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.
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.
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?
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?”