Calorie Counting versus Intuitive Eating
Look, we’re not here to tell you how to eat food. But proper nutrition, healthy eating, and weight loss is a big wide world. You’ll find hundreds of different opinions on the internet, social media, magazines, television about the ‘right way’. Counting calories is one of them, and there are still a bunch of different ways you can go about calorie counting. Again, we’re not here to tell you not to, it can definitely work for some people… but let’s just say we advocate for NOURISHMENT over NUMBERS. Calorie counting can be more detrimental than beneficial, so without raining on your calorie-counting parade too heavily, let’s weigh it up.
I studied health, fitness, and nutrition for two years. I was obsessed with nutrition. The idea that food could be broken down into numbers and I could essentially program my diet to lose exactly the desired amount of weight by a certain date was amazing. I thought I’d hacked the system!
I was weighing everything I ate on kitchen scales and logging it all in My Fitness Pal. I’d do this meticulously, for every single gram of food I consumed. If it wasn’t going to fit into my daily calorie goal, or my ratio of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, and fat) was off, I didn’t eat it. Low and behold, I lost weight.
Then I lost more weight. And more. It became addictive to see progress, and I completely lost touch with the taste of food. Everything I cooked was about the numbers, not the flavours, nor the nourishment. If I was travelling and couldn’t make my calories and macros fit, I just wouldn’t eat. It was a compulsive and obsessive need for a perfect My Fitness Pal entry.
Don’t get me wrong, I had cheat days. One day a week, I would allow myself to eat whatever. the. hell. I. wanted. You can imagine after living off grilled chicken and brown rice at a measly 1,000 calories a day, by Saturday I was having ALL the cravings. Donuts, pizza, chocolate, pancakes, ice cream, burgers. Where almost everything was off limits six days a week, this was my one day where nothing was. And I took advantage. I binged so much it made me sick. I’d repeat this process week after week, and punish myself if I slipped up with a bite of a cookie on a non-cheat day.
This just ain’t healthy, guys. And while this isn’t directly the fault of calorie counting (not everyone does it so strictly and obsessively), it’s certainly what ruined my relationship with food. This is very common amongst people who count calories, and it takes a long time to heal that relationship. The first step for me was to stop calorie counting and start eating intuitively.
5 reasons to eat intuitively instead of counting calories
- If we only look at calories and numbers, we actually miss out on a tonne of healthy foods. Vegetables have carbs, guys! Fruit has sugar. Avocado has fat. And it’s all GOOD. Our bodies don’t care about the numbers, they just want nourishment.
- Focusing on calories can mess up your body’s cues for hunger and satiety. If you’re too concentrated on how much or how little you’re eating, you may ignore your body when it tells you you’re hungry or when you’re full. If you confuse your body too much, it can stop producing those signal hormones altogether which could lead to dangerous weight loss or weight gain respectively. Listen to your body, it’s pretty clever.
- Counting calories feeds into the idea that we can out-exercise poor food choices or unhealthy diets. We’ve all said, ‘I’ll just train extra hard tomorrow’, and proceeded to inhale an entire pizza or block of chocolate or whatever your guilty pleasure may be. Looking at the numbers instead of the nutrition value makes it easy to eat poorly. By counting logic, you could actually live off of fast food, take away, snacks, what ever you like, so long as you don’t eat too much of it. That may sound appealing at first, but you certainly won’t feel good for it and your body won’t be thanking you.
- Unless you see a dietician, you’re probably programming your diet based on something you read on the internet. This can mean significantly underestimating or overestimating the amount of calories that you need each day for YOUR body. Everyone is unique and therefore has different needs and requirements, and it’s important not to try to fit into a cookie cutter version of a healthy diet like I did. Your body knows what it needs, and it will tell you.
- Who actually has enough time for all the weighing, calculating, logging, and stressing that calorie counting involves? Usually to make time for this, we make sacrifices like socialising with friends, quality time with our partner or families, and so on. If bailing on a brunch with the girls (or guys – ain’t nobody who doesn’t love brunch) or dinner reservations with your significant other just because you can’t log the meal accurately in your calorie-counting app sounds familiar, we’re calling for an intervention. It’s time to break up with dieting, ditch the app, and try eating intuitively instead.
If you’ve been dieting or counting calories and not seeing progress, feeling out of control, or spending too much time worrying about food, give intuitive eating a go. You’ll end up balancing your diet out much better. Take the bite of the cookie, have a glass of wine on the weekend, and if you get take away during the week, that’s okay! It’s not the end of the world, we promise. If portion control is your downfall, have a look at the Nourish’d menu – our meals come in three sizes, Standard, Large, and Athlete. Stop counting calories, start nourishing yourself, and feel the difference.
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