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Tips for when you are counting calories?


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Husband and I are trying to "get healthy." (Insert sarcastic 'yippee!')


I'm using My Fitness Pal and counting calories.

I *know* that this works for me if I stick with it. But, I feel like I'm dying.


So, what are your tips? How do you stay full and feel satisfied? How do you fit in healthy fats?


Also, I think I'm a hoarder with my calories. I want to make sure they last all day and so I save up more than half for dinner. 


My main concern (apart from feeling like I'm dying) is to find ways to make this a long term "healthy" habit - not an obsession, and not something I quit after a week and a half.



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I have several daily goals for my eating (and I also use MFP to track it):


-a daily calorie count--I'm aiming for 1500-1600. This leads to very slow weight loss for me without leaving me too hungry

-5 servings of fruits/veggies per day

-25 gm fiber

-sodium at or below recommended 2300

-I've been lower than MFP's recommendation for protein a lot, so I'm starting to pay attention to that too.

-one soda per week


I find I need to eat real and filling foods to meet the goals. Can't afford to "waste" calories on anything too empty like crackers. Popcorn at least has fiber. A Chobani yogurt helps hit the protein mark.


I enter everything I'm going to eat for the day on my lunch break. Once dinner is entered, I know how much is left for snacks.


I'm not eating sweets during Lent, but I do take Sundays off and allow a dessert. I don't enter foods on MFP on Sundays either, but try not to go too crazy.


I'm committed to all of this through Easter, but I'm also trying to convince myself that these could be permanent changes. I don't need dessert every day, but it's nice to know that I can have a treat on Sundays. I don't feel like I'm starving--if I'm really getting 5 fruits/veggies and 25 gm fiber (usually well over), I'm not hungry.


My current good fat fave is guacamole. I'm using the 80 calorie individual packs from Costco. They're a little high in sodium compared to homemade, but they're portion-controlled and none is wasted (I need a partner to help finish my homemade guac made from a small avocado).

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I think saving up calories for later in the day is fine if that's when you naturally prefer to eat the most.  Just be careful that you don't get too hungry.  You don't want to be so famished at dinner time (and later in the evening) that you have trouble controlling intake.


My secret is coffee.  A cup of coffee with a couple of tablespoons of half and half or milk and a pack or two of Splenda goes a long way in controlling my appetite and it satisfies the "hand to mouth" urge for quite awhile since I take my time with a cup.  It's well worth the calorie expenditure for me to have a few cups throughout the day.

Edited by Pawz4me
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I don't count calories, however I am always trying to eat better and be healthier.


What I have found that works:


Lots of veggies and lean meat (ground turkey, chicken etc), I use olive oil when I cook for healthy fats also use olive oil sparingly on salads.


If I have a sugar craving I will eat all natural peanut butter on a slice of whole wheat bread or will have sliced apples with cinnamon and a few almonds.


The purpose is to change eating habits so that you are eating whole, healthy food and not junk.  Cutting out the junk takes care of a lot of the calories :)  I also find when I am not eating junk or a lot of carbs that I don't get as hungry.   


I do tend to eat a lot of the same foods as it is just easier for me, but do try to add some variety so that I can look forward to the food that I am eating.  I really do love food and try to find a balance between eating healthy and eating foods that I enjoy.


Also, when I do cheat I try to make sure that it is a high quality cheat (dark chocolate, key lime pie made from scratch) and not just Oreos or cheetos :)


ETA:  I also make sure that I have sparkling lemon or lime water in the house at all times..helps me with any soft drink cravings.  I also drink hot tea (peppermint or decaf green tea with lemon and honey) after every meal.  It helps me feel full and also helps with hydration.   

Edited by Diane in CO
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I find that having vegetables at every meal along with enough protein and fat goes a long, long way to making me feel satiated.  My go to fats are half an avocado, a spoonful of full fat coconut milk over berries, a handful of cashews or almonds, and a handful of olives.


I think water is often overlooked.  I think it helps you feel fuller along with helping your body in so many ways.  I try to drink a glass of water every hour I am awake.

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If you are feeling like 'you are dying' then there is a problem.  Are you actually hungry or is it more that your habits are being disrupted?


Different things work for different people, and I am a big believer in working your way up gradually to big changes.  For example, before I started counting calories, I gave myself at least a week..it may have been two weeks...of just logging my food without judgement.  I got a good idea of what I was eating, when I was eating it etc.  That was super useful to me. It was also just getting into the habit of logging my food, weighing and measuring etc.  I still think that logging food, and measuring portions have been the two most important tools I have in keeping healthy.


Then, for me, it was mostly learning about portion control and making healthier choices. Like..oh wow, I had no idea that mayonnaise had that many calories and fat...I guess I need to change to using greek yogurt in my tuna salad. That was an easy choice. 


If you are feeling hungry, then focus on fiber and protein.  Both will keep you feeling full.  You can easily up your fiber levels well beyond what MFP says, because that is a minimum, not a maximum.  Something like a half a cup of fiber one cereal and a quarter cup skim milk (or unsweetened almond milk if you are carb counting) is about 100 calories and will keep you feeling full.  Turkey slices, low fat mozzarella sticks, hard boiled egg whites, low fat plain greek yogurt can up your protein and keep you feeling full without a big calorie budget. Add on some raw cauliflower or cucumber slices or cherry tomatoes and you have a good snack.


Are you drinking your water?  A pint of water when you feel hungry or before a meal will fill you up.


And if you are learning to count calories or log food and control portions, don't worry too much now about OMG HFLC or OMG HEALTHY FATS. Don't ignore them, but don't get lost in the weeds. Right now you are learning a new skill/habit and that takes time.  Be gentle with  yourself and learn how to do deal with this first and then you can move on to other stuff.  The weeds will be there.

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My secret is eating enough and not listening to MFP. :) I instead calculated my TDEE and don't take more than a 10% deficit. 165+ grams of protein, 25+ grams of fiber. Macros at 40/30/30.


But I started with staying in my calorie range (my 10% cut is 2070.) once I was consistent I added getting in enough protein (.82-1 g/lb of your body weight). Then I worked on getting enough fiber daily. Then I focused on getting my macros close.

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I've done a low calorie diet for the last 5 months and lost 40 lbs.

There were a few keys for me.

1. protein. I shoot for 100g of protein/day.

2. No sugar. Yep none. No honey, no artificial sweeteners, no sugar. My rule is nothing sweeter than a piece of fruit. Sugar makes me hungry. Really, seriously, I'm starving and I'm going to hurt someone if I don't get food now, hungry.

3. Some fruits and more veggies. Not high sugar fruits, but high fiber fruits like apples and plenty of veggies. They take up physical space in my stomach to make me feel less hungry.


Water alone does nothing for me, but I do try to drink a glass any time I think I'm hungry to make sure I'm not really thirsty and looking for moisture in food (I tend to crave fruit when this is the case). I also think having water before I eat makes my stomach feel full faster.


Finally, I drink hot calorie free beverages in place of desserts. I can't do caffeine, but I find decaf coffee and herbal teas really help me top off a meal and feel satisfied.

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I am currently aiming for 1300-1500 calories per day (although it ends up being 1600 sometimes, which is still pretty low).   I have lost 13 pounds since January (which is a HUGE accomplishment for me - I was only about 10 pounds over the range of "healthy" weight for my height, but I've tried to lose weight in the past and have been unsuccessful.   Getting my thyroid under control first has helped, I think.)


For me, I found that I could tweak what I was already eating for breakfast (oatmeal, with frozen fruit, walnuts, coffee w/ creamer) but had to start measuring everything.   I was using WAY too much coffee creamer before I started.    Lunch was the biggest thing I changed.   I now try to eat about 250 calories at "lunchtime" with at least 10 grams of protein, and then I don't get hungry again until 3:00-4:00 in the afternoon.   Then I drink a protein shake (my favorite is GNC Lean 25, which I buy at Sams) which is about 170-180 calories.   Then I eat whatever I fix my family for supper, but pay attention to healthy portions - at least half veggies, limit the bread, a reasonable portion of the main entree.


An acquaintance who is a nutritionist recommends a minimum of 1200 calories when dieting.   She divides it into 300 calories for breakfast, 400 for lunch, and 500 for supper.   I have found that 1200 calories is too low for me to not be starving, but I use that guide of 300-400-500 as a ballpark.   


I found that I used to eat every day around mid to late afternoon, but it was really more a habit than anything else.   I now schedule part of my calories during that time, and if I get hungry before supper, drink a big glass of water, and I get past it.    Keeping myself busy when I used to snack also helps.    I used to try to use my crock pot pretty often, but the smell of food in my kitchen all day long makes me hungry, so I'm trying not to cook with the crock pot for a while.  :)

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Okay here's my story....I've lost 12.8 pounds since February 1st.   I'm doing THM (Trim Healthy Mama and using the whole foods approach).  I get around 1300 calories a day..and get between 700 and 1000 exercise calories.    


If you use your calories wisely you can get 3 awesome meals and a couple of nice snacks.  I no longer crave sugar/sweets and I'm in love with good old healthy fats---guacamole :)   


I walked 52.65 miles in February and hope to manage 100 miles in March.

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I did what you're doing in the beginning too. It takes awhile to figure out a routine or good combos of food to eat during a day. Or knowing what not to waste calories on.


Same as a pp. I try to enter all my meals into mfp at the beginning of the day. Then I know what I have to work with, or what I want to sub out. I'm boring with an omelet most mornings, but one egg, mushrooms, peppers and onions fills for hours and it's low cal. I try to sauté peppers/onions or grill zucchini for lunch- again lots of food for low calories, and then I make a protein dish (Aidells or chicken). I read protein is filling, and it seems to be. Sometimes a sandwich. Sandwiches with Romaine instead of bread sometimes work too. Lots of plain green tea, water or black coffee during the day to drink (replaces my old snacking habit). I do still snack, just smaller, smarter, weighed out portions. I only seem to be able to lose at 1200 calories; jealous of those of you who can eat more! Though if I exercised more, that would probably be an option.


Best wishes on your new way of eating!

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My two things. First, I did not deny myself anything. I knew I wouldn't be successful with weight loss and maintenance if I felt deprived. However, I had to learn how to be satisfied with a very small portion. For example, I've had apple pie every day for I don't know how long. I have 1.5 oz. which is a small amount but satisfies my cravings. I also learned to substitute things without feeling deprived. I'll eat carrot sticks with a sandwich instead of chips. It was the crunch I was looking for and didn't miss giving up the salty fatty snack. Finally, I figured out I needed to eat less calories because I didn't exercise. I hate exercising and do it in waves. But I lost 50 lbs. without exercise of any kind.

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What helped me was doing the calculations on a few favorite meals and then repeating them so I don't have to calculate again. That was the part that annoyed me.  I eat the same breakfast and lunch all week without having to think about what I'm going to have or how many calories it is.  Sure makes buying ingredients easier. But I'm fine with routine- others aren't. 




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I have been counting calories my whole life. I have stayed a healthy weight my whole life. It works very well for me.


1. Get a grip on how little one can eat, or needs to eat. A 5'3" person, who works out a reasonable amount, barely needs 1500 calories a day. That is just a scrape of food per meal.


2. Eat whatever you want. I do not trick myself with raw broccoli or gnawing on rice cakes. Just watch out for portions.


3. I keep mine at 500 calories per meal. No snacks.


4. Never drink calories....except I do chug milk.


5. Fast food is easy to count since it is online. Two McDonald's burritos is 600 calories, for example. Just cut off a third of the second one. Lunch can be a cheeseburger and small fry or just one Big Mac without fries. Anything from Wendy's, however, is probably 500 for just the sandwich. Give up the fries.


6. There are some foods which do not seem to make me full. They are usually air foods like breads, and sauces. I rarely eat any of these. Just like when I cannot afford a new dress, some foods I just cannot afford. So when eating a hamburger, for example, take off one of the buns. Also, ask the waitress not to bring the rolls.


7. Sweets are fine, just add them to the mix. A big piece of chocolate cake can run about 750 calories. So cut it in half and eat it after a bowl of Cambell's soup that has only 100 calories.


8. Salads are great, but can be deceiving. Add some bacon, cheese, and dressing and watch that low calorie salad jump up to 1000 calories. Still fine, but cut it in half.


9. If you do not know how many calories are there, rule of thumb is it will satisfy a 300lb man. Do the math and cut the portion accordingly.


10. Workouts are your friend. Over the long run, a physically fit person has less hunger than the couch potato.


Enjoy your new life!

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