Is calorie-counting the best way to lose weight and keep it off?
A majority of people will say YES as they have been led to believe that if you burn more than you consume then you will be shedding all that excess weight and fat.
I am not here to change your mind, if it’s working for you, then that’s great. I would however like to give you some things to think about the next time you are looking at counting the calories you eat every day vs the amount of exercise you’re doing….
Here is some food for thought… I will try and keep it simple!
1. You will burn LESS FAT when you restrict calories
When you have a calorie deficit (you burn more calories than you eat), you should lose weight right? Most people, if they want to lose weight faster, will take this to the extreme.
BUT, if you restrict your calorie intake too much your body can go into shock, it will think you’re starving and will start to break down muscle tissue to ensure it is producing the right amount of energy it would usually get from the food you should be eating (calories).
With this in mind, your body is burning muscle, NOT FAT. You can jump on the scales and you may be losing weight, but you would’ve also lost muscle mass (which can be fine in the short term), but muscle mass is what you need to burn more calories!
Reducing calories means you will lose muscle mass which means you will be burning LESS FAT. This may lead to being “Skinny Fat” instead of lean and toned.
2. Calories aren’t equal
Every calorie you eat will have a different effect on your body. Think of a calorie as a unit of food energy. They don’t tell you the amount of nutrients (fats, carbs, proteins), vitamins or minerals that are in the food. It is actually these important things that will determine how your body reacts to what you are eating. For example Fat Storage or Fat burning!
Here is an example:
A 54g Mars bar contains around 240 calories
A medium size banana plus a tablespoon of raw nut butter contains around the same amount of calories
So, these two snacks contain around the same amount of calories but they are certainly not even in terms of nutrients and have completely different effects on your body. The Mars Bar is pretty much all carbs, sugar (and not the good type!), salt, and fat (and not the good type there either) and also minimal protein. The banana and raw peanut butter have higher fat content (good fats that helps you digest your food), as well as potassium, protein, calcium, and fibre, just to name a few. Refer to my previous blogs to refresh on good fats, good carbs and protein that switch your body into fat-burning mode.
Here’s another example for you:
You and a friend want to lose weight, you’re the same age, about the same weight & height, you both workout together. You both decide to restrict your calories to 1500 a day.
You eat healthy, clean, wholesome and unprocessed foods. Your friend’s diet is mainly convenience, low fat, foods from boxes/packets, but still only 1500 calories per day.
Who do you think will lose weight faster, be more likely to keep the weight off, be in better shape and be healthier? YOU!
3. When you restrict calories you can store MORE fat.
I know, it doesn’t sound right but it’s true! If you restrict yourself and count calories you’ll be eating less food but storing MORE fat. If you restrict calories too far, over time your body will go into starvation mode. Remember you are already breaking down muscle mass to produce your energy – you actually need this to survive, so every chance it gets your body will put a few extra calories back in its reserve, and these calories go to your FAT stores!
4. Your body doesn’t count calories, why would you?
A lot of people that are on restricted calorie diets believe if they skip a meal they can just have a bigger dinner, or have some dessert and a glass of wine. What lots of dieters do is ‘save’ calories for the weekend and have more of a binge.
If this is you, your body will actually struggle to process a bigger meal. You will probably experience a big sugar spike resulting in a strong insulin response (insulin tells your body to store excess blood sugar as fat!)
Don’t forget about starvation mode: This is when your body stores more fat just in case you ‘starve’ yourself again at the next meal.
It’s a good idea to eat healthy, nutritious snacks every 3-4 hours and have smaller meals or snacks throughout the day to ensure you keep your blood sugar levels even. This helps to reduce cravings and keeps you fuller for longer.
5. It will make you a little bit crazy!
I don’t know about you, but wouldn’t counting calories be stressful, boring, obsessive and make you a little bit crazy? You will start stressing over food labels, not enjoying your food because it’s boring, or you are worried about overeating by 100 calories, feel you can’t go out and enjoy a meal with friends because you don’t know how many calories you will be eating, you will start to feel guilty if you are over your daily limit and hurt your relationship and association with good food. Just a heads up…. stress is one of the culprits for weight gain!
Why not take away the stress and worry and put some excitement & enjoyment back into what you’re eating? Learn to make better food choices, step out of your comfort zone with cooking, lose weight the healthy way where you will be less likely to put the weight back on in the future. You’ll be improving your overall health, your body, and your mind.
Delete your calorie counting app, chuck out your calorie books, and stop obsessing over every crumb you eat, and enjoy healthy, nutritious, clean food!
Yours in good health