We are constantly bombarded with a “calorie in – calorie out” mentality, when it comes to weight loss. The only problem is, all calories are NOT created equal, and health is not a simple math equation. There are so many more variables influencing our weight, which you may have not even realized play a role! (i.e. gut microbiome, hormonal imbalances, and water intake!) Plus, calorie counting isn’t a long-term solution for your goals. Ultimately, better health is what you are striving for, and losing those extra pounds is an added bonus!
Stop Counting Calories. Seriously, you’re bad at it.
1)Counting calories may be making your body is work against you.
Be honest. You don’t like doing it. Portioning out the ingredients, adding up all the totals, subtracting it from your limit, feeling guilty over that extra chip you slipped in… Even if you use one of those “easy” tracking apps on your phone, seeing that number hit (*insert arbitrary amount of calories here*) before dinner can be overwhelming. This is raising your cortisol levels, and we’ve all seen the commercials. Cortisol is the STRESS hormone, and its making you hold on to those love handles. During times of stress, which usually meant there was nothing to eat, our ancestors bodies’ knew storing fat, and slowing the metabolism, would help them survive. The more primitive portion of our brain, that controls this reaction, hasn’t caught up with the times. Today, stress takes many different forms, but (fortunately for most of us) rarely involves lack of food. When you’re stressed, your cortisol levels go up, and your body is fighting against your goal. The truth is, even if you love math, even if keeping up with your calories makes you feel totally in control, and even if you just bought a shiny new kitchen scale….you’re still stressed out BECAUSE you’re dieting.
2)Most people are really bad at keeping track of their portion size.
Like, REALLY bad, and that probably includes you. Chances are, if you even remembered to read to label, the amount of peanut butter on that insulin spiking PB&J is well over a tablespoon. Do you know what 4oz of chicken breast actually looks like? Or, just how big is a medium sized apple? It is also easy to forget about sauces and other condiments. They can pack a lot of hidden calories, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other additives you’ll want to avoid while trying slim down.
3)You’re focusing on the wrong thing.
Whether your goal is to lose weight, or clean up your lifestyle, counting calories won’t get you there and keep you there. With all the preservatives, chemicals, and artificial sweeteners available today, consumers never have to step foot in the produce section of their supermarket. Human beings need REAL FOOD not food-like products. When eating real food, the average person would rarely, if ever, need to consider the amount calories they are consuming. Why? There aren’t that many calories to begin with. Real food contains the real nutrients our bodies need to function, meaning you don’t have to eat as much to satisfy biological needs. Plus, you aren’t putting as many foreign and toxic chemicals and preservatives into your body, which only slows its function and ends up being stored in our organs and adipose tissue. Buying low calorie ice cream bars, made with aspartame, isn’t going to change your eating habits. It is only going to perpetuate your addiction (yes, it is an addiction) to sugar and artificial food-like products.
4)Labels can legally LIE to you.
According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), companies are allowed to label their product as CALORIE FREE if a serving size is less than 5 calories. That’s a serving, not a package, which could potentially contain 20 or more servings. Are you mad? I’m mad! The FDA claims this is dietarily insignificant, and is therefore not required to be labeled. Hmmm…I wonder what other information they’ve decided is “insignificant” for you to know? For companies with products above 5 calories per serving, there is a nifty rounding rule that can be applied. Also, don’t believe everything you read on a restaurant menu. If you didn’t prepare the food, or at least closely monitor what went into it, you have no idea if it meets the same calorie specifications. Extra sugar, oil, galatose, diatase, or who knows what could be lurking in that combo #5, just waiting ruin your hard work. Follow this link to the FDA’s regulation guidelines, and check it out for yourself. Comment below if you find, or know of, any other questionable “guidelines”.
Now, here are a few things you can do! Of course, you may need to consult your physician before making any lifestyle changes, as everyone’s health needs are different.
1)Start by adding to your diet, instead of focusing on taking away.
Yes, you read that right. The term diet actually refers to the types of foods a person or animal eats. When we look at it as a restrictive process, it adds unnecessary stress to our situation, and that can be overwhelming to someone just starting their health journey. If something you love suddenly becomes off-limits, it will be only thing you think about. This is definitely going to dietary changes so much harder. Start by incorporating at least one vegetable, fruit, and/or serving of leafy greens per day. If you’re out at a restaurant, order a side salad, and eat it first. You’ll have less room for fried food or dessert. Don’t tell yourself you can’t have the greasy burger for lunch. Tell yourself you have to eat a bag of baby carrots first. If you are making a complete lifestyle change, this technique will help ease you into the process.
2)Carry a water bottle with you everywhere.
Most of us aren’t drinking enough water, and no, coffee and sodas don’t count. Set a goal for yourself to drink a certain amount by lunch! It will calm cravings, and decrease your likelihood of reaching for a sugary soft-drink. Plus, water is great for your skin, digestion, and necessary for most physiological functions in your body. It is truly the elixir of life and the fountain of youth. If you aren’t a water person already, I’m not kidding, clearer and healthier skin awaits you. Infuse it with lemon, fruit, or cucumber to change up the taste. The going rate is 64oz (about 8 juice glasses) of water per day, so drink up!
3)Eat more REAL food.
If there is something you aren’t quite sure how to pronounce in the ingredient list, chances are, it is considered a chemical or preservative. Shop the parameter of your grocery store for fresh vegetables, leafy greens, fruits, proteins, nuts, and dairy (if you can tolerate it). Maybe you aren’t a vegetable person, yet. That’s okay! No one should expect you to start running 5Ks, teaching yoga, and eating a strict organic-fair-trade-vegan diet over night….or maybe ever!? If you have to smother asparagus in cheese, and it means you choose a plant over pizza, so be it! Eventually, you can start upping your vegetable game, but right now, you’re taking baby steps. That is still a win! We are all starting out at different points in our journey for better health. I don’t like kale. There, I said it! I don’t like kale chips. I don’t like kale salad. I hide it in banana-peanut butter smoothies. Just get creative! Trust me, recipes are out there (read #pinterest), waiting for you to find them.
4)Eat when you’re hungry.
Keep healthy snacks at an easy reach, so when those mid-day cravings hit, you don’t run to the closest vending machine for a candy bar or bag of
air chips. Unless you have an allergy or diverticulitis, nuts are a great option, because….they store well, have lots of good-for-you oils and nutrients, and nuts can satisfy that “crunchy-salty” addiction. It’s okay if you need a pick-me-up throughout the day. Seriously, I’m giving you permission to snack smart. If you aren’t ravenous by dinner time, you’re less likely to over eat, and more likely to choose healthier options. Plus, happy looks better on you than hangry.