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Why Counting Doesn’t Count

For some of you, in addition to fitness, general wellness and strength, exercise is a means of weight loss. While exercise is hugely beneficial to weight loss (and of course, general health), it is simply a piece of the equation. If you have ever worked with me, chances are you have heard me say these two things at least 7,000 times: “You can’t out-train a bad diet” and “exercise and muscle building only accounts for about 25% of your end result; work your ass off with me and then go home and fuel correctly- don’t undo what you’ve worked so hard for by rewarding yourself with crap for dinner.” So, I repeat myself a lot, BUT it is because I am right J

The Cassa team likes to promote a paleo-ish type diet, and I want to talk about why it is crucial to eat this way (at least 80% of the time) and why, when you eat this way, you should never be counting calories. While it is true that the science of counting calories is a legitimate one (calories in should equal less than calories out if your goal is weight loss), counting calories is a maddening and unnecessary added effort in your weight loss journey.

Here are a few reasons to discount counting:

. If you’re too busy doing math, you won’t enjoy the food. Food is fuel but it is also something that should be enjoyed; studies have shown that if you take the time to chew—really taste and enjoy—you actually end up consuming less than if you’re just eating to eat, shoveling it in or eating while distracted.
.Calories are listed on the backs of packaged and processed food and processed food is not good food. 100 calorie snack packs are a calorie counters dream but they are NOT your friend. Refined and highly processed foods are just merely teasing your taste buds without offering any real nutrition. Lower-calorie foods that spike blood sugar levels (wheat thins 100 calorie packs) and cause a surge in insulin store more fat than higher-calorie foods that allow for a slower energy release and do not spike insulin (a spoonful of all natural peanut butter).
.Foods with “good fat” but lots of it (nuts, olive oil, avocado) are highly caloric but exponentially better fuel for your body than a bag of fat free potato chips. The digestion of fat triggers our satiation mechanism. This is why fat-free foods are so unsatisfying and why we tend to eat more and more of them, looking for that feeling of fullness. It is not always about the volume of calories, it is about their ability to feed and nourish you.
.Labels lie! Okay, so I’m not calling the FDA scam artists, but you should be aware that labeling laws actually allow for a 20% margin of error on the nutrition facts label. “The ratio obtained between laboratory analysis and the amount declared on the product label in the Nutrition Facts Panel must be 120% or less, IE the label is considered to be out of compliance if the nutrient content of a composite of a product is greater than 20% above the value declared on the label.” –FDA Guidance for Industry Nutrition Labeling Manual That means that if you are eating a packaged meal with a label indicating it is 500 calories it could actually be 600 calories. Multiply that times four meals a day and you’re up 400 calories that you aren’t accounting for!
.You are guesstimating. I mean, do you really know what a 6 ounce piece of chicken looks like? Do you know how to eyeball one cup? I doubt it. So unless you are willing to weigh and measure everything forever, ignore the calorie count per serving (which is likely skewed anyway- see above) and save your friends and family from HATING to dine with you J . A calorie of protein is not the same as a calorie of fat or carbohydrate. Calories from fat, carbohydrate, protein or alcohol are not created equal. Each has a different effect on metabolic rate, hormones and how full you feel. Alcohol and protein have the greatest effect on metabolism as the body uses them, and alcohol provides very little nutritional value. Protein is super important for your diet. Yet, when people choose their meals based on calorie-counts, they typically choose meals lower in protein and fat, and high in carbohydrates. If your rationale for eating popcorn, toast or crackers is because they are low in weight watchers points, YOU are missing the point!
.When you eat well, your calorie count will take care of itself. What I mean is, when you eat from the earth- anything that grows on trees, grows from the ground, or lean animal protein, the calorie count is naturally lower than other processed foods. And even if the calorie count was higher than some other junk, you can be sure that you are fueling your body with calories that are useful, nutrient-dense and productive. Food is about more than just energy potential (calories). Food is about nourishment, building and healing the body, and providing nutrients for all the vital functions that keep us alive and thriving. When we reduce our food to calculating calories, we lose sight all of its other important roles.

So lose the calculators and enjoy fresh over shelf and be confident that you are on the right path!  

Read more: 9 Reasons Why Counting Calories Is Dumb

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