Weight loss: Motivation, habits, and counting calories

Answering some of your questions from this post:

I must start walking today! What do you do to motivate yourself just to get out the door?

I have found that I function best in an all-or-nothing sort of way. It's probably mostly personality-related, but if I am able to get out (even for just a short walk around the block!) every single day, I have more motivation not to miss any days.

Another thing I do is tell myself that the walk/exercise doesn't need to be any certain length of time. Usually once I'm started, I don't want to stop! :)

I also know how much my boys like walking to the park or just being outside. The fact that they get so excited about going for a walk with me helps motivate me! :)

And to get out the door... I have to leave my work. I tell myself that I can wash dishes after the sun goes down, but I can't walk to the park with my children when it's bed time! :) Trying to get "everything" done before exercising would mean that I would NEVER exercise. :P

Having someone else for support helps too -- either a walking/running partner or a spouse who is willing to play with the children for 30 minutes while you exercise. I don't always or even usually have Joshua watch the children for me in order to get my exercise, but it's nice to know that he's willing to help me stay healthy! :)

I wondered if you could tell me how to find the calorie amounts. Did you find a calorie chart online, or purchase a book?

I found this calorie-counting site through Google and I'm sure there are others. :) That one shows the nutrition facts labels for tons of foods!

How do you keep track of calories when you are not eating very many packaged foods? I've wanted to track mine more carefully, but I'm not sure how to track my own cooking unless it happens to be a recipe that has the nutrition information.

Figuring out the calories for my homemade food involves a lot of math. For things like casseroles, I figure out the calorie count for each ingredient (the amount I used), add the totals all together, and then divide that total by the number of pieces/servings we are cutting.

For example, my homemade 16-inch pizza:

16 ounces of mozzarella at 80 calories per ounce = 1280 calories
1 cup pizza sauce = ~100 calories (I just use the calorie count from Hunt's since I figure it's probably similar)
diced onions and peppers = minimal (I might add 20 calories for this or just skip it since it's veggies)
8 ounces chicken breast chunks (grilled) at 120 calories per 4 ounces = 240 calories
Crust: flour (2c all-purpose at 400 per cup and 1c whole wheat at 450 per cup = ~1250 calories), salt (0), water (0), and yeast (0).

So the calorie count for the entire pizza is 2890 and we cut it into 16 pieces so each piece has about 180 calories.

We've done this for some of our muffin recipes... waffles... pancakes... a 1/2 cup of oil (960 calories) in a recipe for a dozen muffins really kinda destroys the idea of eating 6 in one sitting, you know? ;)

Our calorie counts aren't always exact... like for bread, I just use the calorie count from a slice of whole wheat bread from the store.

I think calorie counting in general has just helped us be more aware of where our calories are coming from and how much of something we should eat. Since we're not on strict diets, having a super-precise count isn't important to me... like bananas -- I just count a banana as being 100 calories even though I'm sure a large banana has a few more than that and a small one has a few less. :)

Also, I have realised that eating too much at one meal makes it difficult to not overdo for the day's calories. I try to have about 400 calories for breakfast, ~1,000 calories for lunch, and about 600 calories at dinner. If I am under those amounts, I can snack on bananas or apples or something healthy! :)

For me, the turning point came when I stopped beating myself up and just decided to do better from now on.

Getting motivated and actually STARTING is so difficult! The thought of losing 30 pounds seemed (and seems) overwhelming to me, yet I would look back a few months later and think "I really should have started back then, because I'd be half way there by now!"

In my previous post, I forgot to mention another tip that helped me: replacing the habit of comfort eating with something else.

I knew I was tempted to snack or overeat and that I needed to focus that energy and desire elsewhere. I made a list of some things I could do when I wanted to eat but wasn't hungry:

Drink tea
Get busy on my chores for the day
Drink water
Talk on the phone
Chew xylitol gum

That really helped! And it's amazing how much faster my chores were getting done and how much longer that batch of cookies lasted...



There's also an awesome online tool that allows you to enter the ingredients in a food and the number of servings, and it basically gives you a nutrition label, which you could then print out or save for a given food. It's here:


It's nice because you can pretty much copy and paste any recipe, making sure it adheres to certain formats the site specifies. We've found this to be really quick and eye-opening!


I found this website after I read your weight loss post:
I actually used it to find out that the Italian Cheese Bread has ~150 calories per serving!


"Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become."

Cool! We had actually estimated that the Italian cheese bread had 150 calories per slice! Low enough to be eaten with meals... but I just have to limit it to one, MAYBE 2 pieces and not 4 or 5!!! :)

Ha ha. I had the same problem. I started to reach for a second slice so many times, but kept reminding myself that one was enough and I was already full.


"Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become."

If you are interested in leaning and educating yourself about calories as they relate to portion size then a nutrition scale is a helpful device.

Try the website Hillbilly Housewife.com and in some of here receipes she has healthier versions and they have the calories and stuff figured out for you. Hopefully that will help. You could also try counting your carbs. If you check into that it wouldn't be that hard to figure out either.

Here are a few other resources that might be helpful:

Calorie King (its a book, its cheap, and it has EVERYTHING)

www.fitday.com you can keep track of your calories, weight, activities, moods, EVERYTHING and its FREE!!

Calorie King has a website, too.


"Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become."

I've found myself in several situations of loss of family memebers in the last year. the first time i let myself comfort eat whatever i want. and gained 20 pounds in 3 months. YIKES! when my second loss occured i started to comfort eat then turned to housecleaning with a vengance. i must say it's a good tip and i chuckled when i saw your suggestion. my house now looks better than it has since i had kids...or even before then.

I wanted to ask readers something if this is an ok spot for it..... My question is do people have advice for increasing food intake after dieting? After years a 1200, 1500, then going up to 1700 or so, then for lack of self-control going to 1800-2000, I began getting stretch marks after not getting them before. I went back to a lower calorie count [~1250] and cut out sugar. But I live with family. Awfully hard to eat so few calories and little sugar when family members eat mostly junk-sausage, potatos, corn, sugar snacks, sweet breads, chips, you get the idea-and I kept getting more stretch marks. The Dr looked at me in shock when I mentioned skinny 'ol me has a stretch mark problem. I also mentioned my periods came back when I overate [1800-2000 C] for several days in a row but also stretchmarks came. The Dr told me to eat 1500 C. I did. And when the marks came I told myself I had to eat enough and I'd adjust. Scars kept coming. Kept coming. So I'm back at 1250 not knowing what to do and not wanting to exercise because I won't know how to eat without eating too much [more scars] or eating too little [and further reducing what I can eat]. I'm wondering if another reader has dealt with this and how to increase my calories -slowly!-. I'm hoping some other visitor to this page might be somebody who has gone through this and found a solution or has some kind of advice. So far Drs. haven't helped [but I have still to ask how to increase, specifically]. I also wanted to post this to warn people that yo-yo dieting [an easy thing to end up in after dieting so low as me] can have some permanent consequences. Recently on the internet I've seen, when Google-ing, that this is a problem other yo-yo-ish dieters have had. Good for low dieters to at least have a plan of how to -stop!- dieting!!

Honestly, if your calorie intake is so low that you've stopped menstruating, then it's definitely not a healthy lifestyle.

Without knowing your current weight, height, age, etc. it would be difficult to give any good ideas so I'm just going to suggest that you find a nutritionist and see if perhaps there are foods that would help your body be healthier and able to avoid the stretch marks and also find out what a healthy diet for you would look like because if you have to choose between being healthy and having a few stretch marks or else being unhealthy and not getting them, it's better for your body to have a few "scars" and have overall good health, you know? :)

It sounds like your body has gotten used to functioning without enough calories (often called "starvation mode") and so when you do start eating more, your metabolism slows down and in effect your body holds onto every last bit, not knowing when it will get more. Sometimes when you're trying to adjust back up to a normal calorie range you end up gaining a few pounds first before your body adjusts and your metabolism evens out. 1250 calories is not normal or healthy unless you're VERY petite or are still trying to lose weight - it's actually the MINIMUM recommended number of calories for women to eat without seriously damaging your body. 1800-2000 is NOT overeating for most people.

I would definitely go see a nutritionist and I would also look into having your metabolism tested so you can see where your body is and get a better idea of how to become healthy again. Some gyms do it as well as doctors or hospitals. You'd be looking for resting metabolic rate (RMR). Lastly, I would encourage you to check out www.myfooddiary.com. It's $9 a month, but well worth it. I've used it before but am not using it now. Based on your height, weight, activity level and goals, it will calculate how many calories you need to maintain your weight, lose weight or gain weight in a healthy way. You keep track of what you eat and how much exercise you're getting. There is a fabulous forum where a lot of people are discussing many of the same issues that you raised here - eating well when others around you aren't, metabolism issues from yo-yo dieting, trying to get good help from health professionals, gradually increasing calorie intake, and rebuilding healthy habits. I don't know you, but from what you've written, it sounds like myfooddiary.com would be a great place for you to have good support and make some healthy changes. Best wishes to you! You can do it.

I have recently realized that I need to do two things to my eating habits. First, set rules for myself (some days I so wish I had someone who could just tell me 'no' the way I tell my kids, and I had to listen). So far my rules are: no eating after 7:00 pm and only two cheat times per week (when I am allowed sweets, white bread, fried foods, etc.) I got motivated to institute these after reading the book Perfect Weight America.

I also realized that I needed to break a mild addiction that I have to carbs, so for another 6 weeks I am eating almost no bread, crackers, rice, etc. In just the 10 days so far I can see such a difference in my craving for it. I had pizza last night (a cheat time) and had no trouble stopping after two small slices. I don't think carbs are bad, but they are the area that I have a tendency to overeat in.

You made some great points. This definitely can't be an obsession, but it is great to seek ways to make our bodies healthier. The discipline to stick with it is tough! Thanks for the encouragement and wisdom in your post and blog.


Another great resource to do all the math for you is sparkpeople.com. I've used the site for 2 years and have had great weight loss and fitness motivation success.

They have a recipe builder that you can enter all ingredients and state the total servings. It breaks down the calorie and nutritional information for you per serving too.

Great site to use and it's FREE! You gotta love that!!

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