Counting Calories – Should You Measure Your Meals?
(The following article is from my other website, www.ironanchorstrength.com. It’s the site for my local coaching business.)
In the circles of the health-obsessed, there is debate whether or not one should have to count their calories as to lose, gain, or maintain weight. The task of tracking your calories is tedious and boring – why not just cut out a particular macronutrient (e.g., low-fat or low-carb) and lose weight effortlessly?
While there is much to hear from different people regarding this subject, I wholeheartedly supporting counting your calories/macros for quite a few reasons.
Skewed Perception of Hunger
Plenty of folks, ranging from trim athletes to obese 50-year-olds, simply eat until they’re not hungry. For those who are lean and in-shape, fine, you do what works for you. For the people who are overweight or obese, stop it now and start measuring your food.
Why? It’s because basing your food intake on your hunger is the reason why you’re fat. Your sense of hunger is way off and you eat more than your body truly needs – if that wasn’t the case, you wouldn’t be overweight.
With years and years of overeating (as seen by your large amount of bodyfat), your body has desensitized itself to the volumes of food, thus, ingesting anything less, even if it was enough to sustain life, would cause your body to become hungry. So, with the right amount of food to maintain your weight (or lose it), your body jumps the gun and makes your feel hungry.
Life is unpredictable, and we cannot possibly control every single detail that makes up our day. The same deal applies to eating and weight-loss – you sometimes have to go out to eat, you won’t always have time to workout, and so on.
If you start counting your calories and macros, you give yourself that extra bit of control over your life. Tell me what’s better for you, eating the right amount of food 90% of the time, or eating whatever the hell you want to eat 100% of the time?
It’s called the 90/10 principle (or 80/20, whatever you follow). Do right 90% of the time, and give yourself some slack the remaining 10% of the time. You’ll still get along alright, and in the case of weight-loss, you’ll still lose weight while enjoying an indulgence occasionally.
Similar to drugs addicts and alcoholics, overweight folks who eat whatever they want have no structure in their lives. When you pursue vices and indulgences at your heart’s content, versus enjoying an occasional planned splurge, you let things spiral out of control. For heavy-set people, you need to plan everything out and stick to it, and reward yourself accordingly.
Gaining Bodily Awareness
Counting your calories and macros is quite the learning experience. Not only do you figure out the nutritional value of foods, you discover what amount of food makes you gain weight, maintain your weight, and lose weight.
Some of the nay-sayers of calorie-counting say that, because different ratios of macronutrients (e.g., low-fat vs low-carb) affect the rate of your metabolism (e.g., through the thermogenic effect, or hormonal responses), counting calories is an exercise is futility.
My response to the nay-sayers – that’s just one more variable to be aware of.
Let’s say you’ve been consuming 2100 calories per day, and track down everything in a food journal. What if you’ve been experiencing more hunger than usual, you can look back at your food journal. If you’ve been consuming a higher amount of carbs and a lesser amount of fats in the same time that you’ve been having increased hunger, then maybe more carbs make you hungrier. Given the fact that carbohydrates signal the body to release insulin (a hormone that regulates hunger), it would make sense that you would feel better decreasing your carbohydrate-intake while upping your fat-intake.
You may also find that your body temperature decreases and you’ve stopped losing weight (or started to gain weight) after slashing your carbs and increasing the fats you consume. It’s known that long-term low-carb diets decrease thyroid function. Those two symptoms mentioned previously also happen to be associated with hypothyroidism. So, it might make sense to up your carbohydrate-consumption.
Those are just two examples of the many situations you may experience when tinkering with your calories and macronutrients. The sense of power you have over your body as you discover these nuances is astounding. In a day and age where disease and obesity is rampant, having this kind of knowledge about your own body can help you live a happier and healthier life.
If that’s not enough reason to count your calories and macros, then I don’t know what is.