4 Reasons to Stop Calorie Counting For Good

I quit calorie counting!

Count calories, lose weight, and be happy, right??? Not necessarily so. Here are my 4 reasons why calorie counting is not the best use of your time – and what I think is more worth it instead.

Reason 1: 3,500 calories per pound is a myth.

You may have heard that if you eat 500 fewer calories a day, you will lose a pound a week. By this logic if a 170 pound woman eating 2500 calories a day, altered her diet to consume 2,000 calories she would lose 26 pounds in 6 months. After 3 years she would weigh only 14 pounds! If that sounds crazy, it’s because it is.

Here’s the truth: This old model of weight loss completely leaves out the fact that as we eat less, our body adapts burning fewer calories which means fewer pounds lost. Actual weight loss is a much more complicated and dynamic process. Better models of weight loss do exist and you can see one of them here.  But, even with this newer model, it does not mean we’ve “finally cracked the code.”  Because…

Here’s another truth: A certain amount of weight loss may not be good, healthy, or even accessible to you. We are all different shapes and sizes. Genetics has a major impact on how much weight you can lose along with changes to habits that are realistic and sustainable.

If you feel like you have good, realistic habits and you just can’t get the scale to budge, consider that you may be at a good-weight-for-your-body place. This is something only you can determine with the proper health practitioner whom you trust.

Regardless, the 3,500 calories per pound is a dangerous oversimplification that sets all of us up for failure.

read more: break out of scale jail (blog post)

watch: size diversity (video)

Reason 2: It’s a Distraction. Calorie counting interferes with listening to your body.

When you choose foods based on calories instead of hunger, you lose touch of whether or not you actually need to eat. Instead, stay in touch with your internal hunger and fullness cues.

Try eating more intuitively. Listen to what your body needs. Give it the fuel it needs and let it tell you when you have had enough. The more we ignore these signals the harder they are to hear, try replacing calorie counting with listening to your body.

Get more information on intuitive eating.

Reason 3: Mistakes, Mistakes, Mistakes

There are several apps and websites encouraging us to input what we eat so it can tell us how many calories we consumed for weight loss.

There are 2 problems here. First, these programs are based on the 3,500 calorie myth. Second, this assumes that the program knows exactly what we are eating and how many calories it contains.

How do you log the lunch from your favorite restaurant or your mother-in-law’s lasagna? The calorie calculations from these programs are not without error and you may make mistakes in estimating portions or ingredients. (You are human.)

How does relying heavily on calorie tracking help you, especially if the estimates are inaccurate? It’s like a GPS that can’t take you to your destination.

If calories help you learn about nutrition or make choices, don’t let me get in your way, but how can you use it as a guide more than a rule book and still practice your intuitive eating skills, flexibility, and self-trust?

Reason 4: It’s A Joyless Job

What about the pleasure of eating? Focusing on calories is exhausting and makes it hard to enjoy the foods we are eating. Whether it is a salad, fries, or a dessert, eat what you love (it’s your choice).

Instead of calorie counting, take the time to enjoy your food with all your senses. Don’t let the calories give you permission to eat. Go ahead and have fun with food. This is how we can feel satisfied instead of deprived, which can lead to overeating for many people anyway.

If this sounds like scary territory, set a boundary for yourself that you think is reasonable.

I Quit…

Years ago I used to put my hope into calorie counting. I’m over it. Instead, I do things that feel good, energizing, and fun. I don’t ignore my eating habits. I pay solid attention to them. I pay attention to my need for food, what I would enjoy, and how to make it more balanced. I quit calorie counting and instead put trust in myself to keep myself in check.

Do you have a special “I quit” story? Please share it in the comments below.  Or post a question to me if there is anything else I can help with.

Sorting Out Fact From Fiction: The Gluten-Free Diet Craze

Gluten free diets have become the latest weight loss “fad”. I think one of the reasons this trendy way of eating has evolved is that rather than working on incorporating balance and moderation into meals and snacks, it can be easier to cut something out altogether – whether that’s wheat, dairy or something else. What people may not know who are following a gluten-free diet for weight control, is that many times when gluten is removed from processed foods, sugar, fat and butter are often added to improve the taste.

wheat For most of us, there really is no medical reason to eliminate gluten. In fact, many gluten-containing foods can be very nourishing (ex: whole grain bread and barley). As this article summarizes, there really are only three true reasons to avoid gluten (and I’m sure it’s no surprise to hear that none of them are weight loss related):

  1. An autoimmune condition like celiac disease in which the presence of gluten actually alters the intestine and causes malabsorption and other GI issues like pain and diarrhea. This diagnosis can be made by a biopsy and blood test.
  2. An allergy, which would have symptoms that might appear similar to any other allergy – hives, sneezing, etc. This can’t be tested easily, but is evaluated similar to other allergies based on visible symptoms.
  3. An intolerance/sensitivity which may have symptoms like abdominal bloating, but can’t be accurately tested for.

I recently did a series of videos with the #OWNshow and @OWNTV which covered a number of gluten-related topics, including an overview of what gluten is, if going gluten-free makes sense for weight loss, identifying hidden sources of gluten in some foods, and uncovering some sneaky truths about some gluten-free products that are on the market today. Watch each video below: Can You Lose Weight By Going Gluten-Free?  Weight Loss Gluten Free

The Sneaky Truth of Some Gluten-Free Products  Sneaky Truth Gluten Free Products Could You Be Eating Gluten and Not Know It?  Hidden Gluten The Gluten Guide: What is Gluten Really? Gluten Guide  What do you think about the gluten-free diet trend? To join the conversation about going gluten-free, leave a comment below, use the hashtag #OWNSHOW on twitter, or check out the OWN TV Facebook page.

Debunking Cleanse and Detox Diets

It is a million dollar question: Are detoxes and cleanses all they’re cracked up to be? The idea that drinking juice or taking a magic pill is going to do a better job than our own organs is very misleading to consumers.  I recently sat down with ABC7‘s Suzanne Kennedy to explain why detox diets and cleanses are a waste of money, and could actually be doing more harm than good to your health. Check out the video clip below and be sure to read on to learn the truth behind the hype.

[Read more…]

Fasting for Weight Loss is NOT the Answer

I was recently on WJLA ABC 7 to discuss the fasting craze that’s become a popular method for weight loss for many people. Unfortunately, most of what I discussed about it in the segment ended up on the cutting room floor. (I’m used to that expected consequences of editing stories). I wanted to take the opportunity to clear up some things that weren’t covered. I felt that the segment makes it appear that fasting may look like a good idea, and I don’t think it’s fair that the last word should look come across in that way.

You can watch the full video here — but read on below for some additional points that didn’t make the final cut.

Honor hunger — don’t hide from it

The key point that I made in this interview is that we need to honor hunger, not avoid it. Think about this — would you ever tell your child or best friend “sorry, it’s breakfast and you are hungry, you need to skip and wait until 12 p.m. to eat.” It’s irrational to ignore your biological signs. You can’t just manipulate when you will be hungry…and actually through fasting you could end up feeling ravenous and then end up overeating.

Operating on an empty stomach? No way!

Think about this…do you want to be on the road with someone who is driving you around while fasting? Or, would you want a doctor operating on you when they are fasting? I don’t know about you, but I know that I wouldn’t! Anyone who’s skipped lunch knows that at some point your brains stops functioning properly, and it impairs your ability to think clearly. Anything that does that to us can’t possibly be good for our bodies.

How do you honestly think you will do when you need energy for work, family, and exercise without nourishment?

Some fasts are more biologically concerning to me than others. For example, ones where you have days of eating 500 calories, give or take, is not enough for your brain to function even lying down all day.

Fasting and a social life do not mix

During the interview, I also talked about how fasting can get in the way of social occasions. The next time a friend asks you to meet them out for a meal, are you really going to say “sorry guys, I can only attend the brunch if it is after 1 p.m.” Or “I can’t go on Sundays because that’s my 500 calorie day. Can you do Saturday? I can eat whatever I want that day.” Oh and heaven forbid when it’s a birthday – YOURS??? And you find yourself feeling guilty for cake and ice cream.

Fasting is just not smart, rational, realistic or sustainable.

What’s the bottom line?

Fasting is a diet — and a dangerous one at that. The large body of science on diets (NOT just one or two studies) show that diets fail, and that 95% of people regain any weight lost. Many even end up gaining MORE weight than before they started. It’s like a doctor telling you, “take this pill, I guarantee you it won’t work long term.” You would not take that pill, would you?

Finally, fasting is disordered eating. It is a slippery slope between someone developing disordered eating habits and a clinical eating disorder. If your goal is health, you should not fast. You should work on behaviors you can do realistically for the rest of your life. The people in this segment were already exercising (a health move everyone should do) and they say they “fill their plates with protein, veggies and healthy fats, they feel satiated”. You can and SHOULD do that without having to fast and fight hunger.

Biologically fasting leads to increased risk of overeating so their claims that they avoid overeating, seem in contrast to what we know about human biology.  Again, you CAN and SHOULD avoid overeating without having to follow a fast and ignore normal hunger cues.

They say they maintain “a balanced diet” — yet they don’t mention carbohydrates, beans, or whole grains. I don’t know if it was an error or if they avoid those foods intentionally. I have shocking news: Carbohydrates are not the devil and they are needed to TRULY be balanced in your eating.

In addition, you can eat balanced without eating perfectly. You mean to tell me nobody who does this fast ever has a cookie, or ice cream — ever? Sounds too perfect to me, and perfect is the enemy of life long success.

If you want to get healthy, eat better, and exercise more, you should do it. But you don’t need a fast to get healthy. You need a food and nutrition expert – a dietitian who is actually trained to help you work with your body and become your best you! If you want to lose weight, make it permanent and that means working WITH your body, not against it. If you can’t do it the rest of your life, or would not wholeheartedly recommend it to family and friends, stay away.

Carrot Cake Recipe from Green Mountain At Fox Run

GMFR_final_logo1-e1364240612911For many people trying to reach a healthy natural weight, a retreat can be a great way to step outside of your environment, so you can learn new behaviors without the distraction of everyday life. While there are a number of weight loss-focused retreat options out there (and some are certainly better than others), I’ve personally been to Green Mountain At Fox Run and can tell you it’s different.

First, and foremost, it’s not focused on weight loss — it’s focused on self care. It’s definitely a place worth checking out, if you haven’t already. For more information about their programs and services you can visit their website at www.fitwoman.com. They help you to learn more about yourself in order to improve your self care, and to help you achieve real wellness (not just in terms of your scale weight).

I encourage anyone to  subscribe to their newsletter or check out their blog — both are worthwhile reads. One of their latest newsletters featured this carrot cake recipe that sounded too delicious not to share. The recipe can be found below, or you can visit their website — enjoy!

Carrot Cake Recipe (Serves 18)

Dry Ingredients:Carrot Cake

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4  cup whole wheat flour
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ½  teaspoon salt
  •  2 ½  teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:

  • 1 ¾ cups sugar
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, packed
  • ¾ cups canola oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 3 cups grated carrots

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 375° F.
  2. Prepare an 8 by 13 inch glass pan with cooking spray.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
  4. In separate bowl, mix sugar, brown sugar, and oil well.  Slowly mix in eggs and vanilla.
  5. Blend wet and dry ingredients together, being careful to not over mix.
  6. Once blended, fold in the carrots.
  7. Pour batter into prepared pan
  8. Bake in oven at 375° F for 30 to 35 minutes.
  9. Let the cake cool completely before cutting.

Do you have a favorite recipe you’d like to share?

Leave a comment below and tell me what recipe you love to make when you’re craving something sweet. Maybe I will feature it in my next e-newsletter…coming soon!