Calorie Counting and Food Diaries Work!
‘I lost a lot of weight in my early twenties through calorie counting (with a paper diary and calorie books – it’s so much easier with WLR!) Whilst I never quite returned to my unhealthy pre-weight loss ways, I did eventually, over time, regain about two thirds of the weight I’d lost.’
|Starting Weight||13st 6lb|
|Current Weight||9st 11.4lb|
|Weight Lost||3st 8lb|
In A Nutshell
We all have a goal weight in mind, but Julia has found hers has been a fluid goal. She says,
‘My big goal 10 stone 7, taking me to a healthy BMI. I got there and knew I wanted to lose a little more so reset it to 10st 2, and then having achieved that, 9st 11. I may decide to lose a little more. But I still can’t believe I’m in the 9s!’
Julia says that like most people, she has a busy lifestyle and is often working long, stressful hours. She says,
‘It’s easy to grab whatever unhealthy and portable snacks are available!’
Julia says she found being able to set a rate of loss with the WLR tools was perfect for her. She says,
‘I’d rather lose weight at the rate of a pound a week than try and fail to lose weight at a higher rate of loss.’
Julia says that being overweight meant life was full of depressing changing room moments and she hated having her photo taken. Her motivation to get to grips with her weight was to feel better on every level – physically and psychologically and she loves being fitter and healthier.
Her favourite parts of the site are the food diary and the different forums . . .
‘There can’t be any forum on the whole internet friendlier than WLR!’
Why Does Calorie Counting With WLR Work?
Julia had always had success with calorie counting in the past but she says using the tools on WLR makes that very easy to do well – it takes all the guesswork out of it for you.
Weight Loss Plateaus
We all have blips and plateaus and Julia was no exception on her journey. For her, just hanging on in there gave the results she wanted eventually!
One of Julia’s top calorie counting success tips is:
‘Use the WLR tools. It’s not just paying the membership that helps you lose the weight!’
Read Julia’s calorie counting success story below.
Discovering Calorie Counting the WLR Way
Julia says it has taken her a long time to get to grips with calorie counting and losing weight.
‘I am living proof that you haven’t failed as long as you haven’t given up!’
She joined WLR in 2006 intending to lose some weight for her wedding in 2007. Although she didn’t get to goal, she did lose a significant amount of weight, almost reaching a healthy BMI and walking down the aisle in a size 12 dress. She says,
‘Unfortunately I didn’t manage to maintain my loss. I spent a good few years losing some weight and then gradually regaining it, then starting the cycle again. But along the way I learned a lot about myself and my attitudes to food, all of which helped hugely when on 1st January 2013, I got serious.’
At that point she was about 10 pounds lighter than her highest weight, and over the course of 2013 she lost another 40 pounds.
Use the WLR tools
Use the forums
Get into cooking
Do some exercise
Try and make
- 'eat mindfully'
Too Busy to be Counting the Calories?
‘When you’re out of the house for 12-16 hours every week day, it’s easy to find excuses not to exercise or eat well. And when you’re rushing from meeting to meeting without a break, it’s easy to grab whatever unhealthy and portable snacks are available, rather than eating properly (I lost count of the number of times I had a cake – or, ahem, more than one!, for lunch).’
Having relocated for work, most of her friends and family live away which means lots of weekend visitors and weekends away. Julia and her husband love entertaining and eating out with lots of foreign travel whenever they can. Julia says,
‘None of it is good for the waistline!’
Stress and Overeating – The Vicious Circle
Julia has realised that she has a strong tendency to over-eat, particularly eating the ‘wrong’ foods, when she’s stressed. She says,
‘I’ve always loved cooking so preparing healthy meals isn’t a problem for me – I love nothing more than tweaking the recipe for an unhealthy favourite to make it lighter but still just as delicious. But when stressed I have a tendency to eat that healthy meal and then keep on eating!’
She realized that you don’t need to overeat by that much to put on a lot of weight over time and found she would go through a particularly stressful period, or have a holiday or similar, and put on weight. Then she would diet successfully for a while and lose some of the weight, but not all. She says,
‘Then the cycle would start again, and my weight would increase over time. Very demoralising!’
Successful Calorie Counting
Julia’s rate of loss has varied over the time she has been with WLR. She says,
‘I think we’re all impatient to get to goal at first, but over time I realised I am much more successful when I am more realistic and accept that weight loss takes time.’
She started out with her rate of loss set to 1.5 pounds a week, then dropped it to 1 pound and finally half a pound as she lost weight and her calorie allowance decreased. Julia says,
‘If my calorie allowance is too low, I feel it’s ‘impossible’ to stay within it, and end up eating more – perverse but true! Put simply, I’d rather actually lose weight at the rate of a pound a week than try and fail to lose weight at a higher rate of loss, and end up stressed and over eating as a result!’
Julia found that with a reasonable calorie allowance she could still fit in social events and all the things that make up ‘having a life’. She says,
‘It’s much better than a few days or weeks of denial followed by a spectacular fall from grace!’
Setting a Weight Loss Goal
‘My ‘big’ goal was 10 stone 7, taking me to a healthy BMI. By the time I got there, I knew I wanted to lose a little more so I initially reset my goal to 10st 2, and then having achieved that, 9st 11. I’m nearly there now.’
She says she may decide to lose a few more pounds but no more.
‘I still can’t believe I’m ‘in the 9s’! I haven’t been this weight this millennium!’
|'Before' Stats||'After' Stats|
|Chest||42 inches||35 inches|
|Waist||37.5 inches||28 inches|
|Hips||45 inches||37 inches|
‘Being overweight is rubbish. Life was full of depressing moments, small and big. I rarely had a good changing room experience and hated having photos taken...
Thankfully it’s easier to get nice clothes in larger sizes than it used to be, but whilst I could get clothes big enough, they often wouldn’t fit well. Everything just looked ‘wrong’ somehow.’
She says she was lucky and didn’t really have anyone make bad comments to her, or discriminate against her. But for her, it was more about how it affected her and how she saw herself, and the knock-on effect that had on her confidence. She says,
‘Every time I was going to a big event, it was a massive trauma to find something to wear that I felt good in. I had wardrobes full of clothes but still ‘nothing to wear’ as only a small proportion of my clothes used to fit me at any one point in time! I would often dread events I should have been looking forward to, knowing I’d be wearing something too tight/trussed up in control underwear and not feeling good.’
She also had issues health wise.
‘My knee and foot injuries gave me a lot of pain and had really started to limit my life. When I started developing acid reflux too, I really started to feel old before my time.’
Motivation to Lose Weight
Julia’s motivation to lose weight was to feel better on every level – physically and psychologically. She says,
‘I absolutely love being fitter and healthier. The acid reflux has improved considerably with my weight loss and with 50 pounds less strain, my knee and foot problems are much better.’ She says,
‘The increased fitness I’ve gained has helped with those too. As importantly, I feel so much better about myself.’
Julia says that becoming a healthy weight doesn’t revolutionise your life, but
‘(becoming a healthy weight) sure removes a whole host of day to day stresses. I’m happier, fitter, healthier and more confident.’
Using the Food Diary for Success
‘The food diary is the most important thing – if you log everything you consume there is no room to kid yourself.’
She uses the recipes function a lot too, not only for ‘proper’ recipes but also for things like sandwiches, breakfasts or whatever that she eats regularly. She says,
‘Once you’ve built up your recipes, it’s really very quick to fill in your food diary each day.’
‘Other than the main weight loss tools, the discussion boards are invaluable. I really recommend them to everyone, even if you’ve never dipped a toe into an internet forum before. There can’t be any forum on the whole internet friendlier than WLR! There is pretty much no question you can ask, whether on weight loss or indeed anything else!, that somebody won’t know the answer to.’
She says it’s great to have a place you can share the trials and tribulations of weight loss.
‘Nobody wants to be a diet bore so it’s good to be able to talk about things with like-minded people instead of boring the pants off your friends, family and work colleagues about it!...
They (quite rightly!) don’t want to know if you’ve managed to resist dessert at a restaurant, or get out for a run when you didn’t feel like it.’
Julia says that on the boards there’s always somebody there to share in the successes, and help you avoid failures.
When she first started with WLR Julia found it motivating to find people she had something in common with. Perhaps they were the same height, weight or age – who’d already been successful and had pictures on their profiles. She says,
‘That’s why I’m doing this success story now. I think if I can do this, anyone reading it can do it too. Hopefully reading the struggles I’ve had over the years will make them understand they really can succeed, even if they have failed in the past.’
Exercise to Help Reach Your Goals
Over the years Julia has bought ‘loads’ of bits of exercise equipment to help her reach her goal. She says,
‘A few years ago we moved out to the country so it was harder to get to the gym. I didn’t want to give myself any excuse not to exercise so I bought a rowing machine.’
In 2013, as she got fitter, she turned a part of her utility room into a mini home gym. She says,
‘I’ve got a treadmill now too (bought in the January sales, it’s a great time of year to buy exercise equipment!) I also have exercise DVDs, weights and a Swiss Ball.’
She still goes to the gym and sees a personal trainer there, but she says,
‘It’s great to have a variety of equipment at home. I think varying your exercise regime is really important for all-round fitness and to stay as injury-free as possible. And exercising in a way that is convenient and fits into your life is crucial, because if it’s inconvenient, you won’t do it.’
Her latest purchase is a weighted hula hoop but she says she hasn’t tried it yet. She says,
‘I used to hula hoop as a child but I can’t imagine it’s going to be as easy as it once was!’
‘One of the biggest changes in me though is a willingness to try new ‘physical’ things. I spent so long seeing myself as a bit of a physical duffer, rubbish at anything sporty or requiring fitness or coordination, and it takes a long time to get over that psychological barrier. Now I’ll give most things a go. Having been rowing on a machine for a while, for my birthday we went out on a scull on a lake. That was interesting!! I was terrible at it, but it didn’t matter- it was fun. Before I’d have been too paranoid about looking stupid to try it, but now I don’t care. Life’s too short to worry about things like that, and there are loads of things I’ve tried that I’ve turned out to be quite good at. You never know if you don’t try. Pretty much no matter what your level of fitness or physical challenges you have, you will be able to find a way to incorporate a bit more activity into your life. And it’ll make you feel GREAT!’
Why Does Calorie Counting With WLR Work?
I had always had success with calorie counting and WLR makes it very easy to do that well. Takes all the guesswork out and it’s just so much quicker than doing it manually.’
But for her it’s the boards that have been important too.
‘It’s the boards that have made a difference. Over time, through loads of discussions, I’ve learned to think in a different way about food and eating, identifying negative patterns in my own behavior and working out strategies to change. I’m not complacent, and I know I’ll probably need to monitor myself closely for a long time to come. But I know my behavior is different now to the way it was when I lost weight previously but regained it, in all sorts of ways.’
She says two things have been different this time. Firstly, she has got back into exercise in a big way, but very sensibly this time around. She says,
‘I have learned to listen to my body, understanding when I had pain from my injuries that was a problem and needed me to ease up, and when I’d just worked hard!’
She also focused more on staying fit than on doing only the things that prompted the highest calorie burn, which she’d done too much in the past. Julia says,
‘Two years ago now, I started a monthly ‘exercise challenge’ on the Fitness & Exercise board. Any WLRers who want to take part ‘sign up’ on the thread I post each month and pledge one or more exercise goals for themselves for the month. Then each day we post our progress against our goals on daily discussion threads. I didn’t expect it to grow to such a big thing when I started it, but I think the accountability, support and encouragement helps all of us. It certainly helps me – I can’t tell everyone I’m going to the gym later and the pike out, at least not too often, anyway!’
She still believes the eating is far more important than exercise in a weight loss regime, but exercising and being fitter makes her feel great, and makes her not want to undo all her hard work with eating badly. She says,
‘It’s a real virtuous circle!’
Secondly, and Julia says, very importantly she has learned to make more conscious decisions about food, which many people call ‘eating mindfully’. She says,
‘It’s pretty simple really. Don’t ‘just’ eat anything. Think about what you eat before you eat it. I’d always been good at planning my shopping, cooking and meals (which really helps when you’re dieting). But my downfall was the food I’d ‘just’ have on top of that. So I’d eat dinner and ‘just’ have some chocolate afterwards. And then maybe a few biscuits. And perhaps some crisps… or I’d take a healthy lunch into work and then ‘just’ have a cake or two when it turned out to be somebody’s birthday. Or I’d ‘just’ polish off some leftovers to ‘tidy up’.’
Julia says that the problem is, all those ‘justs’ are the difference between weight loss and weight gain. She says,
‘I didn’t even realise it, but for a long time I was kidding myself that the ‘justs’ weren’t that big a deal. But now I don’t kid myself, or let myself off the hook and I DO make sure I fill in my food diary so there’s nowhere to hide.’
She says that she tries to ask herself, “Do I really want this”? In other words, rather than act on impulse, she tries to make a rational decision about what she’s eating. She says,
‘Sometimes the rational decision is, ‘that birthday cake looks delicious and I haven’t had cake for a while, I’m going to have a piece as a treat’. But many times I know it’s just not worth it, when I’m working so hard to lose weight (maintain my weight). And instead of scoffing something mindlessly and then instantly regretting it, I am so much happier for making a conscious decision – whether that’s to leave the treat for today, or to indulge.’
Weight Loss Plateaus
Julia says that plateaus and blips are inevitable when you’re losing weight and she’s had loads. She says,
‘What we’re really trying to lose is body fat, but the only easy way we have of measuring it is weighing ourselves. The problem is that lots of things affect your weight. Even with the relative accuracy the WLR tools enable you to have, weight loss is never going to be a completely exact science. Sometimes I have stayed the same weight for a few weeks when I know I’ve really stuck within calories. It’s demotivating, but what helps at these times is chatting on the boards and being reminded it’s completely normal.’
She says that as long as you hang on in there, you then find you randomly lose a lot more than you ‘should’ one week. She says,
‘I think particularly for women, who get hormonal fluctuations on top of everything else, understanding this is one of the real keys to success. It’s so easy to get demotivated when you think you’re not getting the results you ‘deserve’, but giving up is the fastest way to weight gain, so it’s important to stay focused even when the going gets tough.’
Julia’s Exercise Regime
‘The first time I lost a significant amount of weight, in my early 20s, I’d started exercising and enjoyed being more active. Later I started running and even ran two marathons, as well as lots of shorter races. Running certainly helped me lose weight with WLR for my wedding, and for a long time this helped me control my weight somewhat.’
However, in 2008, she developed a serious knee injury and later, even more serious foot problems. She says,
‘I had to have a couple of operations and I couldn’t do the running I really loved any longer. For a while I couldn’t walk more than a few minutes without considerable pain, and I found it hard to work up the motivation to do other exercise when I was in pain. It was all a vicious circle.’
What she has done differently this year is build up gradually, and she has been careful to alternate different forms of exercise to try and prevent overuse injuries. Julia says,
‘I bought a rowing machine and use it regularly at home, as well as seeing a personal trainer which I find very motivating. Over time, I have built up and grown so much stronger and developed my all-round fitness that now I can run again, which is great.’
Julia exercises 5 or 6 times a week, alternating running, rowing and cycling with weights and resistance training. She says,
‘This year I even taught myself to ride a ‘real’ bike for the first time, which has been amazing! On Boxing Day I went out on a 10 mile cycle with my father in law and my husband. It was the most beautiful day and it felt amazing to be alive, doing something I couldn’t have done this time last year – hand signals and all!’
Julia says the major difference is not letting herself off the hook.
‘On most days, I decide in advance whether I’m going to do some exercise or not, and then I just do it. Even if things don’t go according to plan, and I struggle to fit it in, I really try very hard to do something. I now look for ways to fit it in, rather than just letting it go. In other words, I prioritise my fitness. There have been countless times it’s gotten late and I haven’t exercised and all I want to do is slump on the sofa. But that sofa slumping is SO much sweeter when you’ve done a 20 minute row (or whatever) first! I’m much better at remembering that these days!’
Julia believes that ultimately, although we’re all short on time, we make time for the things that are really important to us. She says,
‘For me, exercise is now one of those things I make time for, pretty much no matter what.’
‘It’s great being able to fit into a much wider range of clothes – I’ve always loved fashion and now it’s easier to indulge in that without all those depressing changing-room experiences. Being a size 10 opens up a much wider range of options for me, clothes-wise. But over and above that, I absolutely LOVE being as fit as I am now. After being terrible at all sport as a child, it’s amazing to suddenly realise I’m really quite fit – yes, me!’
Julia says that no matter what your start point with exercise, it’s positive to start thinking about what your body can DO, rather than solely how it LOOKS. She says,
‘We take our bodies for granted in so many ways – it feels good to look after mine.’
Julia’s Calorie Counting Success Tips
Use the WLR tools. It’s not just paying the membership that helps you lose weight (!) it’s actually doing it! Fill in your food diary, weigh and measure everything to ensure you don’t ‘cheat’. There is no point cheating – it’s only yourself you’re affecting.
Use the forums. Before I joined WLR I would never have thought I might one day have a load of friends on a dieting website, but now I do! Some have even become real life friends, but that’s not obligatory! That’s the great thing – you can reveal as much or as little about yourself as you want, it’s up to you. But don’t miss out: WLR members have a wealth of knowledge and experience and are always willing to help. If you’re having a bad day or need a boost, or just want to ask how best to do something, the answers are only a forum post away.
Get into cooking. You don’t need to be a Masterchef but when you prepare food yourself, you know what goes into it. And you can adapt it to your own tastes. When you’re eating fewer calories it’s great to make every single one count – I try and eat only food I truly enjoy. You can save yourself time and money, and save yourself from breaking your diet, by batch cooking. I cook 6 or 8 portions of most things so I can freeze my own ‘ready meals’. That way, the path of least resistance when I’m tired and stressed is a healthy home-cooked meal rather than junk food.
Do some exercise. Not everyone is going to be an athlete, and that’s fine, it’s not a competition! But there’s almost nobody who can’t benefit from doing some kind of exercise. From walking to swimming, bouncing on a rebounder in front of the soaps, group classes or running, cycling or exercise DVDs at home, they’re all good. It’s a cliché, but it’s true: you only regret the exercise you didn’t do, not the exercise you did! If I really don’t feel like it, I tell myself I’ll do 5 minutes and if I want to stop after that, I can do it without feeling guilty. Of course, 9 times out of 10 once I’ve started I want to keep going. And of course, you can eat a bit more if you exercise, too!
Try and make conscious decisions – ‘eat mindfully’. If you want that takeaway, cake, glass (or bottle!) of wine or bag of crisps, great, go for it. But think about it in advance (even if only a few minutes in advance), consider the consequences and accept them before you do it. Don’t ‘just’ eat, make a conscious choice.
You can use the information on Weight Loss Resources to count how many calories you need to consume each day and how many you are actually eating.
* Note: The success stories published on Weight Loss Resources are written by WLR members, past and present, telling their own stories in their own words. As you will see if you read more than one or two of them, everyone's story is different and they have reached their success from a variety of starting points and lost weight at varying rates. Individual results may vary.