Calories in versus calories out.
This is one of the most irritating things I hear on a regular basis.
But, as a disclaimer, this is how I lost most of my weight in the beginning. I tracked every single thing that went in my mouth, measured everything to a T, killed myself in the gym. And I saw results.
But when I say I killed myself, I mean I literally brought myself almost to the point of needing to be hospitalized. I put so much effort into working out that my grades began to slip. While on the honor roll one second, I struggled to just pass my classes when I became obsessed with counting calories. I would think about how many calories I was burning by tapping my foot in class, how many calories that orange was in my backpack. A friend would offer me a granola bar, and I would scour the nutrition facts before giving a yes or no.
So, yes, you can lose weight by counting calories and becoming numbers obsessed. That is true. If you eat food that comes in plastic packaging, you will need to count your calories in order to lose weight. There’s no way around that if you insist on eating the same crap food you’ve been eating your entire life.
However, if you eat real food, then counting calories will become entirely unnecessary. Your body doesn’t want to have to process all of the weird ingredients you insist on shoving into it. So once you start giving it real food, it will respond relatively quickly.
Going back to how I was in high school, counting calories and obsessing over exercise, it wasn’t something I could maintain. My body was hating me for it. Once I started getting into romantic relationships I found it all to be unsustainable.
But I was going to make it work.
I would go to the gym right when it opened at 5 in the morning and work out until fifteen minutes before school started. After class, I’d skip my lunch period to go and jog around the school track. Then I’d find myself at the gym after school for a couple of hours before hanging out with my boyfriend. This was followed by working out for at least an hour and going to my friends’ house for a couple of hours before going home and cramming in some meal prep. Eventually I would fall asleep for a couple of hours before waking up and doing it all over again.
Finally, once I met my husband and I found myself becoming more lenient on the number of calories I ate, the weight creeped back on.
If I would’ve focused less on the number of calories I was consuming and more on what I was consuming, I probably wouldn’t have backslidden so quickly. Once I stopped caring about calories, I stopped caring about what actually went into my body.
Counting calories isn’t sustainable.
For starters, it can create an unhealthy obsession with food. Restricting your calories can easily bleed into other areas of your life. You’re scared to go out because you might want to eat or drink something that’s outside of your caloric ‘budget.’ You’ll beat your head against the wall because you went over your allotted calories. So you go to bed angry with yourself, vowing that you’ll burn them off the next day. Whether you do or you don’t, you’re going to end up hating yourself anyway.
Am I 100% against calorie counting in all cases? As much as I’d like to be, I’m not. Some people have become addicted to the foods they’re eating and struggle with giving them up. In these cases, especially for the extremely overweight population, counting your calories can help figure out portion control and rewire your brain.
Research, research, research.
I also think that, instead of counting calories, research should be done about what is actually in your food and what it does to your body. For example, some artificial sweeteners may have no calories, but all that really means is that it does absolutely nothing beneficial for you. For most of them, they keep you addicted to sweet things and could even cause your body to store more fat.
This isn’t all to say that I’m against food journaling. I think food journaling can be a great thing, especially when you’re noting the time you’re eating and how much you’re eating. If this is done over the course of a week, you can look back and see where you’re lacking in good nutrition. I’ve gotten into the terrible habit of not eating breakfast. If I kept a journal, I can see where my struggles are. Then I’ll try the next week to work harder at making sure I eat something for breakfast.
Getting healthy can be remarkably confusing. Losing weight can be even more difficult considering there are so many factors working against you. But I promise you that if you stop worrying about the quantity and focused more on the quality, the weight will start to come off.
No one got fat eating kale.
Start small – maybe just take on one meal at a time of real, nutritious food. Don’t focus on the calories, just on the good food itself. You will be surprised at how much better food tastes when you’re not scrutinizing it’s calories.
Do you struggle with calorie counting? Has it worked for you? If it has, how long have you done it? How long will you continue to do it?