Hey guys! Hope your Monday’s are off to a good start! I’ve been wanting to post this topic for a while so I’m going to dive right into it:
Why I stopped counting calories and tracking macros
While I know many people have had success with doing so (as I once did in the past), it’s personally not for me anymore…and hopefully these reasons will give you something to think about if you contemplate counting calories or tracking macros at some stage:
1) Calories do not measure nutrition: Merely representing a unit of energy, calories provide no indication how your body utilises those calories, the impact the food has on hormonal activity nor its influence on overall health and wellbeing. While a Snickers bar contains around 250 calories and an avocado racks in about 320 calories, the latter packs in far more nutrition per calorie and is more likely to leave you feeling satiated even once you’re done eating.
2) Counting calories takes away the joy of eating: Even though I eat a very healthy diet, I definitely still consider myself a foodie- I appreciate quality ingredients, can talk about food for hours, and love the experience that comes with both cooking at home & eating out. When I counted calories & macros, I noticed myself dreading social situations that focused around food purely because of the uncertainty over what I’d be eating and how it was prepared. Rather than a source of fulfillment and nourishment, food turned into a ball of numbers: A freshly-baked piece of bread was no longer something to be enjoyed, but instead viewed as 83 calories, 15g carbs, 2.7g protein & 1.1g of fat.
3) I became less in tune with my body & hunger signals: Hunger is not a straight line & no 2 days are the same. There were days that I found myself eating more just because I had calories remaining for the day whereas other days, I purposely restricted my eating to ensure I didn’t exceed my daily calorie allowance. What I didn’t realize is that each day, I was making myself less in tune with my own body & hunger signals. The thing is that our bodies are a lot smarter than we give them credit. Once you learn to trust it, your body will tell you when to eat and when to stop and eventually it will all balance out. If anything, we can look at babies & young children as role models. Even if there is merely an ounce of milk remaining, babies clamp their mouths shut once they’re satisfied. They know that eating or drinking too much volume will make them uncomfortable and they choose not to do it.
4) It made me obsessive & more stressed: Anyone who has ever counted calories or tracked macros will agree that it eventually turns into a numbers game i.e. trying to figure out how to get the most of your calories and hit your targets most efficiently. I found myself glued to my iPhone trying to readjust the numbers on the MyFitnessPal app, to the point that I considered buying a different brand of food for the sake of saving 10-15 calories per serving. The truth it that after a certain point, the build-up of stress & cortisol will start to hinder your progress no matter how on point you are with your numbers. When your body is stressed out, either mentally or physically, it stores fat as a defense mechanism.
5) Weight management goes far beyond calories in versus calories out: Although eating less calories than you’re expending technically should translate into weight loss, it’s not as black & white. Foods affect our bodies in different ways and go through various metabolic pathways. Not only that, but the foods we eat can directly affect the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat. Rather than focus on numbers, we’d be better off addressing the kinds of foods eaten, sustainability of our diet, quality of workouts, state of our physical & mental health & our overall lifestyle choices (e.g. sleep & stress levels).
That all being said, I do think that counting calories can be beneficial to an extent, especially in terms of understanding portion sizes & ensuring you are eating enough. Rather than morph into the focus of weight loss or healthy eating, counting calories should simply be a tool to turn to every so often. I personally still do look at calories & macros as a guideline, but if I’m counting anything, it’s going to be ingredients.
Have you ever counted calories or tracked macros?
Even if you haven’t, I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter!