Since I have started losing weight, I have had many people ask me how I am doing it. Where most people know what calorie counting is, I don't think the "how" is always as easily come to. Just the idea of it sounds tedious and miserable, right?
While there is a lot of adjusting to do in the first few weeks, the process itself is simple, for the most part.
What I did in the beginning was visit this website to figure out how many calories I needed to be eating each day (see the link for the BMI calculator for a more advanced/thorough version). Step 2 was purchase a kitchen scale. After a little bit of research, I found that my best option would be a digital scale, as it's much more accurate than a manual. I spent around $20, which seems to be common (but as I searched just now on amazon.com, I saw some for as low as $8.50).
For those with smart phones, your best friend will be your calorie logging app. These beauts make the process really easy, as you can look up food items right there, as well as keep a record of the foods you eat most often. Sadly, though, when I started counting, I wasn't a smart phone owner, and had to do my tracking the old school way. For that, I just carried a notebook in my purse that had a section where I kept all the foods I ate most often, and another section where I would scribble out the ingredients for each food item I ate that day, and did the math with the calculator on my phone. That was tedious, but it worked, and most of my eating was done near a computer, which allowed me to easily look up values. Truly, I wouldn't have been able to do any of this at all if it hadn't been for the caloriecount website. Not only is there an extensive list of foods, but there's also a really active community forum, which helped especially well in the beginning.
When I first started losing, I didn't have a clue as to how much I thought I would actually lose, so I chose my end goal as a number that fit neatly into my healthy BMI range. To be completely honest, the numbers in this range seemed crazy to me. I didn't really believe that I would ever end up seeing them...I kept telling myself that even if I only got to a size 10 or 12, I'd be happy with that. Now that I'm there, I totally AM happy with that, but knowing that my healthy BMI is only 20 pounds away...why the heck wouldn't I keep with it?! Now that I'm so close, I know that I need to be preparing myself for maintenance (it's reported that 90% of people who lose weight gain it all back. sad face!). I started out eating 1800 kcal/day, and have slowly dropped my calories as my weight has dropped (I wasn't very scientific about this...I just did it when it felt right, really...I am currently eating 1400 kcal per day and have been here for awhile, as I don't want to drop much lower than that, so instead of dropping anymore calories from food, I will just up my workout intensity when necessary). Throughout my program, I have allowed myself two days a week to "zig zag" (this feature is found in the daily calorie calculator at the top). What that means is, on those days I eat a little more than usual, which helps to keep from plateauing in weight loss, and it also gives a little wiggle room to have some more fun here and there. I call these days "maintenance days", and now that I am rapidly approaching my goal weight, I am using these days to practice my eating habits without the comfort of calculating. I intend to calculate what I can when I am in the maintaining period, but I want to know that I can do this without the constant logging. But that's the beauty of calorie counting-- if you're smart about it, it teaches you the things you need to know to live a life with healthier, and happier, choices!
At the start of my program, it became heavily apparent to me that I had just never learned how to eat before. Calorie counting has been so much more than losing weight; it has been educating me in what food really is, how it applies to me, how I can enjoy it, and how I need to use it to keep me healthy all at the same time. For the past -50 pounds, I have felt foolish that I had never done this before. Although the adjustment really can be frustrating at first, the end payoff is more than worth it. Only a few weeks in, it felt as if calorie counting were just life as usual.