To Count Calories or Not to Count Calories…that is the question. Though it sounds like a timeless quote from a Shakespeare play its as relevant as “To Be or not To Be.” You see whether or not you should count calories is a very relevant question. Some diets are built on the idea, some diets tout that you don’t need to. I say it is absolutely necessary…here is why.
Are you Asleep at the Wheel?
I just heard an interesting analogy from a friend of mine on Facebook. She had just started using the Weight Watchers food tracking app and said that it was eye opening and she felt like she had been “sleep eating” for the past number of years. This was a powerful statement, enough to make me want to write a post about it.
How many of us are just eating portions that “look” about the right size. Worse yet, how many are eating portions that DON’T look the right size. We as American’s have a very distorted view of what is a correct portion size. With every restaurant trying to outdo each other with a bigger burger, plate, dessert or even salad, how can we expect to really know what is right? No one is telling us what a proper sized meal looks like. So we go on for years and perhaps a lifetime eating what is put in front of us gaining pound after pound and thinking that one plate equals one meal. I will now call this “Sleep Eating” because it seems appropriate. We are doing the equivalent of sleeping at the steering wheel and going wherever it takes us. For most of us that’s a few extra pounds every year. For even more its down the road to diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and a slew of other health issues.
So Why am I so Crazy about Calorie Counting?
I am adamant about calorie counting for three reasons. First, calorie counting gives you perspective. Figuring out an approximate calorie range that you need to be in for your goal (maintaining a weight, losing weight etc) will give you the parameters or boundaries in which you can eat. This sets the “rules” by which you live each day. If you can eat 2000 calories per day as a maintenance program that’s where you start. The next part of it is the BIG lesson.
Fitting those calories in to a day is the next reason counting calories is important. I recommend eating for what you are about to do. Let me show you what that DOESN’T mean because this comes up frequently. Most people eat a minimal breakfast, a light lunch and then come home and eat a large dinner. Most of the time its because breakfast is on the go, lunch is out (because of work) and dinner is the only time they have to sit down and unwind or actually cook so they make it a “solid meal.” The problem lies in the fact that at the end of the day that person has about 3 hours or so before they go to sleep. Sleep is our period of burning the LEAST amount of calories. So large meal plus long period of inactivity is a formula for storing all those unused calories aka getting fat. You may have heard someone say they are “not eating after 7pm” though a bit misguided it is still following the premise that towards the end of the day you don’t need the extra calories. You are about to power down for the night, so why fuel up excessively?
So back to calorie counting. You have your calorie boundaries so now its up to you to fit those in to the day to fuel you where you need it most. Are you most active early in the day? Chances are that is when you need to be eating. Fit the bulk of your calories in to the earlier parts of your day to fuel the activity that comes after. This gives you a chance to burn what you eat. My example for this is pay bills after you get paid.
The third reason that calorie counting is important is accountability. At work you are accountable to your boss, team, coworkers etc. At home no one is accountable for their actions. If you over eat, you don’t know it because there are no systems, policies etc like at the workplace. Calorie counting provides that organization so that you are running as smoothly as a business runs. You have very little surplus or deficit, so to speak. If you were to walk in to the accounting department of a major business and saw no books or calculators, you would probably think its time to get a job somewhere else because this company is going down. Why is your body any different?
How to get started?
- Start by calculating your maintenance calories. This will get you started and get your mind on being aware of food. You’ll see calorie counts on menus more and more and start to realize “wow, I really am over eating!”
- The next step is to start tracking those calories. You can do this by hand in a notebook by reading food labels and being mindful of portion sizes. Measuring and weighing is the best way to get a good “eye” on portion sizes. Most of us are way off base as to what 3 ounces of chicken looks like etc. If you have an iPhone I recommend Tap and Track. Its a very powerful free app that has a huge database of food and is very easy to add in foods on the fly. *Plus if you skipped step 1, it will calculate your calories according to your goals for you.
- Now start to manipulate your food and calories around to give you the right amount of calories for your active day. If you go to the gym at lunch, try to fuel up at breakfast. If you work out after work, then breakfast and lunch should be your heavier meals with dinner being fairly light.
Now you have a good start to getting control of your food intake. Using just those simple steps above will open your eyes to how you are currently eating and perhaps give you the motivation you have been looking for. Being able to chance your body at will is very empowering. Remember “Abs are made in the kitchen” so if you are not in control of how you are eating, you can’t expect to see any changes in your body. Exercise alone won’t cut it so get your food life back on the road and don’t be “asleep at the wheel!”
If you need to get your diet under control and start getting in shape with One on One Personal Training in Long Beach attention feel free to email me today or call 562.225.2244 for a FREE Consultation.