On Calorie Counting: Weekly vs Daily Goals

by Andie Mitchell on September 16, 2012

I believe that eating can be an intuitive practice . I do.

It’s just,

even after six years of maintaining a 135lb weight loss, I’ve come to know something about myself: I am a calorie counter.

Eating intuitively, with no rules or quotas or numbers in mind, with only a keen observation of the natural hunger and fullness mechanisms we’re born with, it really and truly does sound magical. Perhaps even more magical when you’re a former binge eater. Or perhaps it sounds magical even if you aren’t, and you just think cupcakes and pie are two things that tend to trip the wires in your brain that tell you when you’ve had enough.

The thing is, I know that eating in an intuitive way does exist. And for those who eat this way, I imagine it’s a whole wide world of wonderful. It’s freeing. It helps to create a healthy relationship with food. Often, I wish I were entirely intuitive. But then I come to a place of honesty with myself. Yes, over the past six years, I have found balance. Yes, I can now monitor how I feel in terms of hunger and fullness. I can pay attention to my internal dialogue with regard to a buffet, with regard to Thanksgiving feasting, with regard to White’s Bakery.  I have a keen sense of when I should start eating and when I should stop eating.

But I, like lots of others, feel comfortable counting.

I know counting. And it’s not the antithesis of intuition with regard to eating. Despite the way it may seem to a non-counter, those who count calories have found a [hopefully] healthy number or range for their bodies. It takes a long time to find that number. I’d liken it to number of hours spent sleeping. Ideally, we’d all just fall into bed when tired, and rise when sufficiently rested. However, it’s not always that simple. There is a world to navigate, a whole world of things to do that require working with and around. Still, we value sleep, we know we need sleep. Many of us, over the years, have discovered the number of hours per night that we require for our bodies to function optimally. So we stick to that, to the best of our abilities. Yes, our levels of tiredness vary day by day. And yes, sometimes we’re not exactly exhausted at the same time every night when we crawl under the covers, but still, we try to adhere to the schedule we’ve learned to work for us. We stick to getting in bed at a certain hour, we set alarms for the next morning. And we can hopefully rest knowing that we’re doing our best.

When I finally learned about nutrition and weight loss I kept a journal with an accurate count of everything I was putting into my body. My body, when I started, didn’t even know the meaning of self regulation. When I tallied up the calories I’d once eaten daily at 268lbs, it was somewhere up in the 3,000 range.

Through meticulous counting I was able to figure out the correct amount of nourishment I required. I made that number important. I created a routine around that very number. And while sticking to the number might have seemed like a burden at times, it served me well. I lost the weight.

Now, even if I don’t set a limit on how many calories I want to consume I still can’t help knowing the number of calories in the foods I’m eating, and tallying up the day’s number. It is hardwired into me. And, I like that. I like knowing that if I’ve come to the end of the day and tallied that I’d only eaten 1600 calories of whole, pure foods, it’s perfectly fine to eat a cupcake. Because while I don’t need caloric permission to eat what I want (no one does), I’ll be eating said cupcake knowing full well that it fits into a balanced, healthy quota.

I have embraced the fact that for at least the near future, I will be consciously and unconsciously counting calories, even if my goals aren’t to lose weight. And though there exists a stigma with regard to counting calories- the associations with obsession, the restrictive connotations- I’ve owned this part of me.

It is entirely possible to have a healthy relationship with food and be conscious of the calories you’re consuming. It need not feel like a prison of numbers. It need not preoccupy your whole mind, your whole day. Calorie counting allows people who are a tad type A, like me, to plan ahead and feel a reasonably amount of control.

Ever since I started counting calories, I’ve maintained a daily goal number. And though the number has gotten looser and much less rigid in the past few years, there always existed an awareness of it. When I was losing weight it was a goal that would put me in a deficit, when I was satisfied with my weight it would be a number to allow me to maintain my weight, and when I thought I was a bit too thin it was a number that would allow me to gain weight. No matter my goal, I always had a number in mind each day. And because of my commitment, I usually reached those goals even when it was difficult. If I was near my limit for the day and my mom came home with a blueberry pie I would abstain even though I wanted a slice, knowing that there was always tomorrow to fit a slice into. Lately I have been experimenting with a different kind of calorie counting that would remove the stress from this kind of situation.

Instead of setting a daily goal, I have been setting a weekly goal. So if I want to eat 2000 calories a day, which I generally do, instead of paying attention to adhering to that daily number, I would look at it as eating 14,000 calories a week. This gives me more freedom day to day if there were occasions where I wanted to consume more. If I go out to dinner with friends or my mother surprises me by overnighting me a cake that turned into a delicious pile of of frosted slop on its 3,000 mile trek (it happened), I can eat whatever I want without any feelings of guilt or failure. I simply adjust the next day or days accordingly.

If you are a calorie counter who often stresses about a daily limit, this technique may work better for you by giving you more freedom, more wiggle room. Or if you are someone who struggles to lose weight because you give up after one bad day this technique gives you a chance to right the ship. Maybe you’re hungrier on certain days because of a work or exercise schedule. Maybe you’re the type who sticks to a solid nutrition plan during the week and wants to be looser on the weekend. Or maybe you like to have a few glasses of wine on Friday night. Maybe you like to get a burger and fries on Saturday nights. Maybe you want two pieces of cake because cake is, simply, awesome. Counting weekly calories can give you more leeway to indulge without “failing” to meet your goals.

Still, it isn’t for everyone. You need to make sure you plan ahead enough so that you don’t “run out of “ calories before the end of the week.

All this to say: I think intuitive eating is fantastic if it works for you. I’d call it ideal if it worked for all of us. But some people will always feel more comfortable counting calories than winging it, so I thought I would share something I’ve been experimenting with recently.

Has anyone else experimented with counting calories weekly vs daily? Did you find it easier or harder to meet your goals?

{ 73 comments… read them below or add one }

Trish September 16, 2012 at 7:33 am

I haven’t really done a good job of counting calories since getting pregnant, but I’ve always been a daily counter. It never even occurred to me to switch to weekly. I think when I finally get the baby out of me and get back to “normal” I’ll give it a shot!

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Liz September 16, 2012 at 7:56 am

This post rings true to me in a huge way. Having been on both sides of eating disorders, trying intuitive eating, ending up bingeing, coming back to calorie counting, etc., I still find comfort in counting calories.
I’m at a healthy place mentally with food, even being pregnant now I feel a lot more “in-tune” with what I want. But alas I still feel peace tallying up some numbers here and there. I love that you have “OWNED” this because I have just felt it to be a “dirty secret” and something shameful, but it’s okay. Really.
And I think the weekly tally is brilliant. Weekends tend to be looser and let’s be honest we can’t tally each shared bite of a nacho plate, piece of cake, etc. BUt if our thru-the-week count is pretty mellow and steady, we CAN allow for more.
Thanks for this post. I feel like I could have written it myself. With lots of grammatical errors, of course. :)

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Tracy September 16, 2012 at 8:02 am

I’m a daily calorie counter and thanks to your blog I’ve trained myself not to be so darn hard on myself when I have an “off” day of indulging a bit too much. I always think that tomorrow is a new day for a new beginning. I think if I was further down the scale I could do a weekly calorie count, but I like the control of counting daily.

I’ve been using the Calorie Counter App on my smart phone to track and while I do like it, I’m curious as to your method of counting. Do you use an App, book, internet??

Thanks!

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BT September 16, 2012 at 8:15 am

Question for all readers. When you count calories and stay within a certain limit, do you also look at things like the carbs, and try to stay within a limit for that as well?

I eat mostly vegetarian, which means much of my protein comes from beans/hummus, and these tend to be fairly high in carbs. When I get to my “carb limit” for the day I’m almost always significantly below my calorie limit.

Is it okay to just let go of counting the carbs? Most of my carbs come from beans, fruit, or other similar healthy sources, not processed or refined items. I just have this guilt about it that I struggle with getting over.

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Hannah September 16, 2012 at 1:29 pm

I view carbs like I do fats: there are “good” ones and “bad” ones. In terms of carbs, there are simple and complex. Processed foods like chips and cookies have simple carbohydrates while natural foods (like your beans and hummus) have complex carbohydrates. Here is a good description: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002469.htm

But to answer your question, I feel as though the counting of the calories is more important than counting carbs.

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Violet September 16, 2012 at 2:16 pm

I log my food on myfitnesspal.com. It calculates calories, carbs, fat, and protein – I think you can select other things, too, if you want – and I keep an eye on the carbs, fat, and protein but at this point (I am pretty “young” in a real attempt at making a change in my eating/living habits) the total number of calories I consume every day is the only thing I really worry about.

I like the idea of a weekly calculation instead of daily. Since I started using myfitnesspal almost religiously, I have noticed there are days that I just don’t eat as much, and other days when I eat relatively a lot. Because of that, a weekly calculation makes a lot of sense in my head.

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Ashley September 16, 2012 at 8:47 am

Although I don’t count weekly calories (genius idea tho!) I do start my daily count with dinner and then continue through breakfast/lunch the next day. I used to have a ton of anxiety around dinner because I never knew if I was eating at home or out with clients or friends, etc. And sometimes I’d have 300 calories left and find myself at a steakhouse, which wasn’t pretty.

I came up with this idea and it has served me well. I tend to eat a lighter lunch anyway (LOTS of greens so filling, but light on calories or soup, which the combination of heat and veggies tends to make me feel fuller with less) and if I need to skimp or go super light, I can without feeling deprived. My life is much different now than when this idea struck, but the time frame has stuck with me and I never go to bed hungry.

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Sabra September 17, 2012 at 11:21 am

Oh! I love this idea!

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Bridget September 17, 2012 at 1:41 pm

I really like this idea- I am starting it tonight!
I am going to mix in a weekly estimated calorie count in hopes to avoid the “I screwed up feeling” and allow myself a wider window (or different view) to succeed. Thanks!

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Shelley B September 17, 2012 at 1:57 pm

I had never thought about starting at dinner! What a good idea. I am going to try it.

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Mary Anne October 19, 2013 at 11:20 am

This is a great idea! Thanks so much for sharing this!

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Laura Brooke Allen September 16, 2012 at 9:48 am

Pretty awesome post. Per usual. Your words are filled with kindness towards yourself, and a gentle invitation to others.

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Bailey @ Onederland or Bust! September 16, 2012 at 11:06 am

I think a weekly calorie is a very good idea! I’m not sure if it would work for me, but it’s something I’ve never thought of. I will keep it in mind as I get closer to my goal.

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Laura September 16, 2012 at 11:08 am

Such a good post and very insightful comments thus far (and to come I’m sure). I tried intuitive eating….and failed. I have always ended up going back to calorie counting. A weekly count is a fantastic idea. I was thinking while reading that you could roughly do both. Day to day is fine, but if something unexpected comes up you know what the weekly total is as well which you can adjust for the rest of the week.

I’m still trying to find the magic calorie count number. I am just under 300 lbs and generally they want me to eat way too much because of my size when I try to figure that! The only site, which I now use, that seemed reasonable was Lose It! (they have a mobile app also with a scan feature I love) which put me at around 1700 calories. Anyone else have this problem?

Again, GREAT post and very timely for me.

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Alma September 16, 2012 at 12:49 pm

I’m a control freak/perfectionist. I’ve struggled with calorie counting because of this aspect of my personality. When I count calories, I inevitably get obsessive–to the point where all I think about is food (instead of actual living). It’s exhausting.

I went back to the calorie counting several months ago because I felt out of whack and needed to control myself somehow. I got obsessive. But it was different in that it reminded my body of what balance feels like. I never thought I had an intuition when it came to food, but I do. I just have learned to stuff it down with other food I think I need/want.

I guess my approach now is to try very hard to listen to this body and to trust it. My body knows exactly what it needs, and if I take care of it, it speaks to me loud and clear. I don’t diet anymore. I just try to eat more colorful food than bland-looking food. I try to eat whole foods rather than processed, local rather than not, in-season rather than out. If I’m going to eat cake, it better be the best cake ever–and no, I won’t eat a sliver. It’ll be the real thing. When I do these things–like yesterday when I needed a truffle cheeseburger–I end up eating 2 bites because it’s enough. I’ve honored myself, and it’s easier to feel fulfilled. The way I see it, every day is another opportunity, and I just try to do better than I did before–though I often have to adjust my idea of what better is by listening to my body. It doesn’t steer me wrong.

I still have a long way to go. My body feels better–healthier, easier to live in–but I still feel bloated and tired. So, I have some work to do. For me, it’s about how I feel–not how I look or what I weigh. That’s the key.

(I think your way aligns very well with my way, but would appeal to my obsessive side–but I hate my obsessive side, so there’s that).

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anonymous September 16, 2012 at 1:15 pm

I think this is a great idea, but I struggle with the uncertainty of calories in food at non-chain restaurants. How do I approximate the calories in a salad at a local place when compared to the chicken sandwich at another? If this issue didn’t exist, I would be 100% in!

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Hannah September 16, 2012 at 1:23 pm

This is perhaps one of the greatest ideas I’ve seen for losing weight. I study dietetics in school and know that counting calories/having a goal is important in weight loss, however I’ve never considered a weekly goal. I used to be a slave to calorie counting (I struggled with anorexia and bulimia) and had put a mental block on it once I recovered. Today I am overweight and desperate to lose some weight, so I think the weekly goal could really help me. Thank you so much for your blog, recipes, and great ideas such as this one.

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Routhie September 16, 2012 at 3:33 pm

I definitely need daily as opposed to weekly because I am incredibly forgetful. Weekly worked best for me while I was in Europe visiting family. We ate well and walked absolutely everywhere, although it helped that the city’s trolley system was under construction while we were there. Daily serves well as the gentle reminder I need to eat consciously and not out of boredom.

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Naomi September 16, 2012 at 5:42 pm

Andy,

Great post!

Question though,

How do you count calories when you have no idea how many calories there are? As in, what if you go to a friends house and they serve you dinner?

Thanks!

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r September 17, 2012 at 2:05 pm

OK, let’s say they serve a Chef’s salad. You break it down. How much lettuce? 2 Cups? How much ham? your palm without the fingers is about 4 oz. How much croutons? a quarter cup? How much salad dressing? the tip of your thumb is about 1 T. That is how you do it. Weight Watchers teaches this.

Say they serve lasagna. What size is the piece? 3″x4″ look for a food data base on line. You will find lasagna there.

The more you practice this, the easier it is to track.

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Gretchen September 16, 2012 at 5:56 pm

The reason why I read this blog religiously is because I see so much of myself in every post and comment on here. I too have an extremely obsessive side (I am a control freak of a teacher and that seems to treat me well), but it has led me both to a time of being over weight and a time of suffering from anorexia. I’m turning 30 this year and I’d like this to be the year that I finally find that balance and don’t feel a slave to food anymore. I need to figure out how I can have a piece of cake and then call it a day, I tend to be an all or nothing girl and I don’t want to live my life like that. Does anyone else have this problem? Have you found anything that helps? Is counting calories the best way?

Thanks again for your words, they give me wisdom and strength when I’m feeling a bit down.

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Ana Maria September 16, 2012 at 8:05 pm

Hi Gretchen! I really feel for the place you are in – it can be so hard to feel and think that you’ve ‘blown it’ or have eaten something you ‘shouldn’t’, and feel out of control, or as you put it, “all or nothing”. I honestly found the best way to get out of this way of thinking was to begin appreciating my body for where it was (saying, it is okay if I remain this size forever as long as I am healthy and joyful) and then letting myself eat whatever I was craving for breakfast, lunch, snack and dinner. Soon, my body didn’t want just chocolate all the time, but vegetable lasagna and crisp apples and whole grain crackers and all sorts of wonderful things. Some may call this ‘intuitive eating’ and when you get it, it’s just amazing. Some, like Andie, may find their happy place in calorie counting – it is safe, routine and ultimately, can be helpful. Other people, like myself, find that it drives them nuts. I would say try both. Try one for a week or two, try another for a week or two. Ask not, ‘What’s helping me lose weight?’ but ‘What feels kindest, healthiest, free-est?’ I pray you find everything you are looking for!

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Shelley B September 17, 2012 at 2:00 pm

Great reply to a question I’ve been struggling with, too.

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Emma @ BITE | Boredom Is The Enemy September 16, 2012 at 7:24 pm

I find it fascinating that such different things work for different people. As for me, I truly cannot count calories/weigh myself/mess with numbers in any way and be okay. What works for me is a combination of high-calorie clean eating (i.e. eating large portions of whole foods and making sure to add fat/protein to my meals, because if anything my tendency is to under-eat and then not understand why I’m starving later), and then just never eating more than one portion of anything more indulgent in one sitting. It’s not just the total number, but the percentage that comes from each. The second I try to reverse them (i.e. restricting healthy food to make room for more treats) is when I run into trouble, which is always the temptation when I try to count. You can definitely do that and maintain your weight, but it throws the balance off for me entirely, which puts me in a really uncomfortable mental space and makes me way more likely to overdo it overall.

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Kristen September 16, 2012 at 7:26 pm

That’s brilliant! I hope this idea will help me get on track. I am one of those people who jump ship when I overdo it for the day (and remain drowning for days/rest of the week/etc.) This looks like something worth trying :)

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Wendy September 16, 2012 at 7:59 pm

I’ve been on Weight Watchers for a year now. This is essentially what they have us do. Each food has “points” that are determined by a calculator based on the protein, carbs, fat, and fiber amounts of each food. We get a set number of daily points (mine is 26, the lowest you can have) and then 49 “extra” weekly points. This accomplishes the same thing as your weekly calorie numbers. Then you can splurge on certain days or for certain occasions and still stay on track overall. I’ve lost 27 pounds doing this for a year so I know it’ll work. Love your blog!

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Lauren September 17, 2012 at 1:03 am

I’m a daily counter. Honestly if I went to weekly counting I think I’d eat my whole week on the first day and then not have anything left for the rest of the week which isn’t very sensible at all. I really need that control of counting every day. It keeps me honest and it keeps me in check. I’ve done a ton of experimenting with levels of exercise and where I should be at with number of calories I take in. It seems I need to exercise exponentially more just in order to eat a couple hundred extra calories. My body is just happiest when I’m between 1000 – 1200 per day. Sickeningly low isn’t it?! But I have more energy and I process better. I’m more alert and with it. I sleep better. I can push harder at the gym. For me it’s a matter of spreading those little calories over 5 – 6 meals. Too bad I’m a foodie who loves wine! Oh the dilemas we face in life!!!

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Sonal September 17, 2012 at 4:10 am

I love the new format of your blog! :) And I am actually experimenting on fasting twice a week with <600 cals a day. Problem is i have never counted calories and so I have no idea how much 600 is. I think although it is not always necessary- it is useful to have a general idea on calorie counting! Your weekly counting seems like a really good :)

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Kari September 17, 2012 at 4:17 am

This spring, I started counting my daily calories and was very strict about it – it’s the first time in years that I lost weight (I lost about 12 lbs. over 3 months). This summer, though, I’ve slipped up and haven’t really felt motivated to count. I never even thought of counting them weekly – I need to try that!

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Anele @ Success Along the Weigh September 17, 2012 at 4:31 am

If my calories aren’t planned yet for the day, I don’t eat until they are (which encourages me to plan a day ahead.) I tried a week or two of “intuitive eating” and exercise and I *hated* it. I didn’t lose weight those weeks either and honestly my food intake didn’t really change but I told myself I was going to work my hardest during workouts but not obsess over calorie burn. Nope, no dice and I’m perfectly fine with counting calories because if I don’t track, how can I possibly spot a pattern that I may not even know exists, ya know?

I couldn’t do the weekly thing. Kudos to you for being able to do it but I calorie cycle (like 1800 one day, 2250 the next, 1850 the next and 200 the day after, etc) I just plan any ‘extras’ for the higher days. I think for me I would feel too out of control and even though I’ve lost 210+ lbs, I still need that structure to get me the rest of the way there.

Great topic! I love reading everyones answers!

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Anne Weber-Falk September 17, 2012 at 6:18 am

I find counting calories so monotonous. I eat intuitively. I have a very good idea of what the calorie counts are as well as the fat. I do alright as long as I really, really watch my portions. Portion control is where it’s at for me.

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CJ September 17, 2012 at 7:13 am

Just this week, after quite a long time of playing with intuitive eating, and feeling like it might never be entirely what works for me, I started counting again.

And worried a little bit about being a failure because I had to “go back” to that.

Only a little bit. I’m way better at listening to what’s true than I was back in my days of iron-fisted counting in the chase to SMALLER. While that worked to shed 1/2 my body weight, it was not sustainable when continued with a certain attitude behind it.

As you aptly described, counting feels good for some of us, when it is a soft reminder, not a hammer of pass or fail.

While I am much more intuitive in how I eat because I’m much more connected to myself in general, it all feels very different than that strict march down the scale.

I had not thought of the weekly count, and look forward to playing with the idea.

Superbly timed brilliant post, which as usual, rang true on many levels for me.
Thanks much.

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abby September 17, 2012 at 8:02 am

This has been on my mind quite a bit as I’m only a few pounds from the end of my weight loss journey. When I first started losing weight, I did it by counting calories (and then moved to weight watchers, where I have been equally successful). But I’ve found myself thinking – what now? I mean, I don’t want to just stop when I reach my goal – I have a strong feeling I’d just balloon back up. So does that mean I’m stuck counting calories or points for the rest of my life? I think the answer is yes, and while I don’t love it, I love how I look and feel, and THAT is more important to me.

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Krissy September 17, 2012 at 8:04 am

I just stumbled upon your blog, it’s great! I’ve never really thought about doing a weekly calorie count instead of daily. I can see some benefits to doing that, but it seems like a lot to keep track of. Plus I think I would be tempted to really overeat the first couple days and then be starving the rest of the week.

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Melissa September 17, 2012 at 8:05 am

I keep an Excel sheet to enter daily calories Monday through Sunday and I have a calculation at the bottom to give me my weekly total. I think weekly is a much better way to go than daily! Some days I eat less or a lot “leaner” foods, some days I indulge a bit, and this way, I see it all even out.

I’m kind of stoked to hear about someone else doing this, too. ;) Meticulous number brains unite!

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Mandi September 17, 2012 at 9:55 am

I was so excited to see this post. Like so many others I can really identify with the struggle and stress of counting calories. When I first started my weight loss journey I didn’t count. I watched what I ate and that was about it. As I progressed I started to count and it was amazing what happened! I was consistently losing weight week after week! I also knew that when an unexpected number came up on the scale, it most likely wasn’t due to the calories but to something else (water weight, undigested food). A few months ago I hit my goal (down 135 pounds) and now I feel a little lost. I don’t know where to go next. I’ve continued to count daily but I feel like it’s something I “shouldn’t” be doing because I don’t need to lose anymore weight. I also get pressure from people close to me about putting too much emphasis on the amount of calories I eat. Am I obsessive with it? I absolutely can be. Do I want to be like that forever? No way. But what do I do next?

The fact that you have been so honest in this post (and every other) is inspiring. I love your idea of a weekly count. I think it could help me to be a little less rigid and really get to know (and enjoy) my new body. Thank you so much for opening up your heart to all of us.

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Sarah September 17, 2012 at 12:02 pm

I’ve thought about the concept because it is really similar to how weight watchers points work. I am able to stick to my plan during the week but it kind of all falls apart during the weekend. And while I’m not gaining weight, it’s definitely not helping me lose weight. I am very tempted to start setting a weekly goal, I think it would fit a lot better into my life. I always though it was silly trying to eat more food (even though I wasn’t hungry) just because I hadn’t met my daily calorie goal.

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Megly September 17, 2012 at 1:03 pm

If you don’t mind me asking, how many calories did you stick to when you were losing weight? I tried 1400 for a couple weeks but it made me VERY irritable and stressed. If I was too busy for my daily walk I would more or less freak out. Wondering if my goal was much too low or if perhaps it’s something you just have to adjust to gradually?

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r September 17, 2012 at 2:15 pm

I think 1400 is low, and maybe where you should be if you are trying to lose weight. I have read you should never go below 1200 because you can’t get the proper nutrition below that number.

If you are at 1400, exercising, and not trying to lose weight, I would say your body is telling you to try adding more calories. Even if you are trying to lose weight, why don’t you try 1500 calories and see how that feels. I know i had the exact same feeling you are having, and by increasing my calories by 100, I was able to sustain my weight loss without the cranky feelings that came with always being hungry.

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LG September 17, 2012 at 3:20 pm

I totally believe it’s a good idea to eat the # of calories you’ll need per day at your goal weight. I don’t have weight to lose, but I eat around 1900 (without exercise) and have been around 130lbs for the last 10 years (I’m 31, 5 ft 7). Fat 2 Fit radio’s website has a good calorie needs calculator too. I couldn’t imagine only eating 1400/day!!!

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miggymama September 17, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Can you tell me if you add calories in when you exercise? I am having trouble figuring out where I am suppose to be calories wise.

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lisa September 17, 2012 at 3:42 pm

Love your blog!

I started logging my calories on Fitday six months ago. When I started my new weight loss lifestyle by logging calories and exercise daily, I had no idea how many calories I was eating. What a shock to see 3-4000 kcals a day was an average intake because I was seriously undercounting kcals by “intuition”.

The weight has fallen off the last six months while eating 1800 kcal/day averaged over a week and I’m only 15 pounds from the original weight goal. Counting calories daily changed my life and will likely be a life long exercise. So be it. It is a small price to pay!

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allie September 17, 2012 at 3:59 pm

hi andie! i’m a calorie counter, too, and i do a great job during the weekdays staying at/below my limit, and i tend to go over on weekends when i’m out with friends. i think a weekly goal in addition to a daily one would help me a lot to show that i’m hitting goals while giving me a little wiggle room to go out and have fun.

counting has given me a sense of mindfulness about what i eat-i’m an excessive eater, and to see my calorie/nutrition each day has given me a better idea of what i’m putting into my body.

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candace September 17, 2012 at 6:05 pm

As a registered dietitian, this is exactly what I teach. Having a daily limit versus a weekly limit can make it more difficult for people to “stick with it”. When you have a weekly limit it allows you to partake in that surprise piece of cake or last minute ice cream come with guilt ;)

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Karen September 17, 2012 at 9:19 pm

This is so refreshing to hear that I’m not the only one who can’t help but count calories some days! I don’t stress out about it, but otherwise I just can eat too mindlessly some days or some days not at all. It’s a way to make sure I either eat enough or not too much

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Mindy September 18, 2012 at 3:49 am

Great thoughts, Andie, and so well thought out and writeen, as always! I think I’m in the calorie counting camp. Some days it’s a relief, other days it feels constricting….maybe the weekly thing would feel more balanced.

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Christie Robello September 18, 2012 at 3:54 am

So…now that I am done having children….and I am so overweight it’s not funny. How do I start counting calories? I have never done it…and over the years the weight kept piling on. I feel lost. But I want to change. And then I feel so overwhelmed that I eat chocolate chips at 1am. ;{
Mahalo for any help to jump start me to getting healthy again.
Christie

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Amanda Morey September 18, 2012 at 5:02 pm

Christie- I felt overwhelmed too when I started my weight loss journey. I had gone from a size 2 and 115 lbs to a size 14 and 165 pounds in about 5,years.

I started by using an online free tool such as my fitness pal, FatSecret, or spark people. I would recommend visiting your doctor and get their support. They can help you figure out a healthy weight and target caloric intake. Then I would just start by tracking what you eat. Start small. Maybe start with swapping out soda for water if you’re a soda drinker.

You can do this! A year ago I felt just like you; I got so overwhelmed that i kept turning to food for comfort. I’m now almost 20 lbs smaller, but still 30 lbs to go.

I believe in you!

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Ksenija September 18, 2012 at 5:42 am

What an amazing post, again ;) – not that I would expect anything else from you – really, I cannot wait for your book to finally be published. I hope that it will be also available as ebook for those of us who do not live in the US.

Regarding calorie counting – I am on and off from one month to another and I do have the feeling that with it I am restricting myself a lot and without it I am too loose with myself. So the weekly approach seems to be a great solution. Gonna give this one a try.

I am also considering how much sport I do. In a more active week, I allow myself some treats and when I am not leaving my desk at all, I am sticking to my limit rigidly. How do you handle this one?

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TJ September 18, 2012 at 7:45 am

Hey I like the update/up-do on your site. It looks fantastic. :) I do better with the daily counting, it helps me stay on track better.

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Judy Shea September 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

I know I always do better when I keep track. I put “my fit pal” on my smartphone. It’s a free app. You can scan any food label too. It’s a great tool.

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Natalie @ Free Range Human September 18, 2012 at 1:07 pm

I feel like this is a whole new way of looking at the “counting calories” issue. I’m a daily counter, but sense I started reading and now participating in the blog word I feel a little bit guilty that I count. Almost like I’m not really walking the healthy living walk yet. Thanks for showing the other side.

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Amanda Morey September 18, 2012 at 4:55 pm

My doctor recommended using FatSecret for my smart phone. It really opened my eyes to what was filling and low in calories. I think counting allows me to feel more in control.

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Aimmee September 19, 2012 at 8:36 am

This is actually what I do- sort of. I have a running document on excel and aim for an overall average of 2000 calories per day. So this lets me adjust on a day to day basis so that each week my average comes close. I also keep an average of all the previous weeks together and it works quite well and also lets my mind relax knowing that I am staying on track without actually obsessing over it!

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pen September 20, 2012 at 7:50 am

I was an insane calorie counter for years, until one day I just stopped. I haven’t gained more than 5 lbs since I have quit the counting, and a lot of that weight, I like to think, is just necessary weight gain as you get older. Granted, if I ever need to lose weight I will probably go back to counting.

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Cathy September 20, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I just ran into your blog for the first time today. I really like the comparison you made between calorie counting vs. intuitive eating, and counting hours of sleep vs. having a sense of resting enough. That is an example that really works for me, particularly as I can see myself needing to count calories even after I’ve reached my weight goal.

Right now, I’m working along on my own weight loss journey and am doing good on counting calories each day (hitting my target each day). Counting calories really seems to work for me. But I struggle with days where the calorie count is not obvious to me when I’m out with friends or at a social event. I have no intuitive sense of the number of calories in things. (I rely heavily on the numbers on labels at the grocery store or being able to look up things as I make recipes.) How do you manage your calorie counting when you’re at a social event or eating at a friends house where there’s no menu to discretly look at? Sometimes I come home, unless I’ve eaten only fruit or off the veggie tray, I’ll have no idea what calorie amount I consumed when I’ve been confronted with a dinner or a birthday party even when I’ve tried to choose the healthier options. How do you handle your calorie counting for that day?

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Bek @ Crave September 21, 2012 at 1:40 am

I like the sound of counting calories weekly opposed to daily. However, due to my ED I had to stop counting and whilst I no longer log, weigh and add up every single thing I eat (it got to the point where I had terrible anxiety over it all and hated not knowing what was in something) I still do know roughly the calorie counts in things and roughly what I eat each day. I do try to listen to my body a bit more and hopefully I’ll learn to become more intuitive.

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Aly September 21, 2012 at 10:27 am

Yes! Yes! Yes!

I have struggled with weight my whole life. I was a 160 lb middle-schooler who ate fairly healthy. I secretly ordered weight loss books in the mail as a 14 year old. I found my big break late in high school through stress and eventually an eating disorder. I would meticulously write down my body measurements and exactly what I ate in a little notebook. When stress subsided and sanity somewhat returned, so did the weight.

I am now ten years older and have this inner voice that fears the obsessive person I can (okay let’s be honest, I already am) become when it comes to health and image. I found great solace in the idea of a weekly calorie count. My great revelation came through using an iPhone app (Loseit), which helped me to realize all that weight control is is simple math. Whether the math of calories in and out was viewed from a daily, weekly, or monthly tally, it was all math in the end. I have found that a weekly view of things gives me the flexibility to never live in a state of feeling trapped by regulation. Sometimes I go to fatburger and have the shake too. Sometimes I realize I went to fatburger and had the shake too and exercise a little more the rest of the week and stick more to lean protein and more produce for the rest of the week.

The secret to health is finding a way that you can live healthily for the rest of your life. Balance.

I still struggle with the motivation aspect of health, but I have learned how to placate my inner crazy control beast, yet still feel free enough to not go over the edge to scary.

Thank you for your honesty — at the end of the day it a relief to not be one of a kind in my unique breed of type A.

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Jennielynn September 21, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Right now, I have to count daily. I’m at the beginning of this adventure and with so very much to lose, I am working hard at reshaping my habits and my relationship with food. Eventually though, I’d like to come to a place where a weekly number is the norm. I’m sure that, like you, I’ll be a daily counter for some time after my weight is lost and I’m maintaining. But some sweet day, my size 24 jeans won’t be a constant specter, haunting me with the possibility that they will be needed again. Then, maybe, a weekly total or perhaps even intuition will be sufficient.

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Mia September 23, 2012 at 2:53 am

I love your blog Andie!
As a fellow cook-from-scratcher I have a question: how do you count calories when most of what you eat is from a recipe made from scratch? I guess I could look up all of the ingredients and do the math but honestly if I did that for every single thing I eat that would be unrealistic. So hw do I make this work in a realistic way?

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Nikki January 15, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Hi Mia. I’m the same as you, and in the past have really struggled with figuring out how many calories a recipes has. It almost makes me want to buy pre-packaged food cause then you just KNOW. But recently I’ve found this really helpful: http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/recipe_analysis.php

Just type in the number of servings it makes, and then list all the ingredients (great if you’re using an online recipe – I just copy and paste!) and presto!

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Krysta September 25, 2012 at 10:50 am

I don’t really count calories anymore mostly because, for me, it becomes a little obsessive and I focus too much on the number of calories associated with a certain food and lose sight of the big picture of nutrition.

What seems to work for me- which appeals to my type A personality but allows me to let go of the obsessive bit- revolves around measuring my food by volume. For example (and this is just an example) every day I might strive to eat 6-7 cups of vegetables, 1-2 cups of fruit (a piece of fruit like an apple would be 1 cup), 2 cups of while grains, 1 cup of beans, 1 serving of fish, etc. I strive to eat whole foods and am more of an assembler than a complicated reciepe cook, so this way of eating works for me- I can throw together a bowl of quinoa with beans and veggies and 1/2 an avocado for dinner and instead of calculating how much of a food to include based on calories I look at volume. I guess really it is very similar to the food pyramid, but I worked with a nutritionist to develop daily quantites that worked for my body and my health and nutrition goals. And because I love treats, I keep dark, dark organic chocolate at home for any daily needs and let myself have a not-so-healthy treat (cake!) at least once a week and don’t let myself feel guilty about it.

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wilene October 25, 2012 at 7:49 am

ive tried calorie counting and your right day by day makes me feel like a failure when i splurge so i think weekly would be better for me i need to lose 100 lbs can you tell me about how many cals you ate when you was trying to lose weight

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Nikki January 15, 2013 at 4:36 pm

I have just recently started counting calories weekly, and I find it much easier to deal with. I log my calories and exercise into an app (My Fitness Pal) and it gives me daily and weekly totals. I try to keep to my desired calories during the week, but because I usually go for a long (ie 8 hr) hike on the weekends, I know that if I go over by a bit one day it will even up over the weekend. I find it much easier to stick to a weekly total as I found daily calorie counting ruined my social life! That said, I do try and eat a sensible amount of calories each day, its just that I know there’s a bit of leeway.

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Amy January 24, 2013 at 12:06 am

Thank you so much for this post. I won’t lie, I’m a bit of a calorie counting Nazi and it’s usually something I try not to advertise. Of course my close friends and family are aware to some degree because that’s just unavoidable but no one truly knows the extent to which I go sometimes. For most of my adolescent years I’ve struggled with weight and self-esteem. I used to feel like I wasn’t in control of my weight and therefore it yo-yo’d throughout my younger years. Now I’m almost 20 years old and just in the past year I’ve been able to remain stable and relatively happy with my healthy weight. And this is all thanks to calorie counting. I sometimes feel guilty about how obsessive I am and how down in the dumps I become when I feel I’ve gone over my daily limit. But I too have recently discovered the wondrous flexibility in counting towards weekly totals. It has aided me in avoiding feelings of guilt and unhappiness because I know if I just add those calories to the next day then all will be right in my weird little world. The life of a calorie counter is a bit neurotic and up and down in terms of emotional and physical well-being but I have no desire to stop because despite those occasional guilt ridden days I have never been more happy and satisfied with my body. So thanks for posting this and making me feel a whole lot better about my obsessive tendencies. It feels great to know someone else out there feels the same way as I do. Muwah <3 and Congats on your maintenance!

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Kaitlyn Roche February 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Hi I recently just started counting my calories. I found this websit called my fitnesspal and it make counting calories 100 times easier. You can scan the item you are eating or type it in and it pops up how many calories are in the item along with other nutrition facts. It also keeps track of weekly goals and daily. Love the site and its nice to have it on my phone. I hope one day I am like you and just can keep a count in my head.

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Victoria March 7, 2013 at 8:12 pm

I am currently starting the 5/2 diet…which basically is calorie counting with two days of a hefty deficit and 5 days “eating normally”—I can’t say what they mean by normally because my love of food is too great to be “normal”. I have been a calorie counter since the age of 17 (currently 24). Moving into this weekly calorie thing seems more freeing, in that although my definition of eating normally is a count of 1000-1300 calories (cause thats what my body seems to feel comfortable with), I don’t feel so wrong about eating several pieces of candy between meals one day because I have two days in my week that I set aside for a 500-800 count. It seems radical, and its still new, but even if it doesn’t shed the pounds, my mind feels freer on the day where I’m permitted to eat without much restriction.

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Sue May 14, 2013 at 12:06 am

Hi
How do you know how many calories to eat? I am 42 years old mum, 153cm tall and 53 kilos and l jog 3 times per week for 20 minutes. How many calories can l eat per day for weight loss and maintance? I tend to under eat during the week and eat more on weekends. My biggest downfall is wine. I have tried to eat more during the week days but l am afraid l will gain weight.

Sue

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Karen July 8, 2013 at 10:04 pm

So, i’ve started my diet once again. probably on version 10.5 now and i’m keeping my calories pretty low (about 1400-1600) but now for work i am getting up at 3:30am and not going to bed until after 9. in your experience would you give yourself more daily calories or try and stay in your normal range? Also from your experience is there a point in your dieting, that if you are still hungry (stomach cramping, hunger pains), do you allow yourself to eat more or do you stick to what you have planned?

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Andie Mitchell July 10, 2013 at 11:15 am

Hey Karen!

Hmm…I really don’t know how to advise you about the number of calories you should aim for because I don’t know your age/weight/activity level, but in general, for weight loss, 1400-1600 seems reasonable. I’d likely stick to the same number of calories regardless of my schedule, but please please please know that I would ALWAYS say that you should EAT whenever you feel any sort of cramping or serious hunger pains. Those should never be ignored, my friend.

Wishing you so much success. You can do it!

Andie

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jeanette August 8, 2013 at 9:58 pm

Andie, Did you ever restrict too much while you were losing. Ever make your body be over hungry. I did this alot as I was losing and although I am maintaining for 3+ years now, I am slowly adding in more calories to let my metabolism get back to normal. I underfed my body for a long time because I felt I had to, to maintain my 60 pound weight loss. When my body quit losing at 165 pounds (i’m 5’8″) I thouhgt since the BMI said I was still overweight by 5 pounds then I HAD to get it off in any manner of calorie restricting I needed to. I was lucky enough to find your blog to help me understand it was OKAY to eat.
Thank You!

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Tigercat June 24, 2014 at 9:56 pm

You should be eating at least your Basal Metabolic Rate (which you can calculate on lots of online calculators). If you are hungry eating an appropriate amount for your BMR, then you may be eating the wrong foods. Eating at least 3-4 ounces of protein at each of 3 meals, plus protein snacks several times a day and including say a tablespoon of olive oil on a salad, etc keeps you from getting hungry. I would listen to hunger pangs, dizziness, etc. Sugar, including carbs, too much fruit, too little protein and fat will leave you listless and hungry, your blood sugar soaring and crashing. I am small, but eat comfortably on 1100 calories per day, 7,700 calories per week! My BMR is about 1200. Good luck–eat safely!

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Tigercat June 24, 2014 at 9:48 pm

I really think calorie counting is important because prepared/restaurant food is just full of unpleasant surprises–the turkey burger with lettuce and tomato at Ruby Tuesday’s that was 810 kcalories (true! half the calories are in the butter-injected bread), the “appetizer” of rib tips at Famous Dave’s BBQ restaurant that weigh in at 1655, when the dinner entree of the same name is 1300 and the lunch portion is 770. How can you know. I have come to the same realization about counting weekly vs. daily calories…it is psychologically so much better. Screw-ups happen, the planned exercise is OBE, but you have a week to work it out. Helps you keep perspective. Also, for weight loss, a pound of fat is 3,500 calories a week–doesn’t it make sense to make sure you have a weekly deficit? I agree with your experience.

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