When members of Team Costhetics learned to count as happy little Vegemites, we could never have foreseen that one day we would use this seemingly benign skill to drive ourselves crazy.
In a quest for body beauty, most of us count calories and beat ourselves up every time we fail to meet our intake goals. Give yourself a break! Although consuming fewer calories is an important part of healthy weight loss, actually counting those calories may be working against you.
We know this sounds counterintuitive. We know it sounds crazy. We also know it’s true. Here’s why…
Not All Calories Are Alike
A calorie is a unit of measure, but not all calories are the same. Their nutritional value affects how the body processes those calories and determines whether they are likely to end up as unwanted fat. If your focus is solely on calorie counting, you don’t take into account the quality of the food you’re eating. You can easily end up eating nothing but empty calories that can derail your weight-loss efforts and even affect your health.
For health weight loss and maintenance, it’s equally important to consider
- Activity levels
- Gut health
- Overall health
Head Games: Calorie Counting Can Trigger Cravings
Limiting the number of calories you consume daily is a good choice. Counting them is not. Counting calories makes most of us think of dieting, and dieting makes us think of deprivation. When that happens, even though your body is signalling you’ve had enough to eat, your brain is saying “I want more.” So you eat more. It’s a classic case of feast or famine: Feast and you feel guilty. Choose famine and you feel deprived.
Calorie-Free/LoCal Is Not Your Friend
The shelves of Woolies are stocked to the ceiling (almost) with products labelled “low calorie” and “great for dieters.” What a crock! As reported in a Daily Mail article “humans frequently ingesting low-calorie sweet products in a state of hunger may be more likely to ‘relapse’ and choose high-calorie alternatives in the future.” This information makes it clear why obesity levels continue to rise despite the widespread consumption of diet drinks and snacks. ‘Diet’ sweeteners are treated just like sugar by the pancreas. You may as well eat the real thing.
Calorie Counting Makes You Deaf to Your Body
Although we often ignore the signals, our bodies have a very sophisticated alert system to tell us when we’re hungry or sated. No one tells a baby when to eat. They cry when they feels hungry. When they’re not, they doesn’t. Unfortunately, counting calories for weight loss causes us to ignore these important internal signals. You can get into the bad habit of eating when you’re not really hungry or starving yourself when you are hungry. The latter course of action can slow down your metabolism and actually interfere with weight loss.
Calorie-Counting is an Eating Disorders Best Friend
“Eating is a bio-psychosocial process, and hyper-focusing on calories doesn’t work for the vast majority of people beyond the short term,” says registered dietician Adina Pearson. “For the vulnerable who are genetically predisposed, it can be the very trigger that contributes to the start of a full blown eating disorder.” Those disorders include:
- Yo yo dieting
- Binge eating
10 Affirmations that Work Better than Calorie Counting for Weight Loss
The jury is in: counting calories is not a healthy practice. Instead of crunching the numbers and eating processed diet food, crunch real foods and develop a healthy, balanced approach to food that you can live with for the long term. Here are some things you can say (and do) to make eating a joy, not a chore:
- My body knows best and I listen to what it tells me.
- I know when I’m hungry and I eat when I’m hungry.
- I eat foods that I enjoy.
- I take time to appreciate the flavours and textures in the food I eat.
- Healthy food tastes good to me.
- Sometimes I eat food that is tasty, but may not be healthy, and that’s okay.
Count sheep at bedtime. Count your blessings whenever you’re feeling blue. All we ask is that you please stop counting calories, and love yourself just the way you are…
…although that doesn’t mean there’s no room for improvement!