Counting Calories

We’ve all been there. Staring at your body two days before a beach holiday wondering where the last 6 months have gone. Thinking about how this was supposed to be the summer where you show off your rock-hard abs or bikini body, but instead you feel like a bloated teletubbie. At this point you could either say “oh well, maybe next year” and just wear a t-shirt at the beach, or you could frantically start counting calories.

So why do we count calories?

Because we live in an image obsessed society. How we look matters more than how we feel. The media keeps shoving an idea of what the ‘perfect body’ is to us, and so there is a lot of pressure on us to try and lose weight and achieve this ‘perfect’ body, and to do it FAST! As a result of this, there are loads of eating disorders, which are being sold as ‘Game Changing’ Diets.

Does it have any benefits?

While counting calories isn’t the ideal way to reach a nutritional goal, it’s the easiest way to monitor how much you’re eating, and to see if there are any gaping issues with your diet. This awareness of what you are eating gives you a greater chance of reaching that goal. For example, it can be very useful when trying to gain weight because when calories in > calories out then you will gain weight and vice versa. Also, a lot of the calorie counting apps also give you information about the number of calories you are consuming from each of the macro group (Carbs, Fats and Protein), which is very important and useful to maintaining balance.

Where does it all go wrong?

One of the main reasons why counting calories doesn’t work for many of us is because of the “screw it” mentality. This is where you’ve had the most amazing two days of counting calories and then you catch a glimpse of a bag of M&M’s and think to yourself “Hmm… I’ve done pretty well for the last two days, one or two can’t hurt” and then five minutes later you’re sitting on the couch looking at the empty packet in shame and disbelief. We’ve all been there. When most people are in a situation like this, they end up saying “screw it, today doesn’t count” and end up binging on all sorts of candy and chocolates which wipes out the benefits of the last two days and discourages you from starting again because “oh well, screw it”.

Another reason why counting calories as a strategy to manage weight doesn’t work for everyone because most of us don’t want to spend time researching caloric information after every meal because that’s way too tedious and it’s unrealistic in the fast-paced world that we live in. Also, it’s not very helpful as a way of becoming healthier because the quality of the calories matters much more than the quantity of them – not all calories are created equally!

Quality Vs. Quantity

I’m sure you’ve heard that “you should eat between 1500 to 2000 calories per day” and as long as you eat within that range it should mean that you’ve had a healthy day. right? WRONG! Let’s put that into context. By that logic, you could eat seven snickers bars which is approximately 1,640 calories and it should mean that you’ve had a healthy day when in reality you’ve had over seven times the recommended amount of sugar and over three times the recommended amount of fat. While this example is a little extreme, it’s still quite relatable. About ⅔ of people’s average calorie intake consists of fat, sugar and refined flour so even when we do consume the recommended quantity of calories, we may not be getting the quality. It’s important to remember that not all calories are created equally.

Another shortcoming of looking at the quantity of calories that you’re consuming is that when you count calories, you tend to cut certain foods groups out of your diet. For example, people tend to completely avoid fat because fats have the most calories per gram from any of the macros. While this may sound ideal to someone who wants to lose weight, it’s not. Fat is essential for fuel and satiety so without it you will end up feeling lethargic and worse yet, you’ll feel even more HUNGRY!

Key Message

Calorie counting can be quite helpful but it should be used to support your lifestyle change, not to be that change. Therefore, while it is useful, you shouldn’t follow it tooth and nail because it can lead to frustration which is counterproductive, and can be misleading. So, our advice would be to count calories when you’re trying to gather information about your diet but don’t rely on it solely as a strategy to reach your goal.

If you have any questions about calorie counting, or anything that you feel is relevant, feel free to jump into the comments on Facebook, or send us a message and we’ll get back to you ASA

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