Counting calories can be an easy way to get a handle on how much you're eating, and it's helped lots of women lose weight. But it can be exhausting to jot down every last bite. "Just focusing on the number can get all of us, especially women, hung up. And that can make anyone feel out of control," Isabel Smith, R.D. tells Women's Health.
Instead of calorie counting, Smith teaches clients to fill their plates with 25 to 30 percent carbs (like whole grains), 25 percent protein, and 40 to 50 percent non-starchy vegetables. The idea is to eat as many low-calorie, filling options, like veggies, as you want and limit others that have more calories per serving, says Smith.
"It is possible to lose weight by counting calories," says Karen Ansel, R.D. "But it doesn't teach you to listen to your body's hunger and satiety signals, especially since we don't have the same calorie needs every day." If you run five miles one day, you need more calories to fuel your body than if you sit on the couch watching football the next.
Still not convinced? Here's how seven women ditched calorie-counting and finally lost weight.
"I realized I had to permanently change my lifestyle."
"I'm from Louisiana, where a regular plate is a whole bunch of rice, meat, and like two tablespoons of veggies. After having kids, I tried a bunch of diets but none of them worked. When I tried calorie counting, I'd never remember to jot down what I ate. So in October 2015, I decided to make a real lifestyle change. I realized weight loss isn't temporary, and that the time frames I set for myself to lose weight weren't realistic. Now I watch my portion sizes. I try to fill my plate with half veggies, 25 percent rice, and 25 percent meat. I've also stopped snacking between meals, drinking sodas, and eating sweets. However, I reward myself on Sundays with one cheat meal. I used to do a whole cheat day, but I'd eat a week's worth of calories and I wasn't noticing any progress. When I started, I weighed 242 pounds. By December 2015, I weighed 158. In January 2016, I started lifting weights, and I saw a dramatic change in my shape. I gained a few pounds of muscle, but I've stayed pretty much the same since then." —Alexis Tizano, lost 72 poundsprevnext
"I took a selfie a day."
"I got a gym membership at the constant nagging of my older sisters and best friend. On my first day, I did 60 minutes on the elliptical, and then I sent a picture to my best friend. I started taking a picture a day without really planning to. In my first photo, I didn't recognize myself, so I decided to take a picture every day until I saw a person I recognized. I soon began tracking my weight loss through the pictures, and it was a great way to keep motivated. Over the past 12 years, I'd counted calories and points, but nothing seemed to actually work and be maintainable. This time, I lost weight by swapping processed foods for lots of veggies, lean meats, like chicken and fish, and whole grains, like brown rice. I also made frozen, chocolate-covered banana bites to curb my sweet tooth! I never went to bed hungry. After six months, I lost 80 pounds. Just shy of the one-year mark, I was down to 189 pounds. I've still struggled with binge eating since then. But I've spent the remainder of this year focusing on eating a healthy balanced diet. I achieved all this by seeking out happiness, not constricting myself through the latest fads. My focus now is living a life of happiness, acceptance, and adventure." —Justine McCabe, lost 124 poundsprevnext
"I stopped eating late-night carbs."
"With a new baby, nighttime was the only time I had to myself, and it usually consisted of making myself carb-heavy meals, like pastas, bread, potatoes, and pizza after 10 p.m. But I started my new lifestyle in November 2015. I wanted to lose fat and build a healthy lifestyle without the restriction of counting everything I ate. So I began starting my day off with a huge protein smoothie and eating lots of fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds throughout the day. But since I love food, I don't avoid packaged and processed foods all the time. I also started following Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide (BBG) from home. Since being a mom of three little ones keeps me pretty busy, I do three, 30-minute high-intensity interval workouts a week. I also sprint or jump rope at least three times a week for 20 to 25 minutes and fit in at least three sessions of 30 to 60 minutes of speed walking on the treadmill with the highest incline. Since I struggled to stay motivated with my workouts, I started my Instagram account for inspiration and accountability. After about a year and a half, I went from 166 pounds to about 136 pounds." —Maggie Fierro, lost 30 poundsprevnext
"I tried Whole30."
"I started doing five to six CrossFit sessions per week in July 2013. I kept hearing people at the gym saying they were doing a Whole30 challenge. So in November 2014, I decided to do the Whole30 program. I honestly didn't think it would work, but I decided to give it a try just to see if I could do it. I always ate plenty of fruits and veggies and few processed foods before I set out to lose weight, but I also ate a lot of carbs. The Whole30 diet is based on what you eat, not how much you eat. For 30 days, I eliminated grains, legumes, processed sugars, dairy, and alcohol. The result is lots of protein and lots of veggies. You can eat as much as you want of the allowed foods, so no calorie counting is needed. As long as I did some food prep for the week, it wasn't difficult to stay within the parameters. I don't weigh myself, but I could tell that my body had changed drastically in that month. I had new muscle definition, my clothes fit differently, and other people noticed a change. I continued to lose weight after the challenge by swapping my breakfast cereal for other carb-free options. I also switched from drinking beer to wine. Now that I've kept the weight off for over a year, I feel comfortable wearing tight clothes and bathing suits." —Amelia Elliott, lost four inches in her waist
To see the rest of the weight loss success stories, click here for the original Women's Health article.
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