In the quest for a healthier lifestyle and desired weight, the ubiquitous practice of counting calories has long been considered the gold standard. From meticulously tracking every morsel to diligently weighing portions, we've been conditioned to believe that reducing our calorie intake is the key to shedding those unwanted kilos. However, it is important to understand that our bodies are not mere calorie-burning machines; they are intricate systems that rely on a variety of hormones for optimal functioning.
Here are five reasons why counting calories doesn't work:
1. Metabolic adaptation:
Calories mean energy and metabolic adaptation is the way the body responds to changes in calorie intake or energy expenditure. When consuming fewer calories or undergoing prolonged restriction, metabolism slows down to conserve energy. Consistent calorie deficit during dieting leads to reduced metabolism, resulting in fewer calories burned at rest and during physical activity.
2. Not all calories are the same:
Focusing solely on calorie counts often makes us overlook the significance of nutrient quality. Not all calories carry the same health impact. Foods that are abundant in vitamins, minerals, and fibre are vital for overall well-being, maintaining energy levels, and lasting health, though they may not always be low in calories.
3. Lack of precision:
The calorie counts found on food labels or in databases are often approximations and may not accurately represent the calories your body actually absorbs from various foods. Accuracy can fluctuate due to factors like variations in food preparation, individual metabolism, and the intricacies of digesting different foods. Remember, not all bodies are the same.
4. Unsustainable in nature:
The practice of calorie counting can become time-consuming and tedious, eventually making it challenging for people to adhere to it in the long run. Strictly adhering to calorie counts may create feelings of restriction and being denied. In turn, this can contribute to a cycle of yo-yo dieting, rather than fostering lasting lifestyle modifications.
5. Ignorance in emotional and psychological aspects:
Calorie counting often neglects the emotional and psychological aspects of eating, such as stress, emotional eating, and food cravings.
Given this, we can follow a few simple strategies that can help us avoid unhealthy foods and empower ourselves to make mindful decisions when it comes to our diet and overall well-being.
Timing Matters: Don't shop for groceries when fatigued
Ever noticed how your food choices change when you're mentally drained? Shopping for groceries in the evening or after work can be a recipe for unhealthy selections. When our minds are tired, we tend to seek quick energy fixes, which often translate into high-calorie and sugar-laden foods. Our willpower diminishes, making it easier to give in to cravings. By avoiding grocery shopping during these tired moments, we can bypass impulsive decisions and opt for healthier alternatives when our minds are fresher and more capable of making conscious choices.
Keep healthy snacks handy for the snack trap
Between lunch and dinner lies a treacherous period where the temptation to snack excessively and indulge in junk food runs high. Instead of succumbing to this snacking disaster, arm yourself with healthy options. Stock your pantry and office desk with convenient choices like almonds and fruits, seeds, or Greek yoghurt which will help you stave off hunger pangs.
Additionally, discover healthier alternatives to your favourite indulgent foods, such as baked or grilled options instead of fried foods. These nutritious options help satiate your hunger and keep you on track with your health goals.
Prioritise nourishment before weekend parties
Weekends often bring social events and parties, which can be potential diet pitfalls. Many individuals make the mistake of skipping meals before such occasions, believing it will balance out their indulgences. However, this approach often leads to over-eating, particularly of unhealthy foods, once the celebrations/ parties begin. Instead, focus on nourishing your body adequately before the event. Consuming a nutritious meal or snack beforehand helps regulate your hunger and ensures that you can enjoy the festivities without succumbing to excessive indulgence. Striking a balance between indulgence and moderation is key.
Practise mindful eating
Mindfulness involves being fully present and aware of your eating experience. Slow down, relish each bite, and pay heed to your body's hunger and satiation signals. By eating mindfully, you become more attuned to your body's needs, making it easier to make conscious decisions about what and how much to eat. Be present during meals, engage your senses, and enjoy the flavours and textures. Pay attention to your body's hunger and fullness cues, eating until you feel comfortably satisfied. Use smaller plates, bowls, and utensils to help control portion sizes visually.
Apart from all these, understanding how your body processes calories is crucial for weight management. Factors like gut microbiome and metabolism also influence calorie absorption. Counting helps us, yes. It is the way we find it easiest to think. But instead of counting calories, it is far better to focus on a quality diet, regular exercise, good sleep, medication effects, stress reduction, and seeking professional help if needed. And maybe, we can count the days of good sleep or the walks we have gone on. As anthropologists tell us, it is not about this or that, not about calories or no calories. Instead about everyday health, in the way it makes sense to you. To sum up, it's not only about counting calories but equally about understanding your body's unique needs.
"A healthy diet isn't just about what you eat-it's a journey of self-care and empowerment. So, savour each bite, make conscious choices, and let your food be your ally in living a vibrant and fulfilling life!"
About the author: Sahil Bansal is the Co-founder & CEO of Fitelo.
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