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Dear Cassey,
How do you go about monitoring what you eat without counting calories? I’m very physically fit, but larger than I’d like to be. I never really struggled with my weight until 4 years ago when I started law school. Stress absolutely played a factor. I lost a lot hair and my period cycle changed as well. Now that I am down, my period has finally regulated, and my hair is coming back to life! However, I’m still heavier than I’d like to be. I only need to lose around 10 lbs, but the problem is, most exercises don’t challenge me. I know the change needs to come from food, but counting calories is not realistic for me because it is kind of a trigger that gets me into an unhealthy mindset. What is another way I can monitor my food?
Thank you,
Working On My Best Self

Hey Working On My Best Self!

I LOVE this question! It’s so common to see recommendations to “avoid calorie counting” and “just focus on eating habits” …. but HOW do we actually do that?!

I think it can look a little different for everyone, but I can definitely give you some tips and places to start based on what I’ve learned to do over time. And that brings me to my first piece of advice: don’t be surprised if figuring this out takes TIME! If you’re used to focusing on the numbers to the point of obsession, then looking at your food without actually having concrete “limits” or data will take a little getting used to.

Think about your goals. You said you want to lose around 10 lbs, but you’re also very active and athletic. So I think your meals and portions would be a great place to start! It’s so easy to become fixated on eating less or eating as little as we can as soon as weight loss is in the picture. But you need to make sure you’re fueling your workouts too. Journaling might help you out here. Then, if you’re feeling sluggish during workouts or hungry all the time between meals, you’ll know that you’re probably not eating enough.

Think “big picture” with meals. So, instead of focusing on the numbers, think about how your plate looks. And then think about how your overall day looks! I try to make all of my meals as heavy on the veggies as I can. Then I make sure I have a good serving of protein, then add healthy fat and maybe an extra carb source if my veggies aren’t cutting it.

So let’s say I’m building a bowl. I’ll roast up some veggies and maybe even throw them on some cauliflower rice or zoodles. Then, I’ll add a lean protein, drizzle on a sauce or dressing made with oil or top with avocado slices, seeds etc. I know that when I build my meals this way, it’s going to be

  1. SO FILLING
  2. Full of nutrients
  3. Probably not crazy high in calories

If I eat out or stray away from my usual meals, I don’t sweat it. I just do my best the rest of the day! Basically, I know that as long as the majority of the foods I eat are whole, unprocessed and simple, I’ll be right on track.

And you know what happened when I finally started eating this way? 

  1. I got creative. I stopped eating the same “safe” meals over and over. I started experimenting with different veggies and cooking methods. New seasonings and fun new foods.
  2. I stopped stressing. I didn’t realize how much counting calories was stressing me out! I would feel guilty every time I went “over” my target, and I’d check restaurant menus for calories before I’d go out to eat. The numbers took up so much of my time and energy.
  3. I started paying attention to my body. I think this was a big part of why my 90 Day Journey was so successful. I let go of calorie counting and I started paying attention! Now I know that I’m not avoiding bread because of calorie guilt. I just don’t eat it as often because my body doesn’t digest it well. I’m not craving chips, etc. constantly because I’m not restricting myself to meet a calorie goal. I’m eating to stay full and satisfied.

So. The takeaway.

It’s going to take some time to navigate a diet change without counting calories, but you can totally do it and it will be WORTH IT. I’d start with a journal – write down what you’re meals typically look like, and how you feel before/during/and after you eat. Then, make small adjustments from there! Can you add more veggies and lean protein to your meals to avoid as many cravings or snacks between meals? Are there any processed foods you’re eating that really aren’t serving you? Start small and work from there!

I hope this advice helps!

PS – If you have a burning question you want to ask me, I’m taking questions via text at 510-692-4556. Currently this only works for US and Canada. If you’re outside of those countries, you can leave a question below.

The Conversation (24)

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  • Lianne Sue says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I embarked on my weight loss journey about 9 months ago when my best friend made fun of how fat I looked when I posted a pic on Instagram & would always make nasty remarks when we met (E.g “You look so damn fat!”) Since then, I lost about 12kg and am currently 49kg. However, I am struggling with an eating disorder and trying to love my body and trying to eat well. I often feel guilty if I eat lunch because I am always looking at the weighing scale. Do you have any advice on how to change my mindset?

    • blogilates says:

      Hi Lianne! I’m so sorry to hear your experience – I probably would start first with reevaluating if she is your best friend. I think friends and family are there to support and be honest but shaming is NOT okay. At least have a talk with her to see where her comments are coming from and let her know how hurtful it is to hear it. Remember to look at food as fuel – you need it to survive and nourish your body. Your body is meant to do more than just look a certain way, it is your vessel to living! You got this, Lianne. Sending the biggest hugs your way <3

  • Karen says:

    Dear Cassey, I’ve been following your YouTube videos for about 8 years now and have been very active ever since. I do my workouts, go to the gym or go running at least 4 times a week and eat mostly vegan oder vegetarian and very healthy. But still I can’t manage to lose the fat in my problem areas (things, belly, arms). I feel frustrated, because even if I do the monthly workout calender or try other workout challenges I can’t get the results I want. I love working out for fun, I really do but I would also like to look toned and fit. Do you have any tips how I can get there without money:D I’m a student and dont have a lot😅 love you so much, you’re the best!! thanks, Frustrated

  • Breauna says:

    Dear Cassey,
    It seems most women always want to get boob jobs but for someone like myself who has a heavier chest, it can be quite painful. I suffer from back pain because of this, I also have a hard time finding outfits that fit properly in that region. I tried exercising my arm area but I cannot quite seem to reduce my bra size no matter what. I feel constantly insecure and uncomfortable because of this, and while others may feel like I am crazy, I believe comfort is a big priority for me more than ideals of society. What should I do to reduce my bra size?

    Sincerely,
    Confused

    • Kacey says:

      Not Cassey, but I can definitely relate on the massive breast thing! Remember that you can’t spot reduce fat, meaning that it doesn’t matter what exercises you do where, your body will ultimately decide where to “burn” the fat, and usually it won’t be in that specific area. In other words, working your arms, chest or back will not necessarily make those areas smaller. Being in an overall calorie deficit and losing weight might help make your chest smaller, but whether it will be enough to significantly help the back pain depends on whether your breasts are mostly tissue or fat. If your breasts are mostly tissue, you may have start saving up for the plastic surgeon. It sucks, I know, I’m considering a reduction myself.
      In the meantime, there is still a LOT that can help you feel more comfortable. For one thing, consider going to a proper bra shop (not Victoria’s Secret) that carries extended sizes and getting properly fitted for a good bra if you haven’t already. Also, do some research on the best cuts and proportions for your body. There are no bad bodies, only bad styling! Some quick tips are to look for necklines that show a lot of space (you don’t need to show cleavage if you don’t want to). V-necks, scoop necks, etc, not turtlenecks or crewnecks. Higher necklines actually make your breasts look bigger and lower. A-line and skater skirts, or any bottom that flares makes your top half look smaller in proportion, and colored/patterned bottoms have a similar effect. I hope this helped!

      Sincerely,
      Not an expert, just a fellow top-heavy girl

  • Kim :) says:

    Loved your take on this and I can totally relate to the writer. I was really active growing up and then college started and I lost my fitness. And so like her, I got back into fitness and along the same lines of your advice Cassey, I navigated my own nutrition and listened to by body! I tried doing the really bland same smaller portioned foods but that gets unmotivating really fast. So once I carved out time to create tasty, highly varied whole ingredient meals and slowly kept increasing/changing my fitness routines, the weight began dropping! Combined with drinking a lot more water, I am back at a healthier weight, healthier fitness level, more energetic, and mentally better. And I don’t sweat the “cheat” meals because I’m not cheating on anything – I’m enjoying my meals and sometimes they can be on the unhealthier side, but I’m not restricting myself because I’ve worked hard to change my lifestyle and I know what I need to do to keep my body feeling good because I’m so much more intuitive to it.

  • Amanda 25 says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I just turned 25, last week. I realized that in my 25 years on this earth I don’t take risks. I have always taken the safest option. For the majority of the time the safe option has worked out positively for me, but at the same time I am not 100 percent happy with the safe option. It’s weird I know. I feel like I missed out on the potential outcome the risk could have given me
    I want to take risks, but I’m too scared of what the outcome will be. That’s why I always pick the safe option, because I have a better control of the outcome, compared to the risky option. I guess what I am asking is how can I take risks even when I am afraid?

  • Becky18 says:

    Dear Cassey,
    Over the past year, I have been putting a lot of time and effort into researching weight loss and how to lose a few inches, however, instead of becoming more educated I have become even more confused. Every where I look is telling me different things, one placing telling me ‘this works’ and somewhere else telling me ‘it doesn’t work’. I feel like am going round and round in a circle when I finally think I find something that will work but just end up back where a started.
    I was just about to give up when I found your blog, so I decided to ask for your advice.
    I would be grateful for any advice you can give me.
    Thanks
    Confused and Unsure

  • Julia says:

    This is great advice! I was wondering if you had any advice in how to eat healthy while on a college meal plan where the options are all so tempting. I did great at home with the 28 day meal plan and sticking with cleaner eating even after the 28 days, but I feel like I’m back to my old eating habits again since being back at school. Any tips on what I can do to make the food less tempting and to make better choices?

  • Mandy says:

    While you CAN lose weight without counting calories, ultimately I feel it is better to count given that you won’t know how much you are consuming on a daily basis unless you have a rough idea or gauge on how many calories each piece of food or drink has. For losing weight, one needs to have a calorie deficit (calories in < calories out) according to the laws of thermodynamics. Ff you don't want to calorie count on a daily basis, increase your non-exercise thermogenesis activity (NEAT) and exercise (strength training, cardio or any sport/dance). I calorie count and it is very effective in keeping me on track regarding my weight loss goals (lost 5.3 kg in over a period of 5-6 months). You have to lose weight slowly in order to keep the weight off permanently, otherwise you're just gonna yo-yo on your weight and diet.

  • Jennifer says:

    Can you please reintroduce “cheap clean eats” or some similar YT series? I really miss it!!

  • Rathernotsay says:

    Dear Cassey, never thought I would be writing this but I feel like I really need some advice and help. Ive been dieting for a year now and hv lost 20kg and I didnt do it correctly resulting in my loss of period and I know Im not as healthy as last time because my hands have started to lose some colour as compared to last time and Ive dropped alot of hair. Ivr told myself to just eat whatever I want but I just cant seem to. Whenever I start snacking or let myself eat whatever I feel like, I just couldnt stop and even when Im already super full and bloated I still cant seem to stop. And afterwards I will be disgusting by myself (but I dont purge) and even until today Im trying to convince myself its okay to snack a little here and there but its so hard to convince myself mentally. What should I do?

  • Pam says:

    Cassey – I feel like this is a bit disingenuous. You did calorie count towards the end of your 90 day journey, if I recall correctly.

    • blogilates says:

      We’re all on different journeys! For me, calorie counting worked because I like the analytics of it all, but I wouldn’t recommend it for everyone. You have to listen to your body and what works for you :)

  • Dhwani says:

    Dear Casey,

    How to make a sustainable exercise plan to gain fitness and lose weight?

  • Anna says:

    Dear Cassey. I felt I needed a change. I didn’t feel good, like my best version. So I started my own 90 days journey a couple of weeks ago. I wrote down my why and my purpose. I was so excited. But now I don’t see the changes. I’m so jealous at you. I want to find that joy. I want to feel good for me. But I felt like I got tired of it. And I feel like I let myself down. I’m so disappointed in me. I missed filling out my journal lately and I don’t eat in a way that make me feel good. How do you deal with letting yourself down?

  • Trying to feel happy says:

    Tips on how to eat what u want (ex. ice cream) and still not gain a huge sumbof weight? Like im aware that if i eat one donut in a day, i wont straight away look fat. How do i get rid of the thought and worries of gaining weight with just one piece of junk food?

  • Making a food diary is really insightful! I highly recommend it and also to replace suagry sweets and verbs with lower cerb options. This helped me with weight loss and stress :) much luck!!

  • Vasundhara says:

    Dear cassey,
    I have been working on my health since april. I enjoyed many changes. I have also learned to love todo lists. But after following it for four days. I feel demotivated for fifth day. I feel overwhelmed and wanting to start it again at same time. Basically I love to follow routine but feel tired after some time. And feel regretful about that for not being productive.How can I accept rest better?
    Thank you
    Ready for tomorrow

  • Tough but Trying says:

    Dear Cassey,
    I used to eat so much sugar, but then I found your channel and started eating clean and excersising regularly and I felt amazing. After awhile tho I started indulging more and more to the point where it wasn’t indulging, it was an eating habit again. And then I started skipping workouts and now I rarely workout for more than 5 minutes. I can tell the difference when I dont take care of my body, but that still doesn’t seem to motivate me.Can you help me figure out how to get back into eating well and working out?
    Thanks,
    Stuck in Old Habits

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