and increasing others, and this food consumption change is what will allow you to lose weight. The only problem with this is that by forbidding certain foods, you are far more likely to get a craving and break your diet, and then all that hard work was for nought. Let’s look at it another way. If you tell a teenager (yes I can say things like this because I am technically still a teenager and my little brother is just entering the phase) not to do something because it is forbidden, they are instinctively going to rebel and try in any way they can do it. Our brains can often work in similar ways when we are on diets. The other reason I don’t like diets (other than forcing yourself to avoid certain foods being a bad idea) is that they aren’t sustainable. You can’t live on such a restricted meal plan for your whole life so as soon as you stop and start eating normally again, there is a high possibility that you’ll just pick up all the weight you’ve lost and if that isn’t the most depressing, life-crushing experience, then I don’t know what is.
What is calorie counting? The explanations and basics
So then, how on earth can you lose weight with a diet without dieting? This is where calorie counting comes in. Every person depending on their age, body, lifestyle, gender etc. needs to consume a certain number of calories each day for their body to function correctly. Our bodies need energy to run, and all the food we eat is converted into energy. So essentially if we eat the ideal amount of food, our body will have the right amount of energy to perform all functions, and you will neither gain or lose weight. So, if you want to lose weight, you will then need to eat fewer calories than you usually do. This is called a calorie deficit.
Calorie counting is pure maths, and I think that’s why it appeals to me so much (not that I’m a maths fan at all but more because it is logical and straightforward). I read a really cool quote once that said weight loss is 80% diet-related and 20% exercise-related. Why? Because you can’t outrun your fork. What this means is that no matter how much you exercise, if you are eating more than you are burning (input vs output), then you will never lose weight. So, the easiest thing to do is to focus on what you’re eating. The easiest way to lose weight is to eat less than usual (the calorie deficit). Because your body is used to having more energy to perform all the necessary functions, it will start getting that energy from stored fat. Voila, weight loss will start happening. Now I’m not going to say how many calories you should be eating in a day because everyone is different. The average woman needs about 2000 calories per day and the average man about 2500 (because life is unfair and guys can eat more than girls without putting on weight); however, this is just the average. All of our bodies are so different, and our calorie-intake can depend on so many various factors that you shouldn’t take these numbers as the be-all and end-all. If you want to set a calorie deficit that is right for you, I’d highly recommend seeing a professional or at the very least going on a few different sites online to see what the average number of calories you should eat each day to lose weight. Right, now back to my explanations 😊
Each food contains a certain number of calories (kilojoules is the energy that is derived from those calories). Some have tons (like cheese! There are so many calories in cheese; it’s just heartbreaking), and some have almost none, like lettuce. Now the reason why I love this weight-loss method so much is that it doesn’t include any rules or restrictions like regular diets. You can still eat chocolate, pizza, cookies or whatever it is you would have had to give up on a regular diet. The only catch is that no matter what you want to eat, you can’t go over your daily calorie count for the day. I love this so much because the choice is entirely in your hands and nothing is off-limits, you just have to do the maths and be careful. If you want to, you can have a piece of chocolate, but if that piece is 400 calories and you’re only allowed 1600 each day, then you’ve just eaten 25% of your daily total. It may sound a bit harsh, but this method really helps you to understand what is in the foods you are eating and teaches self-control and discipline on a whole new level. This method helped me lose 15kg three years ago (and I wasn’t starving myself and still ate pizza and chocolate) and now that I’m being stricter with myself again, already another 6kg in just over a month. The best part about it is that because you are not banning anything, merely consuming fewer calories each day, it becomes a lifestyle change that is actually maintainable in the long run.
The tricks of calorie counting
So now that I’ve hopefully done my advertising correctly and gotten you curious about this option to lose weight, you might be asking if there are any ways to make it easier. Do I have any tricks or secrets up my sleeve? The answer would be yes! The truth is that calorie-counting can be quite hard to get into at first only because it takes effort on your part to get your numbers right. However, once you get into it, you might find that it is the best thing that ever happened to you. Remember that there is no such thing as not being allowed to eat something. If you feel like pizza, then eat pizza. If you feel like chocolate, then eat chocolate. Just know how many calories you are eating and compensate in other meals of the day to make sure that it fits with your daily total. It’s relatively easy, but here are a few tips in case you need them for starting this new journey.
Use a journal to keep track
This is by far the easiest way to keep track of how many calories you’ve had in a day and make sure you don’t go over your daily limit. Note what your limit is, then write everything you eat, how much and how many calories it is worth. That way, you can always keep track of how many calories you’ve eaten, and how many you have left (so you know whether you have to eat half a plate of dinner or can enjoy a bit of dessert). You could also use one of the many apps that have this function, but I prefer a hard copy – the choice is yours. 😊
Hydration is essential to almost any healthy lifestyle change but especially when changing your diet. Often times we think we’re hungry when in fact we are merely a little dehydrated so making sure that you have enough water during the day will make it easier to stay on track with your calorie goal. If you feel hungry, try drinking a glass of water or a cup of green tea, and if you still feel snackish 45 minutes later, then you know you were hungry. Also, I’d advise having a glass of water thirty minutes before eating each meal as it can help take the edge off your hunger and help stop you from eating more than you need.
Find free foods that you enjoy
There are so many delicious foods out there that don’t have a lot of calories in them. Lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers (so the perfect ingredients for a basic salad), berries, Greek yoghurt and air-popped popcorn with no added seasonings are all pretty low-cal but also quite filling. Find out which free foods you enjoy the most and use those to fill you up whenever you feel snackish.
Google knows (mostly) all
In the beginning, you aren’t going to know the values by heart, but that’s okay because you don’t need to worry about guessing. Why? Because you can find the calorie values for almost all foods on google – all you need to do is search it, and you’ll find it! Google is the best resource, especially when it comes to something like this, so be sure to use it as much as your heart desires.
When it comes to figuring out those values or doing the calculations yourself, there can sometimes be rounding errors. If you can’t be as exact as possible, I’d say always overestimate than underestimate. That way, you won’t accidentally go over your daily limit or get disheartened because your progress isn’t as fast as you’d like (due to those rounding errors). When in doubt, always try to measure your food and use the nutritional information on the packaging, and round up. I’m being a bit dramatic saying that small rounding errors will make significant setbacks, but rather be on the safe side.
Don’t be too hard on yourself
This diet is probably one of the easiest to maintain, but the hardest to start because it is all about your self-discipline and self-control. That being said, it is entirely normal to make mistakes and have setbacks in the beginning. When I first started, I did my maths so well in the first week, and by the end of the weekend, I was so proud because I hadn’t gone over my limit once. However, I didn’t see that chocolate cake coming and couldn’t resist. It’s hard to start so if you make a few mistakes or are a little less strict in the beginning, that’s okay! Also, make it easier for yourself by avoiding temptations and opting for a healthier choice when temptation isn’t easy to escape. You’re already doing so well by taking this first step, so don’t be ashamed if you stumble along the way.
Wow, I know that this blog post was really long and probably the most health-orientated any of my blogs have ever been, but I thought it was an important topic to talk about. These are stressful times and keeping off weight/losing weight and being healthy is more challenging than ever so I hope that this has been helpful and showed you that you can still enjoy the foods you love while losing weight. Just remember though, calorie counting doesn’t mean you can leave out exercise altogether as it does have many other benefits that can’t be replicated through eating healthily – they both work together to create a healthy lifestyle. As always, thank you all so much for reading my blog post. If you have any questions about calorie counting, I’d be more than happy to answer them (I’ll do my best – but please remember I am not a professional) and if you have your own stories to share then please do so in the comments section! If you choose to embark on this journey, good luck and I hope that it is as satisfying to you as it has been to me, but otherwise, everyone stay safe and healthy!
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx