August 08, 2017

Lose Weight Eating Only the Foods You Love

I've been doing a ton of updating on my blog recently (reorganizing everything) and I've come across some old posts that I'd forgotten about. This one from December 2011 in particular struck me--I thought, "Wow, that's a good post--why have I not shared that more?". I started it by answering the frequently asked question, "How many calories did you eat to lose the weight?"; but it explained so well the point I always try to make when giving advice to someone who asks about how I lost the weight: you don't have to eat foods you hate in order to lose weight.

The biggest change I made when I was successful at finally dropping the excess 100+ pounds in 2009-2010 was that I didn't force myself to eat salads, yogurt, and grilled fish every day. I chose to eat the foods I love and just eat smaller portions. When I first started, I had no idea if it was going to work in the grand scheme of things; but now I know.

So, I thought I'd revive this old post from 2011 :) Hopefully it's useful!

Something that a lot of people ask me is how many calories I ate while I was losing weight. I don't like answering this concretely, because what worked for me may be (and probably will be) different from other people. So please keep that in mind!

I decreased the calories a little as I lost, but it ROUGHLY breaks down to this: when I first started, I was eating probably about 1800 calories per day (I was counting Weight Watchers Points, not calories, so I can't say for sure). Then I cut back a little at a time, and when I reached a "normal" BMI, I was probably eating 1400-1600 per day.

On days that I ran, I would usually eat more--if I ran 6 miles, for example, I would eat about half of the calories I burned on top of my daily calories. So burning 600 calories would allow me to eat 300 + my daily calorie intake. (In Weight Watchers terms, this equated to eating all of the Activity Points I earned, on top of my daily Points target.)

SparkPeople suggested that I eat 1200-1550 calories per day, and I tried that; but I was starving and bitchy, and it led to binges. So I experimented for a while with different amounts until I found an amount that allowed me to be satisfied and not feel like I was totally deprived, but still allowed me to lose weight. You just have to experiment to see what is right for you. I was not willing to live on 1200 calories per day forever, so I didn't do it then. That's not much food, and doesn't allow for any indulgences; nobody wants to live that way!

A mistake that I think a lot of people make is to try eating 1200 calories a day, realize that it totally sucks, and then they quit. Instead of quitting, try eating 1600 calories a day and see if you lose weight; or 1800, or 1500...etc. I learned that the all-or-nothing mentality is what made me fail so many times in the past. I followed the plan 100% or not at all--and I would always fail. Once I started to make my own "rules", I learned what I could live with and be happy with.

I feel the same way about Weight Watchers Points. A lot of people think that they shouldn't eat their weekly points or their activity points, in hopes of losing weight faster. But usually what happens is they feel so deprived that they quit instead of just using their extra points (I did that many times in the past!). I would suggest using all the Points you're allowed and see how it works; at least then you won't feel like you're starving. Even if Weight Watchers recommends that you eat 29 points per day, there is nothing wrong with trying 35 points a day at first and see if you lose weight. You can adjust as needed.

If there is one thing that I learned while losing weight this time around, it's that there isn't a single plan out there that works for everybody. We have to pick and choose from our plan what we are willing to do--not just what we can do to lose the weight, but what we are willing to do forever.

There is no way that I am willing to commit to working out for an hour six days a week for the rest of my life--so I chose a number that worked for me. I committed to 30 minutes, three days per week (occasionally I do more, when I'm training for a race, but I've only committed to three days). Three is do-able for me. Six is not. We don't have to answer to anybody but ourselves.

As far as calories go, and what I ate to lose weight... I didn't eat anything that I didn't want to. There are so many different foods out there to choose from that there is no reason that you should force yourself to eat celery sticks and broiled fish (unless you really enjoy those foods, of course!). Even people who have dietary restrictions for medical reasons can choose the foods they love that fit into their guidelines.

For example, I don't like salad; but I do like roasted cauliflower. So I ate what I enjoyed (the cauliflower) and skipped the salad. I was still getting healthy vegetables; but it was food I liked, and not what I felt I "should" be eating.

Something else that I did as part of my daily routine (and still do) is to eat a dessert every single day. Not just fruit, or sugar-free Jello or something like that. I picked an indulgent dessert for about 300 calories, and I set aside those calories at the beginning of the day to make room for them. I ate fairly healthy all day long, trying to get a good variety of foods--only things I enjoyed--and then at night, I would indulge in my dessert that I had planned out ahead of time.

That dessert gave me something to look forward to all day while staying on track. That dessert made it so much easier to say 'no' to tempting foods during the day when I knew I was going to have an awesome treat that night. We don't have to eat only health foods to lose weight. We can work some junk food into our diets. Chances are, if you're anything like the obese me, you're eating a lot of junk food now as it is; so planning on one dessert would actually be cutting back. It was cutting back for me, anyway! ;)

Finally, in order to be successful while counting calories, it's important to be honest with ourselves. I highly recommend measuring or weighing out portions (I prefer to weigh). I can't stress this enough. It's so easy to guesstimate the amount of oatmeal or cereal or something we're going to eat; but when we take the time to measure/weigh it out, we are getting the exact amount that we are counting the calories for. As much of a pain in the ass as it sounds, I actually weighed out, on a food scale, everything that I ate.

Some people, however, aren't willing to weigh/measure food--and that's fine! Remember, I said we should only make changes that we're willing to make. Just try to make your best guess and be honest with yourself. You might lose weight a little slower than if you weighed/measured your food, but you'll still be making a conscious effort to eat less calories, and the weight will come off.

Losing weight is a ton of work. If someone expects it to be easy, they're going to have a much harder time. It takes a lot of time and dedication to weigh out portions, plan meals, and keep track of calories. Most people are so disappointed to hear that THIS is how I lost the weight--by putting in a lot of work! But if you're willing to do the work, then you'll definitely see the results.

For the past year, I've been experimenting with "intuitive eating" or "mindful eating" or "normal eating" in order to not have to count calories forever. It's been extremely difficult, but I'm learning a lot about myself and why I eat. I still believe that counting calories is the best way to lose weight at first--for at least 6 months to a year--to get used to smaller portions, having accountability, having structure, getting into a routine, etc.

Ultimately, I would love to be able to eat intuitively and maintain my goal weight though! However, I've accepted that this may not happen, and I'm okay with that.

I hope this is helpful for anyone who is thinking about counting calories. The most important things to remember are: 1) Only eat foods you truly like; 2) You don't have to follow someone else's guidelines--make up your own plan that works for you; and 3) You'll probably have to do some experimenting to see what works and what you can stick with for the long haul--but don't quit!


  1. Hi, Katie! I've been reading your blog about a year, and I love it. Right now, I'm about 30 pounds in to losing 90 pounds, and have been at a standstill for seven months. I love your tips on learning how to lose weight that works for you, not someone else. I go to Weight Watchers, but I don't "stick" to the rules. I love the accountability, the relationships and encouragement, and the aspiration to finally get to a goal weight. I just wanted to finally comment and encourage you. I struggle with anxiety, depression and ADHD, so I am learning from you as you keep on your journey to mental health and happiness. Greetings from Midland, Texas!

  2. Hi Katie. I have also been reading your blog for about a year and must say I respect your "realness"! Although I have never struggled with being overweight, I work with clients that do and I love using your blog as a resource for down to earth advice, experiences and information. Thank you!

  3. great use of an old post!

  4. This is off topic, but I thought you might enjoy the read about detroit.

  5. This is exactly how I lost my weight too! You modeled it for me and I followed you Katie. I went from 233 to 140 over 2 years. I am up to 159 right now with 155 being my top goal but I never would have hit a healthy weight at all without the support of your blog.

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  7. I am so glad you resurrected that post Katie! It is full of great information. Btw love the new look of the blog. And I'm glad you kept the name. You're is you. I've lost 11 lbs on WW but your analysis here has given me new insight. Im going to give it a try!

  8. You continue to be so inspiring!

  9. I'm with you 100% about not eating your weekly points (WW gal here all the way) or only 120 calories and then giving up because it sucks. This is a great post full of things to keep in mind when going through a weight loss journey.

  10. <3 I too will only eat food I like.

  11. What great reminders in this post. I've been struggling with the "nothing is working!" feeling and starting to obsess over finding a new diet or something.
    That definitely isn't what has worked for me in the past, because it's far too rigid. Instead, I need to remember to be honest with myself, experiment with what does work and is sustainable, and be patient.

    Thank you again, Katie! This is a great post.


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