Why You Should Stop Counting Calories
We've all heard that in order to lose weight, we need to tightly control our diet. And a lot of times, that involves counting calories at an obsessive level.
Is that really necessary? Is it even the most effective way to track our intake?
Here's why we think counting calories can actually HURT your dieting efforts and alternatives that work better.
Calorie counting is rigid and requires a lot of discipline to sustain.
Over-reliance on calorie counting could potentially hinder our understanding of our body's hunger cues.
Use The Hand and The Plate method for a simpler yet effective way of keeping track of your intake.
1. Calorie counting is built around a mindset of rigidity
At Kairos Nutrition, we do not advocate hard diet rules in any of our nutrition coaching and advice. Instead, we opt for a more flexible dieting approach.
This is because human psychology tells us that the more we are told something is off-limits, the more we actually crave them. Conversely, the more we are told that its ok to eat something "bad" for us, the less likely we are actually to eat them.
So when we focus obsessively on calorie counting, we inherently create rules for ourselves to follow.
We start to obsess over minute differences in calories of different foods, and as a result, start restricting ourselves to eat only foods that are lower in calories.
This practice, while effective in the short term, will rarely lead to lasting results in the long term. Moreover, its mentally draining having to constantly obsess over the calories of foods.
2. Calorie counting requires a lot of discipline in order to be effective.
In order to count calories well, you need to be very specific in the data that you input into whatever calorie counting app or tool you are using.
This just requires an intense amount of discipline to not only remember to log your meals but also to be detailed enough to log EXACTLY what you are eating and the quantity.
More often than not, unless you are a professional bodybuilder, whose livelihood depends on maintaining an extremely lean physique, most of us don't have the mental capacity to maintain this level of discipline for long.
Such methods often lead us to grow tired of the diet program we're on. We either fail or can't wait to "finish" the program. While also developing an unhealthy relationship with food.
When instead, we should be enjoying the journey as much as we can, building good nutrition habits to sustain us for the long run, and not view food as "the enemy".
3. Calorie counting can be inaccurate
Because food comes in all shapes and sizes, the calories on food labels and databases are often just averages. When in reality what you are eating could have significantly higher or lower calories.
How we prepare the food also changes the calorie load. Cooking generally makes more of the calories available for absorption, and food labels don't always reflect that. This error could be up to 90%!
4. Over-reliance on calorie counting can be disastrous
When we become over-reliant on calorie counting, we are more fixated with numbers on a screen than with what our bodies are telling us.
We start to ignore or reject our body's signals and build our eating habits around how many calories we can or can't consume.
This can have disastrous results when we eventually STOP counting calories, we no longer understand how to tune into our body's hunger cues. Often resulting in overeating.
So what method can we use to accurately track our consumption without turning us into obsessive animals?
At Kairos Nutrition we coach 2 main methods of tracking your consumption and regulate your eating behaviors:
The Hand Method
The Plate Method
The Hand Method involves using our hands to gauge our portions in a day.
(Hand Portions provided by Precision Nutrition)
For most moderately active men, you should aim for about 6-8 portions of each (protein, vegetables, and carbs). For most women, you should aim for about 4-6 portions of each.
We use it because it's simple but effective, helping you to gauge your intake easily, and for the vast majority of people out there, this method is sufficient.
Hands also tend to be relative to the size of the person. So if you are a big bulky guy, requiring more calories, your hands would also be bigger, making your portions bigger, and vice versa.
Hands are also ultra-portable and tend to be there when you need them. Eliminating the hassle of having to meticulously weigh and input your calorie intake into an app that takes forever to load.
The Plate Method involves - you guessed it - a plate to gauge our portions.
(Graphic provided by Harvard Medical School)
As with the hand method, using the plates that we are already eating from is another simple but effective way to track our intake and regulate our eating, ensuring that we are consuming the right amount of each type of food.
You can also easily increase or decrease your intake by simply changing the size of your plate. Bigger plates = more calories, vice versa.
WARNING: Listen to your body
While these 2 methods will go a long way in helping you keep track of your intake, they are only a starting point for you to get into building good nutrition habits.
It's not magic, and it does not replace the need for you to tune into what your body is telling you.
If you follow the portion guides down to the T but find yourself starving at the end of the day and feeling restricted, you probably need to eat more.
Conversely, if you're gaining unwanted weight, feel bloated all the time and lethargic after every meal, chances are you are probably still overeating.
And that's it! Hopefully, this article has helped you build a more sustainable way of tracking your intake and creating a healthier relationship between you and your food.