FAQ {Calorie Counting}

I’m 4 weeks into this “healthy lifestyle” change (which often you’ll hear me call the “d” word), and I keep getting some of the same questions asked via Twitter (@MonicaBenavidez) and e-mail. I thought it’d be cool to compile them into one post so you can have a quick and easy place to find answers to common questions. If you’re looking for my tips of calorie counting part 1 or part 2 <— click here.

1.) What program are you following? Weight Watchers still? How do you know how many calories to eat?

-No, I am now just doing simple calorie counting + exercise. To track/log all my food and exercise, I am exclusively using My Fitness Pal. It’s free, it’s easy, it’s fab. I use it on any computer, and I also use the iPhone app. I try to eat healthy and stay within my calorie target, but other than that I don’t restrict carbs, protein, etc. I do try to limit my sodium and drink at least 80 oz. of water per day. I still eat ice cream, drink wine and have peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. In moderation. In regards to how many calories to eat, I used My Fitness Pal’s calorie target of 1200 for the first 4 weeks.  This week, I am going to try eating 1420 calories (www.loseit.com recommendation) to see if that helps shake things up a bit (you’ll read why later). This blog post does a great job explaining how to come up with a calorie target.

2.) Do you have a splurge day?

-Not really, well sorta. Every other Saturday I do a “whatever-I-want-for-lunch” kinda thing to keep my sanity. I do still log the calories for it, and often times I find I do it in smaller portions than usual just because it’s a habit now. I don’t binge or anything, and I haven’t at all the last 29 days- impressive. I don’t know if I will never, ever binge, but I am sincerely trying not to. Food is not a way to deal with emotions.

3.) So what’s this I hear that you exercise EVERY SINGLE DAY? Are you nuts?

-Yes. Yes, I am nuts. You see, I used to despise exercise. Not saying I love it now, but if I don’t do it, I feel guilty. Also, I know myself well enough that if I skip 1 or 2 days, it will take me a fortnight times ten to get back into the groove. That’s when I heard about the 100 days challenge, and I decided this is the perfect challenge to help me get into a groove of exercising regularly/daily. Bottom line- everyday I intentionally move for 30 minutes. I don’t count things like shopping, cleaning, cooking and the like. I ONLY count exercise. It’s not always strenuous, but it does help me become more fit.

4.) Do you count things like shopping, cleaning, cooking as exercises on My Fitness Pal?

-No. I personally don’t think any of those are substitutes for intentional exercise. Unless you go power walk at the mall, I think those activities can be a bonus calorie burn for your day, but I do not count them ever.

5.) Do you eat the calories burned from exercise?

-Yes. I try to make sure my net calories is around my calorie target for the day. If I only ate 1400 calories, but I burned 400, then my net would be 1000 calories. Too few calories can send your body into starvation mode, trust me, I know this. You will GAIN weight. Like I did this week. Curses! So, if my target is 1400, I burned 400, I will usually eat between 1700-1750 calories for a net of 1300-1350. I leave a few uneaten as buffer for miscalculations during the day.

6.) How do you KNOW how many calories you burned from exercise?

-I used to use the count My Fitness Pal gave me and knock off about 10%. Now I have a Polar FT7 ($85 on Amazon) and it tells me how many calories I burned. I use their number and it’s actually pretty close to the one My Fitness Pal gives me, just slightly less. Not by much though.

7.) What do you do for exercise?

Turbo Jam, Just Dance 2 and Walk Away the Pounds= Cardio. I use Jackie Warner’s DVD for strength training. I probably do Turbo Jam about 5 times a week, and I sprinkle Just Dance 2 and WATP in there on my days off from Turbo Jam. Turbo Jam is a kickboxing type workout, and I adore it. I’m not a Beachbody Coach (they are rampant on Twitter…some are quite nice, some are quite pushy), so I am just saying this as an overweight girl who is seeing great results from Turbo Jam. You can do it low or high impact, so it truly can be done by anyone regardless of fitness level. WATP is an indoor walking workout that really helps get and keep you at the fat burning zone, and your legs will get toned. Just Dance 2 is so much fun to dance to, and I can do it for an hour and it feels like 10 minutes. I always break a sweat with that game. Bottom line- I do 30 minutes, minimum, daily of SOMETHING.

8.) Just Dance 2- seriously?

-I get this a lot. People don’t *think* it’s a true workout. Sure, if you’re like my little brother-in-law who just waves the Wiimote around without actually, well, DANCING…then yes, not a true workout. However, I do all the moves, and in between songs I walk/jog in place to keep my heart rate up. I sweat. I shake my ass. My arms are sore from it at times (that Bollywood one- HOLY COW). The Tina Turner song- WORK IT GIRL! Lots of good songs to get the body pumping. If it helps, you can do what I do. I pretend I am a popstar (perhaps Britney Spears) and that I am performing at the VMAs. And I gotta be perfect and give it my all! Lame, I know. But try it. It works. See? There I am at the VMAs with Britney- my Wiimote is in my clutch that is under my seat.


9.) Did you really go to the VMAs and meet Britney Spears?

Yes, in my dreams. See picture above.

10.) Is everyday easy for you? You seem so positive and upbeat on Twitter.

-Um, you didn’t log onto Twitter the 5 or so days in the past month that I was having a total meltdown did you? Or the day I was so hungry I wanted to eat a pencil? I try my best to be positive daily. Positivity motivates others, and on Twitter, lots of my tweeps are in the same boat I am in. No need to act like it’s sinking. There’s no use in looking at this whole healthy eating/exercise thing with as gloom and doom. It won’t help. However, there are days when gloom and doom is what you feel. That is ok. That is normal. Those are the days, in my opinion, when it is most important to keep at it. Do not binge, do not skip your workout. Remember your goals, realize that the scale is a frenemy and drink some water. Vent to someone. Cry. Scream. Do not eat massive amounts of donuts. As with anything in life, there are ups and downs. Don’t let the downs ruin you. Feel it and move on.

11.) Does it get easier?

-Yes and no. Healthy habits become more natural, so in essence it gets easier to just make healthy decisions. I used to eat 100 calorie packs a lot, now my snacks are mostly fruit, yogurt, cheese or nuts. I used to drink lots of diet soda and very little water. Now I drink lots of water and 1-2 servings of diet soda. I used to want fast food burgers and fries, now we make lean burgers and baked fries at home. I used to make excuses to not exercise, and now I refuse to miss my 30 minutes of exercise. On the flipside… It’s hard when you don’t see results on the scale and you feel sad. It’s hard when you’re the oddball eating salads and everyone else has pizza. The more you stick with it (exercise & healthy eating) the easier it will be because you simply know it’s what has to be done. Bottom line.

12.) How do you handle a gain?

Short answer: Not well, hee hee. Long answer: Be honest, be accountable, be reflective. I gained this past week. I looked at my sodium- normal. I looked at my exercise- I bumped it up (possible culprit- muscle water retention? Maybe) I looked at my calories- lower than usual (helloooo starvation mode!). And then I knew it was likely the fact that I exercised too much and ate too little. This week, I am going to keep the intensity of my workouts, but add in an extra 220 calories. Also, I need to make sure I drink all my water- might increase that too. I also am NOT going to peek at the scale because it’ll be a gloom and doom day, which is detrimental to my morale. Weigh once a week, don’t worry about it any other time. Gaining weight in a week where I know I worked really hard is devastating, no doubt, but use it as a tool to reevaluate and shake things up. Our bodies adapt to routine. Also, make sure to take your starting measurements and measure again once a month to see your inches lost. I was up 1.2 this week on the scale, but it was time to take measurements again and I’ve lost 19.75 inches! YES!

Well, those are the things I get asked commonly, so I hope my little compilation helps someone out. I am always here for you all (all of you!) so please if you need further help or clarification, contact me at [email protected] or tweet me @monicabenavidez

Good luck! YOU CAN DO THIS.



  1. sierra ann
    January 31, 2011 / 2:20 am

    The Bollywood song kills me, too! It's craaaaazy. I love Just Dance 2, but I never have the chance to do it anymore. Maybe I'll do it tonight.

  2. Fit B
    January 31, 2011 / 2:18 pm

    hey girl!Great detailed post. I agree with you on the exercising i need to do something even light walking cardio everyday to keep me feeling good. keep up the good work you will reach your goals in no time!

  3. newmami_rgv
    January 31, 2011 / 3:27 pm

    Hey Monica! Great post… I keep forgetting to do that Just Dance Review…. that is an awesome picture too!CJR @ The Mommy Blog

  4. Kassi @ Truly Lovely
    January 31, 2011 / 11:07 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your tips!! 🙂 I haven't been doing so great with My Fitness Pal log ins, but everytime I see your blog or twitter, it reminds me! haha.

  5. HealthyLoserGal
    February 3, 2011 / 6:47 pm

    I totally think you're doing the right plan… counting calories and getting daily exercise is how I've been losing my weight and getting fit and IT WORKS! 🙂 Laughed aloud about your answer to 'how do you handle a gain'. *grin* We all have 'em, it is not letting a little gain derail us in a big way. Sometimes it is something as simple as ToM and water weight!See you on Twitter, my friend! :)HLG / Jan