While weight loss is often thought of as the simple equation, calories in and calories out, research has shown many limitations to this simple theory. The idea that weight is determined by food and movement alone is flawed and potentially dangerous. Because weight loss and weight gain occur in humans, weight cannot truly be discussed without considering the human aspects that could interfere with this simple formula.
Here are 10 reasons why calorie counting doesn’t work:
1. It is a stressor. Thinking about how many calories you eat, or writing it down, becomes a stressor in your life. We were never meant to count our food and exercise, we were meant to depend on our natural body's wisdom. Therefore, this task becomes a stressor. Stress in our body signals: store fat, burn muscle.
2. It has to be a lifestyle change. If you lose weight counting calories, then you are pretty much held to counting calories for the rest of your life. If that is something you wish to endure, then you are fine. If you don’t wish to log your calories for the remainder of your life, it is time for another solution.
3. What you resist will persist. If you continue to think about how many calories you have left in the day, and how you can’t eat, X, Y, and Z, all you will be able to think about is how much food you want and need to consume.
4. Where attention goes, energy flows. When we continue to think about calories, calories, and calories, our entire energy shifts into little calorie counting machines. Now our lives become about numbers and have just a little less room for bigger, more amazing things to take place.
5. What’s with the skinny human garbage disposals? I know you know people who eat whatever they want and don’t gain weight. We tend to think they have some super genes or super metabolism, guess what, they don’t. It is impossible for me to say why thin people don’t gain weight without knowing the person, but there is a reason and it has nothing to do with their eating or exercise.
6. Weight gain happens for a reason. We don’t just gain weight because our bodies hate us. We gain weight for a reason, to teach us something. If you don’t take the time to learn what that is (and for some of you it might just be more self-care, self-love, less stress…) your body will not be able to drop the weight for good.
7. I am living proof. I worked out 7 days a week, high intensity (sometimes 2x a day), I counted my calories (and I tried various different numbers from 1200-2000) all I got was a constant gain on the scale. I stopped working out, stopped trying to lose weight (I was injured), and ate whatever I want and lost the weight.
8. It is not an exact science. We like to believe it is because it would be an easy way to gauge our weight fluctuations, but it simply isn’t. You can log everything, be perfect, and the scale can go up then do the same thing next week and it can go down. Weight loss is not simply a numbers game, it isn’t food and exercise, it’s bigger and smarter than that.
9. When we act out of fear, we get fear-based results. Many people will count calories or log their food out of fear (I know I did!). We are afraid if we don’t count we will gain (and we might) we are afraid if we don’t work out every single day, we will gain (once again, we might) BUT we are not gaining because we aren’t hard enough on ourselves, it is just the opposite.
10. Thank goodness it doesn’t work! I am so grateful that weight loss and weight gain doesn’t work in this manner. I am so happy that I can have my favorite beer, I can enjoy wine with dinner, I can have cookies every day, I can choose to cook healthy meals with olive oil and other delicious flavors, I can do yoga and enjoy every minute of it without worrying about other exercises I don’t truly enjoy. Every person out there has the freedom to simply live and lose or maintain their weight. You can very easily eat whatever you want, and workout whenever you want, you just have to want to change your thinking.
If calorie counting isn’t the solution for losing weight, what is? The answer is still fairly simple, it’s about creating an optimal environment in the body.
Scientists were on the right track when they began to steer our focus to healthy food, exercise, getting good sleep, drinking water, etc. These are all great things that can help create an optimal environment in the body. The problem occurs when the way in which we attempt to accomplish those things negates the healthy result we are trying to accomplish.
For example, eating healthy, high-quality food is a great idea… but, if we beat ourselves up, force ourselves to eat certain things, constantly obsess over what we are eating… that seemingly healthy habit just turned into an unhealthy habit.
The only way to create an optimal environment in the body is to arrive at healthy habits in a healthy way. In other words, it has to happen holistically and organically, not from force or willpower.
Many people assume it’s impossible to get to that type of place naturally but it’s actually easier than you may think. It all begins with our relationship with food. We must enjoy food immensely by slowing down, tasting it, receiving pleasure and nourishment, and remove all food rules and regulations.
After we work on our relationship with food we must work on our relationship with our body. Creating that optimal environment needs to happen by giving ourselves love, kindness, and appreciation. Even when we have excess weight.
Next, we must cultivate a healthy relationship with exercise. It can no longer be a punishment for eating or our caloric allowance. It must actually feel good and balance out our bodies.
Lastly, we must fulfill the needs of the body and fill up our cups. Our self-care cups, love cups, social cups, connection cups, romantic cups, you name it. We must get to a place where our body feels taken care of and supported.
With these four steps the body can shift to its optimal place and quick weight loss will be inevitable.