“A calorie is a calorie is a calorie.” Ever heard that phrase?
The assumption there is that it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you count calories; all calories are equal.
It’s true that there is one definition for a Calorie: a unit of energy. (there are other, more technical ways to define Calories, but I won’t get into that here) . However, 100 calories of spinach looks a lot different than 100 calories of french fries.
To me, the above statement is like saying: “A hot dog is a noodle is a strawberry.”
So why are we so obsessed with calories? I feel it’s because it helps us to feel more in control. Have you ever tried to count calories? I have, and it’s EXHAUSTING. I first started counting calories when I had anorexia. I was trying to have no more than 100 calories a day. As I started to recover, I still added up my calories. I used to know the exact number of calories on every food that I ate. Over time, food did not become a pleasure for me- it was merely a set of calories. As I sat at the table eating, I would obsess over weather I was eating too much. A good day was when I ate 1500 calories. On a bad day, I would eat emotionally and all calorie counting would go out the window. I was NOT even overweight! So why was I obsessed with calories? Again- for me, it helped me to feel more in control, but in the end, it just STRESSED.ME.OUT.
You may be wondering about the benefit of counting calories for weight loss. After all, many experts, including Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser, continually remind us that weight loss is basic math….. “calories in/calories out.” Sounds simple enough, right? It does make a lot of sense. If you burn more than you take in, then your body “should” naturally lose weight. But what about those who do lower their calories AND exercise intensely, and STILL not lose weight? Is there something wrong with them? Most certainly NOT!!!
There are sooooo many factors involved when it comes to weight loss and I believe that it should not be centered around calories. As I mentioned, calories are not created equal. Someone could eat white, refined bread because it’s low in calories, yet not lose weight because the refined carbs spike their blood sugar, causing insulin resistance, which makes the body hold on to fat. Or, as I used to do, someone could rely on diet Coke to get them through the afternoon because it has ZERO calories and helps us to feel full. However, studies show that the aspartame in diet Coke actually makes us crave food later on, as it works to spike our hunger hormone, Ghrelin. (not to mention, asparatame is a Neurotoxin and should be avoided anyway). When I think about it, I did have “snack attacks” in the evening.
Remember the fat-free phase? People were afraid to consume foods with a high amount of fat. The thinking was that they were consuming less calories that way. However, when a body does not get a lot of fat, it holds onto as much fat as possible because it thinks it’s in starvation mode. So , even though a fat gram equals 9 calories (as opposed to 4 calories for both protein and carbs), eating foods with enough fat is essential. In fact, some people can lose weight while increasing their fat intake, as long as it’s the healthy fat (avocados are GREAT for that) .
Also, studies have shown that calorie counting for weight loss is just not sustainable. It could help some people, especially if they are chronic over eaters, but there comes a time where your body reaches a plateau, and at that point, one may actually need to INCREASE their calories to increase their metabolism. Many people, once they reach this plateau, get overwhelmed and give up, and then the weight creeps back up again. There is a statistic that says that 95% of dieters gain their weight back within 5 years. (and I bet most of us have struggled with yo-yo dieting for quite some time)
Weight loss isn’t always about calories. I know many people who eat a good, clean diet and watch their portions and still have trouble losing weight. Many factors come into play, such as stress (the stress hormone cortisol makes you retain fat), hormone imbalances (those with thyroid issues have trouble losing weight) and food intolerances such as to gluten (the inflammation from the intolerance or allergy could cause weight gain). It’s also about releasing blockages from the past that keep one from losing weight, such as feeling like they are worthy enough to be skinny or being afraid that people will look at them differently.
So, as you can see, counting calories is not some cut and dry thing. Thankfully, we are not clones or machines! What works for one person may not work for another.
To sum it up, the 3 main reasons why it doesn’t always work to count calories are:
1. Counting calories can be STRESSFUL (not to mention could trigger an eating disorder).
2. Calories are not created equal.
3. Counting calories for weight loss has not been shown to be effective in the long run.
I’m sure you can guess by now that as a Holistic Health Coach, I do NOT put my clients on a calorie restrictive diet. Instead, I empower them to listen to their own intuition when it comes to food and what works best for their own individual needs.
Here are some suggestions to help get you started on becoming more mindful of your food, without counting calories:
1. Put your food on a smaller sized plate.
2. Choose whole foods such as fruits and vegetables as often as possible, but don’t see chips or other snacks as evil. Simply see them as pleasure foods, and again- put your snacks on a plate and be aware as you are eating.
3. Drink plenty of WATER… sounds like a no-brainer, but most of us are chronically dehydrated. When we are drinking enough water, our mind has a harder time tricking us into thinking that we are hungry.
Have you ever tried to lose weight by counting calories? Or have you had an eating disorder, like I had, and struggled with letting go of an obsession over calories? I’d love to hear from you in the comments! 🙂
Are you interested in learning more about what I do and how I can support you? Click “HERE” to inquire about an initial consultation!