Counting calories is one of those things that are drilled into you from an early age.
Our parents tell us that is the way to lose weight and stay healthy. Our friends tell us that. Heck, even our doctors tell us that!
So it’s no wonder why so many of us look at the nutrition labels solely for counting the calories in each item we get.
And it’s why the food industry comes out with new “low calorie” options every time we turn around.
But there is a better way. A safer way.
When I Realized Counting Calories Was a Joke
About 8 years ago, I was about 250lbs and was trying to lose weight because my wedding was coming up.
So like others across America, I started watching my calorie intake. I ate meat, drank tea, ate the weight loss meals in the frozen foods section, drank Slim Fast and Special K.
I was clocking in at a little less than 1,000 calories per day. And I felt like garbage ALL the time.
And was more maintaining my weight than losing it.
When I went to the doctor about a different health issue, he mentioned I needed to lose weight. I responded that I had been trying for months and ate 1,000 calories a day. He basically treated me like a liar because his response was to eat less. (Less than 1000 calories? Is that even safe?)
About a week later, I was at the endocrinologist’s office getting my thyroid checked and had the same conversation. This time, she came out and told me I was not telling the truth because I would be thinner. And of course, I just needed to eat less.
It was then that I realized there must be more to this and counting calories must not be the answer everyone believed it to be.
Wait- So Counting Calories Isn’t the Miracle?
It wasn’t until years later, that I understood why counting calories was not the miracle everyone thinks it was.
I learned that doctors preach this information because they literally have zero to very little nutrition training. Doctors are experts in regards to medicine and the human body, but most are not trained in nutrition and how food interacts with the body, because those courses simply aren’t offered in most medical schools. (FYI, I’m not pulling that out of my rear…this information is very loudly stated by many medical doctors like Dr. Mark Hyman and Dr. Michael Greger).
So that is why I was being told this general information like it was the cure-all.
And it’s true, my (new) doctor confirmed this and told me that’s why he refuses to discuss diet and exercise with his patients.
Yes, calorie intake does make a difference, but that’s not the end of the story, there is more to it than that.
Everything we eat processes in our body differently, so it is more important to pay attention to the foods than the calories.
Some things fill us up faster and are more nutrient dense. Other foods we eat raises our insulin level dramatically and turns into fat. Some food is eliminated and never even absorbed!
So if you eat the RIGHT calories, you will end up eating less of them automatically without feeling like crap, and be able to lose the weight AND have healthier test results.
How Foods are Different
I want to give you an example of two seemingly “healthy foods” to show the difference in how calories are processed and why calories are not the same.
This is about how it is for every food you can think of where apples represent the “whole healthy food” and the apple juice represents the “processed foods”.
1 cup Unsweetened Apple Juice vs an Apple
The apple juice has on average 114 calories and 24g sugar, 0.5g fiber and with it, very little of the other nutrients.
The apple has about 95 calories, 19g sugar, 4.4g fiber and additional nutrients.
The Difference in How It Absorbs
The apple and apple juice have different absorption because of several chemical factors.
You not only burn calories when you chew the apple, but the fiber attached allows a slower absorption of the sugars, higher absorption of the nutrients, and traps extra calories so it is carried out of the body and doesn’t even make it into your system.
The way juice is made, it strips the apple of the fiber and nutrients and leaves just the sugar. Since the sugar is not attached to anything to slow down the absorption, it is rapidly absorbed into the body, releasing insulin, which will eventually turn to fat.
And if you are drinking apple juice that is sweetened or has other ingredients (like High Fructose Corn Syrup), it is an even bigger mess because you are literally hurting your body.
My Non-Deprived Eating Habits
Almost every morning, I eat an avocado on my homemade breakfast sandwich, which makes the sandwich come in at a whopping 1000 calories and 100g of carbs (much of which is fiber). At lunch, many times I eat a salad (example: my Fiesta Salad recipe) or something similar that has about the same calorie and carb content. Dinner, I eat whatever I feel like.
So how have I lost so much weight eating so many calories and carbs?
It’s not exercise. I can tell you that.
It’s because of the principles I already talked about. I eat mostly whole plant foods and nothing artificial or processed.
This means, I have a super high fiber diet, which allows excess calories and carbs to be carried out without ever absorbing. It also absorbs the nutrients better and keeps me full longer.
I don’t have to pay attention to what I eat, because I am so full after breakfast and lunch from eating whole foods, I don’t eat much else.
I’m fuller, happier, and feel I get plenty of nutrients my body needs.
All without caring about calorie counting.
Animal Protein Calories
Animal proteins are often thought of as healthy and necessary for protein.
However, if you compare it to quinoa, which has protein and other nutrients, mineral absorption will increase for the quinoa because there is fiber attached.
Did you know studies show animal proteins can increase insulin resistance, which increases likelihood of type 2 diabetes?
Compare that to the same amount of calories of quinoa and other whole plant based foods, and you can see animal protein calories and other calories are not the same.
The Problem With Low Calorie Foods
As I said above, I used to eat those low calorie frozen meals and shakes.
But you know why I was always starving and not losing weight?
Well, have you ever checked the ingredients of those things?
About 98% of the ingredients are chemicals and oils, which are super inflammatory. Which you guessed it… causes weight gain and disease.
Not to mention are also usually heavily loaded with sodium and very little nutrients.
When you eat something of little nutritional value, your body sends you signals it is still hungry because it needs certain nutrients!
Do Low Calorie Diets Work?
That’s a rough one to answer. Because technically speaking, they should work. However, if that is the only thing you are looking at, then no, it won’t work, because in most cases, it isn’t healthy and will increase your inflammation eating such bad foods, just because they are low calorie.
It’s a much easier and healthier process to work on WHAT foods you are eating and let the reduction in calories happen naturally over time, because you are eating foods that fill you up more instead of depriving yourself of calories and nutrients.
Stop looking at the calorie content when choosing foods to eat.
Buy mostly out of the produce section and stop buying foods where you don’t recognize the ingredients. Look at ingredients and ADDED sugars instead of the rest of the nutrition label.
When you choose whole foods based on it’s ingredients, and not it’s calories, you not only will be boosting your metabolism and eating less as time goes on, but your body will be burning fat and not protein, like it does for low calorie diets!
Did you ever wonder why low calorie make you feel weak? That could be the protein being burned and not the fat, if you aren’t counting the lack of nutrients you are probably getting. When we eat very little calories, our body goes into survival mode and stores the fat, preventing fat from being burned.
Which is probably why I was not losing any weight eating 900 calories per day.
I Stopped Counting Calories
Once I stopped counting calories and started paying attention to the ingredients, my life changed.
I was fuller faster and saved $4000 on my food bill in one year!
I went from borderline everything to all blood tests coming back normal.
My husband and I also lost a combined weight of 110lbs. Neither of us pay attention to the calorie or carb labels.
So why pay attention to calorie intake, when there are more important things to look at on the nutrition label that can help you decide the healthiness of the food better?
When you eat the right foods, everything else will fall into place. You will feel 100x better because you aren’t sacrificing anything, and you will lose that excess weight.
So stop counting calories. Stop buying low calorie foods. Start paying attention to the ingredients of a product, because that means more than anything.
Don’t be afraid to eat the walnuts, avocados, and other high calorie super foods.
The lower calorie intake will come naturally once you make the switch in your focus due to how it is processed in your body and the fact you will get full faster.