Counting calories has been a staple in the weight loss world for as long as anyone can remember, but there are better ways to prioritize your health and get to a weight you’re proud of. Not only is counting calories not super healthy, it deprives you of nutrients and energy, and prevents you from living a life you love. Once it becomes an addiction, it’s easy for your social life to take a back seat. Life is all about balance, and we want to show you live a healthy lifestyle while still enjoying it. Here are 7 reasons to stop counting calories and what you can start to do instead.
7 Reasons To Stop Counting Calories
1. Labels Aren’t Always Accurate
You may not want to hear this, but the labels you’re using to count calories aren’t always accurate. According to the FDA (U.S. Drug and Food Association), food products can contain up to 20%more calories than what is printed on the label. If you’re using a food tracking app or online source, keep in mind that sometimes the data is provided by consumers, and they’re not always checked for accuracy. Many restaurants also tend to understate the calorie count of their foods.
2. It Leads to Restriction and Bingeing
Counting calories or restricting your eating in any way comes with a bunch of negative effects. It can slow your metabolism and make you feel hungrier, which often leads to nighttime binge eating. This results in weight gain, panic and even more obsessive calorie counting to try to get back on track. It’s a vicious cycle that’s the opposite of healthy.
3. It’s Not Practical for Day to Day Life
We’re not always in situations where it’s possible to track every ingredient, count every calorie or even know exactly what’s in a certain recipe. We eat at restaurants or order takeout, have dinner at friends’ houses, and we eat whole foods that don’t contain a labeled calorie count. If you’re strictly counting calories, you may be more likely to avoid the social situations mentioned above so you don’t fall off track. Life and food is to be enjoyed, and you can’t do that when you’re obsessed with counting calories.
4. You May Be Missing Out on Essential Nutrients
Only looking at calories in a number-based way excludes your body’s needs for energy, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Those who count calories often miss out on nutritious foods (like cashews or avocados) due to their higher calorie count. With a calorie-counting approach, you can eat your allotted number of calories per day of anything, including packaged and processed foods, which have little to no nutritional value.
5. It Depletes Your Energy and Slows Your Metabolism
When you reduce the amount of calories you consume, you’re training your body to believe there’s an energy shortage. Your body responds by using less energy (converting fat into usable fat), and your metabolism slows down. The energy you do have (stored as fat) isn’t used and is slowly burned off to maintain bodily function. If you deprive yourself of meeting the basic caloric requirements your body needs, you can experience problems like low energy, increased appetite, and poor concentration.
6. It Takes Away the Joy of Eating and Food Experiences
When you’re constantly monitoring and tracking your calories, it takes you out of the present moment and doesn’t allow you to enjoy your experience, whether you’re out on date night, at a friend’s house for a barbecue, or simply eating a homemade meal. Much of life is centred around food, especially when you travel and are hanging out with loved ones. Counting calories robs you of the joy of little moments and takes away from experiences.
7. It’s a Band-Aid Solution
The main reason people choose to count calories is they want to lose weight. While counting calories may help you temporarily adjust your weight, it won’t fix the underlying problem and acts as more of a band-aid solution. Making changes to your eating habits and lifestyle is a more suitable and attainable way to reach a healthy weight. You should also figure out if you have a health condition that makes it difficult to lose weight to figure out how you need to support your body.
10 Things To Do Instead of Counting Calories
- Listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry. Eat slowly, chewing every bite, and stop when you feel full so that you don’t overeat.
- Focus on eating nutritious whole foods that fill you up and keep you energized throughout the day (eat protein, healthy fat, fibre, and greens at every meal).
- Limit processed, packaged, and fast foods as much as possible.
- Be mindful of liquid calories like alcohol, soda, sugary coffee drinks, and energy drinks.
- Build your meals around protein, as it increases satiety, reduces hunger levels, and supports metabolic health.
- Focus on eating lots of high-volume vegetables (low calorie, high fibre and water content) like arugula, radishes, cucumber, mushrooms, spinach, tomatoes, and broccoli.
- Increase your water intake. Not only is water a natural appetite suppressant, it increases calorie burning, helps avoid dehydration, and is necessary for burning fat.
- Prioritize resistance (weight) training. It builds muscle and reduces fat tissue, having a direct impact on metabolic rate.
- Get your cardio in. Cardio exercises like running, swimming, cycling, and jump rope are some of the best ways to burn calories. They’re also amazing for your heart and overall health. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity cardio per week.
- Look for ways to increase everyday movement. Walk everywhere you can, take the stairs, mow the lawn, and consider investing in a standing desk.
Counting calories is not the be all and end all when it comes to losing weight. In fact, it tends to do more harm than good. Try doing these things instead to live a healthier lifestyle while you get to a weight you’re happy with!
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