I get a lot of questions from readers of the blog and by far and away the most common topic I get asked about is Counting.
Do you count carbs?
How many carbs do YOU eat a day?
How many carbs should I eat?
What do I actually count?
How do you keep track of your carbs?
What happens if I go over my count?
Do you ever go over your count?
Ahh….counting the questions on counting. I completely understand why there are so many questions on counting. After all we have been taught in our years of dieting that in order to find success we have to follow a set plan, set instructions.
So let’s tackle these counting questions today.
(1) Do you count carbs?
To Count or Not to Count – that is the question.
Surprisingly the hardest question on counting is the first one…do I count carbs? The answer to this is as gray as today’s sky. This may surprise you but I am not a real “counter”. I don’t really count my carbs.
I know, you are really confused right about now aren’t you?
Well, let me explain. My whole life I have been following the diet “rules” the “programs”. I am a very organized person and so I like to follow instructions, follow lists, follow guidelines. That is how I spent my life dieting. Eat so many calories a day, don’t eat more than so many fat grams, etc. What I have learned is that a diet is not one size fits all, which is simply why they don’t work. What Mr. Let-me-tell-you-how-to-diet says about the number of calories you should eat a day isn’t going to work for everyone’s life. So this time, I did something different. I don’t follow a set plan. I don’t follow set guidelines. There are tons of low carb diets that give you a rock hard line number of don’t eat over this number of carbs, PERIOD. But, I don’t like to live within those guidelines, so I don’t.
Now, for those of you who see how I eat, you understand that I don’t eat a lot of carbs, so in that way I do “count” I guess. I look at carbs like I used to look at calories and fat. I want to keep them as low as I possibly again. So, I keep my eyes on labels to make sure there are not that many carbs in the foods I eat.
So the answer to this question? Yes and no – I “count”, but loosely. I don’t follow a rock hard drop dead number. I guess you can say I monitor them, not really count them.
(2) How many carbs should I have in a day?
Well, that really depends on how active of a person you are. Remember carbs are a fuel in your body. If you don’t use all your fuel, i.e. You aren’t that active, then the leftover fuel gets stored on your thighs and belly in the form of fat. So the goal for you is to find the right amount of carbs where your body burns them all off and you don’t store them.
In my research I have found out that if you eat about 50-100 carbs a day you will lose weight at a good pace and not want to kill yourself missing your carbs. I would recommend this level if you just want to lose weight but you don’t really care about how fast you do. 100-150 carbs a day if you are simply very active and want to maintain, and if you want to lose weight quickly 25-50. Again this completely depends on your activity level so use these guidelines loosely.
(3) How many carbs do you eat in a day?
When I started this journey I ate very low carbs, 25-50 was probably the range I most hit. Now, I would say I am more in the 50-100 category averaging probably around 75ish carbs a day. But when I was dropping 15-20 pounds a month, I was eating very low carbs. But remember I am very active now so my carb level has increased.
Here’s how I loosely do things. I try and keep each meal under 20 carbs. Snacks I try and keep things under 10.
People want to know if I eat the same amount of carbs as I did at the beginning or do I eat more now. In general I eat about the same, but the only change is that I used to be afraid to let myself cheat because I thought I would fall off the wagon. I’m not worried about that now, because I love eating this way, so I do allow myself more carbs than I did at the beginning.
(4) What do you count?
You should count Net Carbs, which is the carbs minus fiber and sugar alcohols.
(5) How do you track the carbs you count?
I don’t keep track of the carbs I eat outside of my own mind. I have friends that swear by Fitness Pal or others apps to track their carb counts. You could also track them with simple pencil and paper. But the easiest way for you to track is to just try and keep your meals under 20 and your snacks 10 and less (0 even better).
(6) Do you ever go over your carbs?
YES!! Remember, I view my journey as a lifestyle, not a diet. I have those days where I “carb out” and have a higher amount of carbs. I also have days where I am able to keep my carb count low.
(7) What if I go over my carb count?
If you find yourself eating a lot of carbs in a day, go back to the gasoline example…you have a lot of gasoline, so get out there and burn it off. Increase your activity the day you find yourself eating a lot of carbs. The days I eat a lot of carbs, you will usually see me extending my workout. So yes if you see me out running really far…it’s because I had a few too many carbs.
(8) Do you really not count calories or fat?
YES!! This has been the craziest thing about this diet. I honestly do not care one bit how much fat or calories are in the food I eat. I don’t even look at that part of the label anymore. Yes, it’s true, I have lost 130 pounds eating whole fat foods, butter, cheese, full fat sour cream. This is why this diet is so easy to follow.
This was the strangest thing for me when I started. It seems completely backward, completely wrong. But it works.
(9) How should I get started?
My advice is just start making simple changes that you can live with. Don’t focus so much on a set number, just start lowering carbs where you can. This will only work for you if you can maintain it, so if you drop yourself to 25-50 carbs a day you may find that this is something you cannot maintain.
So there you have it…my counting answers. Bottom line: don’t worry too much about a set number of carbs. Just do what I did, keep your meals under 20 if you can and your snacks under 10 and you should be good to go!!