Confused in a world of constant calorie counting? Sure there are guidelines and charts... but how many calories should you be eating?
It all depends on your lifestyle of course. I will be the first to admit I'm not an expert in nutrition, but I do know what works for me. I was the proverbial skinny/fat mother of four and at a size 2; the cellulite was not pretty.
In order to make a good change—not just get skinnier—I had to start eating clean. There are several books available, but let me first tell you that this is not a "diet."
It's a forever change in lifestyle and eating habits. It's learning that you can eat tons of food as long as it is the right food. You need not go hungry to be in shape!
Good Vs. Bad Calories
Now back to the dreaded calories question. I try to educate by being "realistic". By teaching people that there are good calories and bad calories and adding cookies and potato chips into your calorie count of healthy food is a very bad thing.
I ask people, "If you had a 100 calorie cupcake and a 100 calorie chicken breast, which one should you eat?" Simple question of course. 1,500 calories a day doesn't help if it's all bad!
Also, if you think it is okay to eat the 100 calorie cookie pack because they are just 100 calories... think again. Eating 15 of them would be like a whole day's meal!
You also have to take into consideration how much exercise you get in a day. The whole idea of calorie counting means nothing if you are sitting. If you aren't burning what you take in... it's going straight to the thighs or belly.
Eating right is difficult at first but it becomes easier. I was one of those people who didn't eat until 3 pm and I thought dinner was good if I had the meat, the veggies and the side dish of starches. I didn't know any better.
I usually eat a protein source (yes, meat is referred to as protein source in my world) vegetables and sometimes a carbohydrate such as brown rice, whole grain pasta or whole grain bread.
Understand Your Diet
I eat 6 times a day if I can. I try to eat every 2-3 hours and always fist sized portions. I don't even know what my calorie consumption is on a daily basis! The simple thing about eating like this is I eat everything my body uses and needs each day. I do not fill up with so called "empty calories."
Does this mean you can never have cake at a party or your favorite pasta dish? Of course not. We are human after all. I limit my intake of sugars, but I do allow myself treats and I take them without guilt.
I use real sugar in my coffee as well as cream. I use salad dressing and mayo as well. People are always shocked at this for some reason.
The only thing I am really hard on myself with is the carbohydrates. I truly believe carbohydrates are what kill most people when it comes to weight loss. Sure, the best snack food is always the carbs and they are hard to stay away from. I use "clean" carbs in my diet as they burn the best.
I will explain it like this: "The good gas makes your car run great, the bad gas makes your car run... but builds gunk in your engine." Your body is the same way. Put in the bad carbs and all they do is sit there, turning into fat as you watch TV and there you are thinking, "I only eat 1,000 calories a day, why am I not losing weight?!" This makes many people feel like it is a hopeless situation. It's not.
Cooking Your Food
I'm also not a fan of the frozen entrees that make people think they are eating a healthy low calorie meal. The sodium and carbs alone make them pretty bad for you. The portions are super tiny, so chances are you will be sneaking a snack within an hour after eating one.
Making food for yourself is not terribly difficult. I'm a huge lover of ground turkey and chicken so I cook a batch on Sunday and again on Wednesday and keep it in the fridge in small containers.
I have small one serving bowls of brown rice, or I cook a few servings of whole grain pasta to add to the meals. As for vegetables, that's an easy one... add in some frozen ones to save time. They defrost in the containers and you can microwave a complete meal in about 1 minute.
I also always have on hand: chicken breasts, bags of frozen shrimp, almonds for snacking and rice cakes with peanut butter for munching. I eat a cup of oatmeal for breakfast or my Kashi protein cereal. I'm lucky to have an office with a fridge and stock it with boiled eggs, lettuce, cottage cheese and frozen vegetables.
When hunger hits my bathroom run is actually a moment to grab a boiled egg. I can also take 10 minutes and throw some shrimp and lettuce in a bowl, add a teaspoon of dressing, add a cover and shake up for something quick to eat.
Getting Creative With Your Meals
You can get as creative as you want with your meals. I'm not a recipe kind of woman. I sometimes eat eggs mixed with ground turkey; food is just a fuel for me at this point. I think people need to get pleasure in other ways and stop using food to make themselves feel good.
Terrible, but true. Do Doritos really need to be new and improved to be "cheesier?" I thought the new and improved from 5 years ago were pretty tasty myself.
Eating out can also be an ordeal for most people. I avoid the worst menu restaurants such as Chili's, where I know everything is deep fried and smothered in something gooey.
I do go to Ruby Tuesday's which offers the New Orlean's seafood with tilapia, steamed veggies and brown rice, or the turkey burger with broccoli (I remove the top of the bun or don't eat the bun).
Most restaurants have a healthy choice menu, but you can also ask for things not fried, not battered, or just eat a salad bar meal. Save eating out for special occasions if you can. It's very difficult if your friends or family want to eat your forbidden food in front of you... so avoid it.
So, the answer to how many calories you can have each day can't really be answered. I don't know your metabolism, how much exercise you get, how many calories you burn just while sitting... trying to answer would be wrong on my part. Stop counting, start eating right, exercising and trust me... you will get results.
You will go through some trial and error, make some mistakes just like I did (go off and have a binge), but you will hopefully come to understand that what you eat doesn't have much to do with a magic number.