What I’ve Learned From Counting Calories

What I've Learned From Counting Calories-- What I've done wrong and what I've done right

Well I don’t know about you fellow army spouses, but I’ve had quite the experience with the army scheduling moves at the most absolute inconvenient times. This time around, it was shortly after I started counting calories as a way to shed the pounds I’d gained when my soldier came home from his deployment.

Right when I got into the grove and rhythm and had started to lose a little bit, we were on the road and in the moving process for about a month! Granted, I could have easily continued counting, even while on the road. It was such a hectic time and I’ll admit that I let myself take a hiatus until we were settled.

6 months later, we’re settled, and when I noticed none of my pants fit like they used to, I decided it was time to get back to it. I am proud to say that I’m now halfway to my goal weight, and I’ve stuck with the calorie counting. I’ve made a few mistakes along the way, and learned a couple of things. Today I’m going to share my experience with you.

But first, a little disclaimer. I am in no way shape or form a nutritionist or dietitian. There are many many different ways of dieting, and by writing this I am not suggesting that you yourself go on a diet. You should always consult with your doctor before beginning any diet and exercise regime.

At first, I was shocked…

When I  first started, I was shocked to see just how much I was consuming in a day, even when I thought I didn’t eat much at all!  My problem was big portion sizes and high calorie foods. Not to mention I had gotten into a nasty habit while my soldier was away. I would have a chocolaty desert of some kind, usually a piece of cake or brownie (or two), with a nice big glass of milk after the kids went to bed. I would also have a cup of coffee every morning, with a lot of flavored cream.

It’s tough holding down the fort while they’re away, especially with a newborn and potty training toddler. This late night desert, and daily heavily creamed and sweetened coffee was my daily treat for making it through another day in one piece. It was also starting to wreak havoc on my waistline.

It’s a little tedious…

In the beginning, I didn’t have my recipes saved in my app. And if you’re like me, you always grab the same brands of food products while grocery shopping without giving a lot of thought of what’s on the label.

My first couple of weeks, it felt so time-consuming having to stop and create the recipe, scan the bar codes into the ingredients list, and figure out how much was one portion, for every single meal. All the while trying to keep it under my daily caloric goal.

After a while though, I have gotten used to it. Not only do I have a lot of my most used recipes saved, but I know what a 400 calorie breakfast looks like, and what a true portion generally looks like.

Planning ahead makes things easier…

It’s a lot easier to plan and log meals ahead of time. I just started (I know, what took me so long??) meal planning our daily meals. Not only has this helped when it comes to grocery shopping, as I discussed in this post, but it has also helped me log and plan my dinners ahead of time. This gives me an idea of what kind of breakfasts I should make, and more importantly, how much of that sweet delicious creamer I can add to my coffee.

Now it only takes me a couple of minutes a day to plan out and log in a couple of days worth of meals.

In the beginning I was hungry…

When I learned what one portion of a certain food or recipe was, it was easy to see how those pounds packed on so quickly. I cook from scratch a lot, and I thought this alone was helping me stay ahead by not having a lot of heavily processed foods on our plates. While this is somewhat true, I wasn’t taking into account that even better for you meals and foods can be overeaten, causing weight gain.

Those first couple of days, I was a little hungry, a lot. I had stretched my stomach muscles with the big portions I was eating on a daily basis. After a couple of days though, that had started to go away as my stomach got used to the more accurate portion sizes. Now, while I might get a little hungry between meals, I also get fuller faster at the dinner table. When I feel myself getting a little hungry during the day, I just drink some water to stay hydrated.

I slowed down…

With smaller portion sizes obviously came less food. Before, I didn’t give it any thought as to how fast I ate my food. I see this new small portion eating beneficial in many ways, and one of those benefits is that I’ve learned to slow down when I eat. I take smaller bites, chew more and savor what I’m eating. This gives me more opportunity to actually taste what I’m eating, imagine that!

You can either eat a lot of the good stuff, or a little of the bad stuff….

But not both! If you want to eat more and maximize how much food you can eat in one day while still staying in your caloric goal, you have got to read your labels. I’ve found a lot of healthier substitutes and ingredients for the things that we like to eat. This has enabled me to still eat and make things we love. I’m kind of forced to in fact, if I want to keep eating things that taste good, and I do!

Some good examples are replacing heavy cream with half and half, switching out ground beef with ground turkey, and baking instead of frying. I’ve also found a light sharp cheddar from Cabot that has all the fantastic taste but with fewer calories!

It has benefited our whole family…

I’m the one who plans and makes our meals, therefore it’s not only me who is benefiting from a little healthier eating choices! My husband and my kids both are along for the ride with me. While I don’t count their calories, because well, they’re kids and they should only be focused on learning and being children, I do know what a good portion for them looks like. Little do they know the little shortcuts I’ve taken to make their meals healthier, because it tastes the same to them.

These days I usually only make enough for us each to have one serving with little to no leftovers. Not only has this reduced food waste, but it doesn’t give my food loving soldier the option to eat a second helping! As you all probably know, the army makes sure their soldiers are within their weight limits, and sometimes my husband struggles with this. Now I feel good about being able to help him with that while still giving him delicious quality meals made with love.

I cheat…

Once a week, every Saturday, I allow myself some wiggle room and ease off the counting for that day. While I don’t feel deprived since I’m able to still eat things I love, sometimes I get a craving for takeout and dessert. And, well, I deserve it to be quite frank! I cook all week-long, so one day a week I deserve a day off from all of it, the cooking and the counting.

Sometimes I’ve been a little too lax and cheated two to three days, and I quickly found out that while one day is doable, anything more and I’m just taking two steps forward and one step back.

Once I have reached my goal weight, I will continue to count my calories and prepare food the way I have learned to maintain my weight. I’ve also found that I don’t really crave the things I used to crave. I feel accomplished that I’ve stuck with something that can be so difficult at times. Lastly, I feel better about the reflection I see in the mirror, and that’s all I’ve wanted from the start.

With Love, Tiffany




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