Counting calories has always been the holy grail of losing weight and getting toned. But when I hear someone say they’re counting calories I want to run up to them, shake them a bit, and tell them a big “NOOOOO” because counting calories is a time-consuming, soul-sucking practice that’s actually a lesson in futility, as far as I’m concerned.
Yet people continue to do it. They pull out their calorie-tracking apps and plug in whatever foods they’ve eaten, feeling guilty when they go over their “recommended” calorie amounts, then run to the gym to try to undo it all. And I can’t blame them: The idea that monitoring all your calories is key for weight loss has been ingrained in us since birth. While I do think there’s value in recording the foods you’ve eaten to understand what you’re consuming and offer accountability, it’s a colossal waste of time to obsess over every single calorie that passes your lips.
Of course, calories do count, since they’re what you consume when all is said and done. But there is such a better way to get toned, lose weight, and ENJOY food without focusing on numbers and going down a dangerous path of obsession. No matter your goals, spending vast amounts of energy and time poring over calories might not get you very far. Here’s why.
1.Counting calories can lead to ignoring your hunger cues
Focusing entirely on calories, instead of the quality of the food you’re eating and how you actually feel before chowing down (hungry, bored, stressed, etc.), can wreak havoc on those precious hunger cues you’re born with. Whether you’re eating just because you “have calories left,” even though you’re not truly hungry, or you’re not eating because you’ve “gone over” your calorie allotment for the day, but you’re actually still hungry, you’re doing the same thing: ignoring what your body is trying to tell you.
Trust your body, because it knows what it needs far better than some app, number, or tracker.
2. Calorie counting adds to the misconception you can “work off” the food you eat
One of the things that angers me most about calorie-counting apps is the impression they give that you can exercise yourself “back into the green.” Going over your “calorie allowance” again and again because you think you can burn off the surplus? Nope. Unfortunately, your body doesn’t burn off food calorie-for-calorie like that.
A 2014 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine emphasized that “it is where the calories come from that is crucial” in determining whether your body is tempted to store them as fat, use them for energy, or apply them to some other mechanism, the study authors explain.
This is crucial. A lot of people are so scared of fats due to their high calorie content, so they snack on low calorie ‘fit foods’ AKA… chemicals (SO many of these low cal protein bars and sodas are literally poison for the body and absolutely ruin your adrenals, cortisol levels, skin, hormone balance and nutrient absorption).
The good news is that when you overeat from time to time, your body can handle those extra calories without making you gain weight. It’s when you overeat on a more frequent basis that you can get into weight-gain territory.
3. You don’t know how many calories your body is absorbing from food.
We used to think that since 3,500 calories equal a pound, every time you eat 3,500 extra calories beyond what your body needs, you end up gaining that weight. We now know better: not all calories are created equal.
Everything from how your food is processed to how much fiber it contains determines how many calories you’re absorbing from it. Even the bacteria in your gut may play a part in how you digest food and how many calories you derive from it.
For example, you’ll absorb more calories from cooked meat versus raw, and peanut butter versus whole peanuts. Due to size differences, one sweet potato varies in calories from another before you even take it off the shelf at the store. Calories absorbed is a complex business that’s light years beyond any calorie-counting app on the market.
Instead of counting every calorie you eat (or you THINK you’re eating…and absorbing), if you’re hoping to lose weight, try this instead.
Opt mostly for fresh, whole foods when you’re grocery shopping, and think of it as eating food, not calories. Focus on healthy items like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein; and eat mindfully—slow down, eat until you’re satisfied, and give deprivation a pass. If you eat a balanced diet most of the time, your body will respond by finding its balance—no calorie counting required.
So if you’re sick of fearing food, calculating your meals, and just being obsessed with calories and numbers; give yourself the ‘challenge’ of not tracking ANY meals or snacks for a week and just try listening to your body and eating intuitively. Sure, the first week will be difficult, and you might find yourself somewhat bingeing on the foods you previously denied yourself. However, after a few weeks you will finally started to feel BALANCE!
It’s time to nourish, respect and listen to our bodies. Eat real, wholesome, natural and fresh foods! Don’t over complicate it or become overwhelmed by numbers. Use your PRIMAL INSTINCTS and trust your human intuition. Eat a rainbow collection of natural, whole foods and mix it up daily to ensure you’re getting a range of nutrients in your diet.