Counting Calories is not the one and only method for Successful Weight Loss.
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"Calorie counting is a great tool, but it's NOT for everyone. If you have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, calorie counting can have a negative impact on your mental space and health. Especially if you over restrict." Elaine cautions against the potential issues from strict calorie counting.
The Health and Fitness Industry has a long-running love-hate relationship with the concept of counting calories as being the only solution to weight loss.
Before continuing, we'd like to congratulate you if counting calories has led to long-term success on your weight loss journey with little to no side effects.
Without totally bashing this method for weight loss, we'd like to inform you, beautiful friend, that counting your calories is not the only way to lose weight and of the sneaky, unseen concerns that can influence your mental health and weight loss progress in the long run.
A benefit of tracking calories is seen when used at the beginning of your weight loss journey. Tracking calories encourages you to become aware of the nutritional value of the food you consume. If you allow it to be, learning the macronutrients and nutrient density can be fun and lead to a genuine interest in nutritional science and the role of food in your life.
However, tracking calories isn't practical as a long-term lifestyle. When you're too focused on the calorie count and grams of a meal, it takes all pleasure away to enjoy the meal in front of you.
Not being able to accurately add a meal to your calorie tracking app may cause guilt and shame for going "off track". This can lead to opening a blackhole of negative emotions, self-criticism and a possibility to avoid social gatherings or events altogether.
Stanford University conducted a study by monitoring 40 individuals and their weight loss success using digital food tracking over 10 years. The results showed that roughly 70% of the participants lost weight while tracking their food intake. However, the high success rate was limited to under one year. The success rate dropped to 47% for those who tracked for longer than a year, while at under a year the rate was 84%.¹
This study highlights that while you may drop a couple of inches in the short run by tracking calories, it isn't a solution to long-term weight loss success or weight-loss maintenance.
A study by researchers in California concluded that monitoring one's diet increased psychological stress, and restricting calories increased cortisol levels in individuals. The researchers added, "These findings lend support to the idea that stress may be a mechanism of diet failure."²
Cortisol is your stress hormone, and when it increases, a commonly practised self-soothing method is to indulge in high-fat, calorie-dense foods. Doing this goes against your attempts of dieting.
Remove the stress element from your weight loss journey by being mindful of your eating behaviours.
Being mindful brings a gentle awareness of internal and external cues and triggers to the idea of food and the act of eating.
Internal cues can include:
Listening to when your body is hungry or telling you it is full
Stop forcing yourself to eat foods you don't enjoy or agree with because "the diet told me to".
Noticing if you avoid certain food items because you were influenced to label them as "bad" or "unhealthy"
Are you using food as a reward?
Are you using food as a stress release?
External cues can include:
Avoiding social events because you cannot control the food being served
Keeping 'treats' in the house when you are choosing the eat healthy is an unfair temptation
Punishing your body by restricting calories/food because you are not happy with your body image/natural build
Believing food is "the enemy" rather than a delicious & nutritious life-sustaining provider
Don't rob yourself of enjoying your life to the fullest by worrying about your daily calorie intake. Your weight loss journey should not be a pain in the butt, but rather an opportunity for growth in understanding your unique body and all her needs and preferences.
Read our related articles on how food guilt is a weight loss red flag and how you can rewire your mindset for long-term weight loss success to further understand the meaning of Holistic Weight Loss.
Do you need help breaking the cycle of yo-yo dieting and wish to lose weight without cutting out calories or favourite foods?
Book your consultation call to receive your no B.S personalized action plan that is easy to follow and see through to reach your lifestyle and fitness goals.
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Written by: Andrea Thelen of AuthenticAndrea44
5th August 2022
¹ Mayle, W. (2021, May 20). More than 70% of people who successfully lose weight do this, says study. Eat This Not That. Retrieved August 2, 2022, from https://www.eatthis.com/news-obesity-digital-self-monitoring-study/
² Tomiyama, A. J., Mann, T., Vinas, D., Hunger, J. M., Dejager, J., & Taylor, S. E. (2010, May). Low calorie dieting increases cortisol. Psychosomatic medicine. Retrieved August 2, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2895000/
DISCLAIMER: All blog posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only. Any advice or recommendations given in these posts does not supersede directions received by a licensed medical professional (i.e. doctor, psychiatrist, nurse, psychologist, etc), nutritionist, dietician or your personal trainer. The reader is responsible for their own health and well-being.