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 fat. 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," says registered dietician Isabel Smith.
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 fat by counting calories," says registered dietician 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 six women ditched calorie-counting and finally lost fat.
1."I realised 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 lots 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 realised fat loss isn't temporary, and that the time frames I set for myself to lose fat 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 fizzy drinks 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 pounds
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2. "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 recognise myself, so I decided to take a picture every day until I saw a person I recognised. I soon began tracking my fat 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 fat 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 pounds
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I remember a time...before losing weight where I was afraid of loose skin, smaller boobs and stretch marks. I was afraid of anything but perfection. I realized quickly...those were the loud whispers of insecurity. For years my mind held me back from doing the work. Today...my body is anything but perfection...but I keep on keeping on. Sure I've lost a lot of weight...but I what I've truly gained are my wildest dreams, self love and real happiness! 💖#ichoosetolive #keepgoing #limitless #happiness #progressnotperfection #bebrave #teamjonnystraws #neverfail #weightloss #weightlosstransformation #beforeandafter #fitspiration #fitness #fitmom #mystrongmoment #bestself #chicksthatlift #strong #limitless #girlswithmuscle #gymlife #fitlife #selfconfidence #transformation #weightlifting #cardiocatastrophe
A post shared by Justine #ichoosetolive (@hairstargetsfit) on Jul 14, 2016 at 11:21am PDT
3. "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 including 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 pounds
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A post shared by ❤️BBG | Sweatwithkayla (@kayla_itsines_b4andafter_) on Oct 5, 2016 at 3:02pm PDT
4. "I stopped stressing about my progress."
“When I set out to lose fat, I was tired of yo-yo dieting and way too busy to count the calories in everything that I ate. In October 2015, I started out by researching what was good for me and what wasn't. I collected healthy recipes and learned how to prepare food that was actually enjoyable to eat. I completely cut sugar and processed food out of my diet. That meant no fast food, except a treat here and there. Now I eat lots of avocado, sweet potatoes, quinoa, fish, chicken, eggs and Greek yogurt. I also started doing resistance training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and cardio on Tuesdays and Thursdays. About three months in, I felt like I should have started seeing more dramatic progress than I was. I was working so hard, but I didn't think anything was changing. I would just lie in bed and cry. Finally, I came to the conclusion that my progress would take longer because I wasn't crash dieting. I was slowly changing my entire lifestyle so that I could maintain this long-term. Seven months in, I began to see change. I haven't owned a scale for a few years now, since I got way too obsessed with the number and it wasn't healthy, but I've dropped two pant sizes. These days I focus on how I'm feeling and fitting in my clothes." -Merrilee Moore, lost two pants sizes
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34 weeks of BBG! 🙌 It has been an incredibly busy week but I still managed to get most of my workouts in. It takes dedication and discipline but once you realize how amazing you feel living a healthy lifestyle, you never want to stop. ❤ . . . #bbg #bbgprogress #bbgtransformation #bbgbeforeandafter #bbgtraining #bbgmotivation #bbgcommunity #bbgfam #beforeandafter #kaylaitsines #deathbykayla #kaylasarmy #bbggirls #bbgsisters #bbgbabes #fitness #fitspo #fitspiration @kayla_itsines @kaylaitsines.transformations
A post shared by M e r r i l e e (@merrgetsactive) on Oct 29, 2016 at 1:43pm PDT
5. "I stopped skipping meals."
"Last year, my friends introduced me to Facebook, which is where I found Jason Rosell of Caliente Fitness. After 30 years of my weight going up and down, I was tired of diets where I had to count every calorie or point. I didn't enjoy eating and got anxiety every time I went to a restaurant. On my new meal plan, I cook a lot more and use less oil and salt. I try to eat only brown rice, and I cut back on sugar. Now I eat a small portion of rice instead of an oversized one. And I have a lot more chicken, eggs, and fish and veggies, which make me feel full. However, I still have a sweetened McDonald's iced coffee once a week. I also started eating smaller meals with snacks in between to keep me from skipping a meal and getting so hungry that I eat everything in sight. At the same time, I started Jason's full-body digital download workout DVDs, which use just your body weight. I do them with my friend who lives near me, so we save money by working out together. At first I started with two 12-minute workouts per week. Now I do the advanced 36-minute DVD three times a week. In the first four months, I dropped about 20 pounds, and in five months, I lost another 15. I work at a nail salon, and clients who haven't come in a few months have noticed. When I show them my before and after photos, they don't believe it's me. I'm 52, but I'm stronger and feel better now then I did in my 20s." -Sandy Lam, lost 35 pounds
6. "I focused on the nutrients in food instead of the calories."
"In the past, I obsessed over every mouthful I ate, set my calorie target too low and found myself bingeing when I lost my willpower. That's when I started doing Kayla Itsines' 28-minute BBG resistance sessions three times a week at home while my kids took a nap. On the non-resistance days, I'd go for a long walk or run. Some days it would take me an entire day just to get through a workout with all the interruptions, but I just did the best I could at the time. A month later, I started my diet. Now, instead of counting calories, I think about the nutrients I'm gaining from food. There are many diet foods that are low in calories but high in sugar and additives. I concentrated on sticking to whole foods regardless of their calories and tried to avoid anything processed. I also practiced mindful eating by paying attention to hunger and satiety cues. Learning to eat intuitively took some adjusting, but each week it became easier, and I found my cravings for those high-sugar foods diminished. In the first 12 weeks of BBG, I lost nine pounds and dropped a dress size. Over the last eight months, as I've built strength, my weight increased again by about six pounds, but my dress size has remained the same." -Melinda Wood, lost 10 pounds
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We have a tendency to be our own worst critics at times, and it's in these moments that it's so important to look back and remember how far we've come. I may have fallen off the wagon eating wise lately, but I also now have the ability to recognise it and pull my head into line without letting it drag on and on for months on end. Just finished week 6 legs #teamankleweights and while my legs are completely shattered I feel amazing. When we look after ourselves with good food and exercise it completely changes our mental state. I'm reenergised, focused and just feel so damn happy. Gotta love those post workout vibes. ✌️ . . #gooutandgetyours #bbgprogress #postworkouthigh #beyourownmotivation #bbgtransformation #bbg1beforechristmas #bbgholidayslay
A post shared by Melinda Wood (@melindawood__) on Oct 30, 2016 at 10:09pm PDT
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