1,200. That was my magic number. When I first started this weight loss journey, I thought all I had to do was to stay within that number, and I would be fine. Because, after all, that was the number of calories needed to lose weight, right (as against the recommended 1,500 – 2,000 calories for women)? I would then proceed to eat every and anything, provided it all fit into that magic number. I would eat 2 or 3 slices of bread, heavily laden with butter and/or jam, snack on biscuits, eat more starchy carbs for lunch (albeit in smaller portions), snack some more, and I would still hover in the 1,200 range. Amazing, right? Except it wasn’t, because I was a chronic cheat. I used to, and still use, a website called Calorie Count to log my daily calories. I would then proceed to understate portions, or even meals altogether. Of course I didn’t lose any weight at all.
Even if I hadn’t cheated and understated my portions, eating high starch and high sugar meals made the whole exercise futile, especially for the PCOS girl like me. The more sugar my body had available to convert to insulin, the worse my condition became. Basically, even if you have just enough of these foods to fall even in the 1,000 calorie mark, the PCOS girl will still gain weight. Diets based on the same number of calories, but with different proportions of carbohydrates, fat, and protein, will result in different degrees of weight loss.
Over the years, I learnt that it wasn’t about sticking to a number, but about the kinds of food that made up that number. Fiber rich foods (like whole wheat, beans, oats, some fruits, etc.) will fill you up for longer, even if you consume the same calorific number as its low fiber counterpart. The end result is that you will not get hungry as quickly, and are thus less likely to consume extra calories to fill the hole.
Another thing I learnt is that calorie counting without exercise will lead to very little weight loss. Don’t get me wrong. Eventually, you could lose weight, but at snow pace when compared with your counterpart who has been exercising steadily. I had a friend who lost the 10kg she wanted to lose without lacing a pair of sneakers for one day. But it took her almost 18 months to do this. If she had been exercising, she might have been able to cut that time in half.
A very important tip for calorie counting is portion control. If we are able to eat small, measured, disciplined portions, the calories we consume will most surely be less. If we also make it a habit to opt for very low calorie snacks, like carrots, celery, apples, etc., our calorie count will be significantly less than the person who snacks on crisps and biscuits.
With calorie counting, you must always count before you consume. If you eat first and count later, your calorie logging time will be filled with a lot of tears and finger biting. You must always know what you are getting into. This is why planning your meals is essential. By deciding to eat a small bowl of oatmeal, you can ascertain what your calorie count for that meal will be. If you are trying to decide between a brown bread and egg & ham sandwich, or a Big Mac, the calorie differential between the two will make you drop one as if it’s hot!
Today, I am back to fully counting my calories, and know that if I cheat, the only person I hurt is myself. When I indulge in any lovely Nigerian delicacy, rather than guessing its calorie composition item-by-item, I google it and almost always find an accurate calorific number. And I am not just limiting myself to the 1,200 calories (or preferably less ). I am making sure I eat the right things. I have eliminated white carbs from my diet (except for my Sunday cheat day), as well as sweets and fizzy drinks. I also exercise more often now, to compliment all my other efforts. I still have a long way to go to reach my target, but hopefully, I’ll get there soon
If you want to follow my weight loss journal, please check it out here.