I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but last week when a friend asked why I didn’t include guidelines for caloric restriction in my Complete Starter’s Guide to Healthy Living, I realized I needed to bump my thoughts on this topic to the top of my “to-write” list.
In short, there are several reasons why I do not personally count calories, and why I do not encourage most of my clients to either.
First and foremost, counting calories places the emphasis on quantity, not quality, of food. For too long we’ve been hearing that maintaining our weight comes down to calories in vs. calories out; that is, weight loss results from using more energy than we consume. While I won’t write off this notion entirely, the truth is, there is far more to our weight and health than simply maintaining negative energy balance. Quality of food (i.e. macro and micro nutrient values, the presence of additives, chemicals, and other toxins, etc.) plays a huge role in how our bodies are able to utilize the foods we consume. When counting calories, we are able to ignore the quality of food, making it easy and tempting to choose “food-like” diet products to reach our caloric goals, which can lead to an array of cellular dysfunction and metabolic distress.
On that note, counting calories from real foods is a bit of a pain in the ass! While “food-like” diet products are conveniently labeled, when was the last time you saw a piece of fruit or head of lettuce with a nutrition label on it? Sure, I could spend time weighing and measuring every little thing I eat, looking up each little ingredient in MyFitnessPal, but I’ll tell you, it gets old fast. Diligently tracking food has its place, but for me, my day-to-day life is not it. I’d rather simplify the process by including a good balance of protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats in each meal or snack, and eating until I feel satisfied but not stuffed.
Lastly, counting calories is only valuable when we know how many calories our bodies actually need. And while there are numerous online calculators to help us estimate our basal metabolic and resting metabolic rates (because most of us don’t have access to a lab, right?), using these online calculators, we really do only end up with an estimate. In my opinion, using our estimated calorie requirements with estimated calories consumed and estimated calories burned from exercise leaves a whole lot of room for error, not to mention, an unhealthy mindset of how much can I eat and how much do I need to exercise to burn it off?
When it comes down to it, counting calories is simply not a strategy that fits my values or lifestyle at this point. That’s not to say it’s not a valuable tool for some, but, in the day-to-day of a healthy and happy life, I feel the focus should be on nourishing the body with real foods and eating to satisfaction 🙂
That said, enjoy these wraps as a healthy, no fuss meal!
Quick + easy turkey wraps
- Tortillas (look for 100% whole wheat or gluten free, with minimal ingredients and no added sugar)
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Red leaf lettuce
- Sliced avocado
- Deli turkey (I like Applegate Farms, or look for organic, humanely raised, no antibiotics/preservatives/added sugars)
Wash several leaves of lettuce and place on tortilla. Top with a handful of washed sprouts, 1/4 of an avocado (sliced), and 3-4 slices of turkey. Gently roll up, cut in half if desired, and enjoy!
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