Counting Calories: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

If you’ve never spent any time on the interwebs looking for “how to lose weight” or “counting calories,” you haven’t lived.  At the time of this writing, the phrase “how to lose weight” garnered 2.63 BILLION results in Google.  “Counting calories” resulted in 23.4 BILLION results. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

When you are new to the nutrition game, one of the common first steps you might take is to focus on calorie intake due to the fact that you may think you’re overeating.  While there are some definite benefits to this, there are also some giant red flags!

The Good

One of the main things you lack, as a new person to the weight loss journey, is structure.  Structure is great for building habits and ultimately habits are what will make a short term change a lifelong journey.

Counting calories tends to be a simple point of structure for someone who is new!  There is no denying this!

While counting calories doesn’t create accountability to SOMEONE else, it does create accountability to SOMETHING else.  When you need to log what you’re eating, you tend to be more conscious of the thing you’re eating and the quantities in which you’re eating it.

Exercise & Other Habits
One common theme when you begin to make conscious food choices is that it flows over into other parts of your life.  It becomes addicting when you begin to see changes in your body and so you might wonder:

  • “What will happen if I start to walk a few times a week?”
  • “What will happen if I cut out alcohol?”
  • “What if I started taking group fitness classes at my gym?”
  • “What if I got up 5 minutes earlier and did some squats each day?”

The point is – once you begin to make conscious food choices, you will begin to see how it relates to other parts of your life!  This can be a really great thing!


The Bad & The Ugly

Nutritionally Incomplete
Food goes much deeper than calories.  Macronutrients, micronutrients, pro-inflammatory foods, anti-inflammatory foods, digestion, blood sugar regulation, and so on.  Suffice it to say, you can go deep down the rabbit hole of learning what foods do to your body and why you should [and shouldn’t] eat them.

Obsessive Behavior
This doesn’t occur in every case but it does happen.  One of the things we run into on occasion is someone who is so obsessively counting their calories that they won’t allow themselves to enjoy things here or there; they will simply stop eating for the day if they hit their intake; or they will say, “I’ve got 300 calories left, what sugar-ladened thing can I ingest on this fine evening?!”

Ok, well, I haven’t actually heard someone speak that way but you get the picture…

You will want to be obsessive enough to make it a habit but not so much that it ruins other aspects of your life.

The Disconnect
Similar to what’s described above, we sometimes see individuals who will simply stop eating for the day (even before dinner) to make sure they don’t overshoot their caloric intake for the day.  This is not a healthy approach for a multitude of reasons – not the least of which is understanding the value of eating when you’re hungry and not eating when you’re not.

Logging food is time consuming.  There are no two ways about it.  And in the fast paced world we live in, a couple minutes here and there ads up.  Not to mention the learning curve to get there.

Success Tips for Weight Loss

Regardless if you’re counting calories as your methodology or not, here are some general nutritional tips for weight loss:
While this is not my favorite means of eating, it is better than it was.  It is simple, it is visual, and you don’t have to measure and input things into something like myfitnesspal.

Also, don’t eat low fat or no fat foods, just as a side bar.  Go ahead with eating fat!  If you want more details on the types of fats and why, send us a message!

Chew Slow
While overeating is less of an issue than what you might think, there is validity in the idea that if you take long enough to eat a meal, your body will send the appropriate signals to your brain to tell you you’re full.  Remember, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full.

This goes out to the stress eaters and bored eaters, as well.  Knock that off!

Cutting Calories
Have you ever wondered why, after cutting your calories, for a while, you end up worse off than when you started?  You eat more than before, you gain more weight than what you were at when you started, and you have an even worse relationship with food and the idea of good eating?

You were probably too restrictive!  Maybe it was too restrictive in the food you were eating but you were probably also too restrictive in the amounts.

From my experience training individuals for so long, more people undereat than overeat.  This is only including the individuals who come in seeking help, mind you.  Who knows what happens with everyone else.

Get Help
Everyone, and I mean everyone, needs the help of someone else.  Maybe it is because you don’t have the knowledge to make informed nutritional decisions.  Maybe it’s because, left to your own devices, you just do whatever, whenever, and however it suits you.  Or, maybe you have an unhealthy relationship with food and diet culture.

Whatever your rationale, getting an assist is such a valuable asset.

Want some help from one of our amazing nutrition coaches?  Click HERE to set up a time to chat.

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