Why calorie counting isn’t an efficient way to lose weight
I remember the very first diet I tried. I can’t remember where I heard it from but I do remember feeling as though it was the golden ticket to lose weight. I found so many pages online to support my diet through tips on “how to eat less”, or “low calorie meal ideas”. To me it made perfect sense at the time. Eat less food, lose more weight.
I struggled with this diet on and off for months. I never felt satisfied and I spent most of my time with my eyes glued to my calorie counting app on my phone. I stayed up late planning out my meals the night before into my app just to make sure I wouldn’t go over on my calories the next day. Every day ended up with me feeling so guilty that I couldn’t stay within my calorie goals because my night was spent binging on whatever I could find.
There are many things I wish I knew back then when it comes to calorie counting which is what I wanted to share with all of you. But I narrowed it down to three key points.
You cannot rely on a calculator to tell you what your caloric needs are.
Your caloric needs change daily depending on your activity levels that day and the day before. You are going against your efforts to become an intuitive eater.
Learning to become more aware of your body’s cues allows you to feed yourself intuitively. However, relying on a certain number forces you to shift out of your body and into your mind which means you are ignoring your body’s requirements in that moment.
You don’t need a calculator to tell you how much is too much. You can tell when you feel too full after a meal or sick to your stomach from not stopping when you were satiated. Your body has all the mechanisms you need to send you the appropriate signals of how much is too much and when you’ve consumed too little.
Intuitive eating doesn’t look like a certain caloric number. It doesn’t look like the same meal every day. Intuitive eating comes from stepping out of your logical mind and into your body. It takes a lot of practice when we live in a world filled with so much information. If you trust your body and give yourself enough stillness to really listen you won’t need to rely on a calculator or memorize the calories in each food.
Only put on your plate what you know you will comfortable finish.
When you begin to lose interest in your food take a break and check in to see if you feel satisfied.
Stress and weight gain
I love learning about how stress affects the body. I think it’s mostly because I love any excuse to relax without feeling any guilt.
If you are like me at all then you’ll love this bit.
When we put our bodies into a chronic state of stress (aka forcing ourselves into a calorie deficit) the body will assume it is in danger and will shift into fat storing mode. It is our body’s intelligent method to keep us alive in case we experience a major restriction of incoming energy (calories) in the future.
This isn’t very ideal for someone who is looking to lose weight.
Eating in a state of relaxation is the best way to recognise your bodies satiation cues. When your body and mind feel calm, your calories are more likely to be used for fuel rather than stored as fat.
A great way to invite this relaxation in is to take long and deep mindful breaths between each bite. This will help you shift your awareness to your body. With time, intuition will strengthen and you won’t find yourself overeating at meals.
98% of people who go on a weight loss diet will gain the weight back (if not more) within a year.
This is a very important statistic to remember.
Our bodies are wired to return to a state of balance.
It is very simple. When you don’t eat enough calories, your body will scream for more. Over time, many people who go on low calorie diets will find themselves binge eating later on in the day. The animal part of our brain gets switched on and goes into full survival mode. I’m sure you can remember a time when you had to go a long period of time without food. Once you got your hands on something your went off the rails and ate until you were sick. This is the body’s way of making up for lost calories during the beginning portion of your day.
Calorie counting can become an extreme weight loss diet that encourages negative thought patterns. When people go over on their calories for the day they tend to have feelings of guilt and shame that they couldn’t hit their target 100%.
We get a hit of serotonin every time we eat. When we start to feel guilty after a meal our mind will crave more of that serotonin high and we feel this extreme urge to eat more food. It doesn’t matter how full we may be. It can be very difficult to stop ourselves from binging when our body wants that high from food.
Whenever you feel guilty about your food choices, shift your self talk into words of kindness. Only speak to yourself the way you would speak to your best friend and then let it go.
So we know that counting calories isn’t a sustainable way to lose weight. With a failure rate of 98% and the stress that it causes on the body, it just isn’t worth wasting any time or worry on.
Learning to use your breath to slow down and relax as well as inviting in stillness so that you can better listen to your body, counting calories won’t be necessary. Trusting your body and the signals it gives you when you listen, you will strengthen your intuitive power.
Megan is one of Omega Movement’s nutritionist team. Her speciality in mindful eating lends great support to those with emotional eating habits. Get in touch to have a free call with Megan and see how she can help you balance your nutritional needs.