Wednesday, May 14, 2014
Why Calorie Counting Sucks & Listening To Your Body Instead
I'm going to keep this intro short and sweet: calorie counting sucks. It can leave you feeling out of control, obsessed and exhausted. Even though many big-named nutritionists and trainers will tell you otherwise, here are my personal reasons for throwing in the calorie-counting towel and tips on how to listen to your body instead. So, here we go.
1. It can become daunting and turn into an obsessive and unhealthy behavior.
Want to go out to eat with your friends on a Saturday night? Unless you become a complete control freak, chances are you can't always pick the place and it's also likely the restaurant won't be listing calorie information on their menu (unless they're a nationwide chain, but what's the fun in that?)
So what are your choices? Stay home and miss opportunities to eat delicious food in great company or make smart choices, eat slowly and maybe even take home leftovers? That doesn't seem like a tough decision at all, now does it?
Even more importantly, constant calorie counting can lead to obsessive behavior. What happens when you're obsessing over every single piece of food you put in your mouth? You get burnt out, which often leads to exhaustion and binging when you've had enough. Smart choices don't have to be so draining - a good balance of healthy foods and "treats" should always be the goal.
2. Most people don't know the actual amount of calories they truly need.
How active are you? Day-to-day, is your activity level exactly the same? Do you really know your resting metabolic rate? Generally speaking, very few of us know this information off the top of our heads.
When I first began my clean eating and weight loss journey this time around, I was shocked at how active I truly was. Between my job, walking my dog several times a day and my fitness routine, I was basically malnourished thanks to society's norm of suggesting a 1500 calorie intake for women who are trying to lose weight. Because of this, I was often cranky and exhausted without knowing why. After getting professional help, I'm back on track and fueling my body correctly. Oh, and I'm not so damn angry (or hangry) all the time, thank you very much.
3. All calories are NOT created equal.
While it can be really helpful to log your food intake at the beginning of a diet change, it can also give you the false impression that everything will balance out simply by doing so.
Contrary to popular belief, 500 calories of fast food french fries is not the same as 500 calories of a meal full of veggies and quinoa. Not only will your body react completely differently to the two meals, but the way that you digest them will be completely different as well.
*Click here if you love geeky nutritional articles like myself and want to learn more about how your body breaks down specific foods.
Case in point: have you ever tried to work out a hour after going through the drive-thru? It sucks. The food doesn't' even feel like it has digested and your workouts won't be as intense or efficient. In fact, your workout will leave you feeling sick and drained when it should be boosting your energy and mood! Not cool, chocolate milkshake. Not cool.
The point of the story: Listen to your body. Are you hungry? Eat. Are you full? Stop. Do you feel as though you need extra fuel for an upcoming workout? Then feed your body! Believe me, it will thank you for doing so.
If you're not used to intuitively eating, this will take practice. I am still learning to listen to my body and fuel it the way it deserves to be fueled. A few resources that have helped me a ton include One Bowl and this article over at Psychology Today.
I know it can all be overwhelming, so take this at your own pace and don't stress yourself out over something that should be enjoyable and natural. As long as you're eating a majority of whole, plant-based foods you can rest assured you're doing the right thing.
Questions or comments? Leave them below - I'd love to start a conversation.