Think you should count calories to be successful with your weight loss program? I beg to differ! There are times where counting calories is good, but many times where it can be harmful! Let me show you how to count calories in a way that is effective and healthy. Note: This post may contain affiliate links.
Let me begin by asking you a question.
Did you count calories as a kid?
Chances are that you didn’t. A few of you may have, but more often than not, the answer would be a simple, “No.”
So why is it that as a child or teenager, you were so much healthier and happier than you are now?
The first answer that comes to mind it, “Oh, my metabolism was much faster then. I had more energy, too.”
Well, that’s all true. But let’s go deeper than that. Let me ask you a new question.
How does the idea of counting calories day in and day out make you feel?
I don’t know about you, but words like, “empowered” and “healthy” don’t really come to mind.
In fact, when I count calories for more than a few days in a row, I feel like a SLAVE.
Actually, I feel less healthy. I feel controlled by food. I feel like I am having an unhealthy relationship with my body, food, and exercise.
It’s all wrong.
The deeper I get into the fitness world, the bigger of a problem I have with it. My Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds are filled with girls in skimpy outfits, “thinspo,” and things that say, “Lose 20 Pounds in 1 Week!”
It not only seems vain, it seems wrong.
It seems unhealthy.
I have to say it again – (I wrote a ranting post about the fitness industry) – the fitness industry has it all wrong.
They are out to make sales, no matter what happens to your actual health. The products they sell are meant to be temporary solutions to a lifetime of unhealthy habits.
The biggest problem is that if we are to make long-term healthy changes, we need to address the mental and emotional aspects of health.
And in my opinion, counting calories can have a detrimental effect on those two important aspects of health.
I do believe that there are appropriate times for counting calories, and I’m going to talk about them below. But I want to go a little deeper into what brought me to writing this post today.
My Mental Health & Fitness Journey
I became a Personal Trainer after a longggg history of depression. My depression/PPD was at its worst after I became a mom, and the only thing that seemed to help was exercise.
I tried “getting over it,” aka ignoring my depression and trying to just think positively.
I tried two different antidepressants.
At one point I tried therapy.
But none of it felt right, and none of it felt effective.
Luckily, over time, I learned that every single day that I went to the gym was starkly different than the days I didn’t.
Because of that, I decided to make being active a part of my job. I wanted to be accountable for doing it daily.
Not only that, I wanted to help other moms ward off postpartum depression in a healthy way.
Important: As a certified personal trainer, I am legally not able to give you specific diet advice. This is all my personal opinion and you should always consult with your doctor before making any big dietary changes. Heed my advice at your own risk. 🙂
The Fine Line
As I was learning more and more about fitness and nutrition, both as part of my studies and for personal reasons, I found myself getting really sucked in. I was counting calories and macros daily, and while it was helpful in a lot of ways, it was also really weighing on me.
If I went over in calories, I’d sometimes think, “Ughhh I failed everything today.” Or, “Why can’t I just resist temptation? Why don’t I have any self-control?”
Sometimes, I’d be at my calorie goal and still feel hungry. So I’d think about food a lot but still restricted myself.
Other times, I’d be under my target, so I’d allow myself to eat more. But then something in my brain would say, “You can have more,” and then I’d overeat. So then I’d feel like I’d botched the whole day.
Overall I was just having really negative thoughts about myself, my food, and my body.
I knew it wasn’t healthy, but it’s the way I’ve been conditioned to operate when thinking about weight loss and being healthy.
So I started to think about whether or not I really needed count calories or not. Could I learn how to count calories without it being a negative thing? I really didn’t know.
So I decided to stop counting calories for awhile to see what it would do mentally and emotionally.
I felt liberated for a long time! I felt like I could still eat healthy and just ask myself, “Does my body need this?,” any time I wanted to eat something. Overall, I think it is a healthy thing to do and NOT counting calories can be beneficial in many ways.
And I personally think you should try it to!
But that being said, I think that there are certain times and ways to count calories that are still appropriate.
That’s really what this post is all about, so let me teach you how to count calories in a healthy way.
How To Count Calories – If You Do It At All
1. Stop Doing It Religiously If It Feels Like A Burden
Just stop! Do it once a week, or once a month instead. And to avoid feeling like it’s a burden, avoid doing it on a holiday or on a day you are enjoying some sort of celebration. My advice would be to use it to get back on track, rather than stay rigid.
2. Use Counting Calories As A Gauge
Learning how to count calories should be about portion control and eating a wider variety of foods, not just the numbers themselves. So if counting calories for a few weeks helps you better understand the amounts of food that are appropriate for you, go ahead! Just don’t get sucked into caring about every little ounce you go over or under – because ultimately tracking your food should be a tool to help you learn – not a punishment.
3. Use A Tool Like MyFitnessPal To Make It Easier
If you can learn how to count calories and macros with an app like MyFitnessPal, it might make everything feel simpler. The easier you make it, the less negativity you will associate with counting calories. Plus, you can easily set goals and keep long-term records of your successes and areas that need improvement.
4. Don’t Put Too Much Stock In The Numbers
Eating the right amount of calories doesn’t mean that you’re eating the right macro or micronutrients. You need the right amount of carbs, proteins, and fats, as well as a big variety of vitamins and minerals. So if you’re going to obsess over anything, make sure it’s not just calories.
5. Don’t Make Calorie Goals Your Only Goals
Seriously, never do it! Your victories and your success is dependent on so many other things. There are a million and one non-scale victories to celebrate! Progress comes in many forms! So make sure that you celebrate them.
Do you know how to count calories without losing your mind? I want to know how you feel about mindful eating, counting calories, and all that stuff. So say hi below!