Does Counting Calories Actually Do Anything?
“Oh this is healthy, it only has 100 calories”
“I eat healthy, I have a protein shake for breakfast, a big salad for lunch and a granola bar as my snack.”“No, I can’t eat that on my diet, it has too much fat. I always buy low-fat or fat-free milk and yogurt.”
On a late night scroll on Pinterest you find yourself down the rabbit hole of losing those 10 pounds of fat you’ve been putting off. Then you see that same ol’ advice; COUNT YOUR CALORIES FOR FAST WEIGHT LOSS. Now, don’t get me wrong at some point this has worked for some people, but you might be thinking I counted calories and didn’t lose anything or gained it back relatively soon. And the whole time this process of misery includes; low energy, irritable, and maybe some low blood sugar blues. Here are a few facts for you to ponder over and reevaluate if you’re doing more harm than good when it comes to calorie counting.
1. Find a program for your lifestyle.
We spend too much listening to what worked for our fitness junkie friend who looks like she/he should be on front page of a fitness magazine or a relative that dropped 20 lbs on the 30/30 plan. This isn’t shooting down diet plans, but it’s an eye opener to take a look at your lifestyle. Are you highly active in the mornings? Then you would want to implement a good protein and carb portion of your calories to that meal. If your mornings are slow or you like to work out upon waking you would want to lean more towards healthy fats and carbs for your morning meal. Our bodies distribute the fuel (food) we put in our mouth based upon the activities were utilizing it for.
2. Take a look at your past calorie tracking knowledge
Not all calories are created equal. Eating 500 calories from a McDonald’s Big Mac is not the same as eating 500 calories of salad with homemade dressing 100 calorie bags of chips are not the same as 100 calorie bags of carrots. Even 500 calories from a McDonald’s Big Mac is not the same as the calories you’d get from eating an organic grass-fed homemade cheeseburger. Quality matters more than calories. Nutrients matter more than calories. Plus, a calorie is NOT a calorie (contrary to the popular “a calorie is a calorie” belief). Our bodies process and metabolize fat, protein, and carbs VERY differently, and even different kinds of fats (saturated vs unsaturated) and carbs (simple vs complex) are metabolized in diverse ways.
Ingredients are more important than calories. Ok, so you might be convinced now that you need to stop counting calories. But don’t just stop at calories. Stop looking at the nutritional panel altogether. It’s not as important as the ingredients, as what’s actually in the food you’re eating. Because again, if you’re eating real, whole foods, that’s what really matters, that’s what’s really going to affect your health the most. And if the ingredients label is full of chemicals and impossible-to-pronounce artificial ingredients, colors, flavors and preservatives, tons of added sugar and sodium…well, then it doesn’t matter how low-cal that food is, it’s going to harm your health. I promise you.
Managing insulin is more effective than counting calories. If you want to count something, or if there is one place to actually pay attention on the nutrition panel, count sugar. Sugar is the real enemy, not calories or fat. And that doesn’t just mean refined white sugar and it’s counterparts like Stevia, Splenda and corn syrup. Your body also converts carbs into sugar, so minimizing your intake of refined carbs (that’s white bread, white pasta, pastries and baked goods, desserts, bagels, pizza, etc.) is equally important for managing insulin and blood sugar levels, which will ultimately help you shed any excess weight. Why? Eating refined sugar and carbs causes your body to produce insulin, which is appropriately named the fat storing hormone. Eating less and exercising more is a myth. What if I told you that you could lose weight without counting calories? AND that you could actually keep it off, instead of the typical yo-yo dieting?! Because, did you know that counting calories might actually be making you fat? Studies have shown that eating less and exercising more doesn’t work long term, which makes sense if you think about it. By restricting calories, we are telling our bodies food is not available, which then slows our metabolism WAYYYY down. No matter how many hours we spend on the elliptical, that won’t change. And in fact, when it comes to working out, more isn’t better either, as you can burn out your adrenals. 20-45 minutes of exercise 4-6 days per week is actually better for your hormones, and thus your waistline. Try alternating between HIIT, yoga, weights and walking. Not eating enough calories will harm your health. Forget counting calories, let’s talk about what happens if you count them such that you eat an extremely low-calorie diet. Your mood can change (hangry is a word for a reason!), your energy and sex drive will plummet, your thyroid will suffer, making you cold all the time, your skin will suffer, and you’ll generally just feel terrible. That’s because your body NEEDS NUTRIENTS. It needs food, protein, fat and carbs. Don’t restrict yourself, give your body what it needs to function optimally.
3. Stay close to the foods you crave
Wooooooaaaahhhh, HOLD UP, you’re saying I can have my favorite chicken enchiladas loaded with cheese and sour cream?? Not necessarily, If you’re still on the journey of being mindful of your weight or the amount of nutrition being involved; take a look at your ingredients and see what you can interchange for healthier options or position this meal to take the bulk of nutrition for the day. Our food is directly correlated with our mental and emotional health. When you think about healthy eating and healthy habits there are tons out there to discover, but if you’re always trying something so far out there your goal never seems to get any closer and on top of that you’re doing something you don’t care to much for. This life is yours and you want it to make it healthy and fun!