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Counting Calories: Detrimental or Beneficial?

Calorie counting is of much concern to many people. Some find it comforting, others find it to be a pesky time-consuming task. So, is it good or bad?

Well, it all depends on the goal and personality type.

If your goal is short term, weight loss will absolutely result from restricting calories. We’ve all heard “calories in = calories out.” Because of this, calorie counting can lead to weight loss. However, that doesn’t mean this is a healthy method for weight loss.

Here are some reasons why:

1. Rigidity

For those with extreme personalities, restricting and keeping track of calorie intake can be addictive. Even once the goal weight is reached, it may be hard to let go of the reigns for extremists, and this can lead to a lot of rigidity which in turn takes away the pleasure of eating, and who wants that?!

As someone who has an extreme personality, I can totally understand how calorie counting feels comforting—I’ve been there. It’s basic math that feels reliable; if you intake ___ amount of calories each day for ___ days, weight loss will result. But, I’ve personally found that it’s not worth the stress. Not to mention, when we do this, we’re focusing on weight loss instead of bettering our health. Intentions mean everything.

2. Accuracy

How can we really know our calories in vs. calories out?

Indirect calorimetry is the gold standard to measure energy expenditure. This means this method is the most accurate way to determine the number of calories burned. Indirect calorimetry is the measurement of oxygen consumption and carbon dioxide production. Guaranteed you’re not about to measure this yourself, so why assume some calculation or a heart rate monitor can accurately determine the number of calories you need to consume in order to lose weight? It’s mind boggling that we would rather rely on a calculation or piece of technology than our own intuition… which brings me to the next topic…

3. Intuition

When we decide to eat a certain number of calories every day, we are simultaneously deciding to battle our intuition. Do we really have the same caloric needs every day? Absolutely NOT.

Our caloric needs greatly depend on our activity/stress level. Attempting to keep an obstinate daily caloric intake is setting us up for failure in the long run because we expect ourselves to stick to a strict regimen. When we stick to this method, it tricks our body—some days we will be underfeeding our body, some days we will be overfeeding it.

Intuitive eating may be scary for those who like to be in control, but listening to what our bodies need is one of the best ways to keep our caloric consumption accurate. And, in fact, it is a lot more sustainable for weight maintenance.

4. Sustainability

Is restricting and counting calories a sustainable strategy? Sustainable = able to maintain long term, so is this really something you are going to be able to continue doing forever? NO, and it shouldn’t be. If we eat the right kinds of food, our bodies have the natural ability to stop when we've received enough fuel for the day. This can be achieved via intuitive eating and it’s one of the most accurate ways to maintain a healthy body weight.

Calorie Conscious vs. Calorie Obsessed

Being aware of calorie intake is different than being restrictive about calories. Understanding caloric density can help us moderate what we’re eating while enjoying a variety of foods. Obsessing over calories can cause an unhealthy relationship with food. Let’s stop obsessing because food is a blessing! 😊

To sum it up, calorie counting is really only beneficial for short term circumstances and for certain personality types. However, it is NOT a strategy that’s beneficial for long term goals or more importantly, long term happiness!

If you want to learn how get healthy and maybe even shed some weight in the process without obsessing over calories, shoot me an email, give me a call or set up an appointment today!

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