3 Reasons Calories Aren’t The Most Important Factor to Weight Loss
Written by: Karen Azeez
Two years ago, I embarked on a successful diet and fitness journey, which culminated in a 36-pound weight loss (among other health benefits!). For about seven months, I was virtually attached at the hip to my calorie counter app. I had a goal of 1,500 net calories a day that ruled my life. And at the time, it worked for me. But that doesn’t mean that calories are the-be-all-end-all, or that calorie-counting is the way to weight loss for each individual. Here’s why:
Because my main goal was a total health transformation, as I was counting my calories I was also watching my percentages of fat, carbs and protein, my intake of vitamins and other nutrients and keeping an eagle-eye on my sodium levels (to ward off high blood pressure.) I learned that getting enough protein and healthy fats would help keep me satisfied and energized, while warding off cravings. These numbers were, in fact, more important than the final calorie tally.
- One Size Does Not Fit All
My calorie counter was a guide for me in what was the foreign territory of weight loss. And, it helped keep me honest. I actually enjoyed the ritual of logging in my meals no matter how complicated (like adding in each ingredient in a home-cooked stew) and seeing my results at the end of the day. But for others, the process of entering their daily calorie consumption is just too tedious to sustain and watching the numbers add up at each meal feels like too much pressure. Pressure, disappointment and tedium are diet killers. These folks should not count calories.
- Not all Calories are Created Equal
Recent studies have shown that our bodies react differently to various foods of equal calories. Dieters who snacked on nuts instead of potato chips lost more weight – even though the snacks were identical calorie-wise. Their conclusion was that there was something about the fat and fiber in nuts that allow our bodies use them more efficiently, instead of storing them as fat. The same goes for most whole foods vs. processed foods. For example, we now know that refined sugars and processed foods cause a cycle of inflammation and fat retention in your body that doesn’t happen with fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other whole foods – regardless of their caloric density.
So when is it important to mind your calories?
Many so-called “diet foods” are, in fact, diet-busters. Flavored yogurts, salad dressings, snack bars, vitamin waters and coffee drinks can be higher in calories than you might think due to added sugars. So, it’s a good idea, when embarking on a new eating plan, whether the goal is to lose weight or just feel better, to check the labels of the foods you eat regularly. If a primary ingredient is sugar, or it’s sugar content is higher than 7-9 grams per serving (and whatever you’re eating may very well be more than just 1 serving), move on and choose a healthier option. Removing one or two of these offenders can lead to losing hundreds of calories a day without much effort.
In the end, most adults will burn between 1,700-2,000 calories a day living a normal, moderately active lifestyle. Therefore, consuming food in great excess of the calories you burn each day on a regular basis, will ultimately lead to weight gain, even those calories coming from the produce section (it’s just more difficult and less likely to happen this way). And eating a substantial net deficit each day consistently will cause weight loss, even if you’re eating junk, it’ll just take a lot longer and you’ll feel like crap.
So, if your goal is good health and sustainable weight management, it is better to focus on eating real, fresh, whole foods. A great saying to keep in mind comes from Michael Pollan’s book, “Food Rules”, which states: “If it comes from a plant, eat it; if it was made in a plant, don’t.”
Health Coach, Wellness Expert and Freelance Writer
at Well Beings
Karen Azeez is a health coach, wellness expert and freelance writer. Karen helps busy men and women incorporate simple lifestyle changes into their daily routine to address issues such as weight gain, insomnia, stress and digestion problems. Karen enjoys cooking healthy meals, hiking with her husband and border collie and watching way too many TV shows about wedding dress shopping.
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