What are your experiences with counting calories?
March 18, 2015 11:27 PM   Subscribe

I looking to hear about the experiences people have had with counting calories to lose weight, so that I can better determine if it's the right approach for me and my partner.

Me and my partner are both overweight, and it's negatively impacting out health, so we need to lose a little bit. I think that calorie counting is the most logical approach: simply eat fewer calories than you expend each day, and over time you will lose weight. I've never done it before though, so I'm sure there's all sorts of pitfalls that I'm not considering. Also, what seems logical in theory doesn't always work in practice. So I'm hoping to hear about the experiences of people who have actually done it, either successfully or not, so that I can better determine if it's the right approach for us. Thanks!
posted by sam_harms to Health & Fitness (36 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Counting calories religiously and all the time (not just when trying to lose weight) works for the very detail-oriented, but for most people it's unrealistic. I find it's best to know what foods are packed with calories, and to just eat sensibly and of course cleanly. Whole foods are always the best option. Base all of your meals around fresh unprocessed foods, and get those veggies and leafy greens in. Don't deprive yourself, but have a basic understanding of how much you're actually consuming. For example, one 'baby' red potato can contain as many as 150 calories, and most people eat quite a few and as a side dish. It's easy to consume 1,000 calories in one sitting and not even realize it. Do a little research on your preferred foods, and pay attention to how much oil you're using on salads and whilst cooking (100+ calories per Tbsp). Slowly and deliberately cut all the junk out and substitute it for fruit, air popped popcorn, yogurts, apples with peanut butter, etc. and other healthy snacks. Your palate will eventually change and junk food will repulse you sooner than you'd think.
posted by Avosunspin at 11:40 PM on March 18, 2015

Calorie counting approaches like Weight Watchers (which is actually done through teaching you portion control through an easy points tracking system) has been studied and held up time and again as the safest, longest lasting nutritional weight loss method.

And my personal experience matches that. I've lost and kept off 75 pounds. The first chunk was with very low carb eating. The last chunk, and the way I maintain it, has been by tracking everything I eat. First I was religious about writing it all down (actually in an easy to use WW app but there are tons of similar ones that use calories, not points, like My Fitness Pal) but now that my lifestyle has been this way for years I can eyeball things better and track less religiously. But when I find myself reaching for that third slice of pizza too often and the scale creeps up a couple pounds, I realize I need to religiously track ALL my calories again for a few weeks to re-instill the good behaviors I want to keep.

Reducing your caloric intake by a percentage over time is the best proven method of weight Los. If like me you need some daily mindful awareness imposed on you to execute on the vision, then counting calories is absolutely your best bet.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 12:02 AM on March 19, 2015 [9 favorites]

Just to provide some counterpoint:

If like me you need some daily mindful awareness imposed on you to execute on the vision, then counting calories is absolutely your best bet.

Mindfulness about food is a great goal and should usually be part of the picture no matter what route you choose, but go into this aware that there's not just "ignoring what's going into your mouth" and "perfect awareness through accurate measurement". The thing on the other side is obsession.

Some people have no problem with it. I do. My attempts at calorie counting go quickly from sensible daily totals to a stressful sort of hyper-vigilance about everything that passes my lips and an almost competitive sort of sense that if I can get my daily totals even lower than X, then I'll finally feel right about my body. This is absolutely not to say you shouldn't try it, more to say that you should go into this with the awareness that you need to keep sanity-checking and at some point you might have to stop.

I say this in particular because I think in some ways, the sort of person who is most vulnerable to this is the logical, analytical mind who is inclined, say, to care a lot about trend lines on spreadsheets and nutrient totals and start losing track of the actual food in the middle.
posted by Sequence at 12:15 AM on March 19, 2015 [16 favorites]

When I was young and had to lose 20 pounds, I had no trouble just by eating less without tracking and doing more exercise. I'm not so young anymore, and in the last year I tried all sorts of things that didn't work for me, all of them based on intuitively eating healthier and moving more.

I signed up more than a month ago for MyFitnessPal to track calories, and I'm losing 1.5 pounds a week without suffering. Tracking isn't hard or obsessive for me, even while I travel. So many other people use the app that I rarely have to enter the nutritional values of anything, even small-brand packaged food I pick up in different countries. It takes literally minutes a day. Using the graphs in the app, I see a clear correlation between net calories in and weight lost.

There are lots of helpful people at the reddit group LoseIt, and their FAQ on how to determine your caloric needs is helpful.
posted by ceiba at 12:25 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I have lost over 20 pounds on 2 different occasions using calorie counting and its helped me tremendously... the first time was pre low carb back in 1992 and the second time was in 2010... I can't tell you if it will work for you, but I can tell you why it worked for me.

1) You have to be very honest with what you are consuming. You MUST count the tablespoon of cream in your coffee or mayonaise in your sandwich... but the funny thing is that you often are consuming more than a tablespoon... only when you get out the measuring spoon do you realise!

2) I simplified my diet. Counting calories is hard if you have to calculate it for a recipe... (and I always found Myfitnesspal to be not so accurate for homecooked stuff) so I ended up getting back to basics and having a chicken breast and steamed veggies, for example.

3) Nothing is forbidden, if I want a slice of cake for lunch I can have it... My favorite McDonalds meal has 1000 calories... but if I have it then I'm not hungry for my next meal so it evens out...

Portion control and making nutritious diet choices are two different choices that use different skills... I don't see why I need to overwhelm myself with both at once... usually after calorie counting a while I end up moving on to the next phase of making better choices.

After a couple weeks of calorie counting my diet has usually fixed itself and I don't have to think about it too much. Now it is a 6th sense... I can tell by looking at a meal in a restaurant, about how many calories it probably has and adjust accordingly.

Top tips:

Always have cut up low calorie snacks like fruit and veggies...
Veggie juice is amazing... I make myself have a glass before every meal...

Good luck!
posted by catspajammies at 12:43 AM on March 19, 2015 [4 favorites]

Do you have any obsessive or perfectionistic tendencies? How do you respond to gamification, especially around numbers? How competitive are you, particularly if you're doing this with a partner? Are you likely to want to drive down the number in order to "beat" your partner/lose more weight than them?

For me, counting calories was the single biggest catalyst for my eating disorder. There was plenty of other stuff feeding (hah) into it, sure, but the obsessiveness around numbers/driving the number down/being able to measure and "win" at something was what took it from "gonna lose me some weight" to "I have a problem". The eating disorder was also significantly worse for me both psychologically and in terms of long-term health than being overweight in the first place. Every subsequent relapse has started off with me thinking that I can track calories and not get obsessed about it, and every time I've ended up deep in out-of-control territory.

This was not a pitfall I was aware of the first time I did it. The other times are kind of on me, though - I now recognise that thoughts about reducing/tracking calories are, for me, a big red flag that I should take seriously rather than indulging with a "how bad can it be?" mindset.

If you see any of yourself in any of the above, I'd recommend going for an approach that doesn't involve tracking a number - low carb, maybe, or fewer processed foods, or eating a ton of vegetables before you eat anything else. Anything that's more difficult to put a hard number on and game, essentially.
posted by terretu at 1:17 AM on March 19, 2015 [8 favorites]

Just over 12 months ago my doctor told me I was eating my way into an early grave. Even though I was active and playing basketball weekly. I started wearing a fitness tracker and counting calories as part of that; I was waking 10k steps and eating around 2000 calories a day. The fitness ecosystem I was using didn't have all the Australian foods I was eating, but I was able to be pretty close; I was counting calories as a guide moreso than being fanatical. I also stopped eating junk/fast/processed food, lowered the carbs, and went back to 2 standard alcoholic beverages a week.

I dropped from 120kg to 95 in 8 months; I've since taken up cycling and now ride 200km+ a week and the weight has stayed off, even though I'm not as obsessive about what I eat. I still track my food, using the MyFitnessPal app, and it's a nice wake up call when I do splurge and eat the odd Danish or burger and fries. Plus, now that I'm riding longer trips on the weekend it's nice to take that exercise into account and know I can eat extra to refuel property after a 100km ride.

Advice: experiment until you find both a food plan and tracking method that you can stick to and that won't override your life. All things in moderation, don't be hard on yourself for the odd food splurge. Exercise 30 minutes a day, even if its walking to/from/at work. And eat natural and 'clean' as much as you can. Yeah it can be harder work to start with, planning meals and prepping, but the taste of the food and the visible gains make it worthwhile.

Good luck! MeMail me if you want more info or advice!
posted by matrixgeek at 2:10 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Calorie counting makes sense, but if you're a bit scattered it can be difficult to practically apply.

But one thing that has SEEEEEEERIOUSLY been helping me recently - no joke - is adopting a bento box for taking my lunch to work. They're designed to pretty much count the calories for you - a box looks small, but it's confined to a certain set number of milliters in size - "1 milliliter = 1 calorie" is a good rule of thumb - so you are only taking the amount of food which is appropriate for your diet. (You're also meant to pack the food in tightly.) Also, you're meant to fill a typical box with one third each of protein, carbs, and fruits/vegetables.

The way this helps me is that trying to count calories when I'm packing lunch in the morning and am pre-caffinated is impossible. But - I can handle "rice in this spot, leftover meatballs in this one, fill these boxes with baby carrots and grapes, done." Not only do I get a balanced meal, I know that my lunch is about 850 calories, simply because that's how much the box holds.

They make boxes in a bunch of sizes depending on what you want for your caloric intake, and a lot of different designs (they're not all Hello Kitty and Pokemon); and you're kind of encouraged to have a lot of variety in your lunch so you also don't feel like "bleah, all I'm eating is salad". Give it a shot.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:55 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Nthing what everyone said about this being a potential eating disorder trigger. Counting calories won't give you an eating disorder, but for certain people it can morph into one.

And be sure you're following the spirit of the law, not just the letter. You can cut calories by eating "diet foods" like rice cakes and Lean Cuisines, but you'll probably feel hungry and dissatisfied. If you focus on eating fresh foods, and finding ways to prepare them that you like, you'll get more enjoyment out of eating and find the change easier to sustain in the long run.

And don't deprive yourself of anything. If you want that ice cream, eat it and don't punish yourself for it; just continue with your healthy eating plan afterwards. If you remove judgment ("bad," "guilt-free," "cheating," "oh I shouldn't") from salty/fatty/sweet things, and start viewing them as "sometimes food" (thanks, Cookie Monster!), it's easier to enjoy them in moderation without freaking out.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:04 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've dieted a number of ways, and lost weight some of the time. For me, I forget sometimes to count because - well,I just do (let's say it's the ADHD). So what I rely on is having prepared meals that are low calorie available. That said, it doesn't take into consideration drinking (and free office feeds, and suddenly going out to dinner and stuff). So yeah, I think calorie counting is best and my fitness pal is pretty good because it notices your regular food, and it's hard to find a food that's not there - and you can add your own.

But weight watchers and other prescribed diets - just way too hard, not my type of food, inflexible to a degree. Probably worthwhile if you don't know what healthy (and reasonably low calorie) food is.

That said, while exercise improves a bunch of things like mood & metabolism, my lifelong experience in weight loss (and gain, and reading a million books, diets, websites), calories are at least 80% of the effort. If I worked out like a demon but didn't watch what I eat, I'd be more flexible, with more endurance, but I wouldn't shift the fat (let's not get all excited about muscle weighing more). Also when I exercise a lot, I get hungrier - so again, important to know what I'm eating.
posted by b33j at 5:16 AM on March 19, 2015

Just as a data point, counting calories is the only way I have ever managed to lose weight, but it is a rigorous discipline that must be maintained, and as soon as I stop doing it the weight starts coming right back.
posted by maxsparber at 5:50 AM on March 19, 2015

If you are a perfectionist, Weight Watchers may be a better choice than counting calories precisely. It's designed so that you can basically track it in your head or on paper, not on a smartphone, and it's less picky because of that.
posted by smackfu at 5:58 AM on March 19, 2015

Unless you are an physiological outlier (you have an unusual medical condition, or such) the only way you lose weight is by expending more calories than you take in, so that makes counting calories the most direct way. Other forms of dieting can work, but absent special circumstances, they only work because they have reduced calorie intake.
posted by dzot at 6:30 AM on March 19, 2015

I have used counting calories as a guide in addition to watching carb intake (have better quality bread instead of white bread, don't just eat handfuls of candy, watch it with pasta and such) and that seems to work pretty well. I switched to counting calories after stalling for months on my regular diet (Slow Carb) - and am about to switch to it again. Because I am sort of close to goal, it's hard to stay under 1300 calories at 3 meals a day, so I use intermittent fasting to help (and only eat 2 meals).

I can do this 6 days/week and have a cheat day (which is a big part of SCD) and still lose successfully.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:30 AM on March 19, 2015

Counting calories (using MyFitnessPal) has worked for me in the past, but only temporarily. It can be difficult to keep up with day in, day out for a prolonged period.

What I am doing now -- and I recommend it highly -- is the No S Diet. (I learned about it here on the green!)
posted by merejane at 6:39 AM on March 19, 2015

I made a goal to eat three apples a day and lost 20+ pounds in the past three months. It's easy to have a big bowl of red apples as accessible snacks, and by eating apples, I ended up wanting much smaller portions of everything else and not being hungry often so when I did eat, I made healthy choices easily. I really like apples and there are several distinct varieties available to me, so this was easy. There's a book, but it's basically "Eat an apple before each meal, and eat healthy otherwise.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 6:57 AM on March 19, 2015

I've been using MyFitnessPal to track calories for several months. It works for me and doesn't take a lot of time/ stress, but I'm also not obsessive about it. So if I make a stir-fry, I don't try to figure out the calorie count of everything I put in it; I'll go with one of their random "homemade stir fry" options and figure it's close enough. I'm not severely restricting my calories and quick weight loss is not my goal, so extreme accuracy is not my purpose; I just want to have a general sense of where I'm at during the day so I know if I can eat cookie butter by the spoonful after dinner.

At other times I have lost weight without calorie counting by eliminating junk food and keeping an eye on portion size. Now, I'm in an emotional place where I want to eat junk food, and calorie tracking keeps me from overdoing it.

On days when I know I'm going to eat complicated food and go over my calorie goal (parties, etc.) I don't bother tracking.

(Aside: apples make me feel MORE hungry than before I eat them. What's up with that? Carrots too.)
posted by metasarah at 7:11 AM on March 19, 2015

Counting calories with myfitnesspal worked really well for me for a specific weight loss goal (wanted to lose x pounds for my wedding). I don't think I could imagine sticking to it for more than 6 months or so, because it started to get pretty tedious. I definitely recommend trying it for a little while though. If nothing else, it will give you a sense of how much food you should be eating to lose the weight you want, and may help you to realize what's stopping you from getting there. In my case, it very quickly became clear that having after work beers with my coworkers was the main thing causing my problems, so I can continue to rein that in even without tracking everything.
posted by Ragged Richard at 7:28 AM on March 19, 2015

I* lost about 50 pounds in a year by counting calories 6 days a week, and adding moderate exercise 3 or 4 days a week (commuting by bicycle, 7 miles per day). I used sparkpeople to record progress and have vague calorie suggestions to help me be vigilant. I weighed myself daily. I was an omnivore at the time and I did not ban any particular food or drink, but I did end up eating loads of veggies and leanish protein, to get full on limited calories. I was not too hungry at any point (though I did feel weird at first). I went out for dinner or happy hour once a week or so, and used the calorie counter to guess at what I would be eating and plan a small breakfast and lunch.

That was my 2011. Since then I've gone pescetarian** and stayed in a 20 pound range by taking bicycling (1500 miles/year on my roadbike, not counting commuting). In the winter, when I'm not cycling and when counting is too grim to face, I do gain weight. But then spring comes or I manage a month of enthusiasm for diet tracking and I shrink again.

Counting is exhausting at first. You really need to measure and record everything, by weight if possible, and police yourself. I can't do it all the time, and after that first year the longest stretches I've managed are a few months--just enough to reset my portion sizes and habits to a sensible place.

*Woman, now 29, 5'11 and burly.
**I hate this word and usually just say "very bad vegetarian who eats fish sometimes".
posted by esoterrica at 7:36 AM on March 19, 2015

I lost ~50 lbs a few years ago and after gaining 10 or so back recently decided to try the calorie counting with Myfitnesspal. The problem I ran into is that I would set a goal, then I'd look at my calories and think, ok, I can fit a beer or another piece of meat in or whatever, and it just wasn't working for me.

I went back to how I lost in the first place, which was the mindfulness thing, and I lost the 10 easily. As always in these matters, YMMV, so maybe try it and see. It seems to work well for a lot of people.
posted by Huck500 at 7:37 AM on March 19, 2015

Counting calories religiously and all the time (not just when trying to lose weight) works for the very detail-oriented, but for most people it's unrealistic.

Yep. This is me. I am an obsessive list maker anyhow, so paying attention to calories was a good way for me to make sure my weight didn't creep up as I got older and my life became more sedentary. I concur with what other people have said: it's your new life plan, not just a diet thing. People who pay attention to calories generally speaking are the one group of people who are able to lose weight and keep it off. Science says so. That doesn't mean you'll be able to do it and it's worth paying attention to a few things

- eating disorders, you can get orthorexia and become sort of "food weird" if you're already inclined that way. Be cautious.
- ymmv - after a while you figure out how your body deals with calories specifically. I'm pretty lucky and most of the calorie suggestions (you need this much food, this much exercise is worth this many calories) are exactly right for me. You may need to workat it for a while to figure out exactly what works for your body
- exercise helps a LOT - for a lot of people calorie restriction is a long painful way to weight loss, but introducing exercise (besides being good for you) can really help
- EAT AT HOME - it's a lot easier to manage this when you're not guessing at calorie values for five meals a week. The more you cook at home (and weigh food, not just eyeball things) the more success you are likely to have.

It's slow if you're doing it in a way that is healthy. I'm a small person and so there was a pretty fine line between what I should have been eating to lose weight and how much was "too little" food according to My Fitness Pal (a great tool with a very supportive community) which was sometimes frustrating Overall I found it useful.
posted by jessamyn at 7:42 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Just to sound a bit more pessimistic counterpoint, I found calorie counting to be tedious, frustrating, sapped all of the enjoyment from eating, took away eating as a pleasurable social experience to share with others (because you can't really meet up for meals out in the same way), and encouraged food obsession. Also for me it and created a focus on low-calorie foods rather than on holistically healthy foods and adequate nutrients. I felt hungry and cold all the time when I calorie-counted, I thought about sugary and fatty foods more than I ever had, meal-planning took more time and money than I wanted to devote to it for little good payoff in taste, and the idea of endless weeks stretching out with the same tasteless low-calorie food with no respite was almost unbearable. I also didn't find it particularly effective in terms of losing weight.

Two other approaches worked better for me. A long while back, I did low-carb for a while, and while I definitely had strong cravings for bread etc., I wasn't hungry at all, and I lost weight more quickly. The second approach was psychologically easiest for me - intermittent fasting (a modified 5:2). Although in some ways it may sound similar to calorie counting, I found the psychological experience very different, because on a day that I was fasting and craving tasty food, I knew that the next day I could eat whatever it was that I was craving (although by the next day often the craving had dissipated). Although there are a couple of days of abstinence a week, for me this made me actually experience and enjoy food on the other days more vividly, and I could always schedule meals with friends on my non-fast days (or switch my fast days around to accommodate parties etc.) so it wasn't socially disruptive in the same way that calorie-counting or low-carb was. I ended up losing around 10 pounds on this method in the last year (which is about all I wanted to lose), so I've been very satisfied with it.
posted by ClaireBear at 7:43 AM on March 19, 2015

Learning about calories - whether you religiously count over time or not - is very very helpful if you do not have a good eyeball sense of how calories work, especially with regard to portion size.

So in that context, I say use MyFitnessPal or similar, get a digital food scale (I just replaced my broken scale at Target for $15, they're also really handy as a general cooking tool), and do spend a few weeks learning about the foods you routinely eat.

After that, decide whether it works for you to keep using a tracker, or you may find that now that you've got the hang of portion size, you know most of what you need to know by sight.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2015

Counting calories was far and away the most effective thing I've ever done to lose weight.

It was pretty time-consuming to look up the info I wanted and do the math but I got great results from it, and it helped me modify my foods habits away from processed foods to healthier foods.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 8:33 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

I agree that obsessive people may not want to count calories. But look, if you're fat, barring any medical condition and accounting for genetics, chances are very very high you need to cut your portions and/or eat different foods lower in calories. However you get that done--through calorie counting, or visuals (like the genius of the bento box), or an idiot-proof point system--you obviously need to choose the method that works best for you. I thought that would go without saying.

By the way, for future searchers on Metafilter, I want to correct this: Weight Watchers does not prescribe any particular foods. Instead, it's a way of teaching lifelong "budgeting" of caloric intake throughout any given week of eating the foods you choose. For all the problems I have with WW (HATE the meetings, HATE that they peddle processed foods like cookies), the method is teaching you portion control of whatever foods you want to eat. Want to eat a whole pizza? Go for it. It's going to use up your entire day's worth of points, and probably most of your week's points too, but that's on you, buddy. Choices.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 9:35 AM on March 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

My biggest problem with counting calories is the way that we cook at home. We cook one big dish on the weekend, and eat leftovers all week. How do you measure the calories from "a scoop of stirfry or stew"? Even if I measure everything going in to the big pot when I make it, I'm never sure exactly how much the big pot makes when it's finished, so it's really hard to calculate the percentages. I can do this if I use a 13x9 pan: I can measure the inchxinch size of the serving that I put on my plate, then calculate that area as a percentage of 13x9. But for the big stew pot or the big fry pan - no idea. If I know the weight of my pot, I can tare that out and weigh the total pot, then weigh my daily serving as a percentage of that, but it's really tedious. And calculating it for a complex recipe is even more tedious.
posted by CathyG at 9:38 AM on March 19, 2015

My biggest problem with counting calories is the way that we cook at home. We cook one big dish on the weekend, and eat leftovers all week. How do you measure the calories from "a scoop of stirfry or stew"? Even if I measure everything going in to the big pot when I make it, I'm never sure exactly how much the big pot makes when it's finished, so it's really hard to calculate the percentages.

Where I've had luck there is inputting it as a recipe into any one of the online trackers/apps. So you know the stew is made of 1lb of chop meat, 2 lb carrots, etc. And if you know it serves, say, you and a spose over three meals apiece it's 6 servings.

For the OP, I had luck with Weight Watchers' points system (now points plus) to teach me about portions. I eventually switched to Spark, LoseIt and finally MyFitnessPal before finding the calorie tracker that worked best for me. In the 4.5 years since I initially lost the 50 lbs, I've maintained about 45 of it which makes me happy. The apps (none is objectively better, it's all personal preference) make it much easier than it ysed to be.
posted by TravellingCari at 9:50 AM on March 19, 2015

Do it for 2 weeks and see how it goes. If nothing else it's a good exercise to learn where your calories are coming from. As a personal example, it was a surprise for me to learn that I was getting more calories from milk in a week than from beer.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 10:16 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

My anecdata is that I lost 20 pounds counting calories on FitDay, taking me from the "overweight" to "normal" BMI category. It sucked for the first couple weeks, but then it got easier and I just didn't seem to crave as much food.

I lost about a pound per week, although that definitely slowed down as I got closer to my goal. I started at 1800 calories and lowered my count each time I hit a plateau. I found that 1500 calories is about as low as I can go before the misery becomes greater than my desire to be thin. I also swam laps about two hours per week and have a reasonably active job.

I used this page for homemade dishes.

Calorie counting worked much better for me than low-carb, which was great for my weight but terrible for my mental health.

However, I agree with those who say you still have to eat healthily. I tried counting calories with like, Slim Fasts and Lean Cuisines, and for whatever reason it didn't work for me, even when I was religious about recording the calories. When I actually had success, I limited my sweets/junk to ~150 calories per day. I still allowed myself a cheat day on the weekends.

I still record my daily calories on FitDay for maintenance purposes, although I am not as strict about it as when I was losing.
posted by Alexandra Michelle at 10:36 AM on March 19, 2015

We cook one big dish on the weekend, and eat leftovers all week. How do you measure the calories from "a scoop of stirfry or stew"?

I track everything that goes in (by weight on the scale if necessary) so I can calculate macros for the whole pot, and at the end ladle out "servings" into Gladware (each tared on the scale*) until the pot is empty. The last two or first two servings might go in real bowls for dinner right then, but by the time I'm done I know how many X-ounce servings I made and therefore can work out the calories from the total ingredients.

Also, everything is already packed up to go in the fridge/freezer, so win-win.

*If your scale does not have some sort of liquid-proofing on/around the buttons, wrap the button area lightly in Saran wrap. See my favorite scale that now has no backlight and can't switch out of ounces thanks to a soup incident.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:47 AM on March 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

A dietitian, involved thanks to diagnoses of celiac and metabolic syndrome, recommended a very simple diet:
1500 cal/day
20% carb
20% fat
60% protein

Yes, it's a lot of protein, and I'd be sunk if I were veg*n. I cooked everything at home. When I maintained those proportions (weighing everything) I lost 60 lbs., a more notable achievement since the only kind of exercise I can do is swimming. Kept it off as long as I continued strict portion control.
posted by Jesse the K at 12:26 PM on March 19, 2015

Most people I know have had much more success with Paleo/low-carb, and no counting needed!
posted by amaire at 2:23 PM on March 19, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks everybody. I'll show this to my partner and then we'll talk about it. More comments are of course appreciated.
posted by sam_harms at 3:06 PM on March 19, 2015

Response by poster: Oh, and for those who are wondering, it's really unlikely that we'll try a low-carb diet. My partner's approach to life is simply too moderate to allow for a diet that excludes entire food groups or macro-nutrients. It's simply too extreme for him to take seriously. As for myself, I tried it a few times (for general health reasons, not to lose weight), but it made my body feel horrible, and I'm not willing to go through it again.

We actually already eat rather healthily. We cook almost everything from scratch, with a focus on whole, nutrient rich, minimally processed foods, and have been for quite a long time. Yet we're still so fat. That leads me to think that we're simply eating too much, which is why I thought calorie counting would help.

Maybe we're just ignorant of how much we're actually supposed to eat. I suppose we could just count calories for a few months in order to learn what proper portion sizes are for us, and then use that information to make more intuitive choices after that. I haven't talked about it with my partner yet, but that seems like the sort of plan that he would consider reasonable.
posted by sam_harms at 4:32 PM on March 19, 2015

I liked doing the 5:2 because it meant I only had to count calories twice a week. Five days a week, I could eat whatever I wanted, though I did find that I just couldn't eat as much as I used to before I started fasting. Once I had a few snacks and a few meal plans sorted out for the fasting days, it was really easy. I knew that I could eat on the 2 days from a list of choices, and the rest of the week I could just forget about the diet and eat what I wanted. Not being able to physically eat as much food was a huge bonus for me, and it wasn't something I could game or work around. I just couldn't eat the entire packet of cake any more, as I'd feel nauseated and have to stop.
posted by Solomon at 4:16 AM on March 20, 2015

After the update - you may want to look at portion control rather than calorie-counting, instead. It's somewhat easier (it's the difference between "how the fuck many calories are in a chicken breast again?" and "does that look about the size of a fist? Yep. Good."), and it's easier to "hack" if you're out with friends (rather than being unclear how many calories is the thing you're eating, you can eat whatever you want and just make sure you only eat half or whatever, and the rest goes in a doggie bag). The bento box will still work for that too.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:45 AM on March 20, 2015

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