Here’s the truth about counting calories and macros.
If you’re the type A, organized, get-it-done type of person, counting calories can be perfect. You have your game-plan in place and you go out and make it happen. If this sounds like you, great, re-read this post from a few weeks ago and you’re all set.
Now, for the rest of you thinking something along the lines of this:
“Yeah, but counting calories is a giant pain in the ass. You can’t expect me to do math every time I sit down to eat a meal?”
I hear you. It’s true. Counting calories and tracking macros IS a giant pain in the ass. And sometimes it can be inaccurate, not to mention it also has you practice a very bad habit: ignoring your own internal body signals around food, hunger, and satiety. Mess with this innate wisdom of the body and you could get in a little trouble.
Let’s Dive A Little Deeper.
Here are the 3 reasons why you SHOULDN’T count calories:
1) It’s Imprecise
Having success with counting calories requires accurate data and the research shows that both on the intake side and the expenditure side, there are gross inaccuracies. Not only are some of the calorie data bases are off, but the actually calorie labels can even be marked incorrectly. In addition, measuring calorie output, ie, how many calories you burned during that 1 hour spin class, can be very challenging to estimate.
2) Counting calories tunes out your body’s internal signals
Think about the last time you were starving and came home and devoured whatever you could pull out of the fridge in under 3 minutes. We’ve all been there. No judgements baby. But now think about the last time you sat down for a nice meal with good company and actually ate at slower pace. Chances are, if you listened to your body while eating slower, you would notice a few signals from your nervous system. You secrete various hormones that tell your body important messages. Listen to those signals, get tuned into those signs, and you’ll most likely develop a better sense of yourself.
You instinctively know when you’re full. Scarfing down even the healthiest of foods doesn’t allow those signals from your body to reach your brain.
To steal a line from my mentors over at Precision Nutrition “you are in essence outsourcing the role of hunger and satiety to the calorie counting gods.” Overtime, this will dull your ability to sense those signals. You’ll become numb to this feelings and sensations.
This is when you can get into a lot of trouble with your health.
3) Let’s be real, counting calories sucks
It’s annoying. It’s time-consuming. You’ll get boo-ed at family dinners as you measure out exact portion sizes. Or even worse, you’ll piss off friends as you bust out the food scale. Who is this lame-o?
OK, so what to do instead?
Implement these 2 practices to help you stay fit and healthy WITHOUT counting calories or macros:
1) Use your hands to measure out portion sizes.
Here’s a trusty graph that I send to most clients. The beautiful aspect to this strategy is that it automatically self adjusts for your own body size. No math or calculating to do – just use your hand, fist, cupped hand, and thumb to measure out the the different foods as shown in the graph.
2) Implement slow eating at every meal.
Shoot for 15 minutes per meal. Again, this allows fullness signals to reach your brain.This one thing can change your life! Use a few of these trusted strategies to pull this one off:
- Place your fork down after every bite
- Be social. Eating with company where you’re engaged in good conversation will naturally slow you down
- Avoid TV while eating
- Game-ify. Make it a contest. Set a timer for 15 minutes and try your best to make it till the end!
So the answer is clear: You don’t have to count calories to have success. The big takeaway is that there are many ways to be successful with your nutrition. You have to find that method or strategy that works for you and who you are. Once you figure that out, pick a plan that aligns with your personality and go for it.