4 Jan 2011

How I cut down on calorie counting

A few people have asked how I managed to get calorie counting under control and stop it ruling my life. As I said in my earlier post, 'Numbers, numbers everywhere...', calorie counting still plays a bigger part in my life than I would like and I'm by no means 'clean' of that particular addiction. However, it is true that it doesn't rule me in the way it once did. I can't give any on-size-fits-all rules for getting calorie counting under control, but I will tell you a few things that helped for me.

1. I threw out my calorie-counting book. Physically seeing that thing in the bin was very cathartic and symbolic for me. It also meant I destroyed what had amounted to a near perfect record of the calorie contents of most of the foods I eat. At first I was able to recall many of their calorific values from memory, but eventually, without my 'calorie Bible' to peak in, I forgot most of them.

2. I stopped writing down the calorific values of the foods I ate (even when I did know the values in my head or from looking at the packet). It's much harder to keep track of how many calories you consume without a written record. At first this was scary, but over time it was liberating not to be able to calculate each days total.

3. I made a conscious effort to eat things that I was unable to know the calorie content of. A few good examples are: dishes containing lots of ingredients that you've deliberately measured by guesstimation; meals cooked by friends or family; meals in restaurants (not the kind of restaurants that listr calories on the menu though, obviously); foods that don't list calorie contents on the packet or don't come in labled packets (eg. loose fruit and veg from a green grocers).

4. I threw out my food scales, so I couldn't weigh my food portions precisely, making it harder to know the number of calories in portion of food I ate.

5. I made a mental list of things I found MORE interesting than calories, and tried to think about those every time I got the urge to calorie count. A few things that worked for me were:  the plot of Desparate Housewives, the future of the world economy,which of my friends I'll invite to my wedding (if I ever have one), what I'll name my kids (if I ever have any), what the hell Brad and Angelina talk about when they're alond together etc.

6. I tried to focus on the nutritional benefits of food rather than the calories (e.g. how much iron it contains, how much calcium, fibre etc).

It took me a while to truly get my calorie obsession under control; it was ages until I could get off to sleep at night without suddenly panicing and trying to calculate the calories I'd dutifully not noted down that way. But eventually, by deliberately making it hard for me to accurately count calories, I got used to not really knowing how many I'd consumed. Now I just want to keep on not counting.

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