Should you count your calories? No.
Should you run naked through the streets in the middle of a snow storm? Maybe?
Should you wear grellow and take the Idiots Running Club oath? Yes.
Alright, move along folks, that’s it. Simple answers to simple questions.
Okay, okay, perhaps you are a person who needs more of an explanation why the answer to the first question is no. Calories in, calories out, or “a calorie is a calorie” mentality has been stuck on us like the glaze on a doughnut for the last several decades, too bad neither one is healthy. Turns out that counting calories is not the best way to go when focusing on improving your nutrition. Here are the top 3 reasons I suggest you put down the calculator, forget the marketing hype, and focus on the quality, not quantity of your food.
- Calorie counting creates justification for unhealthy food choices.
How many times have we heard (or been) the person who says, “I can only eat (insert number of calories here) today, so I had twigs and berries for lunch and saved the rest for donuts/pie/cookies, after my run for a reward?” Where do I start with this mindset? It’s so backwards. Folks, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is! Does that seriously sound plausible? In the morning you’re a twig eating cavemen, but at night you’re basically a cheeseburger p*rn-star in a fast food commercial? All the while maintaining a perfect figure, perfect health and running injury free? Wake up from your sugar coma, peeps! Let’s stop, pause, and reflect like all good Idiots and ask ourselves this question, “Are we going to push our bodies farther, faster, and harder than they have ever been pushed before and then reward it with what?” Nutrient void pseudo-food? We’re treating our bodies like Rodney Dangerfield (no respect)! So where’s the respect and love for a body that just pushed past its limits? Where are the nutrients it needs? Eating for recovery and repair is what we should be doing so our bodies can go even farther and faster next time, right?
- All calories are not created equal. If calories were really king like we’ve been taught, then diet soda and 100 calorie snack packs would make us all thin. We could eat all the low calorie processed foods we wanted and never gain a pound while simultaneously sending our flying monkeys out to capture all the red velvet cake they could find to bring to our sugar-laden lair. It’s a lovely dream, but it’s time to get our heads out of our sugar-free Cool Whip cloud. When we start counting calories it’s easy to lose focus and quit looking at nutrients and start looking only at the number of calories. This shift in focus is our loss and I’m not talking pounds here. It means we will choose the 100 calorie pack over a nutrient dense food that might also be calorie heavy, for example, say, the avocado. If we choose the avocado then our body gets a good dose of potassium (more than a banana), fiber and healthy fat that will not only help us feel full but help our bodies properly assimilate the potassium. If we choose to eat the 100 calorie pack, besides the obvious (still being hungry, I mean really, who eats just ONE of those and feels satiated? I could eat the whole box and it might just take the edge off) we get processed sugar and factory produced Frankenfoods that our bodies have no idea what to do with. All we’ve done is successfully confused the body and left it still asking for nutrients that it didn’t get.
- Calorie counting shuts down our own natural intuition. We put more faith in a machine (online calorie calculator, food app, whatever it may be) to tell us how much and what nutrients to eat instead of listening to our bodies. If we allow it, our bodies will tell us how much food we need and when to eat it. This requires eating by feel, which, isn’t that why we’re wired with these feelings? If I no longer feel hungry, then I can quit eating. If I feel full, or in some cases, overly full I know I should have backed off and probably won’t make that same mistake at the next meal. If I feel hungry, then I eat. Our bodies were intelligently designed to give us the proper feedback. So trust your gut and give your calorie counting brain a break.
The best advice to follow is to shift your focus and do what you’ve known intuitively all along; focus on the quality, not the quantity of your food and enjoy all the healthy, real foods that nature has to offer.