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Counting Calories

As I feared, calorie counting has become somewhat addictive. I said I would only do it for two weeks, but that was three weeks ago and I’m still logging into Spark People every day from breakfast to dinner. Like basically everything in life, there are good and bad things about this.

Good: Heightened awareness of what I’m eating

There have been several times in the past month when I’ve muttered “Holy crap,” after calculating the nutritional values of some recipes I make. I didn’t realize the tuna melt casserole had so many calories or else I would have backed off on that third piece. It’s similar to the time I moved out on my own and started to realize how expensive it is just to exist. Cable, telephone, groceries, light bulbs – they all cost money and I didn’t realize how much until I had to pay for them all myself. Tracking my food is like going over all my bills and discovering hidden fees.

I’ve also accepted that whatever I enter is basically an estimate, since it’s impossible to figure out exactly how many calories you eat in a day. Was that tablespoon of peanut butter exactly a tablespoon or was there an air pocket in there somewhere?

Bad: Don’t want to become chained to my nutritional calculator

While it’s good to know what I’m putting in my body, I don’t want to become completely obsessed with it. I’d hate to get to a point where I go on vacation and start freaking out in the car because I cannot immediately log the bag of carrot sticks I ate out of the cooler. I also don’t want to enter a state of mind where I can’t give up food tracking.

Back in middle school, I started collecting the metal tops off of canned sodas. I’d open my soda, then bend the opener back and forth a couple times until it broke off. Then I’d put it them in my pocket until I could deposit them in an empty milk jug, if my mother didn’t find them in her washing machine first. I ended up with at least two or three jugs full of pop tops, though what I was collecting them for I have no idea. There was a rumor that you could exchange them for money for cancer research or something, but mine just sat in my room. Eventually I realized I needed to stop collecting pop tops, but every time I opened a soda I’d start working the top back and forth to break it off. It took me several weeks to stop myself from collecting these funky pieces of metal, and the urge to do so lasted for at least another month or two. I don’t want the same thing to happen with food tracking. I’d like to be able to just drop it if I decide I’m getting too psycho about it.

Good: It seems to be helping.

My weight is heading downwards again.

So, I guess I’ll stick with it for now, but I may drop it eventually if it becomes too much of a nuisance or I decide I have higher priorities than tracking every teaspoon of olive oil I roast vegetables in.

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57 Comments

Bobette • October 10, 2007 at 10:06 am

I’m with you on not getting stuck on calories. I can’t imagine counting calories reguarly, it seems so tedious. And the fact is, your body’s precise caloric needs are always changing. The formulas are just an estimate. But it’s not like your body is doing the exact same things every day! That’s why I like eating when I’m hungry, stopping when I’m full (ah, body wisdom, difficult to get in touch with but wonderful), and keeping the calorie-dense foods in limited portions (which I can adjust based on how my weight goes). But charting each calorie–not necessary, not fun.

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shannon • October 10, 2007 at 10:10 am

Just so you know….the soda tabs can be given to the Ronald McDonald house. It is one of their on-going fundraisers, and it really does do a world of good.

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Timmi • October 10, 2007 at 10:14 am

I think that after a little while of tracking food you’ll have a pretty good idea of what foods will help or hinder you on your goal to a nutritionally balanced day. Like if you eat oatmeal for breakfast, maybe you should add some protein with lunch, you know? I think you’ll find an equilibrium where you don’t feel that you NEED to calculate everything online.

Well, unless you have an addictive personality. Then all bets are off. =)

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Diana the Scale Junkie • October 10, 2007 at 10:23 am

I’m a calorie counter. I’m in weight loss mode and I’ve found that I stall if my calories dip too low as much as I stall if they go too high. So many studies on weight loss show that people who journal what they eat are most successful long term and because of that, I force myself to do it until it becomes habit. Personally I don’t think its a bad thing, especially with the holiday season just around the corner with so many opportunities to over indulge.

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jessica~ • October 10, 2007 at 10:37 am

I use Sparkspeople too, but now I’ve used it so long that I focus more on the nutritional values as opposed to fat & calories. (I added Fiber, Calcium, Vit C, E, etc. to my goals). The big benefit for me was seeing that I was using A LOT of olive oil when roasting/sauting. Now I only use that 1T and stay away from roasting things like eggplant, which soak up massive amounts of olive oil. Now I bake or stew my eggplant, instead.

It totally is addictive, though…but not as addictive as adding in your cardio/calories burned.

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emily • October 10, 2007 at 11:02 am

Why not stop tracking NOW if you’re concerend? See how you do for a month, now that you’re more aware of calories.

You can always go back to tracking if you feel like it would help. And even if you’re not tracking all your calories, you can still look up the calories for certain foods, just so you know; ie, you could stop logging your oatmeal, your carrot sticks, etc, but enter in new recipes just to get a feel for how many calories they have.

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Laura • October 10, 2007 at 11:10 am

I hear ya on not wanting it to overtake your life! I used SparkPeople daily from Jan – March of this year and lost 13 pounds with a combination of healthier diet, calorie counting and increased exercise. I worried about being chained to the calorie counter too, but eventually it just got too tedious. It’s not logging in that’s frustrating for me, it was the measuring of every morsel of food before it entered my body that eventually wore me down. I started to get a good sense of what a TBSP of butter looked like and I didn’t need the little TBSP spoon anymore, now I just estimate. I expect you will find the same thing. But, calorie counting is the only thing that has really worked for me. I’ve now put about 5 pounds back on that I lost earlier this year, so I know I need to go back and count some calories again!!

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lawschoolhatesme • October 10, 2007 at 11:43 am

Never posted before, but love the site. I am an exclusive calorie counter and have lost 100 pounds doing it in the past year. It sucks at first, and you do feel chained, but then you get over it. And instead of trying to count how many calories are in that near-tablespoon of oil, you just decide not to use the oil at all. I guess that is the crux of calorie counting-unless its absolutely crucial, just don’t use it. I haven’t used butter in 8 months for a single thing (I just don’t need it. I never use oil (it doesn’t add enough flavor for the calories.) On the flip side, low fat anything tastes like crap and doesn’t save any calories, so I use real everything.

Your book cover is fabulous. Love your kicks.

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hnn • October 10, 2007 at 12:05 pm

Hmm, collecting can pulls as a kid? I wonder if you have mild Asperger’s, which frequently comes with mild OCD-like features? Nothing wrong with it if you do, lots of people have it.

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s • October 10, 2007 at 12:08 pm

“While it’s good to know what I’m putting in my body, I don’t want to become completely obsessed with it. I’d hate to get to a point where I go on vacation and start freaking out in the car because I cannot immediately log the bag of carrot sticks I ate out of the cooler. I also don’t want to enter a state of mind where I can’t give up food tracking.”

I see what you’re saying. Personally, I would welcome a fixation on counting calories. I feel like the benefits of such an obsession would outweigh the detriments. I mean, it’s a lot better to be fixated on calorie counting than on compulsive shopping or collecting or hoarding of junk, right? Tis better to freak out on vacation over cals than never to freak at all, right?

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d • October 10, 2007 at 12:17 pm

“Why not stop tracking NOW if you’re concerend?”

I completely disagree with this suggestion. Let’s look at this situation logically — you were recently morbidly obese, you have a BOOK COMING OUT about your weight loss, you look amazing and recently ran a race. Now you’ve found a new technique to lose weight (cal counting) that is new to you, fresh to you, and retriggering even more weight loss.

And … the suggestion is that you stop? Why? Because of a fear that you “might become obsessed.”

So what if you become obsessed? How will that hurt you? Is the fear that you will become anorexic and die of malnutrition? Is the fear that your conscious mind will become taking over with anxiety and worry about cal counting, ruining your quality of life?

I say, you’re obviously a mature, intelligent, organized person. I don’t think you need to worry. Most long-term thin people I know count calories every day in their heads. They never take a vacation. So, I really don’t think you need to stop counting calories. I think that’s the kiss of death in fact — ask any long term member of WW who has backslid.

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JEM • October 10, 2007 at 12:19 pm

For me, if I am not counting calories, I am not losing weight. Even if I am eating really healthy. I also hate being chained to the counting and to fitday (which is where I cound them.) but it seems to be a something I can’t avoid if I want the scale to go down down down.

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g • October 10, 2007 at 12:28 pm

PQ, if we preorder your book with a credit card, will you see our names?

PQ – No. I do not have access to Amazon sales records. The Queen of England could order a dozen books and I’d never know about it.

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G.G. • October 10, 2007 at 12:32 pm

I think periodic calorie counting is a good “gut check” tool, so to speak, but I wholeheartedly understand your worries about it becoming an obsessive compulsion (and risking that the utilization of the tracking tool becoming a detour). That’s always the problem, isn’t it? Finding some sort of balance between taking an action that is helpfully self-evaluative in itself, and letting that action become an end unto itself (going from “I want to keep track of calories to see what it tells me about where I am now” and “I must keep track of the calories because that is what I’ve said I’m going to do”)?

You’ve done so well up to this point of controlling your intake without letting the transformation become dependent upon following some obsessively reductive formula. I don’t think you should stop counting the calories so long as it’s helpful, but I do think your caution is prudent.

I think the ultimate key to your long term succes will be maintaining your level head, that clear-eyed approach, and that positive, can-do attitude.

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Mark • October 10, 2007 at 12:35 pm

That soda tab thing is an urban legend where life imitated art. A soda tab was worth about $0.0000000000000000001 as scrap aluminum, so the whole idea of collecting them for charity is silly. But a few charities started actually collecting them in response to the urban legend, not really to raise funds, but rather for the PR value. Snopes has a pretty good page on this.

Now if I could only convince my wife that her workplace’s plastic 2-liter bottle collection project is an urban legend.

Usually the promoter of the project in such cases keeps the tabs/caps until she has a sackful, and then she asks her friend where to send them, who asks _her_ friend, and so on for a while until five or six friends-of-friends down the line the “friend” doesn’t even know the original inquirer, and the whole thing peters out. The promoter then chucks the tabs/caps in the trash, and is too embarassed to admit it to co-workers. The nature of urban legends is that there is no end to the friend-of-a-friend-of-a -friend chain. You could trace it back 100 generations and never pin down the “charity.”

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egoldstein • October 10, 2007 at 12:42 pm

It was counting calories that led me to understand just how calorically dense certain carbs are. I think I had eaten 4 Newman organic honey wheat pretzels and realized that was the same calories as a small steak and large green salad. And those pretzels were low fat or fat free.

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sherijung • October 10, 2007 at 1:18 pm

I think any of us who’ve been tracking for an extended length of time will attest that unless you have OCD, you will definitely get tired of it and quit. Most of us will also agree that you’ll probably go back to it in order to get your stalled weight loss going again. You may find that now that you’re getting closer to goal (and your new smaller body uses less calories), it’s harder to maintain a caloric deficit without being more disciplined on a daily basis.

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psychsarah • October 10, 2007 at 1:44 pm

I too am torn about the calorie counting. I did the Sparkpeople thing for a a while and it didn’t help me break through my year long plateau, but since I’ve stopped, I’ve put on 10 pounds in 2.5 months! Go figure! (BTW-I don’t think my gain has to do with the calorie counting per se, I’m attributing it to my intense frustration that I can’t seem to lose the last 15 pounds to get to my goal, so I did the stupid thing and threw up my hands and ate my way into a 10 pound gain, so that now I have 25 pounds to lose again. But I digress…) I enjoyed the obsession of entering every bite for a while, and it was educational, but I couldn’t imagine doing it forever, (and it didn’t seem to be helping me) so I stopped. Yet another issue that is so personal when it comes to weight loss… to obsess or not to obsess?

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susan • October 10, 2007 at 2:00 pm

Re: pop top tabs: http://www.rajahshrine.org/help_shriners_hospitals.htm

Shriners hospitals have been collecting these for about 4 years. It’s a very worthy cause

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Kate • October 10, 2007 at 2:35 pm

I’ve never been a “calorie counter”, but I did start weight watchers a year ago, and found myself absolutely obsessed with almost every aspect of it over the summer, at that point, I stepped back, because like you, I didn’t want it to be something I couldn’t give up. I did give it up, and managed to maintain a weight loss for about 1.5 months before portions got a little out of control again, so back on the wagon I go. It’s hard to find the right balance.

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Jenny • October 10, 2007 at 2:36 pm

I count calories. And I count fat calories too. It’s the only way I’ve been able to understand just how much I really eat. It’s almost too simple and I think the diet industry wants to over complicate it at times so they sell more crap.

Glad you’re numbers are going in the right direction!

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Heather • October 10, 2007 at 2:39 pm

I just posted about this today. I tracked for 2-3 weeks, and my weight has gone up. For whatever reason, it’s much easier for me to pick one serving of carbs, one serving of protein, 6 times a day, plus at least 3 vegetable servings. On those days, I barely log in 1200 calories, and it’s effortless. Yesterday since I only had eaten 700 calories by dinner, I chose pizza and wine for dinner. Not a good choice. Had I not known, I would have probably chosen the traditional fare: carb + protein. I have no idea why this is — and don’t really care to know why. Calorie counting doesn’t work for me. Choosing the right foods does.

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Moni • October 10, 2007 at 3:17 pm

Hey PQ. I think anything you can do to help lose those last few pounds while maintaining a healthy lifestyle can’t be bad. Worse case scenario, you get addcted to carefully analyzing what you eat. But I think if your conscious of your wacky behaviors, you are one step ahead of the game.

BTW, whats your sparklepeople username? I wanna sign up and it asks who referred me, so I thought I’d give you the credit. K, bye

PQ – I’m pastaqueen over there as well. Thanks for thinking of me.

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Tiffany • October 10, 2007 at 3:21 pm

I use fitday to track my food, and I really enjoy it. While I am counting calories right now, usually I just track my nutrients and see what kind of food I need to eat for health. (Almost always it means more green, leafy veggies.) Instead of tracking what I’ve eaten, I plan out for the day what I will eat, watching calories and nutrients to get a good balance. That seems to help me, since when I get hungry I already have some options thought out and I don’t feel chained to the calculator.

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A. • October 10, 2007 at 3:44 pm

I ‘discovered’ SparkPeople about a month+ ago, and I have to say that it has made all the difference for me, especially the nutritional tracking option. It was a real eye-opener and helps me keep myself on track. It also gives me a sense of success looking at a log of what I’ve eaten for the day. And it helps me get back on track to log the high-fat, high-calorie stuff that occasionally crosses my path. But to each their own!

I’m in the beginnings of losing weight, though. I mean, I’m kind of back where you were when you started — I started at 296 and am now, one month in, at 287 and slowly losing. I do not foresee tracking my food forever at SparkPeople, but for now it’s been just what I needed to get going.

Love your blog, by the way. I’ve been lurking for eons and just today came crashing through the woodwork.

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coraspartan • October 10, 2007 at 3:47 pm

I think calorie trackers are a great weight loss tool. If I ever feel like I’m backsliding into weight gain, I start tracking my calories, either via FitDay or the Self Diet club, and voila–the pounds come off!

When I’m not tracking my caloric intake, I tend to be more lax about my eating. When I’m tracking, I’m careful about everything that goes into my mouth.

As another commenter said, I don’t think you are going to become anorexic, so if the calorie counter is helping you lose a few more pounds, use it!

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f • October 10, 2007 at 4:21 pm

“I stepped back [from calorie/point counting], because like you, I didn’t want it to be something I couldn’t give up.”

Whaaaaaa?

I don’t get this. I’ve never heard of being afraid of becoming obsessed with calories/points before. Falling off the wagon, yes, but deliberately giving up on calorie counting out of fear that said counting might harm you?

Explain more. I don’t understand, unless it’s an eating disorder thing?

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KateG • October 10, 2007 at 5:31 pm

I’m a from time-to-time calorie counter too. I do it to see what is going on, to see if I am actually only eating what I need to be full or if I have gotten a bit carried away and am eating too much. But I don’t do it long-term, mostly because I do have OCD. OCD is an anxiety disorder, and usually compulsions are things that you do to try to rein in the anxiety. But often the compulsions just end up adding to the anxiety. That is, for a while they ease your mind, but you can hit the danger zone when they start to take up too much time. The compulsions are also compounded by the obsession part of the disorder — did I really measure that right? Maybe I should throw out that serving and measure again. Maybe I should look those nutritionals up again. Maybe I should stop eating apples because I am never sure whether it is a “small” or “medium” size appple. I think you can see how this kind of thing builds up and leads to anxiety and frustration, especially if you happen to be in a plateau or period of slow loss. So for me, that is why I can’t count calories (or points) full time wihtout a lot of time wasted on anxieties. I’m definitely not saying this would be a common reaction, and I am sure there are plenty of people who are very successful with counting. I just know for me it doesn’t work long-term.

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Shannon • October 10, 2007 at 5:45 pm

Mark is absolutely 100% wrong about it being an urban legend about collecting pop tabs (and why would someone say that collecting something as a child means you have Asperger’s?!?!).

http://www.rmhc.org/rmhc/index/programs/ronald_mcdonald_house/pop_tab_collection.html

That is the link to the Ronald McDonald House collections.

Susan is also right about the Shriner’s collecting them.

For your information, Mark, I do not just collect them and give them to a friend of a friend. I personally know a family who has a child who frequents the Ronald McDonald house and we either give our tabs directly to that family or directly the Ronald McDonald house. There is a list on the above website as to which Houses except them.

If you ever feel like collecting something again, it is a useful thing to do that requires very little space. I also know that you can often drop the tabs off at your local McDonalds.

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fyi • October 10, 2007 at 6:49 pm

“and why would someone say that collecting something as a child means you have Asperger’s?!?!”

People with Asperger syndrome often develop an almost obsessive interest in a hobby or collecting.

http://www.nas.org.uk/nas/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=212

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Kyle • October 10, 2007 at 7:12 pm

Hmm, if collecting things means you have Aspberger’s than pretty much every single one of my friends and I had that when we were young. What kid doesn’t obsess about collecting stupid things???

I had

A Barbie collection

A rock collection

A Chapstick collection

A Janet Jackson t-shirt collection

And I was obsessed with all of them during the moment that they were the collection of the moment in my life.

anyways, back to the topic at hand…PQ you’re the only person I know who can make writing about calorie counting interesting and even start a lively discussion about it.

Normally people mention their fitday or sparkler account and my eyes are glazing over before they get to the first, “OMG, I never knew I ate 70% fat in one day!”

I have a fitday account. I write in it really religiously when I’m at home, but being on vacation or away from home, I don’t update it, I don’t even try to count in my head.

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virg • October 10, 2007 at 7:17 pm

I also use sparkpeople, but I don’t track my calories every day, just every now and then when I want to see how I’m doing with protein. I use it mainly to compute the nutrients of my favorite recipes so I can see what it would add up to caloricly and macronutrient-wise, and figure out what a “serving size” of it might be when I am shooting for a certain meal size. Since I eat a lot of the same things over and over, I don’t really need to track them every day. I just keep a rough tally in my head of what I’ve eaten.

I can totally understand how a person might get caught up in all the tracking minutia and even feel compelled to keep doing it every day or fear a loss of control. I can also see how someone might find it a useful tool for daily accountability and focus on the diet. I simply choose not to focus on it cause I find it tedious and boring, and it takes up a lot of time.

Best of luck to you pastaqueen! and come visit me on my sparkpage sometime! I’m virgomatic.

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Nancy Bea • October 10, 2007 at 7:55 pm

The soda tab collection thing is NOT an urban legend as some other commenter claims! My son’s middle school collects them every year, to benefit (in some mysterious way) Ronald McDonald House. I don’t know if they are sold for scrap or if some big corporation gives them a penny for each one collected, or what. But they are collected and valued, and my son’s homeroom won the contest for collecting the most, probably in part due to my compulsive tab collecting! They won a pizza party which I assure you, was no urban legend.

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K • October 10, 2007 at 8:16 pm

OK! Speaking as someone who actually HAS mild Asperger’s Syndrome…

…yes, an enthusiasm for any pursuit or subject which borders on (or plunges into) obsession is an AS trait. And collecting seemingly worthless small items is a classic example. But you can have AS without the trait, and you can certainly collect things without AS. I had the normal kid-type collections (stickers, keyrings, whatever was a craze at school) but I wasn’t obsessed by any of them; my obsession was reading, which luckily is socially acceptable.

Also, OCD is fairly different, and works exactly as KateG describes above. AS people usually find their obsessions enjoyable (even if the rest of the world finds them strange); OCD people don’t – they just feel they have to do them anyway. OCD people tend to be highly methodical and surround themselves with routines, whereas AS people are generally not good at organising themselves (though they may well find comfort in routines that other people impose on them).

So… if you don’t feel anxious if you fail to collect the pop-top from every can you drink, it’s probably not a symptom of OCD. And if you don’t feel the need to tell everyone about the joy of pop-top collecting, it’s probably not an AS trait.

Why do I know about OCD? My husband’s been a sufferer for years. It affects his life way more than my AS does.

Back to the subject at hand: I’m midway through my second week of tracking on SparkPeople, and I am finding it useful and enlightening. And I lost 2lbs last week (first time in a while). So I’ll probably keep on with it – at least until I forget to. (See, not that organised.)

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d • October 10, 2007 at 8:59 pm

Like so many behavioral disorders, there is a spectrum and it can be a difficult diagnosis to make. Because people with AS often have obsessive or compulsive behavior, they are frequently diagnosed with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD); however, most people with OCD do not have difficulty in their social interactions or understanding body language.

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Janice Bridge • October 10, 2007 at 9:04 pm

CalorieKing has a program for tracking calories for both energy intake and energy expenditure. It has the benefit that it can be used when NOT connected to the internet. Because the data base is so complete (with updates offered periodically) it is insanely easy to use to record (click-drag is NOT a drag!).

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R.E. • October 10, 2007 at 11:09 pm

Just an invitation to add your blog to Writing Healthy, a new top list focusing on motivation, healthy thoughts, and diet tips from bloggers across the web working on weight loss.

http://writinghealthy.gotop100.com/index.php

And congrats on the 200 pounds. That’s truly wonderful.

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Kyle • October 11, 2007 at 12:52 am

Woah PQ, I just read that your brother worked for Menard’s too…small world!

Yes, they did send me weird presents all the time…a bobble head Menard once, a model car for Labor Day, millions of t-shirts, and Menard’s gift certificates (which I spent all on candy, they had a wicked sweets section). I once got like a $100 gift certificate from them for completing 3 years or something and spent it ALL on candy. NICE~!

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Amy • October 11, 2007 at 1:56 am

That’s so funny – I collected the tops off Coke cans, too! I don’t remember doing anything with them either, but I do remember that they were supposedly for a charity, lol.

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Kary • October 11, 2007 at 2:10 am

Oh yes, the entering of nutritional info on what you eat can be a little consuming :). I know because I do it. When you start to ask your husband why in God’s name he threw out the crumpled wrapper for the new veggie blend that had all the nutritional facts on it AND go thru the garbage to retrieve it, possibly you have become a little too involved. But it really does help. And is much better than that time I was collecting Hello Kitty stuff (don’t ask, just don’t ask).

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Marla • October 11, 2007 at 7:16 am

I measured and tracked every single thing I ate or drank for more than two years! I don’t even bother with it anymore, except as an occasional reality check. Even that’s not very useful though, it’s a bit of the Heisenberg principle.

I think tracking food is a great idea when you’re getting started. It’s always a stunning revelation to realize what’s in one’s meals, and it helps a person make better decisions. After a point, though, I came to the realization that counting calories is not the same thing as losing weight; one does not guarantee the other.

p.s. I don’t think you really have OCD; I think everyone has little quirks like that. That’s what makes us all so charming!

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Lurker • October 11, 2007 at 8:07 am

It doesn’t follow from the fact that “people with Asperger syndrome often develop an almost obsessive interest in a hobby or collecting” that people with an obsessive interest in a hobby or collecting have Aspergers!

I think suggesting someone has Aspergers or OCD or whatever based on some anecdotes posted on a blog is really silly (and maybe worse than silly).

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d • October 11, 2007 at 12:18 pm

AS is not something to be ashamed of. Yes, there are social deficits, but there’s also brains, frequently a great sense of humor, and a flair for the written word. Not to mention beauty (Heather from ANTM).

And, of course, someone can have collecting obsessions without AS or OCD. But go to your nearest comic or toy convention and you can’t swing a collectible Doctor Who figurine without hitting someone on the spectrum.

To bring it back to the topic at hand, some have called anorexia the “female” version of AS:

http://the-f-word.org/blog/?p=156

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MB • October 11, 2007 at 2:49 pm

There are so many worse things to be addicted to than counting calories or points (alcohol, drugs, sugar, twinkies). If you have a healthy addiction I don’t think that’s a problem unless it turns into the extreme such as an eating disorder.

I think it is a helpful tool for you to get a better idea of what you need to do to lose those last few pounds. If it starts making you crazy, just stop, take a break or just use a food journal if that helps. Whatever works for you.

You are my inspiration and I just can’t wait to read the book!

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Lily • October 11, 2007 at 4:42 pm

I can’t imagine ever getting addicted to tracking food! I’ve been tracking food for 7 months now, and I’ve always saw it as a chore.

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z. • October 11, 2007 at 4:53 pm

The low-tech version: getting home at the end of the day and emptying my pockets of the little scraps of paper onto which I’ve scrawled my calorie counts at various times throughout the day. As of yet this has not turned into a dangerous obsession, though when it does I’ll bet it’s a teaspoon of olive oil that will be to blame.

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ss • October 11, 2007 at 5:58 pm

“I think suggesting someone has Aspergers or OCD or whatever based on some anecdotes posted on a blog is really silly”

No more silly than diagnosing a ED in the making based on someone’s blog!

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Susan • October 11, 2007 at 7:20 pm

Just logging on to say I totally agree with “d” -there’s nothing wrong with counting calories. It doesn’t mean you’re obssessed – and if you are, it’s a good “obssession” to have.

I’ve maintained a 90-pound weight loss for nearly five years now, and I think that logging all my food has really helped.

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PastaQueen • October 11, 2007 at 9:52 pm

Okay, y’all, no more talk of Aspergers or OCD or eating disorders or I’m turning off the comments and making you sit in the corner while I pop pull tabs off of pop cans and wash my hands 20 times after I vomit up my dinner.

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MB • October 11, 2007 at 10:17 pm

LOL!!

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Lisa Sargese • October 11, 2007 at 10:43 pm

Wow. You are really good at seeing all angles of a problem. You saw the good, the bad and the meaningful in what many of us (me) would find impossible to do. Thanks for sharing this!

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scone • October 12, 2007 at 12:45 am

You’re an IT person, so why wouldn’t data mining come naturally to you? In fact, if you really like spreadsheets, The Hacker’s Diet by that Autodesk guy is still out on the web. As his experience shows, nerdy behavior is it’s own reward– mentally and financially!

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BrightAngel • October 12, 2007 at 10:32 am

Congratulations Pasta Queen. I believe you are making the right choice in calorie counting…food logging.

I’ve found the last 10 to 20 lbs are harder to lose, and maintenance is work. I can’t just rely on eating less than I did when I was 200 lbs to keep me at 115 lbs or less. Adjusting portion controls and calorie input is crucial when one gets near normal weight. Just 50 calories a day too many will add pounds back.

Logging all my food every day is now just a daily habit like brushing my teeth, taking a shower, making my bed. When I’m away from home on vacation, business etc. I take my laptop with me and it has my updated dietpower with me. I don’t have to go online to input everything. If my laptop isn’t available, I just write down what I ate and the amount and then enter it into my computer log when I have the opportunity.

Logging all of my food every day, (I use the software program DietPower) has been the secret to my successful weight loss AND to maintaining that loss for the past 21 months.

I’ve read research that indicates people who track their food and calories this have a much higher success rate than those who don’t…Remember over 95% of ALL people who lose weight regain it within 3 to 5 years.

PQ – Just a note, but that 95% statistic gets quoted a lot but I’ve never seen it backed up. I think it’s fairly unknown how many people gain back the weight. Though if someone can quote a study, go for it.

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Timmi • October 12, 2007 at 11:25 am

I think that 95% statistic is a bunch of crap. First of all, what is the sampling method? What is the sample size? What kind of weight loss are they talking about? Second, the number almost assuredly contains those people who ‘went on a diet’ of eating an apple and a bowl of soup all day and then surprise! those 4lbs they lost in one day came back on when they ate real food on day 3.

Hardly an empirical study. =P

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Zentient • October 12, 2007 at 6:48 pm

Calorie awareness is a good thing. Think of food as energy input, not obsession with counting. Helps to be aware that eating 2 cups of ice cream is over a third of the food energy I need for the day. Or that 100 calorie snacks fit nicely into my food energy needs. Anything oil is 100 calories a tablespoon, so it’s beneficial to know that. I studied calories in bread, and it finally sank in that one piece is enough of a serving. I used to treat bread as a “side”, meaning of course it didn’t add up to all that much, no matter if I ate three rolls with butter. My hunger, desire and bad habits have resulted in consuming about twice the number of calories I need to maintain my ideal weight. I don’t know if I would have finally got this without using what we know about calories. Science to the rescue.

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Israel • October 13, 2007 at 7:02 pm

i count calories but i dont let it control me. i want to live a normal life.

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G.G. • October 15, 2007 at 10:37 am

Just to play devil’s advocate, though–I know that a calorie is technically just an energy unit, and that weight loss/gain is largely a matter of numbers–but I think certainly that all calories are not created equal, nutritionally speaking. I think, long term, if you are eating a whole food diet, where you are checking your portion controls periodically to keep you honest and aware of the amounts you are consuming, and combining that with consistent, good exercise–there’s a little wiggle room for minor calorie fluctuations. I think overall health comes down to the quality/reasonableness of your intake combined with the consistency of your good exercise habits. I admire the people who can monitor what they eat and keep track of it consistently, for years and years, without that behavior mushrooming into other issues. I know it’s not something I can do myself, long-term. I think we all have to choose what “first principles” are workable for us as individuals, and recognize what the tradeoffs are for our behavioral choices. For me, that’s probably going to mean being comfortable with a slightly higher weight. I’m OK with that if I can maintain that weight without driving myself crazy.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog at JennetteFulda.com.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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