Counting Calories and Why It’s not as Important as You Think!
It’s not how many calories, but what kind of calories are in your food.
I was a calorie counter. I started restricting myself to 1600 calories a day in 2009. I recently found my meticulous food logs and was inspired to write this blog because of what I found inside those food logs was insightful and just a little bit sad. It makes me want to go and hug my 22 year-old-self.
I wasn’t as focused on nutrition or nearly as experienced in what makes my mind, body and soul hum along happily. I find that it’s these kind of speed bumps that teach us so much about our bodies. My goal here is to help you grow from my experiences.
As I restricted calories, I ate a lot of sandwich meats and canned soups and at the same time wanted to keep my sodium intake low. WHAT? I wasn’t paying attention to anything but calories. And the result? I didn’t budge the scale and all the notes inside my food log are negative. (And my sodium was sky-high!) I was either hungry or upset that I had blown my calorie goals. The calorie counting became a game. Could I survive on 1400 calories? When I did I was ecstatic about meeting that goal but in my notes for my daily workouts I was frustrated I didn’t have the strength or stamina to get through my lifting routine.
1400 calories is the minimum daily requirement for living, not also lifting heavily, exercising, and trying to maintain muscle. No wonder I was irritable, stalled, and completely frustrated. If this is your experience, I get it, wholeheartedly.
I was unhappy for the entire 6 months that I counted calories. I started to get headaches and was skipping workouts because I didn’t feel good. One night while I was sitting on the couch with my boyfriend watching TV (skipping one of my recreational league basketball games – something I lived for at the time) and he said “I think it’s time for you stop counting calories.”
And that was that. I couldn’t give myself permission to “quit” but my boyfriend did. He saw the effect it was having on me mentally and physically. Deep down, I knew it wasn’t working either, but something kept me going.
Please, No Judgment
The key in this moment is not to judge yourself. As I was writing this blog, I started to say that I was “clueless”, let “pride” or “stupidity” fuel my need to count calories, but these are all judgments. I was and you are doing the best we can with the knowledge that we have.
Understanding a Calories
Calories are energy. It’s time that we look at food as fuel to live the life we want to live.
Our main fuels are broken down 3 categories: carbs, protein, and fats.
And they are not created equal in terms of calories.
- 1 gram of protein is = to 4 calories
- 1 gram of fat is = to 9 calories
- 1 gram of carbohydrates is = to 4 calories
When you look at calories you want to look at what percentage that is made up of fat, carbs, and proteins. I must also note that while carbs have gotten a bad rap all of your fruits, veggies, and beans are considered carbs. You HAVE to eat carbs – just not the processed, man-made crap that comes in a box.
A New Solution Within You
Nutrition is a science, but how it’s applied to each body is an art. When you work to lose weight and look at what you eat, you not only want to pay attention to what the food is made of but also how it affects your body.
One of the less cynical reasons I perceive that there are so many diet books and programs on the market today, is that different percentages of carbs, proteins, and fats work for different people.
I talked to a doctor today who said she can’t do a high carb diet and I am the opposite, you take carbs from my body and my energy tanks, my sugar plummets, and my muscles feel brittle and stiff. And no one, I mean no one wants to be around me.
As I am not a licensed nutritionist, I only give recommendations but the following strategies in a diet are far more effective than counting calories, especially if you are still eating processed food like I was in 2009.
- Drink lots of water. Start with a glass immediately in the morning.
- Eat high fiber veggies – find ones that work with your system, for me I love broccoli but spinach kills me
- Pay attention to fats – trans fats are bad, olive and coconut oils are good in moderation
- Limit refined sugars and man-made chemicals
- Don’t drink pop or soda or anything diet
- I understand this might be a tough habit to break, start small by drinking less than you normally would in one day
- Indulge in and savor dessert or comfort foods that truly satisfy you, if they don’t really hit that spot, choose something that will
- Be compassionate with yourself, you may have a deep-seeded emotional connection to food and for that I would be happy to step in to help with coaching work.
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a free coaching session.
What You Already Know
You know this but I know you need a reminder: you are in a process that requires patience and consistent effort. But most importantly it’s a road that becomes easier when you accept yourself, acknowledge that your worth has nothing to do with how many calories you eat or how much you weigh, and include enjoyable self-care practices into your life! This will reduce stress and frustration and even distract you from your thoughts about weight-loss and calorie counting. When you can integrate your health goals into your life without stress and trying to control every factor, things will begin to change. They already are.