New calorie-uncounting experiment: Join me on the train wreck?

What the...?
It seems that I just posted about what is working for me in my weight-maintenance journey right now and rounding out the list:  tracking calories with Daily Plate.  It takes a lot of effort to do this as I'm someone who loves to have small tastes of many types of foods.  It probably takes a good solid 45 minutes every single day to document my eats. 

One of the reasons that I included "Tracking calories" in my list was because when I would stop tracking, I noticed that I would gain weight.  However, I recently realized that every single time I stopped tracking happened to coincide with traveling.  Convenient, right?  Surprising that I gained weight?  I think not.

Well, after that revelation, I decided to track calories while traveling.  The result?  I gained weight.  Surprising?  Really, not at all.

So the other day, I decided to try to NOT track calories (gasp!) while I'm home, and under 'normal' circumstances (no holidays, etc).  I want to see if I can in fact listen to my body (double gasp, falter) and try to eat sensibly without keeping track of every morsel of food I consume.  My only two requirements:
  1. I can't eat something simply because I know that I don't have to 'count it'.  I have to pretend that I will still 'count it' even if I am not.
  2. I have to try to really listen to my body and try to respect it:  truly hungry or bored/tired/anxious etc?
I have no idea where this mini-experiment will take me.  I usually revert back to tracking calories and I very well may do so again.  I may even do so specifically on trips, just so that I am that much more accountable when the temptations are simply through the roof.

I really wanted to get on board with the whole "Intuitive Eating" movement way back when it started about 10+ yrs ago.  I even saw one of the dieticians who co-wrote the eponymous book.  Did I learn to eat 'intuitively'?  No.  But there are countless bloggers and dare I say 'regular' people who do this every single day.  Once again I aspire to join their ranks.

Finally, there's one thing I do know about normal eating...

Normal:  Sharing your sandwich with your cheeky cat on a road trip
Wish me luck and feel free to share your stories or thoughts with me!


Anna said...

Oh mu gosh -I love that picture of the babies! Especially Ellie eating the sandwich! I too struggle with maintenance (meant to comment on last post but my Iphone would not cooperate that day) but I do track my calories still. I would love to eat intuitively but my intuition tells me to eat 2 dozen Krispy Kreme donuts and a large pan supreme pizza! So, no, I cannot trust myself at this point. But I do long for the day when I can eat, say, a brownie and be satisfied without wanting 10! I also am so OCD that it bugs me if I don't know how many calories I had. But I am interested and hope this works for you!
And I just discovered Ellie's blog (thanks to Eden for the Twitter link) - don't know how I missed it before! I am an AVID cat lover. one day they'll find me dead with 80 cats around me! But she and sister are so gorgeous!! So now she has one more Twitter follower! Love them!


the actor's diet said...

good luck, deb! it took me a while to get used to not counting calories and letting go without fear but it's been well worth it and has changed my life for the better.

Eden said...

I'm here. You know, incase you have a nervous breakdown.
Fat or skinny, I'll still think your hot in that noncreepy way. And while your taking a break, I'm MDPing which I'm beginning to think I'm doing wrong...ugh fail. I'm failing calorie tracking! can you believe it!? I trust my intuition, but part of my intuition wants 800 funnel its about balance I guess.
What can I say, I'm a work in progress...

Anyhow, you will be fine. And if you won't no biggie. I have your scale..mwah haa haa haa

Lindsay and James Cotter said...

i like this challenge. Intuitive eating is HARD! I tend to overthink it at times, haha. and thats totally not the point. I am remnded of your friend you met (in arizona i think), the older woman with a free spirit who did not stress about food or exercise. Remember that post? Did I dream it? ha! Anywho, rock it Deb. You got this thang!

Mimi said...

As long as you're in a happy (or happy as possible) place, you should be fine. I maintained my weight just fine with no counting at all. But I was in a really good place. When things were not so good, bad habits reared their heads. Mindset is everything.

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

Good luck! I think Mimi has a great point about being in a good place. When life goes well, I have no problem maintaining my weight. It almost seems effortless (it never really is completely effortless however...). But when things get difficult, listening to my body gets hard. When I gained a lot of weight several years ago, it was in an extremely stressful period of my life, and I literally tried to "eat the feelings away." I had never done that up to that point in my life. I think when you are an emotional eater some of that stays with you. Well, I know it stayed with me. So when life gets tough, I have to be very careful.

For me the key is to plan a lot during stressful (or even "unusual" times). I plan my breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for the week, but then I'm really flexible as to when I eat what. The key for me is just to have lots of healthy, interesting options around. I don't track calories and never have. I get way too obsessive when I even attempt. Plus, I really don't like to be told what I can and cannot do, and counting calories feels like someone is telling me what to do. Strange. I know.

Even when I lost a huge amount of weight, I didn't track. But I did know how many calories were in things, so I think my brain did somehow keep track. In fact, I know, I knew approximately how many calories I was eating each day. And I'm sure it's probably pretty similar with you as you know how many calories are in things. And you also know that not tracking doesn't mean eating whatever... :)

Good luck! And the great thing about our journey of life and weight maintenance is that we can always adjust what we are doing if something isn't working...

Andrea@WellnessNotes said...

Sorry for the ridiculously long comment!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

MIssy- thank you for the comment and for the sweet words about the fur children- Ellie will follow you back on twitter this afternoon :-) I can actually be OK eating reasonable amounts of food now (not so when I was heavy) but my OCD tendencies are stemming from not knowing how much I'm taking in, when I am so used to knowing.

Lynn- thank you for the input- it means a lot to me, knowing your journey. And yes, letting go without fear is what I'm after. So far, no 'fear' as such, but just an odd sense of incompleteness if that makes sense??

Eden- you are such a great support. And you are supposed to only be doing DP temporarily to see if you are in a healthy range and I will be getting my scale back after that, remember!!??? It felt nice when you told me you were proud of me when I told you my crazy-for-me plan to not track. Thank you.

Mimi- boy are you right about mindset being everything. I have two times that it's easier to keep weight off: when my mind is in a good place or when there is a HUGE, grave stress in my world. The everyday stresses are different- they don't make me not-care about food :-)

Andrea- THANK YOU!!!! I love your insight and appreciate every word! Planning during 'unusual' times is a great suggestion and why I'm going to plan to track on trips. I'm glad that you've not counted calories and I didn't know that you'd gained weight in the past?! Fortunately for me, I'm not good enough at math to keep a running tally of calories in my brain even though I AM a walking calorie encyclopedia for every food imaginable. So I really do feel in the dark not knowing my bottom line. That's ok though. I need to try this. And as you said, I can always go back to what I know does work, even though it IS a LOT of WORK!!!! :-)

Carbzilla said...

I love your new AFTER photo! How did I not see that before???

Anyway, I think changing it up is good. It's not a permanent decision, it's an experiment. If I hadn't done Clean Eating ---> Belly Fat Cure ---> WeightWatchers, I wouldn't be down almost 20 lbs right now. See how it goes.

Meanwhile, you're beautiful. Big hugs!

Heather McD (Heather Eats Almond Butter) said...

That photo of Ellie eating your sandwich is too cute.

I know you don't want to count - 45 minutes everyday? That's a lot. You know how to eat, and you know what foods work and what don't. It should be easy right? That's what I keep telling myself anyway. :)

Best of luck my friend. You can do this.

Thanks so much for the article you sent. Always good to hear both sides of the debate before making any decision.
Love you!

Debbie B. said...

It's hard to eat intuitively and find that balance!! I think counting calories just works for some people and not for others. I go crazy if I focus on numbers and have tried really really hard to balance what I eat. It's hard though and I am still learning!

McIntosh said...

Great post! I've never been organized enough to count or measure my intake but I have a vague sense of what the stats are. Only thing is I tend to limit myself to those "safe" foods and it gets a bit orthorexic. In some ways, I think counting/measuring might be better for me since I may realize that I have more flexibility than I thought. But then again...I chew way too much gum to want to log all that!

I think you will be so surprised at how much you already know and that even without those 45 minutes of logging (egads!!!!)you know what your intake was.

HEAB said it perfectly..."You know how to eat, and you know what foods work and what don't." This is clearly true from all your posts and from your amazing successful journey. Big picture, big picture....

Sandwich pic with Ellie reminds me of this book about a woman trying to eat intuitively and how she would observe and eat only when her dog would. A little warped but made the point!

ugh...can never keep my comments short...I STILL have more to say...but I won't :)

Julie said...

i've never been a calorie counter but a mydailyplte user occasionally but lately i've been trying the eating on a whim and what i want and when i want i gotta say it's pretttty fun! less stressful although at times kind of stressful but more relaxing and 'normal' of me haha, i've gained some weight but i also 'wanted' to gain weight aka muscle.

can't wait to hear how it goes!!!

it's summer! well almost..but doesn't that mean new smoothie recipes?!

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Heab-Yes, in theory I should know what to eat! LEt's see how it goes- thank you for saying that.

Debbie B- You are right- some people respond well to counting and others definitely don't! HOpefully I can re-learn what 'works' for me!

McIntosh- I love all your comments. The orthorexia thing is something I've definitely had to watch in myself as well. Yet I really do love good food too much to fall too deeply into that pattern! :-)

Julie- Glad to hear you're being more 'intuitive' and reaching your goals (hello muskkkkles!)too. Yes, yes yes, you are right- I'm such a deadbeat smoothiegirl- I owe you guys some smoothie recipes! I'll put my thinking cap on. My smoothies these days are soooo basic, they aren't even worth a post!! :-) I think I promised a video...hmm.

weightsandmeasures said...

I counted calories for 2 whole days and it made me very unhappy. It was time consuming as well. So I stopped. I really only mentally consider the calories of foods that are not fruit or vegetables and try to be mindful of how many and when I consume those calories. I have lost 45 lbs, but have about 40 to go. Figuring out what will work in this stage of life is a work in progress.

Ameena said...

I know we just talked about how certain things work for certain people and not everyone but I know that NOT counting calories really worked for me. And I am so much happier Deb!

I hope that you too find this works for you!! I have a feeling you'll love how freeing it is.

Steph said...

I bet you can do it! Good luck!

I am the type who CANNOT count calories. It makes me so neurotic and anxious. I've lost nearly 50 pounds and haven't counted a single calorie, but I follow a low-fat vegan diet (similar to what is promoted on and I exercise 5-6 days a week (biking, walking, aerobics). I still have 10 pounds left to lose (maybe 15). Most of my meals consist of lots of green/low cal veggies and a starch (brown rice, quinoa, potatoes, etc.) and a little protein (tofu, beans, etc.). I try to focus on whole, low-fat foods. I do have a little avocado, nut butter, or other higher-fat treats here and there, though. I guess I focus on consuming foods with a low calorie density for the most part, because then it's hard to eat a ton of calories.

It seems like different things work for different people. I'm sure you'll figure out quickly if tracking/not tracking works best for you. Good luck! :-)

Jenn said...

45 MINUTES!!! What?!?!!?!? That is a long ass time! Personally, I don't like to give calorie tracking too much power either pro counting or anti-counter. I see counting as a tool, like a hammer, nothing more. Sometimes I need a hammer, sometimes I need a screwdriver. I was tracking for a month and then just stopped this past week. Interestingly, I was losing about a .5-1 pounds a week while tracking and lost the same when I quit. (I put on a few pounds over the that every year. I think it's b/c I don't like vegetables when it's cold so I opt for nuts when I want crunch). Anyway, I'm was finding tracking very helpful for a few weeks but it only takes me about 1-2 minutes after each meal. If it took me 45 minutes I'd never do it. I'm excited to see how this new adventure goes for you!! xoxo

Elina (Healthy and Sane) said...

Good luck!!! I know what a gigantic step this is for you. I haven't counted in many months and can honestly say that I'm the happiest I've been in a long time (food wise). The key for me was to also stop weighing myself and also stop hoping that this intuitive eating would help me lose weight. I haven't been completely intuitive yet (ie. i still often reach for food during times of anxiety/boredom/discomfort.... working on that!) and I think when I do get to the deeper issues, some weight will come off, but until then I've stopped obsessing. I bought larger clothes (SO tough!!!!) just so there is no constant reminder of "being fat" or even gaining a few pounds (which I don't know if I have since I don't weight myself... honestly I may have lost some, not crazy amounts though) but generally the anxiety of overeating followed by guilt, or overplanning followed by eating something different, or anxiety related to having an impromptu night out with friends/husband (but I had Friday on the schedule for that, and it's Wednesday. Damn, now I have to reshuffle everything!) is totally gone and it's incredibly freeing. I think calorie counting is our own way of escape through structure. It takes the thinking out of eating because you know exactly what's "allowed and what's not" but there is a much richer life out there that let's you naturally decide what to eat because it just feels right. Seriously seriously, good luck. You know how to be healthy; this is the right time to give this new way a go. You won't balloon up if you see it through. I'm sure!

Anonymous said...

I can imagine that this is a huge step for you!! I've never counted calories but letting go of fat fears (I would have NEVER eaten an avocado in earlier days!!) and seeing so many bloggers eat a fair amount of fats gave me the courage to let loose a little.
and it was a success!!! So liberating not to be checking labels for fat content! To just eat a handful of nuts and be happy that they're so yummy.

I haven't gained any weight and my shape actually changed for the better.

So I would say, hang on to the bloggers that positively encourage you and just jump :-)

(and as I don't have any of those accounts I am just going to have to keep posting as "anonymous" and write my name under each comment as I don't want to be creepy ;-))

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

WEights&measures- great job on the weight loss! Two whole days huh!? I've been doing two whole days without counting and so far I do like it!

Ameena- oh good there's hope for me!

Steph- 50 pounds= hurrah! Sounds like you've got it figured and yes low cal-dense food definitely help, especially with someone like me who does have a healthy appetite :-)

Jenn- yes, sadly between entering all of my recipes (sometimes daily for each new one), and logging every nibble and bite so that I don't forget by the end of the day, I'd guesstimate 45 min!

Elina- thank you for your input- as you know I've followed your recent journey so your opinion means a lot to me. It sounds like you are well on the road to happiness with food etc and I hope to follow in your footsteps. Thankfully I'm not much of a planner per se and I never limited the calories even when tracking- but there is something about KNOWING where I stood each day that was comforting- even if it was not good! And you are right about the 'escape'...especially when times were very rough with my mother being extremely disabled and my father being very very ill, there were times where the happier place for me was curled up with a food diary or daily plate.

Marie-Sophie- I have also battled fat-fear and the blog world helped pull me out of it quite a bit. I suppose that as long as I counted it, it was ok. Now I just have to listen to my gut (pun intended) and take it from there! Eek.

Cameo said...

This has been a conundrum for me too. Just recently I decided to go back to counting...just do what works for you!

Susan said...

Ooooh! I am excited for you!! Honestly, even though you're not actually tracking calories, you'll still keep a running tally in your head for a long time. It took me almost two years to quiet that tally down. The real reason why I stopped tracking calories is because I hate dedicating the time to it! I don't have a smartphone, so I'd have to sit at my computer for at least a half hour a day putting everything in. It's a time suck. Although, still a great tool for the un-knowledgeable for sure.

Keep up posted on how it goes!!

Janetha @ meals + moves said...

This all makes a whole lot of sense! I can't wait to hear you tell me about how it is going IN PERSON ON FRIDAY.

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Cameo- conundrum city! I definitely am giving myself the permission to go back to my rain-man-like ways if I need to. :-)

Susan- yes, I do still tally- but lucky for me, I'm not very good at math. So I can tally each meal, but I can't add them all up hahah! So I'm still in the dark even when I'm counting on autopilot! And there's no black and white (or pixels) to go back and look at later. Not necessarily a bad thing!

Janetha- I can't wait to see you! And you'll be able to witness the uncounting process as you will also be uncounting. Good times ahead!

Tasha @ Voracious said...

Awww I love that picture!

Good luck with your experiment. I've never counted calories, and have always just eaten intuitively, I suppose. Except for when I was vegan for 3 years, which went against everything my body was telling me...I eventually got ill and had to return to being an omnivore, and now I'm healthier and happier than ever. That experience cemented for me that I really, above all, have to listen to what my body is telling me. I'm really lucky because it seems to have a great compass. If I eat something junky, all I crave for the next week is healthy, clean eats. I'll be following your experiment - great post!

tam said...

I think its good to try something new, I've tried to track calories/food but just get annoyed with the time it takes and the realization of how much food I eat! That just makes me feel bad, i also would love to be able to eat intuitively maybe one day!

Good luck with the new plan, hope your well? Look forward to going round a chinese supermarket with you again! Miss ya lovely x x x

Runeatrepeat said...

I didn't know you went to one of the IE Rds too! I think we should chat, totally think we're on the same page :)

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Tasha- interesting that your body told you to be omnivorous. Once I was 'pescatarian' (ie only fish and eggs but no meat, chicken, pork etc) and the day I knew it was truly over was when I found my hand deep into my husband's rotisserie chicken on my two-minute drive from the market. I also haven't looked back. And man, do I still LOVE rotisserie chicken!

Tam- our next trip is a crazy whirlwind tour but I'll let you know if we'll be near Brighton or Hastings. Right now it's to be Cornwall and the Cotswalds and Guernsey (see what I mean? The trip is only 10 days long!) ;-)

Runeatrepeat- You saw one of them? Oh, we need to chat- email me at :-)

sophia said...

Slap me now, Deb, for I am late in commenting.

I'm in the no-calorie-counting team, mainly bc it keeps you sane(r). It's good to be mindful of what you eat, but once you start tracking down all the details, I think it really removes you from the ability to listen and trust your body. I don't believe every single day should be exactly 2000 calories. Some days, it may even be 2500 cal. Gasp! But it all balances out. :-)

Charlotte said...

I'm excited for this new Experiment Deb! You know how I feel about IE - it's been life changing for me:) I will say this though: My body wants to weigh 5-8 pounds more than I want it to. I find when I don't fight my body and eat intuitively my weight stays within 1 pound for months at a time. When I try and fight it and get those last 5 pounds off, it's yo-yo city all over again. All of which has taught me that I need to make my peace with my current weight.

Emily said...

I can't tell you how timely this post was for me. I am a habitual calorie tracker on Livestrong/Daily Plate. I have been doing it for so long, and just yesterday was thinking to myself, "I wish I could just a normal person." Calorie counting was instrumental in my losing 30+ pounds, and now, 5 years later, I can't shake the habit. I feel like I lack the ability to "eat intuitively. Any time I say I'm not going to track cals, I end up caving at the end of the day, tracking, and then realizing that my no-tracking mentality for the day ended up translating into a no-control day and I eat way more than I should. Hoping to break the cycle someday soon...just not sure how.

Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) said...

Charlotte- I am so aware of your success with IE and I didn't know that it keeps you at a weight that is higher than your 'ideal' (but can I say that you look amazing and have done forever?) Thanks for letting me know about your experience though!

Emily- I feel your pain! I have been doing this now for over a week and so far I think it's going fine. It'll take a few weeks to make sure I'm not gaining tons of weight. But I am definitely not eating MORE food- if anything I might be eating less, though not on purpose! Good luck and be sure to update me!

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