As summer approaches and people rush to get ready for “bathing suit season,” many fad diets and weight loss plans are being put to use. In this week’s blog post, I would like to discuss one of the more prominent trends used to cut weight: calorie counting.
You can’t walk into a grocery store these days without seeing hundreds of products marked “low-calorie” or “calorie free.” Calories are certainly something that people pay attention to, and they should to some extent. A calorie is a unit of measurement that reveals how much energy your body can extract from a food. Over time, consuming an excess of calories (more than your body can convert into energy and burn off) will lead to weight gain. So it makes perfect sense to keep an eye on how many calories you put into your body – but are some dieters turning calorie counting into an unhealthy obsession? And is calorie counting missing the point of healthy eating entirely?
Mobile apps like MyFitnessPal have made calorie counting easy – but they’ve also made it easy to abuse the practice. Using the app, people can enter in their weight and how many pounds they want to lose in a certain amount of time, and the app spits out a number at them – the number of calories they can consume each day while meeting their weight loss goals. Oftentimes, a balanced diet and healthy eating is thrown out the window in order to satisfy that daily calorie count. Obsessive calorie counters might skip dinner because they ate fries for lunch, or avoid high calorie proteins that contain vital nutrients because they don’t want to go over their daily limit.
This kind of thinking is unhealthy, but calorie counting in itself doesn’t have to be harmful. Try to take less of a “calories in versus calories out” approach and focus more on what kinds of foods those calories are coming from. The body breaks down different foods differently – fats and proteins are broken down slowly, which is why they keep us fuller longer, while carbohydrates provide an instant spike in blood sugar, but are stored as fat if they’re not used as energy. So eating fries for lunch and skipping dinner may keep you within your calorie count, but since fries lack sufficient nourishment, this tactic won’t help you lose weight and it won’t lead to a healthier lifestyle.
My parting advice is this: Obsessive calorie counting can have damaging effects on an individual, as many calorie counters tend to ignore the quality and nutritional value of the food they’re putting in their body. Instead, calorie counters should pay closer attention to the kinds of foods they’re eating and make sure their diet includes a healthy balance of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, rather than “empty calories” like simple sugars and refined carbs. This is by far the best way to lose weight and achieve a healthier lifestyle.