This story takes place when I was an 18-year-old, freshman in college anticipating sorority recruitment.

I was a cheerleader ordered to wear a tiny outfit.

I had just begun taking birth control and my hormones were out of whack.

I was drinking alcohol for the first time.

I was gaining weight and stressed about it.

I wanted to talk about it with my BFF for support, although I knew she was clueless when it came to nutrition.

She ate pizza and McDonald’s everyday, drank like a fish and looked like a beauty queen.

I told her I was sad that I was gaining weight midst working out constantly and eating nutritiously.

“G if you really wanna lose weight, start counting your calories; a lot of girls just try to not go over 1,500 a day,” she said.


I was almost offended.

I thought I knew everything and wanted to talk to her for support, not advice.

In my mind I knew everything there was to know (from fitness magazines); I was just inadequate; I didn’t quite deserve to look the way I wanted to; and it was genetically impossible for me to get a flat stomach

In that moment I did not want to take her advice for three reasons:

1. I had the skill but lacked self efficacy

2. Media encouraged “power food” consumption and abundance over restricting calories 

3. Fear of failing and starving

Important note: If she told me that advice today, I would wholeheartedly agree that I need to count calories to lose weight.


self efficacy


1. I had the skill but lacked self efficacy

As mentioned, when my BFF gave me advice in efforts to help qualm my stress over weight gain, I was a freshman in college. But it is important to note that I had previously lost weight by counting calories in high school.

I had the skill of counting calories.

However in that moment when she gave me advice, I did not believe in my own efficacy of counting calories for several reasons.

I counted in high school in order to get leaner, so that I could be a flyer in cheerleading.

Here is me as a freshman in high school and then as a senior in high school. The progress was slow, consistent and also healthy:

freshyr          sryr

Clearly, it worked when I did it the first time.

So why did I not want to do it now?

The truth is, I really didn’t restrict too much  in high school. I simply cut out bad childhood eating habits, (like fast food), and added healthier options while also picking up distance running and cycling.

Basically, I did what the magazines said: I ate better foods and I exercised all the time.


However, now in college, I was in a difference time and space.

Late-night, post-bar snacking, library study breaks with snacks, dining hall excursions… I was nervous it would be too difficult and people would think I was weird.

Part of that fear was because I had felt weird before; when counting calories in high school, (despite my success), parents, teachers and friends always worried about me (or so I thought).

I was the girl at the lunch table who strategically packed my lunch and abstained from the yummy cafeteria cookies (in most cases). People made me feel like I was crazy for being so regimented.HS lunch

I had been strict and tight with my diet and I felt bad about it. People made me feel like I was too obsessed. But I was too focused on my goal to care that much.

Also in high school, as students, we were constantly inundated with educational materials on eating disorders in Health class.

Having family members who had struggled with eating disorders I was well aware of them, and also very frightened I would get one.

It was hard not to be scared with all the fear tactics.

Every Seventeen magazine, Women’s Health Mag, In Shape and more told stories of eating disorder survivors and their restrictive dieting pasts.


Therefore, although I had hit my goal with counting calories before, the schools’, magazines’ and media’s eating disorder discussion made me feel bad about my stringent, focused diet.

The anti-starvation, anti-restriction mindset was loud and clear everywhere then and even more now, in college.


I wanted to have a healthy lifestyle with good habits, and look the part!

When my BFF told me to count calories (although I had counted calories before and only seen success), a huge part of me thought that counting my calories was taboo and wrong because it would ultimately lead to an eating disorder.

What worked before would not work this time, so I thought.

2. Media encouraged “power food” consumption and abundance over restricting calories

Around 2005 and through 2010 Women’s Health Mag was my main jam. I was obsessed.


In 2009, there was an article titled Eat More, Weigh Less.

Sounds like a nice way to lose weight, right?

The thing is, I thought knew everything.  I was at an impressionable age and I studied every article.

The reoccurring theme I noticed in magazines was that eating good nutrients trumped low calorie diets.

It truly resonated with me.

Because I was a huge exercise enthusiast I understood that in order to perform, I had to eat often and eat well.

Thus I wanted to focus more on learning how to get the best fuel in large amounts, rather than watching total calorie intake.


In that time period the magazine posted a new series on the ABS POWER Diet.

This diet was an acronym for nutritious foods women should consume. I was so obsessed, I had all the letters memorized and tried to eat most of the foods every day, if possible.


One of the first articles that explains the diet is not bad information.

Now that you know I was obsessed with THAT mantra, you can understand why I didn’t want to worry about staying below 1,500 calories.

In the magazine’s defense, they did have a few articles about 1,500 calorie days. However, from 2005-2009 I noticed MORE articles about nutrient consumption than I did staying below 1,500 calories.

Here is an example of a calorie guidelines they gave. The information is not bad, it is great!

But at the time, I didn’t understand how *one* guideline fit everyone, and I was wary of the low number considering my exercise antics.

Even more, the title “Eat more, weigh less,” not only sounds nice, but sounds easier than “starve and lose,” which is what many college girls did.


I knew restriction could have bad results not only from the magazines but from real-life accounts:  the girls on my college campus were preaching sugar-free everything, caffeine to stave off hunger and extra minutes on the elliptical to ‘torch fat” which made it more confusing. Some were shockingly thin and miserable.


What stood out to me about the Abs POWER Diet was was how much the article preached balance and nutrition for longevity.

The aforementioned sounded realistic. It sounded enjoyable… but where were my results?

I wanted to look good in a bathing suit, I wanted to have “toned” arms and I also wanted to be healthy.

I also began to wonder how or why 1,500 calories was the standard number.

I kept telling myself there is no way that *one* number works for everyone, so I should’t adhere to that status quo whether it’s my BFF’s advice, or the magazines’ two cents.



Thus, thinking I knew more than the starving girls and wanting to follow the advice of eating wholesome foods from the magazine, I was frustrated because there was no middle ground.

nomiddlegroundI didn’t want to starve, but I did want to look like the other thin college girls and cover models on the covers of Women’s Health.

As time went on I realized I had the athleticism, but I still didn’t have the body I wanted…

 3. Fear of failing and starving

As noted, WH mag began to publish more articles on how to adhere to a 1,500 calorie diet in 2010.

I began to be more and more skeptical.

Nobody I knew, (in my opinion), worked out harder than I did!

Here’s what I USED TO believe in:

Exercise > caloric total 


healthy ingredients > caloric total


In my head, exercising as much as possible would keep me from getting “fat,” as long as I ate healthy foods.

I figured the more nutrients I could consume, the better off I would be.

While 1,500 was a nice idea, I knew it didn’t work for everyone and thus counting would not work for me.

The truth is when I counted before, I was more wary of reducing carbs and fats to equal, low numbers and increasing protein than I was worried about the overall caloric total.


High protein intake is great for weight loss, but too much is simply too much.

If I counted this time, what if I was hungry and failed?

What if I was different and was supposed to follow 1,200 guidelines?

Should I eat the number I burn according to my heart rate monitor?

I was conflicted because I wanted to continue to believe what the magazine said about 1,500 totals, but still held on to the idea of eating good nutrients in greater quantities.

Even more, the girls who WERE counting calories were taking it to such an extreme that they were not eating. I was actually even embarrassed to tell some of them how much I was eating because while it wasn’t that much– compared to their starvation diets, I ate like a pig!

I was not eating too many deserts, candies or junk, I was simply eating a *lot* of regular food.


I was mortified. But something inside me knew those girls were NOT healthy. Looking back I wish I would have been able to help them.

However, what I was doing was not right, either.

For instance, I knew that nut butters had good fats, and I new fruit was healthy but I was eating peanut butter and bananas like it was my job.

Before college I worked at Lifetime Fitness and learned the importance of protein. When I first got to college I struggled trying to find enough of it.

But as I met more thin, college girls who feared protein would make them look manly, they urged me not to eat too much of it.

So many of them were going vegan to be thinner.

I wondered if they were right? Should I go vegan?

I could still eat PB and banana if I was vegan, so I tried it.

PB banana

But yet I *still* didn’t like the way I looked naked.

I realized eventually that too much of a good thing *is* too much.

I needed to figure out in what amounts to eat those nutrients, how to control over-exercising, and how to count without being too analytical.

Wrapping up

I didn’t believe in my own ability to count calories, but even more, I didn’t believe in it at all thanks to my surroundings.

Sometimes I think I was scared of failing and sometimes I think I was scared to try and count calories again due to the media’s emphasis on an inclusive, nutritious mindset rather than a restrictive one.

It is important to know that we all hold strong, firm beliefs at various point in our life.

It is crucial to 1) think about why we hold the strong belief and 2) give our best efforts to have an open mind to other “ways,” “methodologies,” “tactics” and more whether it regards fitness, training or nutrition.

 Why do I believe in calorie counting today?

By senior year of college I was counting again and not scared of failing.

I had begun to dabble in the paleo lifestyle* and in order to figure it out I started counting calories and carbs.

I didn’t hop right into it though. I first began eating smaller portions sophomore year of college.

I felt better about my body. Thus, I began tracking to see how much I was eating.

After sophomore year, I traveled to Dijon, France. I was worried about not having a gym and gaining weight. Thus, before I went, I tracked what I normally ate everyday in the states and tried to maintain those numbers overseas.

I used the Myplate app and found it to be very helpful.

Protein was the hardest thing to get when I was there. I ended up consuming a lot more fat than usual on a daily basis, but still lost weight because my caloric total was still low.


My French “brother” and I at the airport 2011.

I remember being excited to know that Livestrong had so many foods I bought at Kroger grocery in their system!

But even after tracking for some time, I still didn’t know exactly how much I should be eating.

I really did not figure that out until after college.

After learning how to calculate how many calories I should intake on a daily basis thanks to, (I took my weight and multiplied it by 13 calories) I learned that the minimum I need just to live is 1,521 calories.


Well, isn’t that ironic?

From then on, I used 1,500 as a guideline when I was not exercising. And in fact, would sometimes eat a little less than 1,500 when I traveled.

However, because I was busy coaching or training in Chi-Town, more often than not I was in the 1,800 range, at least.

Regardless, I found what worked for me.

What worked was watching my caloric intake and keeping tabs on my protein intake.

If you take nothing from this article, be it that keeping an open mind is key, no matter how strongly you feel about your “way” in life.

If you want to lose weight, you need to figure out just how much you should be eating.

Multiply your bodyweight times 13 for a *rough* estimate.

Start there, and if you need help, send me a message at





** I am no longer adhering to any sort of paleo diet.


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