When people think about losing weight or getting healthier, you often hear them talking about calories. What if I told you to forget about calories? Personally, I have never counted calories. I don’t think it is necessary if you are eating correctly. In fact, the only reason you would want to count calories when you are eating healthily is to ensure you are getting enough, not because you want to limit them.
Why I Don’t Like Calories
Many nutritionists and personal trainers focus on calories as their main strategy to help people lose weight. I don’t think this is an effective approach. It can be very misleading and can actually do more damage than good if not done correctly.
I can understand where the idea comes from. I see how people are trying to use it to help guide individuals to eat in quantities that are more aligned with daily energy requirements. However it doesn’t resolve the underlying issue which is the real root cause for gaining weight or experiencing poor health – the quality of the food that the person is eating.
Let’s look at a somewhat extreme example to illustrate my point. Imagine that I told you that for your next snack, you can eat 100 calories worth of food. There would be a massive difference in the nutritional value which you ingest depending on which of these three options you choose:
- Eating 100 calories of white bread
- Eating 100 Calories of chocolate cake
- Eating 100 calories of fresh, raw fruits and vegetables
These are definitely not the same thing, yet in each case you have followed what your coach/trainer has told you and eaten only 100 calories. I can guarantee you that consistently choosing a healthier option of 100 calories is going to get you better and faster results. Furthermore, and much more importantly as far as I’m concerned, the health benefits to your body and mind will be significantly better choosing a healthier 100 calorie option as opposed to option 1 or 2 above. In fact you are doing damage to your health by going with option 1 or 2, especially if done consistently. Lastly, you will be hungrier a lot faster with the first two options than you would with option 3, making it even harder to follow your “diet”.
The point is, counting your calories is a useless exercise if you don’t eat smartly. Simply looking at calories in isolation is not an intelligent way of eating well and will not give you the results you are looking for. This explains why people who try to diet using calorie counting often find themselves being constantly hungry, out of energy, moody and not getting the results they were expecting. Even worse, they may find themselves unhealthier than when they started.
Instead of counting calories I would focus on eating healthily, getting in plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, good proteins and high quality carbs (for example, always opt for brown instead of white). Fill most of your plate with fresh fruit and veggies and it will be very hard to overeat. In addition, you will be filling your body with high quality nutrition which will help fight disease and make you feel good while losing weight in a sustainable way.
Let’s take a look at why it is hard to overeat when focusing on a healthy diet. Consider 2 meals and let’s compare them ounce for ounce. Calorie counts are taken from www.caloriecount.com
Meal 1 : Hamburger and Fries
- 1 oz of a regular hamburger – 72 calories
- 1 oz of french fries – 90 calories
Total Calorie Count for 2 ounces = 162 calories
So total calorie count for one ounce = 81 calories
Meal 2: Grilled Fish with Salad and Brown Rice
- 1 oz of fresh salad without dressing – 5 calories
- 1 oz of grilled sea bass – 35 calories
- 1 oz of brown rice – 31 calories
Total Calorie Count for 3 ounces = 71 calories
So total calorie count for one ounce = 24 calories
Quite a difference?
I know this is a simplified calculation, but the result is still clear. You are eating way fewer calories in meal 2 for each ounce you eat, regardless of how you mix and match the individual items. This makes it quite hard to overeat. In addition, the nutritional quality and density in meal 2 is a lot greater, making each calorie much more healthy and valuable for your body. So even if you ended up eating the same amount of calories in each meal, you would still be better off in meal 2 both in terms of internal health and external appearance. You would feel be a lot more full and satisfied with meal two because you are able to eat more without feeling bloated. You are taking in a lot of fibre which will help make you feel more satisfied for longer. Simply put, you are feeding your body and mind with goodness that will give it the energy it needs.
For me it is clear. Not all calories are made equal. Don’t obsess about them and don’t let anyone tell you that in order to improve your eating, you need to eat fewer calories. For the vast majority of cases, if you want to lose weight and improve your health (and quality of life) you need to change what you eat rather than how much you eat.
Educate yourself on what good nutrition is and free yourself from the chains of having to count every calorie at every meal. I will help you to understand nutrition better and give you the tools to a healthier lifestyle and a lean body. Continue to read this blog and you will get all the knowledge you need to eat well and improve the quality of your life.
But you need to be clear on one thing: This is not a diet, this is a way of life.
There is no short term solution. Your body needs to be taken care of throughout your life. Eating correctly must become your new habit. The way you live. Otherwise, don’t bother. If you are interested in improving your life, energy and health (as well as look good along the way), you will get all the information you need right here.