Disclaimer: I am not a licensed professional in nutrition or medicine. This is my personal story and journey. Consult a doctor before making major nutritional changes.
I have a confession: I'm a serial dieter. I've been hopping from fad diet to fad diet ever since the 5th grade. I've tried juice cleanses and single food diets and being vegetarian and cutting out carbs and even the Hollywood Cookie Diet that one time (I did it for 2 days before I quit, but I did end up with lots of yummy cookie snacks). All of this effort to try to achieve my perfect weight, which according to my mom, is always 20 pounds lighter than my current weight. Well, none of it had ever worked, not because the diets were crazy (well, the cookie diet was a little crazy), but because I never found one that I could stick to for one simple reason: I LOVE food. So, the years went by and my weight kept going up. I was never conventionally fat, but I was perpetually flirting with the line between healthy and overweight.
Last Christmas, 2017, I resolved to lose some weight. 10 lbs, not too crazy. Sure, I'd had weight loss as a resolution for the past 10 years, but I figured I'd give it another try. A real try this time. You see, I'd just graduated from college, I had a gym membership, a gym buddy (the boyfriend), and maximum control of what I put into my body. Armed with my Fitbit Alta and the matching app, I was ready.
Now, I've tried counting calories before, but those diets ended quickly due to 1) my lack of knowledge on how many calories are in any given food item, and 2) pure and simple laziness. But this time, I had help. The Fitbit app supplied me with all the information I needed including calories out, calories in, and a calorie counter set to losing one pound each week. For 4 months, I followed the app to a T. However, the results weren't so great. I was essentially binging and purging, but instead of throwing up, I'd walk laps around my building or in the hallway, just to earn that bubble tea. But I was obsessed. My Fitbit controlled my life.
It wasn't until I was in a performance that strictly prohibited jewelry that I was forced to part with my Fitbit device. Without the knowledge of how many calories I was putting out, I had to set a consistent calories-in value. That was when I stumbled onto Kathryn Morgan's Youtube Channel. She's a real life ballerina who danced with the New York City Ballet as a principle dancer. In one of her videos, she said that she eats about 1500 calories a day. And I decided if that's enough for a ballerina, then it's enough for me.
When I started limiting my calories to around 1500 each day, something unexpected happened. Something good: slowly but surely, the numbers on the scale started going down. To my surprise, the months of looking up calories for every food item and carefully measuring out food portions allowed me to eyeball food and get pretty darn close to it's caloric content. I started to gravitate toward whole foods and less processed foods because they are naturally lower in calories than their heavily-processed equivalents. I can have cheat days as long as at the end of the week, the average calories in clocked in at around 1500. And, best of all, it doesn't feel like a chore. It's completely sustainable for me.
Now, 7 months after my New Years resolution, I've lost 10 pounds. I wanted to share this story with you because counting calories generally gets a bad rap for causing obsessive behaviors. Or else, it's seen as a way to go on a junk food starvation diet. But I'm here to tell you that it is doable, and if you do it right, you'll think twice about grabbing that cupcake when you are in need of something sweet and reach for a peach instead. You may decide to wrap up half of a big meal and have the leftovers for another meal. Calorie counting is a tool to make you aware of what you are putting in your body. So if you would like to change your eating habits, don't blow off this method. Just be aware of why you are doing it and how this tool will help you. And if you try it and it doesn't work for you, that's great, too! Go on and experiment with other healthy diets and find the most sustainable one for you. And hey, good luck on your nutrition journey!