Why Calorie Counting May Not Help With Weight Regulation
Looking to see what an engagement ring would look like on your finger? There’s an app for that. Wanting to find all the sample sales going on in New York City? There’s an app for that. Hoping to shed a few pounds? Well then, it should come as no surprise that there are apps that help with that. However, many of the most popular, such as Lose It! and MyFitnessPal (both free on Android and iOS), revolve around calorie counting, which has long been debated as a legitimate form of weight regulation when compared to trendier diets. But Ken Immer, president and chief culinary officer of Culinary Health Solutions, a company that aids people in finding the best diet program or method for their lifestyle, is here to help us assess the plus sides and pitfalls of this practice.
1. Calorie counting can be educational. Most people are oblivious as to how many calories they really consume in a single day (yes, olive oil has 120 calories per tablespoon). Calorie counting forces us to more closely monitor what we put in our mouths. “It can be a very eye-opening exercise and help people become more mindful when it comes to eating,” Immer says.
2. It can help us better understand our food. Rather than downing a smoothie here and grabbing a salad there just because we think it’s what we should be doing, calorie counting reveals to us what our food should be doing. “It can help people understand exactly how to portion their food in a new way by actually learning how much energy is in the food they consume,” Immer says. As a result, calorie counting helps people eat more intentionally.
3. It gets people to turn over their food packages. Nutrition Facts labels are on essentially every food product we buy, but after most people give it a cursory glance at the grocery store, the chart is rarely referred to again. Unless, of course, you’re calorie counting. “(Calories are) the easiest number to see on the label and can lead to learning about the other nutrients as well,” Immer says.
4. It helps you eliminate excess calories, which are what always lead to weight gain. The only way to lose weight is to eat fewer calories than you burn, and calorie counting helps you track those numbers. Although results can be slow and calorie limiting isn’t 100 percent tied to weight loss, Immer notes, it certainly won’t end in weight gain if done correctly.
1. Calorie counting can be difficult and imprecise. For instance, without a food scale, try to calculate how many calories of rice you ate if the serving size is 90 grams, and you had a third of a cup. Yeah, it’s not so easy — even with an app that does the work for you. “If you miss meals or snacks or don’t enter the information correctly, then your count is wrong, and it completely ruins the exercise,” Immer states.
2. It is pretty boring. “In addition to it simply being difficult to do, it’s easy to stop doing,” Immer remarks. We barely have the time to throw on deodorant before we run out the door, much less the time to type up or write down every calorie we eat. “It’s an additional task to add to your day, and it takes some time to see results from this method,” he says. “People can lose interest easily.”
3. It’s more complicated than simply staying under your calorie limit. Avocados and nuts are nutrient-rich yet highly caloric. Rice cakes and iceberg lettuce, on the other hand, provide little nutritional value with few calories. Apportioning your calories ineffectively can result in unintended consequences, Immer says, such as “excessive hunger that is capped by a calorie limit and leaves people feeling completely deprived.”
4. It can ruin food. Immer reminds us we don’t want to remove the joy from eating, which is a somewhat common side effect of calorie counting, as people begin to categorize foods as either “good” or “bad.” “It’s important to keep our relationship with food a very positive one,” he says. “These associations can ruin our outlook on something that we cherish in life, and that’s unsustainable.”
Immer explains that whether you should partake in calorie counting is dependent on these cons. If, based on your personality, habits, and preferences, these cons seem like dealbreakers, it’s probably best not to attempt this weight-regulation tactic. “Healthy and effective calorie counting is a totally personal experience and, if using our criteria, it can be determined that calorie counting is for you, the most important piece of advice is to keep it positive,” Immer concludes.
Have you tried this common yet complicated strategy for weight loss? Share your story with us @BritandCo.
(Photo via Getty)