Are you Healthy or Overweight?
Well, the answer is in what you eat, so before you answer read this…
Many people count calories to lose weight. The theory is simple:
Consume fewer calories than your burn.
Counting calories isn’t always the be-all and end-all of diets and losing weight. In fact, counting calories, can, in the long run, make you fat.
How can counting calories make you fat?
1. It’s not how much you eat, it’s what you eat
Many people are overweight because of what they eat, not how much they eat. You won’t get fat eating 8 apples, 5 salads, or a huge bowl of oatmeal and blueberries.
But, you can get fat eating high fructose corn syrup, excessive corn products, excessive wheat products (processed), soy-based foods, trans fat, and sugar. In a nutshell, processed foods, which usually have some or all of the above, are what’s contributing to an overweight epidemic.
The kicker is that many processed foods don’t generate all that large of portions… yet people are gaining weight.
Most foods purchased are processed. Think bread, cereal, pasta, salad dressings, sauces, wraps, breaded chicken… tons of food that many people believe is healthy. The fallacy is thinking that eating less of this food will result in losing weight. This simply doesn’t work… especially in the long run.
Moreover, many processed foods are low in fat and therefore have a low-calorie count.
Yet, these foods contain terrible ingredients that get you fat.
The point is you are better eating more healthy calories than fewer unhealthy calories… and this is why seeking to lose weight with a strictly counting-calorie diet is not, in my view, the best strategy.
There is more to losing weight than counting calories. There’s a lot of bad stuff in processed foods that result in weight gain and excess fat. The following are resources that support the above.
2. The Diet Blinder Effect
When on counting calorie diets, it’s easy for your life to become consumed with counting calories.
All-day you tally every food item you see. You’re forever calculating calories and basing your decision to eat something (often anything) on whether you have enough remaining calories for the day.
I’ve seen it firsthand with people I know. When on the diet, their brain is constantly on calculator mode. Worst of all, they’re constantly working up the tally to see what they can eat… usually unhealthy food.
Frankly, it’s a weird way to lose weight and live your life. I’ve never done a counting calorie diet. I lost 35 pounds by eating healthier and exercising. It was much easier, and here’s the important part… it resulted in a healthier lifestyle that remains with me today (I lost the 35 pounds after a sedentary life in college eating unhealthy foods… this was 15 years ago).
Think about it. If you do a counting calorie diet, what do you do when you reach your goal weight? Do you stop counting calories and eat whatever you want? Many people do, and that’s why so many people who do lose weight counting calories, gain much of it back quickly. When they are “released from the diet” they eat whatever foods they want and even if it’s in smaller quantities, it’s often unhealthy (i.e. processed foods).
But Weight Watchers works, doesn’t it?
Yes, Weight Watchers works and has worked for tens of thousands of people. But the reason I think it works is the support group component. The counting calorie angle is a tactic. The support group is the vision.
Support groups are where people learn to change their view and relationship with food. It’s where they get motivated. I have no empirical evidence to support this, but in my view Weight Watchers largely works because it has a strong support group element to it. After all, support groups help people quickly drinking alcohol, smoking, and using heroin… which are equally, if not more addictive commodities than food.
Moreover, Weight Watchers provides foods for many users of that diet. The food provided by Weight Watchers is, by and large, reasonably healthy. When people stop Weight Watchers, they resort to processed foods, and even if they count the calories as they’re accustomed to doing, end up eating unhealthy, processed foods.
The smart approach to losing weight:
Eliminate processed foods from your diet.
Make healthy foods and meals a staple of your eating regimen.
Exercise (I haven’t mentioned this, but it’s hugely important… even walking 30 to 45 minutes per day).
Change your mindset and relationship with food. It should not be a “what can I binge on today or this week” mentality.
Eat until comfortably full. Learn to listen to your body about being full.
Eat slower (this was big for me… I used to wolf my food down fast and I’d eat way more than necessary. All of a sudden I’d feel unwell because I ate too much.
If you’re succeeding with a counting calorie diet, that’s great. Carry on. Just be mindful of the above.
Plus, consider the long-term. What’s your post-goal-weight plan? Will it be a healthy lifestyle or will you resort to old eating habits (i.e. the D-Day mentality)?
One exception to avoid living your life counting calories is if you’re trying to gain weight (i.e. add muscle). I still don’t advocate counting every meal, but you should get an idea of how many calories you need in a day and shoot for it in order to gain weight. If you want to add muscle, you must consume more calories than you burn… just don’t overdo it because you can get fat.
Does this mean you should NOT do calorie counting diets?
No. They work. But you must develop a healthy lifestyle at some point. Counting calories is a band-aid approach that works for a while. No matter how diligent you are, it’s not likely you’ll successfully count calories rigorously for the rest of your life… and that’s where developing a healthy diet and lifestyle comes into play.
About the Author: Jon Dyer is a contributing writer to the popular fitness blog Fitness-Baron.com.