I Quit Counting Calories. And Finally Lost Weight.

Steph Wagner

June 21, 2013

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Did I get your attention? Just wait until you realize there are old awkward photos. Then I’ll really get ya! 

I often get the question why I don’t post calories on my recipes. The most honest answer: errr…because I don’t count them.

It’s true calories in minus calories out does equal weight loss. That’s true and simple science. But spending years counting calories, points and grams, I felt like I was chasing my tail. 

I studied nutrition for over 6 years before working in a weight-loss clinic for almost 4 years. All during school and even after graduating with a Bachelors and a Master’s degree in nutrition, I couldn’t lose any weight. I counted calories. I worked out at 7am (which few college students do) and I didn’t drink alcohol. You can ask any of my Pi Phi sisters- right ladies?!?!

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I knew all about metabolic processes. I knew all about counting calories, fat, carbs and protein.  I knew how to eat before I went out with friends. I knew how to keep a detailed food journal. I knew how to focus on brown rice, whole grains, fruits and 100 calorie packs.

I felt trapped. Embarrassed. Who wants to see a dietitian with a weight problem?

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My first job out of graduate school was at a wonderful place in Edmond, Oklahoma. Many of you know me from there: WeightWise Bariatric Program.  I could write a book on the stories of walking with hundreds of patients to lose thousands of pounds. One of the best gifts I received while I was there: I finally lost some weight.

My philosophies of weight and food changed dramatically even in the first few months of my new job. Don’t count calories. Cut out starches. Go for a walk instead of a run. Some of these things sounded way too good to be true. And some sounded awful: wait, say what about starches??! 

Starchy foods- breads, pasta, rice, potatoes (even whole wheat) trigger the body to use carbohydrates for fuel, which triggers hunger, and increased overall calorie intake. For those of us who struggle with weight, our bodies love to store carbs. We eat them, store them, crave more. (Enter terrible picture…..)

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So…it IS calories in versus calories out. But I stopped counting them and ate lean meats and vegetables. After the first few days, I was less hungry. Less hungry meant I ate less food. Not less often! But less food overall.

From my heaviest, I lost somewhere between 40-45 pounds (because I stopped weighing myself at my heaviest…) and I’ve kept it off for almost four years. And I haven’t counted how many calories I ate in the day in about, well, four years. 

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It’s not easy to cut out starchy foods. I’ve gotten used to this way of life, but I also slip up and eat…ohhhh…I don’t know…let’s just say…hypothetically…maybe…some cookie dough out of the fridge? Heh hehhh. But I remind myself that there “is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) Weight loss takes a lot of prayer. And grace that only Jesus can provide. I found freedom first in him, and then from breaking up with calorie counting. This journey will never be over for me. And you know what? I have that in common with every single person I’ve walked this journey with. It’s not over for any of us.

Not even the overly-blogging dietitian who loves making and talking about healthy food. Not for her either :)

30 thoughts on “I Quit Counting Calories. And Finally Lost Weight.”

  1. Preach it, Sister! You have always been beautiful (especially the pic of you as my bridesmaid) but I love hearing your perspective! Well said!

  2. I love that picture! As it turns out, I didn’t keep many pictures that I didn’t love. This one is in my very favorite scrapbook!

  3. I think im going to try to take your approach, I get too overwhelmed when I try to document and count everything. Then I quit. I’m inspired by your blog. Thank you!

  4. Loved these pictures and have loved trying several of your two-weeks worth of recipes….but being my heaviest ever and 55 and way past menopause, –for the first time, eating sensibly and having a moderate level of activity isn’t seeing pounds drop. Yikes – I’ll watch carbs more closely like suggested.

  5. Awesome blog, Steph and congrats on all your successes! I look forward to finding some great recipes :)

  6. I’m glad you are enjoying the recipes! They will get you started with cutting down those nasty starches :)

  7. I hope so much it brings you hope and encouragement! Let me know what else you might need!

  8. Girl, you are looking amazing!!! I have to say I haven’t counted a calorie in several years either. And while I’m not looking as amazing as YOU, I definitely look about where I feel very comfortable for ME. I still have goals and places to go, but I’d rather get there following your very sound advice (walk, less starch) than keeping journals and obsessing over calories. If you can find a way to enjoy eating (blogging, creating healthy recipes) and a way to enjoy fitness without obsession, then that’s all happier life anyways!

    Way to go! And can I say hats off to you for posting old photos! I don’t have the cajones!!

  9. Such a happier life than obsessive counting. PS remember the giant white board we had in the pantry to record what we’d been eating?! Those days are gone!

  10. So, I’m looking over this list if starches and have decided to cut starches from my diet. I already eat pretty consciously but I think this would give me the weight loss boost I need after having lost 100lbs them plateauing. My question is…did you cut out all starches? Including legumes, potatoes, corn, chickpeas and squash? Or do you keep the higher protein ones in your diet? Thanks!!

  11. Legumes on rare occasion, squashes only zucchini and yellow squash. No potatoes or sweet potatoes, no peas or corn! :) Congratulations on your weight loss!!!!!!! OMG!

  12. Ok, follow-up to my previous question :) What about grains. I eat steel cut oats almost everday and I love quinoa. I’ve read that these are both nutritious and filling. (I only do 1/4 cup of steel oats.) What’s your view on quinoa, barley, millet and oats?

  13. Oh…and rices…I know white rice isn’t as beneficial but what about brown, wild or basmati? I’m trying to think of side dishes for someone like me who is a very picky veggie eater! Thanks so much!

  14. I cut out all of the above! I will try to get more side dishes posted, mostly I do roasted or grilled veggies, or a spinach salad/side salad, or cucumbers and tomatoes with vinegar. I offer free consultation phone calls up to 30 minutes(no obligation) if you would like to get in touch!

  15. @Jordan: Steph is an eating angel, and she seems to be offering a free consultation call–she can change your life!
    @Steph: I can’t believe that’s you in the old picture; why, I had NO IDEA. How truly, beautifully inspiring you are; bless you for showing us that picture.

  16. I noticed you said steel cut oats is not a good choice. I don’t like eggs so what could I eat for breakfast?

  17. I recommend focusing on lean protein sources which might include: low-fat cheese, cottage cheese, plain greek yogurt with sweetener, turkey bacon/sausage, beef jerky, protein bar or protein shake. Also, I offer a free 20 minute phone consultation if you have more questions! You can email me at steph@foodcoach.me if you’d like to schedule one!

  18. I never really knew your story. That is awesome and encourages me to stop counting calories and cut out starches! What do you think about grains like brown rice, quinoa, quinoa fuseli?

  19. Dear Steph, did you cut out all the fruits? Because i read that fruits contain starches too :)

  20. Hi Jocelyn! I recommend a small serving of fruit no more than once per day, with a protein. But yes, eliminating a fruit would be just fine and would help with weight loss. Fruit doesn’t contain starch…it contains carbohydrates. The natural sugar in fruit (fructose) is a carbohydrate and can slow down weight loss if you have too much. Starch is what you find in breads and potatoes which is also a carbohydrate and what I cut out completely :) I hope that helps answer your question!

  21. Thank you for sharing your story Steph. I was curious and now that I know you’ve had your own journey, you are more relatable to me! I truly believe, like you that none of this is possible without the power of Jesus within you! We have been studying about Solomonxs temple in Bible Study and that our bodies are temples. It is so convicting. Thanks so much for your transparency and your ongoing support. The struggle is real!

  22. Steph…..this post is a huge inspiration and challenge to me. Thanks sharing!!

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