So, over the past month or so I’ve been counting my calories. I wanted to try it out because I have met a few people recently who LIVE by their calorie count and use it as a measurement to consider themselves having had a healthy day or not.
I set out to debunk this way of thinking as I don’t consider ‘hitting your calorie count’ an aspect of healthy living. I still believe this to be true but to my surprise, I discovered how apps like MyFitnessPal and MyPlate provide a really great insight to your eating habits and activity levels.
For me, it was a really good reminder of how active I have to be in order to eat what I want to eat! Which sounds little ridiculous maybe… but I’m serious. It poses the question: How lazy do you want to be?
Quick Review: What are Calories?
Our bodies need energy to function, just like a car needs fuel to run. Food is our fuel and calories is a way of measuring how much energy is supplied. The more active you are, the more calories you need to function (eg. the more you drive, the more fuel you need).
To maintain weight, we need to intake the same amount of calories our body needs to function and not more. Over indulging means you gain weight; calories will convert to fat rather than energy. Under indulging (generally) means you will begin to lose weight as your body will use existing fat reserves for energy instead.
So is healthy living a calorie equation? NO. Eating a well-balanced and nutritious diet is like pumping premium fuel into your car rather than low grade. What is low grade fuel? Well for us, this is called empty calories.
Technically I could eat three Big Macs a day (which equates to 1,650 calories) and stay within my 1,780 net calorie amount to maintain weight. But does that sound like a balanced diet? Exactly… no way. A diet full of “empty calories” (like chips, fries, biscuits and candy) consisting of either solid fats or filled with added sugars, add to your net calorie intake but provide you with no vitamins or minerals.
Empty calories should be avoided as much as possible.
Nutrient Rich Calories!
Now this is what I liked about counting my calories this month… Good foods that hold a lot of nutrients are often also quite calorific. I knew that but it’s one thing to know it and another to see the impact of it on your phone right in front of you.
You can eat extremely healthy foods and quite easily overindulge. So you might have a very nourishing diet and not understand why you are gaining weight. Essentially if you want to keep eating the way you are, and not gain weight, than you need to be more active.
Which poses the question…
How lazy do you want to be?
The truth comes out when you are tracking your calories. I really liked that about this experience.
I love food. I’ve never been able to understand when people say they don’t remember to eat — it’s just never happened to me. I mean, I get busy and eat later than usual sometimes but I always remember to eat.
As you can see below, when you don’t consider activity levels, I pretty consistently overindulge.
So how lazy do you want to be? Me, I like like my nourishing diet. If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I love breakfast so I never skip this meal, I usually have a light lunch, a few healthy snacks throughout the day and proper dinner at night. To continue eating this way, I need to be active.
Counting my calories has really made me realize how sedentary the western lifestyle is. If you’re not mindful about it, you are sitting nearly all day and walking as minimally as it is more convenient to drive or grab the closer tube.
When I’m having a rest day and I don’t exercise, it’s quite apparent that there is no need to eat as much as I would do on an active day. It has spurred me to get off the tube one stop before I usually do and walk the rest of the way, just to burn a few more calories so I can enjoy my usual snack in the afternoon guilt free. Small lifestyle adjustments like this really do make a big difference.
These apps put you in a position where you need to think, how badly do I want this snack (for example)? Is it worth a short walk? Yes? Great now we’re being active AND eating healthy without over indulging. Now that sounds like healthy living.
Below is a graph displaying Net Calories (Calories Consumed – Exercise = Net Calorie intake). See what a little activity does?
So, Yay or Nay to calorie counting?
You know what, I have to say ‘Yay’… but only for a period of time… and mainly with the mindset of calorie tracking rather than counting.
I would recommend tracking your diet for a month, and doing so maybe once a year. Remind yourself of just how active you have to be to continue eating the way you are or what adjustments you might consider making to your diet to ensure you’re eating nutrient rich foods and not consistently overindulging.
It’s a really good way of educating yourself on you. Track your calories and start to decode your lifestyle habits. Just don’t let it take over your lifestyle.