Does counting calories work? Well the formula for counting calories has been around for more than a century. And for many years, we have been taught that the foundation of any weight-loss plan is to count calories. Health professionals and fitness buffs always believed that a balanced ratio of “calories in vs. calories out” is the most effective way to shed unwanted pounds.
However, recent studies have shown that while this may be effective at first, the whole counting calories thing is turning out to be a myth. This system is not working and ineffective to millions of people who are diligently counting calories as part of their weight-loss plan. The simplest explanation is that the principle of counting calories is an over-simplification of a very complex process. The following reasons show why this weight loss model is outdated and what present research is telling us to do instead.
Does Counting Calories Work? – With Calories, Quality Is More Important Than Quantity
For years, it has been easier to think that each and every calorie that we consume have the same impact on our bodies. However, recent studies have shown that this is far from the truth. In essence, calories from chocolate bars react differently than calories from, let’s say, a slice of apple. It’s like the food that we eat communicates with our body every time we eat. Your choice of sustenance sends messages to your body which then interacts with the foods in varied ways, thereby affecting the processes that are happening in your body.
One study showed that people who consumed more antioxidants are likely to have lower body-fat percentage than those who consumed less. Although their calorie intake is just the same. This revealed that the nutrients accompanying the calories have a key role in how our metabolism performs. I’m sure that you’ll agree with me that consuming 500 calories of processed food full of trans-fat and sugar is way worse than 500 calories from whole foods full of essential minerals and healthy fatty acids. This is one of the main answers to the question does counting calories work.
Accurately Count Calories? It Ain’t Gonna Happen
Does counting calories work? Not very well. Imagine this. You’re with your family out for dinner. While everyone is busy ordering their food, you’re still hunkered down trying to figure out how many calories you’re allowed to consume in order to fit your daily target. For the calorie in-calorie out model to really work, accuracy is the name of the game. Otherwise, we run the risk of miscalculating and gaining unwanted fat. And with restaurant or take-out food, you are never sure what they are putting in the food so it’s not as simple as a lasagna is this many calories etc.
Polls have shown that only about 12% of adults can really count their caloric intake accurately because of the efforts associated with this method. Most people just go ahead and calculate using “ballpark figures.” Also, know that the formula used to determine the calorie value of food is imprecise. This is due to the nature of some food having indigestible components. This means that some calories are not broken down and absorbed by the body to be used or stored for energy. They just go down the drain with your wastes.
Labels Are Often Inaccurate
Yup, you read this correctly. Food manufacturers are allowed by law to be inaccurate in their labeling system, sometimes by almost 20%. This is called the “margin of error.” Nice term, huh? So, if the TV dinner that you ate last night says 300 calories, you may be consuming 350 calories without knowing it. And, that’s just for the allowable deviation. Some studies have shown that they may be off by as much as 68%. This just shows that accurately counting the number of calories is really an imprecise science. Does counting calories work? Not well at all especially if labelling is incorrect.
In Reality, We Might Be Depriving Ourselves Of Healthy Nutrients
If we are going to be really strict with our caloric intake, we might be missing out on other nutrients that are essential for our health. Foods that are high in calories may also be high in essential fatty acids, like Omega-3 and Omega-6. Nuts such as almonds and coconut oil are some examples. Avocado is also another kind of food that is high in calorie but very beneficial to our body. The addition of healthy fats in your diet helps your cells function at their best. They help in the absorption of vitamins and minerals like Vitamin D and essential amino acids. They can also help us minimize our cravings and maintain low blood sugar levels.
Counting Calories Does Not Address The Real Reason For Overeating
It has always been said that if you have more calories than your body can burn, then this leads to unhealthy weight gain. Oftentimes, obesity is associated with overeating. While this may be true in some cases, there are other reasons factors as to why people tend to overeat. Moods and emotions play a major role. Studies have shown that when people are under stress or feeling the blues, they tend to overeat to compensate for what they feel. However, these binges rarely lead to good choices. More often than not, people resort to eating junk foods that are full of refined sugar, salt and processed carbohydrates like chocolate bars, chips and sodas.
Our body produces hormones that stimulate our cravings. They are also responsible for the way our body process the food we eat. Hormones signal our brain that we are full and to either burn the calories or store them. Our body uses two sources of fuel for energy – sugar and fat. If we are under stress, hormones like cortisol will make use of sugar since they are readily available. Calories are thermodynamic in nature. The first law of thermodynamics state that energy cannot be destroyed, it can only change form. This means that calories that are not used as energy will be stored in our body as fat.
To do battle with weight issues due to overeating, calories are not the only culprit. If there are other factors affecting your weight, it is always better to identify them and plan your weight-loss program accordingly.
Introducing Healthy Habits and Lifestyle Can Result To An Effective And Sustainable Weight-Loss Program
The principle of burning up calories to lose weight still holds true. The notion of losing the same or more calories than you put in your body is still the foundation of any weight-loss program. But, if counting calories are not really that dependable, how are you going to begin your journey towards an effective and sustainable weight-loss program? Before you start embarking on a weight-loss program, it is advisable that you take stock of your present habits and lifestyle.
In terms of diets, health professionals say that choosing whole foods, as opposed to processed foods, is an effective way of losing weight. Whole, or real, foods still contains calories, but the nutrients that are bundled with these calories enable you to burn them up more easily. Fruits, vegetables, protein from free-range chickens and grass-fed cows are some examples. So, making that extra effort in choosing healthy food will definitely benefit your body in the long run. Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated properly. Hydration helps the cells in your body absorb more nutrients. Avoid sodas, packaged juice and energy drinks. They are essentially process sugar, artificial flavorings and nothing good for you.
Engage In An Active Lifestyle
You should also start engaging in an active lifestyle. Exercising not only burns stored fat, but boosts metabolism as well. Researches have shown that our body continues to burn calories, therefore fat, two hours after a strenuous workout. This will also lead to lesser mood swings and feeling of stress, two contributing factors to overeating. Try to have some time for doing some anti-stress activities like yoga, breathing exercises and meditation. The important thing here is that you avoid getting overwhelmed. Making changes, one step at a time is better than trying to look for that one bigger impact that may only last for a short time. Does counting calories work? We think that it may have worked a long time ago before we started eating packaged foods and junk food. We can more accurately measure calories in fresh vegetables and fruit and those are the good kind of calories.
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What do you think, does counting calories work? And is counting calories still your method of choice while keeping tab on your weight? Or, do you have other methods that you find more efficient for weight-loss? Please share with us your stories in the comments section below.