Welcome to spring!  Horse show season is under way and bathing suit season is just around the corner.  A winter of holiday feasting and reduced activity may have left you with a few souvenir pounds to help you to remember last season.  I was recently asked if I think that counting calories is a good way to lose weight so I thought I’d share my thoughts on this popular technique.

The short answer is that counting calories is a solution that may work but it is not something I recommend.  The reason I don’t recommend it is because I feel strongly that we should be eating whole foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds (with occasional fish and eggs) – not processed, packaged foods.  Whole foods do not usually come with a nutrition label to tell you how many calories you are eating therefore it makes it very difficult to count calories if you are eating a whole foods diet (and by “diet” I mean lifestyle).  Eating a diet of low-calorie processed foods may help you to lose weight if your current calorie intake is higher than your calorie output but I do not feel this strategy will lead you to health.

Do I think that you should be aware of your calorie intake?  If you are eating processed foods or soft drinks; absolutely.  If you are eating a whole foods, plant-based diet; no.  If you eat processed foods that come with a label that says how many calories it contains per serving, it’s a good idea to be mindful of that.  Many people don’t realize that a small box, bottle, or can may actually contain two servings so eating the whole package will actually give you twice as many calories!  I always recommend that if you are eating a food that has a label, read the label.  But it’s a good idea to eliminate processed foods and replace them with whole foods.  (See my article about label reading for more on this topic)

Calorie counting is also a challenge because the calorie recommendations do not take into account the amount of physical activity you participate in, your body type, or your age (for the most part).  Extreme athletes may need over 12,000 calories per day while a small, inactive woman may only need about 1200-1500.  The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is based on a 2000 calorie diet.  If you attempt to balance your calories – intake: output – how will you measure output?  I feel like this technique, while historically effective for some people, involves a lot of calculations and a lot of processed foods.

If you are looking to improve your holistic health this spring by getting into better shape and shedding a few pounds, here are some of my recommendations.

  • Eliminate soft drinks (regular and diet)
  • Eliminate or significantly minimize your intake of processed foods
  • Eliminate artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives from your diet
  • Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet
  • Increase the amount of exercise you get
  • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day
  • Take it one day at a time
  • Set a weight loss goal (see article about goals
  • Have a positive attitude (see article about positive thinking)
  • Create a holistic health affirmation that starts with “I AM…”  Example: “I AM a healthy and fit 138 lbs!”

Weight loss is not rocket science but it is a challenge in today’s society.  Our lifestyle of fast-food, processed food, and inactivity can make it very difficult to shed the pounds and keep them off.  Your weight, however, is a choice directly related to your lifestyle.  So, don’t go on a diet, choose a new, healthy lifestyle.  As strange as it sounds, I go back to horse management – if your horse needed to lose a few pounds, would counting calories be the way to go?

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