Is calorie counting outdated?  The basic premise is that if you are trying to lose weight then on a daily basis you should be consuming less calories than your body burns.  Then with the power of the compound effect, you will lose weight over a period of time.

I’ve done it before.  In my 20’s I lost 6kg over a period of about the same number of weeks.

The reporter did it, an experiment where he restricted his number of calories to 1600 per day and only consumed pies and beer.  He lost 8kg.

However, the flaw in both of these instances was that it was not food that nourished.  So yes, while there was weight lost in the short term, there were long term effects on the body – increased risk of non communicable disease later on in life – to consider.  (At that time I learned that if I wanted a Big Mac for dinner all I had to do was not eat for most of the day.  Now, with what I have learned, I shudder at the mind set I had back then).

Let me start this opinion piece with – do what works for you!!! 

Everyone is different.  I like tracking.  I don’t do it all the time, just when I feel I need to be a little more focused (and the more I learn as I get older the less I do it!!)  However, I like watching the numbers and it also gets me out doing more cardio (when I burn calories through exercise I can eat a bit more as well as get all the benefits of exercise).  I like it.

NB: Food choices should more often than not (because lets be realistic, we all like the odd glass of wine or ice cream from time to time) be made with the question – “is this nourishing me?”

For other people it may be too restrictive.  Or it may be detrimental from a psychological perspective (we don’t want to get obsessive – relax, have some fun with your journey, enjoy the ride – just do you)

But overall I think a basic understanding of how calories work is required followed by some things I’ve learned along the way.

Simply put calories are units of energy.  Our body uses them, the energy, to function in all it’s wonderous ways.  We get these units of energy from food.

If we don’t get enough calories, we lack energy.  If we consume more calories than our body needs, consistently on a daily basis at the mercy of the compound effect, our bodies store that excess energy e.g. we gain fat cells.  But note: it’s not enough to just severely restrict calories because then our bodies may be worried about where the next intake is coming from and cling to the calories it already has stored.

Everyone’s caloric needs are different.  The active person is going to require more energy (calories) than the person who is spending the day sitting).  Even within the individual different days require different energy needs.

But if health and wellness is what we want for our body then there are some things I believe we should understand if we choose to use a calorie tracker.

Calorie counters are just a tool.

As I said, assuming there is nothing else going on for you to make losing weight harder (such as stress, a clogged liver…) then of course you will lose weight consuming less calories than you burn.  But are you making choices in line with health & wellness?

Use the tracker to gain knowledge such as what a serving size looks like.  How much energy is in that serving size?  You’ll quickly learn that junk generally is a lot higher in calories than most healthy real whole foods. This means you can eat more if you stick to real whole foods as well as gaining all the nourishment.  You’ll also learn that we don’t actually need as much as we put on our plate to feel satisfied.

If you aren’t doing any exercise can you afford to take those calories out of your calorie bank?  That’s a cool visual – each day you start with a set number of calories and each time you eat you are making a withdrawal until you get to zero.  The trick is not to go into overdraft.  The cool thing is that each time you do an exercise that burns calories you make a deposit back into your calorie bank.

Often, if I feel like an ice cream, I’ll check where I’m at, what that does to my calorie bank and then do I need to do an activity so I don’t go into deficit? If yes, I’ll go for a walk or a cycle, or whatever sort of calorie using activity I enjoy.  I “earn” my ice cream.  That way I don’t feel like I’m depriving myself of anything while on the journey to learn better things about nutrition choices.

Not all calories are created equal – choose quality calories. 

Real whole food will get you more bang for your buck.  You will see this along your journey. And the health benefits of nourishing your bodies with vitamins, minerals, fibre, quality carbohydrates, healthy fats, proteins, amino acids, phytonutrients, and antioxidants rather than unhealthy fats, excess sugar, white flour, excess salt, preservatives, food coloring surely far outweigh any perceived belief that we can’t “give up” or drastically reduce the stuff that isn’t serving us. 

Tip – combine quality proteins, fats, and fibre at each meal and snack and you will feel satisfied for longer.  Meaning you will not feel like you need to eat as often.  And your blood sugar levels will be more balanced so you won’t be crying out for that energy hit. Now, getting out of your own way and working out what other factors are at play when mindlessly putting food into your mouth is your job.  Your body won’t need it so why are you doing it?  Boredom, emotionally comforting, habit, do you need a hug?  The calorie tracker can’t help you with that.

Now where do the shakes fit in with a calorie tracker?  They are quality nutrients at very low calories.  They help us to keep from overconsuming if we stick to the program. 

But of course, like anything, they are a tool.  They work better when used the way they are designed.  If weight loss is your goal then having the shakes won’t make a lick of difference if you then go on to make food choices of junk and still over consume in calories. 

It all comes back to a healthy active lifestyle.  20% exercise (moving your body and having fun), 80% nutrition, and 100% mind set.  Stress less, have fun, and of course, get plenty of sleep.

But don’t take my word for it. Try it out for yourself, see what happens for you in just 5 days with our low cost trial either at our Lower Hutt Based Smoothie Club or from the comfort of your own home.

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