And every time, my friend jump to her calorie calculator whenever eating the food.
But for how long could she continue this habit of calculating every meal?
It’s a funny thing for me to see, as the more u count calories, the less u are paying attention to the food in front of you. It is like looking at a spreadsheet on a plate. All you see is numbers.
Counting calories is a time-consuming, soul-sucking practise that’s actually a lesson in futility, as far as I’m concerned. Yet people continue to do it. They pull out their calorie-tracking apps and plug-in whatever foods they’ve eaten, feeling guilty when they go over their “recommended” calorie amounts, then running to the gym to try to undo it all. And I can’t blame them: The idea that monitoring all your calories is key for ”weight loss” is a popular one.
Let me tell you weight loss is about so much more than calories. It encompasses exercise, how you sleep, how stressed you are, and health issues that you may not be able to control, like hormonal changes. That’s why, if losing weight is your goal, it’s important to acknowledge how individual a process it is and figure out how to do it in a way that’s healthy for you.
Reasons to Stop Counting Calories
1) Labels can lie
Seriously. Labelling laws allow a 20% margin of error on the nutrition facts panel. That means your 100-calorie snack pack could be 119 calories. Or that 500 calorie Internet dinner could be nearly 600 calories.
2) Nutrients vary by season, variety, ripeness, etc
There is no way food companies or the USDA could have the nutrient analysis of every variety of food from every region from every season from different growing conditions (i.e organic vs. conventional) and every other variable for nutrients, including calories.
That super-sweet summer fruit likely has more calories (and valuable nutrients) than that tasteless, pick one from the dead of winter. Which one would you rather eat?
3) “More calories equals weight gain” is not an exact science
Trouble is, when you focus on calories, you’re likely to eat less fat (since fat is more calorie-dense than carbohydrate and protein). And when you eat less fat, you’re likely to eat more carbohydrates. See the problem?
4)Focusing on calories often means we restrict healthy foods
This especially happens when it comes to fat. We often omit higher fat foods simply because they are higher in calories without taking into consideration what benefits we might get from them, such as staying fuller for longer and getting necessary nutrients, like fat-soluble vitamins.
5)You don’t know how many calories your body is absorbing from food
Everything from how your food is processed to how much fiber it contains determines how many calories you’re absorbing from it. Even the bacteria in your gut may play a part in how you digest food and how many calories you derive from it.
For example, you’ll absorb more calories peanut butter versus whole peanuts. Due to size differences, one sweet potato varies in calories from another before you even take it off the shelf at the store. Calories absorbed is a complex business that’s light years beyond any calorie-counting app on the market.
6)Counting calories can encourage you to ignore your hunger cues
Focusing entirely on calories, instead of the quality of the food you’re eating and how you actually feel before chowing down (hungry, bored, stressed, etc.), can wreak havoc on those precious hunger cues you’re born with.
Whether you’re eating just because you “have calories left,” even though you’re not truly hungry, or you’re not eating because you’ve “gone over” your calorie allotment for the day, but you’re actually still hungry, you’re doing the same thing: ignoring what your body is trying to tell you.
Trust your body, because it knows what it needs a lot more than some random number or tracker
7)Calorie counting adds to the misconception you can “work off” the food you eat
Nope. Your body doesn’t burn off food calorie-for-calorie like that.
Let me emphasize that “it is where the calories come from that is crucial” in determining whether your body is tempted to store them as fat, use them for energy, or apply them to some other mechanism.
Plus, if you do routinely overindulge then try to work it off in the gym, you’ll be exercising for a very long time, depending on the size of the junky meals you’ve eaten. This, in turn, may cause you to become hungrier…and eat more. Vicious cycle? Definitely.
The good news is that when you only overeat from time to time, your body can handle those extra calories without making you gain weight. It’s when you overeat on a more frequent basis that you can get into the weight-gain territory.
8)It puts us in a restrictive diet mentality
“Restriction leads to feelings of deprivation, which leads to feelings of desperation, which leads to binges or obsessive thoughts or cravings, which leads to feelings of guilt or shame, followed by more restriction and over and over”. This is completely normal and not caused by a lack of self-control or willpower — it’s because your body is sensing that restriction.
9)You might fixate on a number rather than on nutrition
If you’re counting calories, you might end up excluding certain nutrient-dense foods from your diet just because they’re higher in calories: think avocados, salmon, olive oil, walnuts or chia seeds. Instead, you might go for something with less nutritional value ― like, say, a 100-calorie pack of crackers ― just because it will help you stay under your allotment for the day.
From a health perspective, it is better to focus on the quality of the diet ― e.g. avoiding ultra-processed foods and eating adequate amounts of produce.
10)You may develop an unhealthy relationship with food.
For some, counting calories (or any other eating plan that requires strict adherence) can lead to an obsession with food, which can result in disordered eating habits and increase anxiety and depression.
If you have a medical condition that requires a specific diet, it should be monitored by a health professional, such as a nutritionist.
11)You may be able to lose weight this way, but keeping it off will be a challenge
Indeed, restricting calories may yield weight loss in the short term, but for many people, it’s not sustainable. And it’s not because of a lack of effort or willpower.
“Eventually the body begins to fight back, activating multiple overlapping mechanisms for preventing weight loss that was developed in our evolutionary past when food was scarce.”
In the end, calories matter, but the number of calories we eat — and burn — are both influenced long-term by the types of food we eat,”
Now before you go, I’d love to hear your opinion in the comments below.
By Priyanshi Bhatnagar