Why You Should Stop Counting Calories!
Counting calories has become a popular method for those trying to lose weight, and while restricting the number of calories you eat may help you shed a few pounds temporarily, most people do not benefit long term for a number of reasons:
Not All Calories Are Created Equal
While calorie counting may help you visualize what a serving size actually looks like on your plate, it does not take into account the nutritional value of those calories. For example, an apple and a packaged serving of applesauce may contain the same number of calories, but the apple is full of vitamins, fiber, and disease fighting nutrients, whereas the applesauce may contain added sugar, preservatives, and other food additives.
Many “diet” foods are low in calories, but high in chemicals that trick your brain into wanting more. When you eat real, whole foods in their natural state, your body will know when you have had enough and will signal to your brain that you are full.
Processed foods bypass this, create cravings, and lead to weight gain. Nutrient density (how many nutrients there are per calorie) is key to a healthy diet. That healthy diet will naturally keep excess weight off, without having to track every bite you eat.
Encourages Processed and Artificial Food Choices
Part of the draw of calorie counting is feeling “in control” by achieving or staying below a certain number. This encourages you to eat packaged foods because they come with a label telling you the exact caloric content. Fresh produce and quality protein, which should be the majority of your diet, usually do not.
It also encourages you to avoid healthy fats like raw nuts, seeds, coconut and avocados. These foods are high in fat and calories but are essential to your health and to creating a feeling of satiety. Satiety means you feel satisfied and full and are less likely to over eat.
Processed foods usually contain refined flour and sugar which wreak havoc on your body chemistry, encourage your liver to store more fat, and create cravings for more processed foods. Counting calories also encourages people to look to “calorie free” products like diet sodas and artificial sweeteners.
Most people know that diet sodas are not good for them, but few know that they actually cause you to gain weight! Even though they are “calorie free”, they slow down your metabolism, increase cravings, disrupt hormones, and cause inflammation (a precursor to many chronic diseases).
So instead of focusing on the numbers on the nutrition label, focus on the INGREDIENTS in a food. Can you pronounce them? Do you know what they are? Are you comfortable putting them into your body? If the answer is no, put it back on the shelf.
Focus is on the Short-Term
Calorie counting places the focus on short term weight loss, rather than your long term health. Most people who lose weight by restricting calories do not maintain the weight loss. With inadequate nutrients and strained efforts, most people feel deprived and revert back to their old eating habits, or get stuck in a loop of constant dieting and binge eating.
The easiest way to lose weight and maintain weight loss long term is to add in the good stuff, such as vegetables, fruit, quality protein, raw nuts and seeds, sprouted grains, and healthy fats, such as, coconut oil. Focus on ADDING to your diet rather than restricting it.
Eventually, the good will crowd out the bad and your body will naturally maintain a healthy weight. Overtime as your body learns to expect real food, the cravings for processed food will diminish. This changes your mindset from “I shouldn’t eat that” to “I genuinely don’t want to eat that!”
Being overweight is related to many other health concerns, including heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and obesity. If you are overweight or taking medication for any of these health issues, it is essential that you have a diet that supports your body’s ability to heal itself. Prevention is ideal, but at no point is to too late to improve your health through nutrient dense, minimally processed food.
Is your goal merely weight loss, or WELLNESS?
If your goal is merely weight loss, wellness is not what you will achieve.
Calorie counting teaches you to view food as your enemy, instead of what it truly is: your GREATEST ally. Real food is full of beautiful, health promoting, disease fighting nutrients that your body needs and loves.
When you eat fresh, organic produce, quality protein, and healthy fats, you will feel vibrant and satisfied. Real food does not make you overweight, PROCESSED food does.
So ditch the calculator and the “diet” foods and switch to whole foods. Eat them until you are full, not until you’ve reached some abstract number. Our bodies are designed to be healthy, but we must give them the ingredients they need to self-heal. When you do, weight loss will be a happy side effect of focusing on something deeper as your primary goal: wellness.