articles

What you need to do before counting calories

"I’ve been doing so much! But my body is not changing. Why?"

This is one of the most frequent questions that I receive. The answer is NOT because you're not working hard enough.


What you need might be to change “the order” of what you are doing. With a change of approach, you might start seeing results with the same amount of effort or less than what you are putting in now.



The Body Learns

When people say “I’m doing a lot”, it usually means “I’m eating as little as possible.”

They usually follow this theory.


When energy use is greater than energy intake, then you will lose weight.

But there is a pitfall in this. You may lose weight at first, but your progress will stop if you continue for weeks or months.


What's happening is that the body is realising that the supply of food is reducing, so it starts to not burn as much energy as before (i.e; reduced metabolism). Our body learns and keeps adjusting to our environment.


For instance, if you're told "next month, you're going to get paid less," you would reduce your amount of shopping this month, right? And you would look for discounted items at the supermarket. Your spending becomes less. The same thing happens with your body and metabolism.



Problem 1: It doesn't fit my lifestyle.

There are several problems with the calorie calculation method. One of them is that it doesn’t fit most peoples’ lifestyles.


You have to calculate calories every time you eat, calculate your own metabolism, and even think about the calories in the seasonings you use when you cook your own meals... This calculation gets thrown off when you go out with your friends, and you might lose track of how many calories you've consumed with the cheeky dessert you had afterwards


I have participated in a weight loss course that told me to weigh rice in a bowl to calculate calories every day. To no one’s surprise, I dropped out before dinner on the first day!


Wouldn’t you feel uncomfortable if you had to live every day calculating your calorie intake for the next 20 or 30 years? If yes, it's not because you're weird or lazy. It's because that's how most people feel.


If you truly enjoy calculating calories every day, maybe you should keep doing it. When I was in high school, a friend of mine said, "It's fun to look at the nutritional descriptions at the supermarket! She became a nutritionist after graduating from college. If you think you're not suitable for it and you can’t enjoy it like her, it's okay to choose a different approach.


For most people, the calorie counting method will only add stress. The reason you can't stick with it is not because you are not enthusiastic enough, but simply because the method is not right for you. Thankfully, The calorie counting method is not the only way to control your weight.



Problem 2: Hormonal effects are not taken into account.

When talking about calorie counting, it is essential to take metabolism and hormones into account. Yet, many people and services that recommend the calorie counting method skip these topics. Some examples of effects are as follows:


  • People with irregular periods vs people with normal cycles

  • People who have experienced pregnancy vs people who have not

  • People who have just given birth vs people who gave birth two years ago

  • People who are on the pill vs people who are not

  • People who are premenopausal vs people who are postmenopausal


Will the calorie counting method work equally well for everyone?


This is where we see a gap between research and the field. I discussed this topic in detail in a separate article, so check this out:


https://www.personaltrainer-mikiko.com/post/how-to-use-the-latest-science-as-a-better-guide-for-fitness




Problem 3: The human body does not work that simply.

If everyone could lose weight just by calculating calories, there would be no one who would fail at losing weight. If the human body were that simple, we would already be able to create robots that are equivalent to the human body with current technology!


Calorie-counting diets have become so popular because anyone can do one just by adding and subtracting numbers, and they show some results in the short term. Their popularity is not because they are the only way, nor because they are easy to continue. How many people around you have tried one and given up?


When we think about the human body and even how metabolism works, we have to consider nutritional balance, hormones, genetic factors, sleep, stress, and a lot more. Only then do we finally talk about calories.


Fitness and health, which are complex and differ for each individual, cannot be achieved simply by adding and subtracting calories.


Even when I'm teaching, I see people who say they can't lose weight even though they're standing on their feet eating only one meal a day. Then they drop 5 kg in about 2 months when they start eating 3 meals a day with healthy snacks.


These “mysterious” things happen more often than you might think.



Quality before quantity

If you're thinking, "I'm eating nothing, but it's not working," it's time to change your approach. Stop prioritising calories (quantity), and start by improving your nutrition balance (quality) first.


To provide an extreme example, if you were to choose the better option between 1,000 kcal of bread alone and 1,000 kcal of a set meal, you would choose the latter, right? But in reality, many people prioritise the 300kcal of cake that they just ate, and skip or reduce the 300kcal worth of dinner which is more nutritious.


It's okay to eat cake. It's delicious. I love cake too. Just don't skip dinner for the sake of cake. Your priority should be to have a nutritious dinner!



What you can do to improve quality

I wanted to share the correct way to improve your diet with those who cannot attend my sessions, so I compiled my advice into an e-book!



The book is a set of basic nutritional knowledge and worksheets that you can put into practice after learning. You can download it for free!


I'd be happy if people who are getting swept up in the numbers while calculating calories and are no longer able to truly enjoy food read this article and see the light to move forward :)