health

I Ate The Recommended Calories Per Day For 2 Weeks And Saw Big Results

Cherlaine Tabo LittleThings writer by Cherlaine Tabo
Cherlaine is a freelance writer for LittleThings based in Canada.

So, here were go… I have gained 15 to 20 pounds since I stopped breastfeeding last year. Phew, that was not as hard to admit as I thought it would be!

I have been kidding myself for the last year or so that I eat healthily and in small proportions — but mainly I have been eating my sons’ leftovers, which are morsels of quesadilla and pasta. It was hard to face the reality of my current eating habits because I was hiding behind excuses like, “I don’t eat any junk food” or “I don’t eat past 9 p.m.” I thought I was doing pretty well until I saw what was on the scale. Now, I know that you shouldn’t look to a scale for affirming how healthy you are, but that number really snapped me back into reality. The sluggish, edgy feelings I’d been experiencing for the past few month started to make sense as well!

Eating has always been a challenge for me because I love having variety in my meals and never considered the proportions I ate. I also had a problem with seeing wasted food — whenever my boys had leftovers, I would eat them. I’ve tried diets before that allowed me to eat only certain foods. I but I would become miserable almost immediately and return to my previous eating habits. I have tried cutting dairy, coffee, sweets, fats, and carbs but nothing stuck for me (especially with toddlers). I needed a change, and I realized that the simplest way to start this process was to be more aware of my calorie intake.

I did a bit of research and found a great fitness app that had a calorie tracker on my phone. It was a stock app that came with my phone that I have never really paid attention to before. I decided to play around with it for the rest of the day. It had recommendations for how many calories I should eat a day to lose weight. The simplicity of the fitness app, which was ultimately a food journal, led me to make a decision to learn how to count calories. I was able to focus more on the number of calories per day and ended up seeing some significant results. Here’s how it went.

How Many Calories Should I Eat A Day?

Before we even begin to dive into the number of calories to eat in a day, let’s start with what a calorie actually is. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a calorie is a measure of the energy you get from the food and drinks you take in, and the energy you use to live. All foods and beverages contain this unit of measure regardless of what type they are. For example, proteins and sugars are very different kinds of foods, but they both contain calories. Your body burns calories from daily activities such as walking and running. Any unused calories you ingest but do not burn are stored as fat in your body.

So, how many calories should I be eating? There are a few answers, and it really depends on your situation, and whether you are looking to maintain or lose weight. During my research, I found that the optimal amount of calories per day for women is calculated by a formula based on their age, weight, height, and number of activities they do a week. Generally speaking, the average woman needs approximately 2,000 calories per week to maintain her weight. In my particular case, I needed 2,010 calories to maintain.

How To Determine How Many Calories To Eat

If you did not have any handy apps on your phone or prefer writing out in a food journal, the formula recommended by Calculator.net is below, using the Mifflin- St. Jeor equation:

BMR = 10 * Weight (kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) – 5 * age (y) + 5         (man)

BMR = 10 * Weight (kg) + 6.25 * height (cm) – 5 * age (y) – 161     (woman)

In terms of calorie intake for weight loss, I needed a daily amount of 1,510 calories. In general, if you want to lose a pound a week, you should be looking to cut out at least 500 calories out of your daily meal plan. It is recommended that you do not go below a daily intake of 1,000 calories for a healthy weight-loss process. Your best results will come from a smaller calorie intake paired with a healthy exercise regimen that will burn the calories off naturally.

With these new insights, I was prepared to start my new journey to a healthy lifestyle. As scary as it was to take it on, I was prepared and eager to implement these new changes.

Day 1

Grilled yellow bell peppers with egg and cheese
Cherlaine Labo for LittleThings

I recorded my entire day and realized that a lot of my weight gain was due to my lack of awareness. With the goals that I had for weight loss, the MyFitnessPal calories-per-day calculator only allowed me to have 1,360 calories a day — that’s another 200 calories less than what I initially thought I needed, based off info from another calorie tracker.

I tracked everything from my coffee to the half-and-half I poured into it, to the one pump of pumpkin spiced latte syrup I use in my coffee. I was shocked by how quickly my daily habits racked up most of my allowable calorie intake. I had to make adjustments quickly to make sure that I was eating only things that would fill me up with energy to take care of my boys. Where I used to eat their leftover slices of bread, I had to hold myself back and just throw out the half-eaten pieces of toast to stay accountable.

I recorded my water intake, my snacks, and even the calories I burned with the exercises I was doing at home. All in all, it was a great first day, though I was fairly peckish after dinner. This made me realize even more that I like to snack a lot, especially at night when I am writing. It was a terrible habit I needed to end!

Here’s what I ate my first day:

Breakfast: Buttermilk bread; one tablespoon butter; Starbucks grande dark roast with half-and-half and pumpkin spice syrup (one pump)

Lunch: Three slices of cheese quesadilla

Dinner: Alaskan pollock burger patties; grilled eggplant with balsamic reduction; grilled peppers with an egg inside and cheese sprinkled on top

Snacks: Body Key Slim popcorn; ginger tea

Day 2

Screenshot of calorie tracker app
Cherlaine Labo for LittleThings

When I woke up on day two, I was not particularly hungry. Like every other morning, I started with preparing breakfast for my kids and had a piece of toast for myself. I actually felt energized and motivated to accomplish more, like getting out of my pajamas and making my bed before noon. I am usually cranky in the morning and am not ready to do the light chores, tend to my screaming children, juggle emails, and make appointments. But I woke up this morning drinking water and not needing my usual cup of morning coffee.

The MyFitnessPal calorie-tracker app estimated that I could lose four to six pounds in five weeks if I kept up with this plan. I was feeling very excited about taking my health seriously again.

Breakfast: Buttermilk bread; one tablespoon of butter

Lunch: Vegetable leek dumpling (five pieces); romaine lettuce

Dinner: Grilled orange bell pepper with an egg inside and cheese sprinkled on top; Alaskan pollock burger patties

Snack: Ginger tea; one tablespoon honey; XS protein crisp chips; Starbucks grande americano with half-and=half and and one pump of pumpkin spice syrup

Day 3

Holding up box of tuna onigiri
Cherlaine Labo for LittleThings

Today was a family day, and we decided to take a day trip to a scenic little town an hour from our home. It was harder to keep up with the tracking because I couldn’t journal what I ate right after the purchase. Most of my food intake was on the go, and I was juggling between keeping our boys from running off and navigating through town with my husband. Thankfully, it was manageable, and I had yet another successful day, even though I was tempted many times to grab a snack on the go from the coffee shops we were walking by.

Many might think that tracking your calories per day with a calories calculator would be restrictive and boring to continue. I personally found it a lot of fun to follow, as it gave me the freedom to make choices consciously versus eating emotionally. I have struggled with weight fluctuations my entire life, and the last thing I needed was something that allowed me to go back to my old habits of eating away at my emotions. I needed a trusted source to keep me accountable but did not cost me an arm and a leg. A fitness calorie tracker was exactly what I needed to start this journey of regaining my strength and energy. Although it is much more cumbersome and requires effort, I think it is worth it.

Breakfast: Buttermilk bread; one tablespoon butter; Special K with strawberries and homogenized milk; one scrambled egg

Lunch: Chicken corn chowder; a bun

Dinner: Three tuna onigiri (stuffed rice balls with tuna and mayo inside)

Snack: Mango sponge cake; an americano misto

Calorie Tracker Results

There were a couple of very rough days that included a wedding we had to attend and a birthday party the very next day. On occasions like those, it was good to remember that it’s OK to be human, but that I would have to work that much harder the rest of the week to work off any extra calories. I became so much more conscious of my eating habits. My hate for wasting food remains, but I have learned to adjust appropriately.

It also made me realize the unhealthy habits I was forming over time, especially with snacking. I will admit that there were just days I could not help but cheat a little and snack on some very unhealthy items. Now I know that I’m doing that consciously rather than emotionally. The most exciting portion is the progress report that projected a weight loss of seven to eight pounds in five weeks if I kept up with what I’d been doing for the last two weeks. Not only did I lose the weight, I have also regained tremendous energy and motivation to work harder to get back to last year’s weight. It won’t be an easy journey, but it will be worth it.

If you have friends or family who are curious about calorie counting, make sure to SHARE this story with them on Facebook.