The Imperfect Art of Calorie Counting

Someone asked me to better explain how it is I go about tracking Calories on SparkPeople. First off for those who don’t know how it works I’ll show you around a bit.

When you log in, it looks a bit like this:

I don’t work out…lol…so I really only use the NUTRITION TRACKER and the blog. Every day I mentally keep tally of what I eat from 5:30 am (when I get up) to 3:00 pm (When I get home from work). When I first started doing this I would write down what I ate in my phone (you can even send yourself a text message if you wanted) now I just remember. Then the first thing I do when I get home is enter in what I ate.


Here is what I DISLIKE about SparkPeople. Their catalog of foods that you can enter SUCKS! When I was on Weight Watchers their online system had a HUGE catalog of foods (meals, restaurants, frozen dishes) all available for you to click on. SparkPeople not only has a very limited catalog, but they also have a really crappy search engine. Type in “String Cheese” and you get 500 things that ARENT String Cheese…its dumb.

That’s where IMPERFECTION comes in! I just GUESS.  All the time. I pick the item that is closest to what I think I ate. Usually I guess high, but its hit and miss. The only way I could ever survive counting calories is by making it low-stress. I don’t give a shit if I’m off by 50 or a 100 calorie…o- freaking-well.

However if there is NOTHING even close to what I ate in there, they do have a nifty tool to add in your own food. It’s also nice because when you add it in, it saves it for you to use another time. To do this go to ENTER A FOOD NOT LISTED (on the right hand side):

Which pulls up this screen:

This is where GOOGLE comes in! Yay google! For instance I like to eat Power Bar Smoothie Bars in Creamy Citrus. I just google “Power bar Smoothie Creamy Citrus Nutritional info” and it will bring me to one of those sites like Calorie Count or whatever. Then I pull whatever info I want over into my “Add Food” Usually I just do fat, protein and Calories, I don’t do all the vitamins and such. Then I save the food and add it my daily meals!

Now what about a home-made meal? How do you count that. There are two ways to do this. Mentally break down as many of the ingredients as you can (Pasta, Ground beef, Spaghetti Sauce) and enter in each one individually. Or you can try the search for “lasagna” or whatever and take a risk picking one that may or may not match what you actually ate. I do this sometimes, it’s no big deal. Again I am NOT trying to be perfect here.

And what about size? They always want to know your portion or “serving” size you ate. For this I OVER-GUESSTEMATE. I’m not dumb, Ive cooked enough that I can visualize a cup or a tablespoon. But if I’m not sure, I guess. Usually trying to over-estimate a little. Better to be safe than fat sorry. Here is an example on Cake:

You search “Cake” and the list pulls up “Chocolate Cake With Frosting” Sounds good to me! So you click on it, and the bottom screen asks you “HOW MUCH” (and you answer A SHIT TON because I have no self-control) Kidding:

The drop down screen gives you three options

1. OUNCES (who the heck knows this?)

2. PIECE (which is kind of up for debate)

3. GRAMS (Again…I cant eyeball a gram…I’m not a drug dealer)

So you pick PIECE because that seems easiest. Then you see it says “1/8th of an 18 oz cake” so maybe you google what an 18 oz cake looks like, but this just makes you hungry for more cake so you move on.  And you…GUESS! Yes that is what you do. And because no one ever eats one serving, you type in 1.75 “Pieces” of cake. That good.

Then you hit ADD FOOD—>CLOSE which takes you to your daily totals where you can THEN (and only then) see what 1.75 “Pieces of cake” is in Calories see:

GAH…235 calories!

And that my friends is how it work. At the bottom of your daily totals its looks like this:

This is where I look to see what kind of dinner I will be having. If at 3pm I am already at 1000 calories, then its gonna be a light dinner. I don’t care if I’m still hungry. I knew my limits and I chose to go over them, and I will suffer the consequences. And no it’s not starvation, because I DID eat, just because I made poor choices and didn’t spread my calories out enough doesn’t mean I will go hungry and die. You will not die! Yes your evening may suck and you may need to have 4 cups of hot tea to trick your tummy into thinking its full, but you will not die. In fact its BETTER, you will LOSE WEIGHT! Hey there’s a concept!

I have actually really enjoyed counting calories. I keep it low stress and don’t put any pressure on myself to be perfect. No matter what I probably eat about 500-600 calories LESS a day just by counting them, so if I’m off by 100 I don’t care. The most important thing is that every day you try! At the end of my day I go back and enter in dinner and do a short blog post that mostly says how I felt about that days eating.

So that’s how I do it. Id love to hear others opinions on how they do this. Im no doctor, so don’t listen to me…lol. Let me know if you have any other questions that I didn’t answer, or if you are already on SparkPeople, be my friend and read my Calorie Counting Blog (which I warn is way more bitchy, and way LESS informative than this blog) Username: MORGANMELIM