I’d be lying if I said that Calories don’t matter, that eating more Calories than body needs won’t result in weight gain. BUT that being said, DO NOT count Calories.
“Well, that makes no sense!” I can hear you saying. Stick with me.
Calories are a unit, a way of measuring energy. Our Calorie needs are not a fixed number (like say the typical 2000 Calorie benchmark used on the Nutrition Facts Label). Your needs vary based on your activity level, your weight and body composition (i.e. the amount of lean body mass you have), your age, hormone levels (think thyroid), whether you’re sick or have an infection, etc. So to tell you to restrict your Calorie intake to 1200 Calories (as many diet books or weight loss programs do) is wrong for more than one reason.
First, it assumes that your energy needs stay constant, which we’ve seen is not true.
Second, for many people, 1200 Calories is far below their basic energy need at rest. If you calculate a ball park number for your Basal or Resting Metabolic Rate whether through an online calculator or a more advanced metabolic tester, you will see a minimum number of Calories that your body needs to function that day, not including that fitness class you’re going to or, ladies, the fact that you’re starting your period.
Third, it is asking you to NOT listen to your body, and instead follow a faulty estimation of your needs.
Instead of counting, pay attention. That’s it. Start paying attention to your body and get to know how YOUR body tells you that it is hungry, satisfied, full, or stuffed. Check in with yourself regularly–start in the morning when you normally eat breakfast. Are you eating because you’re hungry or because you always eat right when you get up? As you’re reaching for that mid-morning snack, are you physically hungry? If you are, did you eat enough at breakfast? Maybe you’ll find that a donut and coffee don’t tide you over as well as oatmeal and fruit.
Paying attention and learning about your personal needs that fluctuate and vary from day to day means that even though Calories matter, it’s so much better to eat what you want, when you’re hungry, until you’re satisfied. So say “Goodbye” to Calorie counting and “Hello” to flexible, mindful eating customized for Y-O-U!