Counting kilojoules can be an easy way to get a handle on how much you're eating, and it's helped lots of women lose weight. But it can be exhausting to jot down every last bite. "Just focusing on the number can get all of us, especially women, hung up. And that can make anyone feel out of control," says Isabel Smith, R.D.
Instead of kilojoule counting, Smith teaches clients to fill their plates with 25 to 30 percent carbs (like whole grains), 25 percent protein, and 40 to 50 percent non-starchy vegetables. The idea is to eat as many low-energy, filling options, like veggies, as you want and limit others that have more kilojoules per serving, says Smith.
"It is possible to lose weight by counting kilojoules," says Karen Ansel, R.D. "But it doesn't teach you to listen to your body's hunger and satiety signals, especially since we don't have the same energy needs every day." If you run eight kilometres one day, you need more kilojoules to fuel your body than if you sit on the couch watching football the next.
Still not convinced? Here's how seven women ditched kilojoule-counting and finally lost weight.
"I REALISED I HAD TO PERMANENTLY CHANGE MY LIFESTYLE."
"I'm from Louisiana, where a regular plate is a whole bunch of rice, meat, and like two tablespoons of veggies. After having kids, I tried a bunch of diets but none of them worked. When I tried kilojoule counting, I'd never remember to jot down what I ate. So in October 2015, I decided to make a real lifestyle change. I realised weight loss isn't temporary, and that the time frames I set for myself to lose weight weren't realistic. Now I watch my portion sizes. I try to fill my plate with half veggies, 25 percent rice, and 25 percent meat. I've also stopped snacking between meals, drinking sodas, and eating sweets. However, I reward myself on Sundays with one cheat meal. I used to do a whole cheat day, but I'd eat a week's worth of kilojoules and I wasn't noticing any progress. When I started, I weighed 110 kilograms. By December 2015, I weighed 72. In January 2016, I started lifting weights, and I saw a dramatic change in my shape. I gained a few kilograms of muscle, but I've stayed pretty much the same since then." —Alexis Tizano, lost 33 kilograms
"I TOOK A SELFIE A DAY."
"I got a gym membership at the constant nagging of my older sisters and best friend. On my first day, I did 60 minutes on the elliptical, and then I sent a picture to my best friend. I started taking a picture a day without really planning to. In my first photo, I didn't recognize myself, so I decided to take a picture every day until I saw a person I recognized. I soon began tracking my weight loss through the pictures, and it was a great way to keep motivated. Over the past 12 years, I'd counted kilojoules and points, but nothing seemed to actually work and be maintainable. This time, I lost weight by swapping processed foods for lots of veggies, lean meats, like chicken and fish, and whole grains, like brown rice. I also made frozen, chocolate-covered banana bites to curb my sweet tooth! I never went to bed hungry. After six months, I lost 36 kilograms. Just shy of the one-year mark, I was down to 86 kilograms. I've still struggled with binge eating since then. But I've spent the remainder of this year focusing on eating a healthy balanced diet. I achieved all this by seeking out happiness, not constricting myself through the latest fads. My focus now is living a life of happiness, acceptance, and adventure." —Justine McCabe, lost 56 kilograms
"I STOPPED EATING LATE-NIGHT CARBS."
"With a new baby, nighttime was the only time I had to myself, and it usually consisted of making myself carb-heavy meals, like pastas, bread, potatoes, and pizza after 10 p.m. But I started my new lifestyle in November 2015. I wanted to lose fat and build a healthy lifestyle without the restriction of counting everything I ate. So I began starting my day off with a huge protein smoothie and eating lots of fruit, veggies, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds throughout the day. But since I love food, I don't avoid packaged and processed foods all the time. I also started following Kayla Itsines' Bikini Body Guide (BBG) from home. Since being a mom of three little ones keeps me pretty busy, I do three, 30-minute high-intensity interval workouts a week. I also sprint or jump rope at least three times a week for 20 to 25 minutes and fit in at least three sessions of 30 to 60 minutes of speed walking on the treadmill with the highest incline. Since I struggled to stay motivated with my workouts, I started my Instagram account for inspiration and accountability. After about a year and a half, I went from 75 kilograms to about 62 kilograms." —Maggie Fierro, lost 14 kilograms
"I TRIED WHOLE30."
"I started doing five to six CrossFit sessions per week in July 2013. I kept hearing people at the gym saying they were doing a Whole30 challenge. So in November 2014, I decided to do the Whole30 program. I honestly didn't think it would work, but I decided to give it a try just to see if I could do it. I always ate plenty of fruits and veggies and few processed foods before I set out to lose weight, but I also ate a lot of carbs. The Whole30 diet is based on what you eat, not how much you eat. For 30 days, I eliminated grains, legumes, processed sugars, dairy, and alcohol. The result is lots of protein and lots of veggies. You can eat as much as you want of the allowed foods, so no kilojoules counting is needed. As long as I did some food prep for the week, it wasn't difficult to stay within the parameters. I don't weigh myself, but I could tell that my body had changed drastically in that month. I had new muscle definition, my clothes fit differently, and other people noticed a change. I continued to lose weight after the challenge by swapping my breakfast cereal for other carb-free options. I also switched from drinking beer to wine. Now that I've kept the weight off for over a year, I feel comfortable wearing tight clothes and bathing suits." —Amelia Elliott, lost four inches in her waist
"I STOPPED STRESSING ABOUT MY PROGRESS."
“When I set out to lose weight, I was tired of yo-yo dieting and way too busy to count the kilojoules in everything that I ate. In October 2015, I started out by researching what was good for me and what wasn't. I collected healthy recipes and learned how to prepare clean food that was actually enjoyable to eat. I completely cut sugar and processed food out of my diet. That means no fast food, except a treat here and there. Now I eat lots of avocado, sweet potatoes, quinoa, fish, chicken, eggs, and Greek yogurt. I also started doing resistance training on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and cardio on Tuesdays and Thursdays. About three months in, I felt like I should have started seeing more dramatic progress than I was. I was working so hard, but I didn't think anything was changing. I would just lie in bed and cry. Finally, I came to the conclusion that my progress would take longer because I wasn't crash dieting. I was slowly changing my entire lifestyle so that I could maintain this long-term. Seven months in, I began to see change. I haven't owned a scale for a few years now, since I got way too obsessed with the number and it wasn't healthy, but I've dropped two pant sizes. These days I focus on how I'm feeling and fitting in my clothes." —Merrilee Moore, lost two pants sizes
"I STOPPED SKIPPING MEALS."
"Last year, my friends introduced me to Facebook, which is where I found Jason Rosell of Caliente Fitness. After 30 years of my weight going up and down, I was tired of diets where I had to count every kilojoule or point. I didn't enjoy eating and got anxiety every time I went to a restaurant. On my new meal plan, I cook a lot more and use less oil and salt. I try to eat only brown rice, and I cut back on sugar. Now I eat a half-cup of rice instead of one-and-a-half cups. And I have a lot more chicken, eggs, and fish, and veggies, which make me feel full. However, I still have a sweetened McDonald's iced coffee once a week. I also started eating smaller meals with snacks in between to keep me from skipping a meal and getting so hungry that I eat everything in sight. At the same time, I started Jason's full-body digital download workout DVDs, which use just your body weight. I do them with my friend who lives near me, so we save money by working out together. At first I started with two 12-minute workouts per week. Now I do the advanced 36-minute DVD three times a week. In the first four months, I dropped about nine kilograms, and in five months, I lost another 15. I work at a nail salon, and clients who haven't come in a few months have noticed. When I show them my before and after photos, they don't believe it's me. I'm 52, but I'm stronger and feel better now then I did in my 20s." —Sandy Lam, lost 16 kilograms
"I FOCUSED ON THE NUTRIENTS IN FOOD INSTEAD OF THE KILOJOULES."
"In the past, I obsessed over every mouthful I ate, set my kilojoule target too low, and found myself bingeing when I lost my willpower. That's when I started doing Kayla Itsines' 28-minute BBG resistance sessions three times a week at home while my kids took a nap. On the non-resistance days, I'd go for a long walk or run. Some days it would take me an entire day just to get through a workout with all the interruptions, but I just did the best I could at the time. A month later, I started my diet. Now, instead of counting kilojoules, I think about the nutrients I'm gaining from food. There are many diet foods that are low in kilojoules but high in sugar and additives. I concentrated on sticking to whole foods regardless of their kilojoules and tried to avoid anything processed. I also practiced mindful eating by paying attention to hunger and satiety cues. Learning to eat intuitively took some adjusting, but each week it became easier, and I found my cravings for those high-sugar foods diminished. In the first 12 weeks of BBG, I lost four kilograms and dropped a dress size. Over the last eight months, as I've built strength, my weight increased again by about three kilograms, but my dress size has remained the same." —Melinda Wood, lost 4.5 kilograms
This article originally appeared on Women's Health.