The Obstacles. The Excuses. The Reality of Counting Calories

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donut at work

The Daily Struggle

One of the largest obstacles people claim to face every day is their “uncontrollable” calorie environment. When someone is failing to lose weight I ask: “Have you been food logging?” In response, I often get: “I tried, but with work and the kids….there’s just no way I can do that.” They continue to list reasons, including:

At work, the company provides food, “There’s no way to log that.”

Busy day = no time to plan meals- “I’m always eating on the fly, don’t have time to log it. By the end of the day I can’t even remember what I had for breakfast.”

Lack of tools to log accurately- “My food scale is at home; I can’t weigh and measure things at work.”

Food items brought to the office for holidays, birthdays, special occasions, etc. are out of my control- “How am I supposed to log food I didn’t prepare?”

No time to eat at work- “I have very minimal breaks so a lot of days I just don’t eat. When I get home I’m starving and the last thing on my mind is my food log.”

I’m sure I could fill the page with ALL of the reasons people have for “losing” control of their calorie intake during the day, but it doesn’t matter. 99% of the things I could list will have the same answer. Don’t…..that’s right, don’t.

Some of you are thinking: “What do you mean “don’t”? That DOESN’T help me.”

So let’s make it simple:

DON’T eat the food the company provides. If you cannot count the calories, sorry, you’re out of luck.

DON’T try to “plan meals” at work or during the day. Plan meals BEFORE you go to work or the night before so everything is already accounted for.

DON’T rely on a food scale or measuring cups at work to get accurate food measures. Planning ahead allows you to weigh and measure BEFORE work. Those tools are unnecessary for counting calories at work.

DON’T eat the junk food brought in by co-workers. I know, easier said than done. But the problem is not “How do I count calories in something I don’t make?” The real problem is your lack of will power to completely avoid those calories (myself included!).

DON’T avoid eating because there’s “no time.” There are a lot of ways to get quick and easy calories at work that require only 30 seconds of your time. Whey protein supplements, ready-made meal replacement bars, yogurt, even half of a sandwich….there are SO many options. Saying “I don’t have time to eat” usually means “I don’t have time to sit and eat for 30 minutes,” which would be understandable. Good thing you only need 1-3 minutes!

Reality Check

Getting back in shape and losing unwanted weight takes SACRIFICE. It’s not easy to sacrifice things that you like, if it were (and I’ve said this before) I would be out of a job. Think about this:

If you have failed to food log, meet your calorie goals, or lose weight, you likely are NOT WILLING to SACRIFICE the things you enjoy most in order to make progress. This could be sweets, alcohol, salty snacks, meals eaten at your favorite restaurants or even the freedom to “wing it” at work and just go out to lunch.

Am I saying there’s something wrong with that? Not necessarily. Just as long as you are willing to come to terms with the fact that when it comes to health and fitness, you will NEVER get something for nothing. If you fully understand that you will not reach your goals without some levels of sacrifice and commitment, I am okay with that. Be happy, do your best to stay healthy, but don’t expect to make life-changing alterations to your body composition simply by listing all the things you should do.

In order to let this really “sink in”, let’s flip the previous bullet point. If you are one of the many people unwilling to make a change (no matter how small), I want you to reflect on this:

At some point in your life (could be months, years, or even decades,) you WERE WILLING to SACRIFICE your health, fitness, and most likely, self-esteem to live a life of dietary simplicity, convenience, and fun.

This isn’t a “one-way street.” In order to enjoy a life of care-free eating with a “simple is better” or “I eat what I want” mentality, you must sacrifice something very valuable — your health. This is a two-way street. When reality sets in, only then you will finally be able to make that U-turn. In order to improve the health you let slip away,  you must be willing to sacrifice this “simple is better” mentality and put in the necessary work to change.

The Truth

When someone asks me a question like, “How am I supposed to log the taco salad at the March Madness party I have this weekend?” my typical response would be, “Try to find something that is comparable on your food log app, overestimate the serving size and make sure you limit your total portions.” Yes, this response helps clients minimize the damage, but the BEST answer is: don’t log it. Why shouldn’t you log it? Because you shouldn’t even consider eating it. If you are unwilling to give up a simple thing like taco salad at a party, you haven’t yet come to terms with what you are willing to sacrifice for your goals.

How do I spot my most successful clients? Simple — they never ask me, “How do I log something like [fill in the blank]?” Do you want to know why they never ask? Because if it’s not a measurable item, it’s not an option. They’re able to come to terms with what they need to sacrifice in order to make a change. Do they have to give those things up forever? No, but until they reach their long-term body fat goal, they have very defined parameters. If food choices/situations don’t fall within those parameters, they simply aren’t an option.

What Can You Do?

Ditch the excuses: We ALL have the power to plan meals ahead. Pick a few nights each week to do some cooking. Weigh, measure, and divide food appropriately to give yourself a few meals for work lunches or dinners. Log it a day ahead of time and understand that those are your parameters for the day. Stick with those parameters! Simple enough. If it’s not pre-measured and logged, you cannot have it.

Yes, you might have to give up 2-3 hours of your favorite television programs each week, but again, if you are unwilling to sacrifice something as small as TV, this extra weight cannot be bothering you as much as you think.

Set realistic goals: I know I have hammered this topic on previous blogs, but MAKE SURE your goals are realistic for the lifestyle YOU want to live. If everything you are doing is not maintainable, why bother? I would rather see slower, more realistic rates of change over time than HUGE unrealistic changes in 1-2 months.

For some people these goals may be as ambitious as, “No more meals out! If I don’t prepare it, I cannot eat it.”

For others a goal may be, “I will limit myself to one glass of wine each night with dinner instead of two.”

Both are great goals. Obviously the first goal looks “better”, but it’s only “better” if it’s maintainable long term!

Ask Yourself

So before you give up yet again on counting those calories, ask yourself:

What have I sacrificed to get this point?

What am I WILLING to sacrifice in order to get back on track?

What are my parameters?

How can I implement this change?

If you can answer those four questions, block out all the excuses of why you “can’t”, and come to terms with what it’s going to take in order to make it happen. I know everyone reading this blog can make a long-overdue change. Use whatever resources are available to help you along the way, but it’s up to you, and ONLY you, to decide which road you will travel. Will you continue to drive as if your path is a one-way street? Or do you have what it takes to slam on the breaks and make that U-Turn? Let’s find out!

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