Everyone wants to get healthy and lose weight, and some people seem to be permanently dieting. When you are on a diet, it's easy to become obsessed with counting calories. I don't mean looking at the nutritional facts on a box of cereal and a cup of yogurt, and comparing them. I using calories as a way to measure the value of food.
Some people use calorie tracker apps to do this, and might even starve themselves all day just so they can splurge out in the evening with one unhealthy meal. Just because you meet calorie goals, doesn't mean you'll lose weight.
Counting calories does not work. You could eat 2,000 calories a day of processed food and packaged food very easily. However, is that healthy? Sure, you hit your goal of 2,000 calories a day, but what about the vitamins, carbohydrates, sugars, fibers, proteins, etc.?
Plus, when you do lose weight from counting calories, it's likely not sustainable!
Please consider nutrition holistically, consuming empty calories isn't going to help you hit your weight loss goal, and definitely isn't going to make you healthy (especially long-term).
Here's what you need to focus on instead of counting calories.
Dieting doesn't mean starving yourself and eating salads for every meal. Dieting means eating the right foods. Go online and look up food pyramids and food charts. Look at how much of each food you need in a day and start from there. You want to make sure you are getting a balance of nutrients from a variety of food, which means plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
If you're looking for a good infographic that shows nutritional balance, skip the government guidelines and check out Harvard's Healthy Eating Plate instead.
2. Mind the quality, not the calories!
Start to watch the quality of food you are eating, rather than the calories. Do you notice that you eat a lot of junk or sugar-filled foods? If you do, you should switch out some of your sweet snack cravings with a healthy alternative. The next time you crave empty-carbs, try fresh fruit, crackers, Greek yogurt, or a granola bar instead.
Missy from Pretty Sweet says, "Consider that an avocado has the same number of calories as a doughnut. You know which one is better, so stop pretending that calories are a good way to measure the value of food! Counting calories is like choosing a book based on how many pages it has — it just doesn't make sense!"
3. Exercise matters
Devote at least 30 minutes a day to exercising. This doesn't have to be hardcore strenuous exercises like lifting weights and running 5 miles every day. Start by jogging for 30 minutes or biking for 30 minutes and work from there, or even taking a brisk walk once a day.
Just because you see men and women with six-packs in the gym and on weight loss commercials, doesn't mean that you have to look like that.
Start slowly and gradually increase the amount of exercise you do each day. You'll probably notice you start to enjoy it, and according to the Mayo Clinic, you'll increase your energy, your mood and lose weight.
4. OK, now stop counting calories
If you are looking to lose weight, stay fit, and/or stay healthy, do not give in to the temptation of counting calories. It may seem like you are doing the right thing by paying attention to what you eat. However, you are paying attention to the wrong detail.
It's about quality, not quantity!
Look at the rest of the nutritional label! If you are looking at two snacks with 200 calories each and one has more fiber, vitamins, and minerals than the other, go with the nutritional-dense food (not the processed, refined and nutritionally depleted one).
There are some well-known apps out there that cost under $1 per day that will help you log everything you eat and keep you on track. Just don't obsess on finding a free app, because it's usually worth the investment to pay for a higher-quality product!
Choose to eat healthy by paying attention to what and how much you eat. Please don't count calories though, because it just doesn't work.