We use the word calorie to measure the amount of energy provided by each food and drink we consume. Many diets are based on balancing the number of calories consumed with the number of calories burned through physical activity.
Historically, we’ve based our diets on calorie intake, taking careful note of the calories we consume, and organizing our diets and “cheat meals” around the idea that calories, regardless of where they come from, have the ability to “make or break” fitness results.
Anyone who is or has ever been a calorie-counter knows the effort and time it takes to be vigilant, the pain of carefully portioning out 3 cashews or 2 m&ms when we want to reward ourselves.
The trouble is, often times these calorie deprivation diets don’t work, because they’re just not sustainable. Even though you’ll probably see some results when you obsess over your calorie intake, these results are usually temporary.
Here are 5 reasons why you should never count calories again:
5. Low in calories does not equal healthy:
The idea behind counting calories is that you’ll get the same amount of energy from a cookie or a carrot, provided they both have the same caloric content. While an unhealthy food and a healthy one can have the exact same amount of calories, that’s not the only thing your body takes into account during metabolism: bad quality calories do not provide the same nutrients or energy.
While a small portion of unhealthy foods (like potato chips) can have as many calories as a healthy snack (like baby carrots), they don’t provide nearly the same nutritional value. You might be staying well within your caloric allowance, but you’re also feeding your body with low-quality calories that won’t give you the necessary energy, and also will not keep you satisfied for very long. You’ll find yourself hungry again in no time.
4. Caloric absorption is not universal:
The body does not absorb every single calorie it consumes, and there are some foods that offer very little nutrients that your body can absorb. The amount of calories your body absorbs also depends greatly on your individual gut bacteria, and varies from person to person. Individual people have individual caloric needs and there is no universal “magic number” of calories one should consume.
3. You’re probably eating more calories than you think:
Food companies take a lot of liberties when it comes to estimating calorie content in their packages. Due to the fact that there are five different methods to do this calculation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) actually allows up to 20% inaccuracy when it comes to caloric count in products. In other words, if something is marked as having 150 calories, the true caloric content can be anywhere between 130 and 180 calories.
Calories vary when you cook foods, so that’s another change to take into account when obsessively looking at food labels. It’s always better to eat whole foods that have not been processed so you know the quantity and quality of calories you’re putting into your body.
2. Starving yourself won’t make you lose weight:
A lot of people looking to lose weight quickly end up going on crash diets with drastic calorie deprivation of as little as 1,000 calories a day. Not only will that leave you feeling hungry and without energy all day long, it will also send the wrong message to your body: needing sustenance, your body will look for it elsewhere, and burn muscle instead of fat. It will also slow down your metabolism and take up every last ounce of fat it can find in every bit of food you do eat, all while you’re feeling cranky and miserable. It’s just not worth it.
1. Your body is wiser than your calculator:
When you fill up with the right foods, such as leafy greens, grains, and even grass-fed beef, your body will feel full no matter the number of calories you consumed. The safest bet is listening to what your body is telling you instead of trying to maintain a rigid diet based on misguided assumptions about calorie intake. The healthiest approach to fitness is eating moderate portions of high-quality calories often, that way your blood sugar levels are steady and you don’t end up depriving yourself and then binging.
There’s more to calories than the number, and merely counting them won’t help you reach your long-term fitness goals. The best approach is to choose whole foods containing high-quality calories that will nourish you.