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5 Reasons Why We Should NOT Count Calories

5 Reasons Why We Should NOT Count Calories

And why diet is only one part of healthy lifestyle 

But it’s the golden rule for losing weight, isn’t it? Simply eat fewer calories than you burn and you will lose those extra pounds. Easy! But it’s not quite that simple.  There is actually more to the ol’ calories in, calories out rule.  Here we give you 5 reasons why counting calories may not always be the best approach for weight loss in the long run.

1. Low-calorie foods are not automatically healthier:  Calories are a measure of energy, however, the calorie content of a food does not tell us anything about the quality of nutrients in the food. So low-calorie does not equate per se with “healthy” and high-calorie does not necessarily mean “unhealthy”. For example:  avocados and nuts are high-calorie foods because they contain a fair amount of fat, HOWEVER, these are healthy fats.   Avocados also contain lots of magnesium, potassium and vitamin E, while nuts also provide fiber, proteins and magnesium. So it would be a pity to avoid these nutrient packed plant foods just because of their calorie content.  On the other hand, there are plenty of low-calorie foods that contain little to no nutrients.  For example, five calorie konjac noodles or a single jellybean will barely increase your calorie count but will also not do much for your health.

2. Our bodies use energy sources differently:  This might surprise you, but not every calorie is equal. The body processes calories from different food sources in different ways. Meaning, that it’s not just the quantity of calories that matters, but also their quality (whether they’re made up of carbohydrates, protein or fat). You may have already noticed that certain foods seem to fill you up more than others.  If you eat rapidly digested carbohydrates, similar to those found in candy and processed foods, your blood sugar level will increase quickly, triggering the release of insulin.  The body will then store excess sugars as fat. These foods (AKA empty calories) aren’t particularly filling either. In contrast, there is a more gradual increase in blood sugars when you eat fiber-rich vegetables or whole grains in combination with lean proteins or healthy fats.  You also happen to feel fuller, longer! 

3. Your body changes:  Not only is every human being different – our bodies are also constantly changing too.  In fact, our bodies are controlled by hormones, and hormone levels depend on many factors and are also subject to fluctuation.  Our age, height, weight, illnesses, muscle mass, general fitness, stress levels and diet impact hormone levels and in turn have a major impact on our hormones, thus our calorie needs.

4. Trust your gut feeling:  We’ve all done it -- checked the ingredients on a package to see whether we want to eat a particular food or not.  Our advice is to focus less on ingredients and calories; instead, concentrate on the actual food itself. The key here is an unprocessed diet rich in fruit and vegetables, fish, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains. These are all a good source of healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and high-quality proteins.  Avoid processed foods, ready-made meals and fast food. You will notice that it’s difficult to overeat calories when eating whole foods because they leave you feeling fuller longer!  So trust yourself and trust your gut instinct instead of packaging information and advertising claims.

5. Healthy habits are more important than calorie counting: Be honest – does counting calories make you happy? The chances are the idea of it actually stresses you out.  The truth is, a “good” diet is just ONE aspect of a healthy lifestyle. Several other factors must be taken into consideration: getting a good night’s sleep, being outside in nature, exercising regularly, soaking up some sun and spending time with friends and family. In short, free yourself from the burden of a supposedly “perfect” diet, which only defines itself by the value on the calorie counter.

 

Published December 1, 2021

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