What I Learned from Tracking My Calories for 10 Weeks
Monday, April 25, 2016
For the past 10 weeks, I have used the SparkPeople Calorie Counter App every single day to track all the calories I consumed and burned. I found the App very easy to use. While I did not quite reach my goal of losing 10 lbs. in 10 weeks, I am quite pleased to report that I lost 8.5 lbs. Here are 10 things I learned about weight loss from tracking my calories for 10 weeks.
1. Tracking is Very Helpful
You may have heard of the Hawthorne Effect. It refers to the tendency of people to improve behaviors that are being observed. Tracking my calories definitely affected my behavior. I was more careful about what and how much I ate and more motivated to exercise because I was tracking. There were many times when I wanted to eat more, but I stopped because I had reached my calorie limit. There were also times when I did not feel like exercising, but I did anyway in order to achieve the goal I had set for myself.
2. Calories Count (Whether You Count Them or Not)
It drives some people crazy to count calories, but not me. I actually like to crunch numbers. Using the SparkPeople app gave me lots of data that I entered into a spreadsheet to generate some useful statistics. For example, on average I consumed 1501 calories per day and my total calorie differential for 10 weeks was 34,424. If 3,500 calories equal one pound of fat, then I was very close to the number needed to lose 10 lbs. in 10 weeks. While these number might not be 100 percent accurate, I have confidence they are very good estimates. While people burn calories at different rates, the bottom line on counting calories is that people obey the laws of physics. If you consistently eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.
3. Everyone is Different
When it comes to losing weight, what works for some, does not work for others. The amount of information and advice about weight loss can be confusing and overwhelming. I have read lots of articles and blogs on SparkPeople lately and some were very helpful and motivating. But, there comes a point when you need to decide what works for you and stick with it. For example, some people swear that a low carb diet is the way to go, while others feel they need a cheat day now and then. I have found that neither of these strategies work for me.
4. Commitment is Essential
You must be committed to your weight loss plan in order to avoid overeating when you are hungry and delicious food is in abundant supply. It takes planning and self-discipline. You need to know when enough is enough and be able to say no.
5. The Scale is Not the Only Measure of Success
There were several weeks when I did not lose any weight at all and there was one week when I actually gained weight, despite the fact I stayed within my calorie limit and met my exercise goal. While it was frustrating, I knew plateaus were normal and to be expected from time to time.
6. It Takes Time and Patience
My ultimate goal is to achieve and maintain my ideal weight without getting bored with my food choices and without feeling deprived. I have found a path going forward that does not eliminate entire food groups and allows me to have an occasional treat. I have learned to be patient and accept that it will take as long as it takes for me to reach my goal weight. I put a lot of pressure on myself when I set a goal to lose 10 lbs. in 10 weeks. From now on, my goal is simply to stay within my calorie range and exercise, because I know if I consistently consume fewer calories than I burn, I will lose weight eventually.
7. Prayer and Meditation are Helpful
I have found it helpful to intentionally set aside 10 minutes per day for silent prayer and meditation. I focus on my breath and the power within me to guide my thoughts and actions. I believe we all come equipped with an internal guidance system, but not everyone knows they have it, and some have not learned to use it.
8. Exercise Makes a Huge Difference, but Exercise Alone is Not Enough
I walked 249 miles in the past 10 weeks, which burned an estimated 20,880 calories, enough to burn off nearly 6 lbs. of fat. On average, I burned 298 calories per day from exercise, which allowed me to eat a little more and not feel deprived. I often contemplated how long it would take to walk off certain foods and decided it was not worth it to eat them.
9. What You Eat Matters
Not all calories are created equal. The quality of calories matter (whole foods vs. junk food) and the types of calories matter (ratio of fat, carbs, protein). Whole foods take more energy to absorb than junk food, and the ratio of fat, carbs, and protein matter in terms of satiety or fullness. I learned to spend my daily calorie allowance on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, healthy fats, and low-fat dairy.
10. Why You Eat Matters
Tracking my calories has helped me distinguish between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Turning to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward, rather than to satisfy hunger leads to overeating. By becoming aware of my emotional triggers to eat, I am able to pause and find ways, other than eating, to deal with my emotions.
I am ready for the next phase of my weight loss journey with SparkPeople. I have 10 to 15 pounds to go in order to achieve my goal weight range. I reset my calorie goal today to lose a half pound per week, which will make it easier for me to stay within my calorie limit. I am grateful for the SparkPeople app that has proven to be a valuable tool for me to achieve and maintain my ideal weight.