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5 Reasons Why You Should Stop Counting Calories

5 Reasons Why You Should Stop Counting Calories

How many years have you been dieting? If you’re like most people who pursue weight loss, you probably have dieted for a very long time (and have very little to show for it). Riddle me this: why would you choose to continue a failed strategy for months, years, or even a decade? As Albert Einstein said, the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” The problem? Restricting yourself to a strict diet is a band-aid solution that does nothing to develop positive behavior change. Behavior change might not be sexy, but it is necessary if you want to achieve your ideal body weight. Most diets depend on calorie-counting, which is a dreadful activity that sucks the joy out of eating. Here are 5 reasons why you should stop counting calories.

1. Your caloric needs estimate is probably wrong.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories your body burns at rest. In truth, this number isn’t going to do you a whole lot of good since your BMR only accounts for approximately 70% of your daily caloric burn, with the other 30% being determined by your activity level. Your metabolism is affected by a wide range of factors, including your gender, age, body type, stress levels, nutrition, hormones, amount of sleep, and more. With so many variables at play that could cause your metabolic rate to vary from day-to-day, it is unlikely that any caloric needs calculator will give you an accurate target to aim for.

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2. Calorie counts are often inaccurate.

Nearly 1 in 5 restaurant calorie counts are wrong to the tune of a 100 calorie underestimation. If you eat out several times a week, this could make all of your calorie-counting meaningless in a hurry.

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3. You are underestimating your portion sizes.

Could you tell the difference between 6 oz. and 8 oz. of beef? Could you differentiate between 1 cup and 1/2 cup of pasta? Are you painstakingly measuring each and every portion size of your home-cooked meals? Even if you could guarantee accuracy, do you really want to subject yourself to such a tedious activity for the rest of your life?

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4. Caloric quality > Caloric quantity.

You have probably heard the saying “a calorie is a calorie,” but new research suggests that might not be the case. For example, our bodies expend more energy (burn more calories) when digesting beans than cereal. All calories are not created equally. Every macronutrient has a different effect on your metabolic rate and how fulfilled you are after every meal. Have you ever noticed that if you eat a steak, you are happy and full for many hours, but if you eat a slice of pizza, you’re hungry again within 2 hours (despite the fact that the pizza probably had a lot more calories)? This is the stark difference between a high fat and high carb diet. Fat takes longer to digest in your body than carbs regardless of calorie count, so your best bet is to focus on eating natural, healthy fats that will satisfy your body, making it less likely you will overeat.

5. Counting calories is stressful.

Have you ever eaten more calories than you were allotted during the day, proceeded to beat yourself up for your judgement, and felt stressed out and depressed? If so, you need to stop counting calories right now because you are merely creating a self-fulfilling prophecy for yourself. Stressing out over your diet is counterproductive, because stress is directly tied to weight gain.

Eating should be about pleasure and nourishment (not math and restrictions). 

Stop counting calories if you want a healthier relationship with food without stress and frustration. Don’t turn the wonderful act of eating into a math equation. If you want to lose weight, you do have to make sacrifices, but that doesn’t mean eating has to be devoid of pleasure or fun. Focus on eating natural foods like lean meats, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Have that delicious treat full of carbs on occasion, but make it the exception (not the norm). Slow down at the dinner table and be aware of the fact that your hunger signal doesn’t typically turn off until 20 minutes after consumption. Be a mindful eater who regularly asks yourself, “am I nourishing my body or am I depriving it?”

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More by this author

Daniel Wallen

Daniel is a writer who focuses on blogging about happiness and motivation at Lifehack.

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Last Updated on January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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