Counting calories has been a tried and true method for many people trying to lose weight, but is it viable in the long term?
When you start recording what you eat and how much you eat, you will eventually notice some patterns. It might be that you find yourself dipping into the potato chips for seconds, or your favorite brand of low-fat ice cream has way more calories than you originally thought.
When you start noticing these trends, and if you are on a diet that is restricting the amount you can eat, you start to think of what trades you can make. For example, approximately one 8 oz bag of potato chips is 1,217 calories, whereas an 8 oz serving of chickpeas is only 270 calories and has a lot more nutritional value. When you start to become more conscious of what you eat and how that food is being used to fuel your body, you can start to make healthier decisions for yourself. If eating a bag of chips is half your allotted calories for the day, and you are still starving afterward, you will want to look for different foods that you can snack on that will leave you feeling fuller and more satisfied.
Counting calories can also lead to something called “Intuitive Eating,” a practice in which you are mindful of the reasons you are eating. With intuitive eating, you examine your emotions and what you are going through to assess whether you are actually hungry or if you are reacting to a strong emotion. This can be very helpful to people that struggle with emotional eating. When you restrict the number of calories you consume in a day, you have to consider whether you are eating to fulfill a bodily function or eating because you are bored, sad, stressed, or angry.
On the flip side, counting calories can be tedious. It takes up time to read all nutritional labels and try to calculate in your head how much you ate. You can get around this by using one of the numerous apps available to count for you by scanning the nutritional bar code. It is also a great idea to invest in a kitchen scale, which will help you with portion control.
Calorie counting can also lead to some neurotic behavior and eating disorders, which is why it is important to talk to a dietician or nutritionist about your body’s specific needs. Remember, what works for someone else might not work for you. Your body is unique, and factors such as gender, hormone levels, and age all need to be accounted for.
Overall, think of counting calories as a stepping stone to a healthier you. In the beginning, you may need to record everything you eat and how much, but over time your body will start to tell you when you're satisfied. Eventually, you will have the experience to know what type of food fills you up and gives you energy. Start looking at recipes that utilize whole foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole wheat. These will leave you feeling fuller for longer and, in general, have a lower calorie count than processed or pre-made foods. Who knows, you might find a new favorite recipe!