Have you ever tried to eyeball the nutritional content of a slab of ribs at a BBQ? Do you shudder at the thought of going out to dinner because you won’t know the exact macros of your meal? For calorie counters, everyday can be a struggle to stay on track. There are endless variables that come into play when we eat. After all, we don’t eat nutrients, we eat food.
While the energy balance equation is a universal truth (calories in/calories out), getting a handle on your caloric intake is much more challenging than you might think.
1) Labels, restaurant menus and app calorie counts can be off by as much as 30%!
- So while you are furiously inputting your meals into MyFitnessPal, you may still not be capturing your full calorie number.
2) We tend to overestimate the calories we burn, and underestimate the calories we eat.
- While Fitbits and Apple Watches can be great motivators, the science behind capturing calorie burn is still rather rough and sketchy. Counting calories this way tends to lead to the justification of overeating, as well as eating foods that are not necessarily healthy.
3) Every person burns and absorbs calories differently.
- Whereas I may eat an apple and absorb 100 calories, you may eat one and only absorb 80. Our capacity to absorb calories differs based on genetics, activity level, lean muscle percentage and a host of other issues. It may also change from day to day. Therefore it’s impossible to truly zero in on the calories in side of the equation.
4) Counting calories doesn’t necessarily lead to healthy eating.
- It’s super easy to justify eating highly processed and unhealthy foods as long as they fit your macros or calorie count. But these types of foods can disrupt the signals to our brain that affect satiety and hunger. So, while we may technically be within our calorie budget, we may end up indulging in foods that don’t fill us up or keep us satisfied, inevitably leading to overeating.
5) Calorie Counting can lead to obsessive or disordered eating
- It’s impossible to count calories forever. We will inevitably go out to dinner and not know what’s in our food. We will hit a buffet and not be able to enter in every bite. When we rely on this kind of data to keep our eating under control, it’s easy to get super stressed when the data isn’t available. Plus, this practice means we need to be thinking about food all the time! Studies have shown that women who engage in daily thoughts about calorie restriction actually have a much harder time losing weight. So while we think we are in control, our body is actually rebelling, asking for a kinder, easier road.
There are more effective, easier and saner ways to get and stay healthy! Check out: 5 Ways to Wellness Without Calorie Restriction to go a little deeper.