So, according to several vegan writers, if you go vegan you can skip calorie counting (Skinny Bitch is one of the books that proposes this).
I suppose that might be true if a) you NEVER "cheat," b) you NEVER consume sugar, and c) you NEVER crave something like that white flour-and white-sugar-high fructose corn syrup-filled pumpkin scone at Starbucks.
It may also be true for people under 35 (the age when my metabolism decided to come to a grinding halt).
For us mere mortals, those three caveats are hard to stick to. There is temptation everywhere and old habits are hard to break, particularly those lattes that gosh darn it! have too many calories and too much sugar in them. (For the record, I rarely buy them anymore, though I still daily drink one or two cups of regular coffee that I make at home.)
I've discovered that if I want to lose weight EVEN WHILE eating a vegan diet, I have to count calories.
I've found a website, caloriecount.about.com, to be incredibly helpful.
It works just like you would imagine it would: you keep a log of EVERYTHING you eat, paying particular attention to quantities, of course. (It's amazing how much oatmeal I was eating before I learned to eat ONLY what is considered ONE serving.) You also keep a log of all activities. At the end of the day, you hope to have expended more calories than you consumed.
I've quickly discovered two things. One, I eat more than I thought I did. I bet most people do. Two, I do less than I thought I did. Again, I bet that's true for most people.
The website first asks you to give them basic information: your current weight and height, your age, your desired weight, whether your lifestyle is sedentary or active, etc.
It also asks you to measure your wrist, to give them an indication of your body build. I always assumed I was "average," but, according to them, I have a large build. Or, at least, my wrist (which looks thin to me) has a "large" circumference.
That is actually INCREDIBLY good news, as I have never been able to be as "thin" or as "light" as those guidelines suggest one my height could be (and still be healthy). (If you have a heavier frame, you're allowed to be at the upper end of "normal" without any worry of being too heavy, as I'm sure you all know. I just never realized I was actually one of those people.)
According to their analysis of my diet, I am consistently high (that's good) in consuming vitamins A and C, and I do a darn good job managing my calories (now that I'm paying more attention to them).
But most days I am deficient in almost every other category they have, such as fats, protein, potassium, iron, carbs, and calcium (the calcium thing WAS easier when I was eating dairy...). I'm also, according to them, not eating enough fiber, which makes NO sense to me whatsoever; I actually question their analysis here. If you're eating between 7 and 10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, how could you NOT be consuming enough fiber!!??
There's other evidence in my life that fiber is a non-issue.
I am also, according to the website, still eating too much sugar.
Good lord. I have cut back SO much; if *I* am still eating too much sugar then I guarantee 99% of the rest of America is eating too much sugar.
Perhaps that's no big shocker. But golly, sugar is clearly an American addiction!
So, I am making choices as I go. If, for instance, after recording my breakfast, I see where I'm deficient, then I make sure the next snack or meal intentionally addresses one or more of the nutritional deficits.
I no longer just reach for bread and peanut butter when I'm in the mood for a snack.
I've never kept this kind of log before, but doing so is a good thing. It's made me FAR more aware than ever of how even somebody who eats "well" intentionally can have some rather serious deficits in their diet. After all, choosing a mostly vegan diet in this culture is a VERY intentional choice.
It's made me aware of how being vegan IS harder than being an omnivore in terms of getting adequate nutrition (not, of course, meaning to infer that all omnivores eat well).
It's not impossible, but it is harder. Let's be honest!
The website grades your food choices and analyzes what you eat in a surprisingly complete way.
Overall, I consistently get a grade of "A" for my food choices.
God, I am SUCH a grade grubber.
But, some individual choices are still problematic. Use even a teaspoonful of sugar in your coffee and you get a "D" for that particular choice.
Geez. That may be the first "D" I've ever earned.
I've discovered that choosing molasses instead of white sugar earns me a B+.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.