Counting Calories

Friday workout: rest day 🙂

Recently I have had friends, family and readers ask me how I keep track of my calories. I’ve been counting my calories for close to 5 years now. I know that sounds crazy, but as I have mentioned before I used to have a VERY unhealthy relationship with food. As I have turned a corner toward health and fitness I still find that counting calories helps me maintain a healthy diet.

I am not one of those people who will stop eating when I am full, I’ll eat a whole pizza if left unattended. I love food. Counting calories is helping me to learn what “full” is and how to manage my the psychological triggers that are food related. I used to write everything down in a little notebook I carried around. I only kept track of calories and I was really just estimating half the time. It became clear that I needed a tool to help me truly gauge how many calories I was eating, as well as the breakdown of my macronutrients, fiber, sodium etc.

So, I got real with my life ;-). I use a website called MyFitnessPal (I started MFP May 2009). MFP also has a phone app which makes it super easy for me to keep track of what I am eating while I am out.

One reader asked how to find calories for something sort of random like Costco Pizza, well MFP has honestly ALMOST any kind of food. Of course a lot of the food data is entered by users so you have to keep an eye out for mistakes. For instance someone left the protein value out of the Chai Latte from Peet’s Coffee and Tea in the database, MFP has a function that allowed me to edit it. Back to the Costco Pizza, I entered “costco pizza” into the search function and here is what I got.

Note that this is the nutritional info for the top option(listed in green on the right), but you could also click on the take and bake option and see the nutritional info for that as well, or any of the other enteries. You can also see that the user got this information from the Costco website pdf of nutrition facts. Sometimes I double check items on the restaurant website if I am uncertain of the accuracy.

What about if you cooked pasta with sausage and peppers but didn’t measure out your ingredients? When I am in a situation like this, or where I am eating home prepared food that I have NO idea of nutritional content I use a best estimate. For the sausage pepper pasta:

Note that I chose generic pasta with italian sausage and peppers.

I try to stay away from approximations as much as possible, but it’s definitely better than nothing.

This was Sept. 22:

MFP also lets you set up a user profile. Mine is super custom based on what % of macronutrients I want (right now its 50%Carbs 30%Protein 20%Fat) I’ve adjusted my sodium intake down to 1900mg/day and I track my fiber.

My total calorie intake right now is set to 1500 calories (I know some people follow a net calorie approach which I think is great, but right now for weight loss, this works best for me) and I take Sundays off. My long runs are Sunday and after 15+ miles, 1500 calories isn’t going to cut it.

I’ve used MFP since pretty much the beginning of the site. It’s run completely by 3 guys, out of the Bay Area, the community is super supportive and I have learned A LOT of great info from some of the well versed users and forums. You get some crazy, “Let’s all do HCG together!!” stuff from time to time but I also have friends who have lost 100+ lbs just by diet and exercise. It’s definitely inspirational.

Ok, now that it probably seems like MFP is paying me to gush about them I will move on… but fer real if you want to get up to your elbows in nutritional info join the site (for freeee!).

It’s officially fall in San Diego, which you can see by my outfit. Long sleeves and shorts may be a fashion faux pas where you come from, but for someone who spent some time in the city of Prunedale, CA, wearing shoes and having all of my teeth makes me stand above the average.

I meandered over to hang out with Phil in between meetings and spend an hour blogging on UCSD’s wicked fast internet. Of course I needed a snack and Garlic POPchips seemed prime. I mean who doesn’t love conversing with Ash McGarlicBreath, especially when I have just shamelessly licked my fingers clean?

While I stuffed my face, P prepped for lame things– like teaching the leaders of tomorrow about “Science” in the “Nuclear Age” or something. I “quote” science because I hold a degree in the only REAL, HARD science, Political Science my friends. I am of course using my degree every day (Dad, your money was well spent, I swear!).

This weekend I have an 8mile pace run and a 17mile long run on the books. I will be giving it my best shot, however, I am nervous as hell.

17 miles will be my longest run to date, how do you guys psyche yourselves up to keep pushing your body further and further? I usually use delicious food at the end of my run.

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6 thoughts on “Counting Calories

  1. Note: we weigh the ingredients of our home-made food on a food scale, too.

    Aaaaaaaaand, as a Science Studies scholar (aww yeah), it is my duty to tell you that political science as a science is worth about as much as that three-wheeled Reliant we saw on Top Gear.

    But I still love you. ❤

  2. A new long run distance can be so fun. Just think of it as almost a race and be excited to see how well you can do with a new distance! I would be more worried about the fast run because they scare me! 🙂

  3. 1500 seems pretty low to me. how much weight are you trying to lose? you seem super skinny, is it really healthy to want to lose weight right now?

    1. It’s well within what both my doctor and I agree is healthy for me. Skinny is a relative term right ;-)? I eat more on Saturday (long run prepping) and Sunday (post long run recovery). As of right now I don’t really weigh myself, unless I am at the doctor’s for some reason, so I don’t have a set amount of weight I would like to lose. If someone pressed me hard for a number I would say no more than 5lbs. Health is of utmost importance to me and I could be far skinner and still not at risk for health issues. I don’t want to be “skinny” though so that isn’t my goal. I want to be a fit and trim runner who is confident of her body. When I feel that way, I will be done losing weight. Concern is always appreciated, though. There were times in my life when that concern from a stranger helped me pull myself back from dark places, so thank you. 🙂

  4. I too would eat and eat and eat delicious food if I didn’t have any clue when I should be ‘full’.. I really don’t think counting calories is crazy as long as you don’t let it run your life – I mean, ppl measure what they put in their cars to fuel it.

    Good luck on your long runs! I’m still a newb but I just try to tell myself I can do it and the worst that can happen is I get in a good workout even if I had to stop & walk 🙂

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