BEYOND NUMBERS: CALORIE COUNTING
This is quite a ‘hot’ topic for a lot of you, especially those interested in IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), or calorie-focused programmes.
I’m not ‘for’ or ‘against’ those that calculate every ml of milk in their coffee, or concerned on staying below a specific amount of grams of carbohydrates/fats in a day – for a SPECIFIC period of time… although for LONGEVITY, personally I don’t recommend it.
However as a coach, all that matters is that I work with my clients to find a routine that works for them, their lifestyle, and most importantly they’re happy with. The worst thing a coach can do is jump to an area of their expertise and push their beliefs on a client.
"For training Mark, we need you to be doing Crossfit 5 times a week - it works for me so it'll work for you, and diet...well, we're all about that Paleo lifestyle!"
This may work for a while, but if the ‘plan of action’ isn’t aligned with the client’s agenda, it’s doomed to fail from the output. This just touches on the difference between ‘coach’ or ‘client’-centered practices – we’ll save that for another day.
Back to nutrition by numbers…
The 5 Reasons Why i don't recommend calorie counting
(for living a healthy and happy lifestyle)
1. Counting calories makes most people feel DEPRIVED and RESTRICTED.
You spend most of the time worrying about the numbers, about what you can't have, rather than focusing on NOURISHING your body and ADDING VALUE. This mindset leads us to being a rebellious teenager, and eventually breaking the ‘rules’.
2. Counting calories tell you nothing about food quality.
Which do you think would ADD VALUE to your body and mindset.
a) 2,000kcal from: healthy nutrient-rich meals throughout the day or;
b) 2,000kcal from: A Frappuccino, waffles, protein bar, and a Domino’s pizza
The answer is obvious, but tell that to the numbers – to them it’s ALL THE SAME.
We know if we want to function like a high-quality machine and feel at our best, we need high-quality fuel – focus on quality and your body will appreciate you more.
3. Counting calories is inaccurate.
I’ve actually briefly touch on this before (here – Understanding The Calories In VS Out Equation).
Firstly, packaged foods have a 20% leeway on their nutritional information for it to be ‘ACCEPTABLE’. For example, 500kcals could actually be anywhere from 400-600kcals.
Secondly, calories are a SCIENTIFIC measure of energy in food… they do not account for how nutrients are DIGESTED, ABSORBED, or USED for energy by our body – all which vary greatly, especially depending on how processed a food is (the more processed, the less energy it takes for the body to break it down, and the more energy absorbed).
Some elements of food are also completely indigestible (such as insoluble fibre), so we end up burning more energy moving it through our bodies than what we can obtain from it. A calorie is a calorie right…?!
4. Counting calories creates an external “locus of control”
Meaning that it can make you feel that numbers control your intake… not the other way around.
Precision Nutrition have a great example of this:
Having an external locus of control is like working for a boss who makes a lot of arbitrary rules, like…
“You have to start at 8:34 am on Thursdays, just because I like that time” or “You can only make 5 photocopies”.
Well, what if you’re running late and have to start at 8:44 am on Thursday instead — could you make up that 10 minutes at the end of the day?
What if you have 7 people coming to your meeting and you need 7 copies?
“Nope”, says boss. “Those are the rules. 8:34 am. 5 copies only.”
Feelings of being POWERLESS, ANXIOUS, and RESENTFUL come to mind – what many people feel when trying to stick to calorie targets or macronutrient goals.
Also notice how it becomes a sole focus to “FOLLOWING THE RULES” rather than “doing what’s right”?
5. Counting calories doesn’t focus on building habits.
Staying in shape, feeling good, feeling in control, and maintaining that for life comes from doing what matters over and over again – building habits, not from math.
If you learn what works for you and become IN-TUNE WITH YOUR BODY, you can achieve all of the above without ever being meticulous and having a calculator in your back pocket.
So what is tracking good for?!
There’s one thing in particular that tracking your foods for a specific time period can be really useful for… I’ll go into it next.
UP NEXT: The Benefit of Tracking
Stay Healthy & Happy!