Stop wasting your time counting calories!

Stop wasting your time counting calories!

April 30, 20247 min read

Stop wasting your time counting calories!

Have you ever been on a diet?

Have you heard the expression “calories in, calories out”? That as long as your output of calories burned is greater than your input of calories eaten, you’ll lose weight? 

Some studies have said that there are 3000 calories in a pound so if you exercise enough to burn 3000 over what you eat, you can lose a pound. 

Unfortunately, there are millions of people living in America, maybe even some in your house, that have believed this to be the best way to lose weight.   

And for many folks, in their teens and twenties, it worked, until one day it didn’t. Their body just stopped responding in the same way. What used to work – more exercise, less calories- just doesn’t seem to work anymore. They can restrict calories and work out all the time, yet nothing.

While calories in, and calories out may make sense on paper, it doesn’t quite translate into our bodies in those exact terms.

Let’s address a couple of the beliefs and the reasons why they don’t hold true.

Track your calories and simply stop eating when you have met your daily limit. 

For example, when I first started working with Sue, she was tracking her calories on the MyFitnessPal app.  She would start first thing in the morning and be really diligent about entering all the data to a “T”.

The challenge is that her calories were exhausted many times by 4 pm and for the rest of the day, she was starving. She was eating McDonald’s for breakfast, lunch at another restaurant with “just a small brownie” for dessert, and a small snack or two from the vending machine.

She was fully within her calories and rarely, if ever went over her daily allowance, yet she could not lose an ounce, no matter how inline her calories were.  She was working out multiple times a week and yet no success. Can you guess what the issue was?

She was killing her metabolism by eating heavily during the day and then nothing for hours in the afternoon and evening.  Not to mention that she was creating incredible amounts of inflammation due to her choices.

All calories are the same. 

This statement leads us to believe that we can interchange broccoli with ice cream with pork chops with a protein bar.  You cannot eat 3 Snickers bars as your 3 meals a day and expect to be healthy, let alone lose any weight.  Yet, if we are counting calories or points alone, this would be perfectly acceptable, right?  Maybe not intelligent, but within the plan limits regardless.

Now I realize that most people trying to lose weight won’t eat 3 Snickers as their only meals of the day, but many will look for processed diet foods that are low in calories.

I remember working with Gregg and Shelly.  Gregg wanted to lose a few pounds and improve his time for a ½ Iron Man competition (an extremely intense race).  When I met with Gregg he shared his goals and we looked at the quality of foods he was eating, not just the quantity of what he was eating. We made a few tweaks, one of the major ones was switching from low-fat/non-fat dairy to organic full-fat dairy and fats in general.

When Gregg got home, I got a call from Shelly. She shared that she was really confused. She had always read, been taught, and told that the way to lose weight is to cut back on calories and do low-fat/non-fat. Now I have her hubby eating full-fat foods???  What gives?

So, in explaining to her that even though that is what many of us have been sold since the 80s, it is no longer the wise advice to follow. With 100-calorie snacks, they are typically high carb content, heavily processed nutrient deficient, and filled with chemicals. There is very little if any nutritional benefit and the amount of damage you can do with a Diet soda and a bag of 100-calorie cookies is significant, especially when repeated frequently.

Her husband switched off the calorie counting, lost several pounds, and shaved the desired amount of time off to have his best finish yet. A few months later Shelly came to see me for her bursitis and we got her off the 100-calorie snack diet and other processed foods/sugar. Her bursitis disappeared in a short amount of time and she was back to her amazingly active life!

If you are only trying to lose weight and are ok with damaging your body as a whole in the process, then focusing solely on calorie restriction might be ok for you. If you want to be healthy and fit, look at the quality of what you are eating, not just the quantity!

Personally, I love to help folks not only shrink their waistline but rebuild their bodies so they can feel fantastic every day!

So should you ever count calories?

Personally, I think there are only a couple of times to look at calories and one is to make sure you are getting ENOUGH calories!

When folks start eating Real Nutrition vs. TV Nutrition, they have a tendency to not take in enough calories at times.

For example, Taunya was eating roughly 1600- 2000 calories per day with 3 meals of fast food.  When she switched to Real Nutrition with Whole Foods, she was eating so much quality food that she was convinced she had to be overeating.

I knew something had changed when she had been losing 1-3 pounds a week in the first few weeks and now it was slowing to a snail’s pace. So, we looked at her calorie count, we discovered she was eating between 650 and 800 calories on the average day. Her body wasn’t getting enough calories to survive, so it went into storage mode, storing everything she ate and slowing her metabolism. (Think about a fire you stop giving oxygen or wood to.  It diminishes and goes out, kind of like your metabolism.)  

When Taunya got her caloric intake back up from eating more whole foods, she continued to lose weight again.

“Being pregnant, I am a little extra sensitive to what I am eating. I want to make sure I am getting enough protein and healthy fats the baby needs for brain and tissue development, not to mention a healthy birth weight. 

I use the MyFitnessPal app to ensure my numbers are where I want them to be for the day if I feel like I might need to fill in a gap somewhere.  Most days I am right on target with nutrients, getting enough calories, protein, and fats just from eating veggies, protein, and healthy fats with 3 meals and 2-3 snacks.”

The only other time I recommend looking at calories is when making a decision about eating something or not. I remember years ago when I was really calorie conscious I would look at the amount of calories in something and decide if it was worth it or not. 

I still believe this can be useful today in some respects. It is not about only looking at calories, but they can be a determining factor in helping to decide what you order/eat.

For example, I went from drinking a Starbucks White Mocha back in the day to a caramel macchiato when I came to the realization that a white mocha had some 450 calories and a macchiato was less than 200. I still remember seeing that and saying, well if I can get a delicious coffee for ½ the calories why wouldn’t I?

Or if you go to a restaurant that has their calories listed, you can see just how much you are going to be eating in one sitting. This can make a big difference between getting a 500-calorie burger and a 1000-burger meal. And sometimes you can find out the truth about a meal like some salads are over 1000 calories. 

So, the bottom line is … Eat real whole food nutrition, not TV nutrition (processed/packaged foods) in a balance of protein, carbs (veggies) & fats for 3 meals and a couple snacks a day.   This is the best way to provide your body with what it needs to reach its ideal weight with unlimited energy for you throughout the day.

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