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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 March 25, 2020

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

How to Live Longer? 21 Ways to Live a Long Life

When it comes to living long, genes aren’t everything. Research has revealed a number of simple lifestyle changes you can make that could help to extend your life, and some of them may surprise you.

So, how to live longer? Here are 21 ways to help you live a long life

1. Exercise

It’s no secret that physical activity is good for you. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy body weight and lowers your blood pressure, both of which contribute to heart health and a reduced risk of heart disease–the top worldwide cause of death.

2. Drink in Moderation

I know you’re probably picturing a glass of red wine right now, but recent research suggests that indulging in one to three glasses of any type of alcohol every day may help to increase longevity.[1] Studies have found that heavy drinkers as well as abstainers seem to have a higher risk of early mortality than moderate drinkers.

3. Reduce Stress in Your Life

Stress causes your body to release a hormone called cortisol. At high levels, this hormone can increase blood pressure and cause storage of abdominal fat, both of which can lead to an increased risk of heart disease.

4. Watch Less Television

A 2008 study found that people who watch six hours of television per day will likely die an average of 4.8 years earlier than those who don’t.[2] It also found that, after the age of 25, every hour of television watched decreases life expectancy by 22 minutes.

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Television promotes inactivity and disengagement from the world, both of which can shorten your lifespan.

5. Eat Less Red Meat

Red meat consumption is linked to an increased risk of heart disease and cancer.[3] Swapping out your steaks for healthy proteins, like fish, may help to increase longevity.

If you can’t stand the idea of a steak-free life, reducing your consumption to less than two to three servings a week can still incur health benefits.

6. Don’t Smoke

This isn’t exactly a revelation. As you probably well know, smoking significantly increases your risk of cancer.

7. Socialize

Studies suggest that having social relationships promotes longevity.[4] Although scientists are unsure of the reasons behind this, they speculate that socializing leads to increased self esteem as well as peer pressure to maintain health.

8. Eat Foods Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids decrease the risk of heart disease[5] and perhaps even Alzheimer’s disease.[6] Salmon and walnuts are two of the best sources of Omega-3s.

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9. Be Optimistic

Studies suggest that optimists are at a lower risk for heart disease and, generally, live longer than pessimists.[7] Researchers speculate that optimists have a healthier approach to life in general–exercising more, socializing, and actively seeking out medical advice. Thus, their risk of early mortality is lower.

10. Own a Pet

Having a furry-friend leads to decreased stress, increased immunity, and a lessened risk of heart disease.[8] Depending on the type of pet, they can also motivate you to be more active.

11. Drink Coffee

Studies have found a link between coffee consumption and longer life.[9] Although the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear, coffee’s high levels of antioxidants may play a role. Remember, though, drowning your cup of joe in sugar and whipped cream could counter whatever health benefits it may hold.

12. Eat Less

Japan has the longest average lifespan in the world, and the longest lived of the Japanese–the natives of the Ryukyu Islands–stop eating when they’re 80% full. Limiting your calorie intake means lower overall stress on the body.

13. Meditate

Meditation leads to stress reduction and lowered blood pressure.[10] Research suggests that it could also increase the activity of an enzyme associated with longevity.[11]

Taking as little as 15 minutes a day to find your zen can have significant health benefits, and may even extend your life.

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How to meditate? Here’re 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

14. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Being overweight puts stress on your cardiovascular system, increasing your risk of heart disease.[12] It may also increase the risk of cancer.[13] Maintaining a healthy weight is important for heart health and living a long and healthy life.

15. Laugh Often

Laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones, like cortisol, in your body. High levels of these hormones can weaken your immune system.

16. Don’t Spend Too Much Time in the Sun

Too much time in the sun can lead to an increased risk of skin cancer. However, sun exposure is an excellent way to increase levels of vitamin D, so soaking up a few rays–perhaps for around 15 minutes a day–can be healthy. The key is moderation.

17. Cook Your Own Food

When you eat at restaurants, you surrender control over your diet. Even salads tend to have a large number of additives, from sugar to saturated fats. Eating at home will enable you to monitor your food intake and ensure a healthy diet.

Take a look at these 14 Healthy Easy Recipes for People on the Go and start to cook your own food.

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18. Eat Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a central ingredient in Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s GOMBS disease fighting diet. They boost the immune system and may even reduce the risk of cancer.[14]

19. Floss

Flossing helps to stave off gum disease, which is linked to an increased risk of cancer.[15]

20. Eat Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Antioxidants fight against the harmful effects of free-radicals, toxins which can cause cell damage and an increased risk of disease when they accumulate in the body. Berries, green tea and broccoli are three excellent sources of antioxidants.

Find out more antiosidants-rich foods here: 13 Delicious Antioxidant Foods That Are Great for Your Health

21. Have Sex

Getting down and dirty two to three times a week can have significant health benefits. Sex burns calories, decreases stress, improves sleep, and may even protect against heart disease.[16] It’s an easy and effective way to get exercise–so love long and prosper!

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Featured photo credit: Sweethearts/Patrick via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Wiley Online Library: Late‐Life Alcohol Consumption and 20‐Year Mortality
[2] BMJ Journals: Television viewing time and reduced life expectancy: a life table analysis
[3] Arch Intern Med.: Red Meat Consumption and Mortality
[4] PLOS Medicine: Social Relationships and Mortality Risk: A Meta-analytic Review
[5] JAMA: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake and Risk of Coronary Heart Disease in Women
[6] NCBI: Effects of Omega‐3 Fatty Acids on Cognitive Function with Aging, Dementia, and Neurological Diseases: Summary
[7] Mayo Clinic Proc: Prediction of all-cause mortality by the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory Optimism-Pessimism Scale scores: study of a college sample during a 40-year follow-up period.
[8] Med Hypotheses.: Pet ownership protects against the risks and consequences of coronary heart disease.
[9] The New England Journal of Medicine: Association of Coffee Drinking with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality
[10] American Journal of Hypertension: Blood Pressure Response to Transcendental Meditation: A Meta-analysis
[11] Science Direct: Intensive meditation training, immune cell telomerase activity, and psychological mediators
[12] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[13] JAMA: The Disease Burden Associated With Overweight and Obesity
[14] African Journal of Biotechnology: Anti-cancer effect of polysaccharides isolated from higher basidiomycetes mushrooms
[15] Science Direct: Periodontal disease, tooth loss, and cancer risk in male health professionals: a prospective cohort study
[16] AHA Journals: Sexual Activity and Cardiovascular Disease

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