While I was marathon training I pretty much let myself eat whatever I wanted - within reason of course. But I didn't count calories. I was burning so many calories that I really didn't see the need to. For a week and half after the race, I allowed myself to over-indulge with all kinds of good stuff, which I absolutely don't regret at all.
But now that the training is over (well, sort of), I need to reign in my appetite, which is not an easy thing to do! To get back on track, I started counting calories again using MyFitnessPal.
It's been 2 weeks and I'm not going to lie, it's tough and I’ve had mixed feelings about it.
1. The simple practice of recording what I ate made me aware of just how much I was eating. I was shocked to see that I was consuming close to 3000 calories/day. By journaling my diet, I was easily able to see where I was wasting calories and eliminate those unnecessary snacks.
2. Seeing the breakdown of nutrients made me realize that I was eating large amounts of sugar. I've had to cut back on processed sugar; i.e. dark chocolate covered almonds. While I still get a decent amount of sugar, now it's mainly from fruits, which I don't feel the need to cut back on.
3. I identified how much mindless snacking I do, especially when I'm bored. This usually happens between 10 am - Noon. So during this time I try to drink as much water as possible, and walk around the office to distract myself from reaching for a snack when I'm not even hungry.
1. If I "ran out" of calories too early in the day, it made me want to do extra workouts to bring myself back within my caloric target range.
2. I found myself adopting the mentality of "saving calories", particularly if I knew I was going to have a big meal later in the day or week. Not a balanced approach at all.
3. It made me hate rest days because I hated seeing "zero" in the Calories Burned column.
This made me wonder, is counting calories counter productive?
In general, no, I don't think counting calories is a bad thing IF you have the right approach to it. It's good to have periodic check-ins and audit your diet to make sure you are on the right track for your personal goals (and everyone has their own individual goals).
I'm still tracking my calories daily because:
- I'm still trying to trim the number of daily calories I'm consuming. - I tend to get out of hand with portion control. - I let myself go over board on weekends.
I also think it's critical to do some research and know what the acceptable parameters are for your own body.
I usually get an RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate) Test done every 6 months. The first one I had done was last February, and the last one I had done was in early November, so I went in yesterday to have it measured again. I'm fortunate that I can get this test at the health center at work for a fairly inexpensive price (it was only $30).
The test itself is simple - you use a clip to pinch your nose and breathe into a tube that is hooked up to a machine that calculates your metabolism. I've been told that it's the most accurate way get this measurement.
I charted my results over the past 3 tests:
Exercise: # of calories burned by 30 minutes of moderate exercise LIfestyle: # of calories burned performing daily activites like work, play, eating, etc. Resting Metabolic Rate: # of calories burned every day at rest
I was happy to see that my metabolism continues to improve but more importantly, I have a healthy calorie range to work that is specific to my own DNA.
I guess the bottom line is, "what gets measures gets managed."I think it's impossible to have "a perfect diet" 100% of the time, but doing this helps me build consistency, heightens my awareness and develop healthier eating habits.
It’s a continual work in progress, but one that I am (hopefully) getting better at!