There are upsides and downsides to keeping close track of your calorie intake.
First of all, a large body of research has shown that keeping track of what you eat daily, like with a journal or a nutrition app, is an effective strategy for successful weight loss.
“It’s a behavior that truly takes seconds to minutes a day to do, but each and every time you pull out your app or diary, you remind yourself of your healthy living desires and strategies,” Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, a family doctor and Assistant Professor at the University of Ottawa explains on Greatist.com. “It’s through regular and conscious efforts and reminders that new habits are formed, and any behavior that helps you to keep your goals and intentions at the forefront of your busy mind is a good one.”
Yet, even as helpful as food-logging can be, it’s not the best approach for everyone.
In fact, as simple and fast as it is, many people find that food-logging, (especially counting calories) can become a tedious and frustrating habit to maintain.
Some find that with the “calorie factor” constantly on their mind, making meal choices becomes more difficult and any enjoyment derived from eating food is entirely negated.
If this is a situation you’ve previously experienced or one you’d like to entirely avoid, then you’ll likely find peace of mind and, most importantly, success in a different approach to creating a balanced diet for weight loss.
Dana Kofsky, a certified nutritionist and corporate wellness consultant says she once had a negative experience with calorie-counting.
“I saw myself developing a very unhealthy relationship with food by counting calories,” she said.
So, she started to look for a better solution.
“I decided to take what I learned about nutrition and apply it to my life and see how it worked,” Kofsky said. “Then I started to share it with the world and I saw more success in this approach than living in the ‘diet’ mentality.”
What exactly does her approach involve?
Kofsky says she advises her clients to avoid numbers and impractical restrictions while teaching them how to establish healthy eating habits. Through implementing this approach she found that building and maintaining healthy eating habits relies greatly on learning about and understanding what your body needs and what you personally can realistically achieve.
“The success comes from having peace of mind,” Kofsky explained. “It creates a balanced way of choosing whole foods that help your body function at its best.”
She feels that counting calories commonly encourages people to choose foods based on how many calories they have rather than focusing on the nutritional value.
“Often low-calorie foods are highly processed and have so many chemicals in them that your body will ultimately store them as fat because it won’t know what else to do with it,” Kofsky explained. “When my clients focus on how their bodies feel when they consume ‘clean’ food and pay attention to how much better they feel, how much more energy they have and how much they are sleeping. It takes the pressure off of weight loss.”
According to Kofsky, by placing a greater emphasis on nutritionally-dense foods, weight loss becomes less challenging.
“Not all bodies are the same, so I tailor each change towards that particular client, but the end result is the same — happiness and success,” she said.
She also mentioned that investigating any “emotional attachments” to food you might have may be of help.
“A lot of times it’s helping clients let go of the past relationships and beliefs they have around food and looking at it from a new perspective,” Kofsky said.
This part of the process is an essential part of creating lasting changes that promote long-term success.
—Putting This Approach Into Action—
Avoid Impractical Restrictions: Kofsky said the two most common unrealistic limitations she sees include people thinking they can “save” all of their calories until the end of the day and eating gluten-free.
“Saving all of the calories until the end of the day is a big mistake that most people make,” she explained. “When you’re not eating enough during the day your body is running on empty so when you do eat your body goes into protection mode and stores the food as fat because it doesn’t know when it’s going to be fed again. Starvation mode also conserves calories by slowing down the metabolism. In order to release weight, the goal is to speed up the metabolism and in order for the metabolism to work it has to be fed. One important tip is to eat smaller portions throughout the day so your metabolism can function at its max.”
When it comes to eating gluten-free, Kofsky says, for most, it’s nothing more than a diet trend.
“I find people are opting for ‘free’ foods,” she said. “These include gluten-free, sugar-free or fat-free pre-packaged products which seem to be another diet trend. Many of these products are trying to be something they are not, so the company making them is likely putting additives in them to give them flavor and create a similar texture. I always say ‘buyer beware.’ Read your labels.”
Instead of Counting Calories, Begin by Eating Smaller Portions: “Most people who are accustomed to counting calories want to eat larger portions to feel stuffed and choose foods lower in calories and fat,” Kofsky explained. “I would start by cutting back on the portions and allowing them to start feeling what satisfaction feels like versus always feeling full.”
Focus on How You Feel: “Focus on how great your body feels,” Kofsky said. “We are so hardwired to think how about we look that we forget to notice how great our bodies are designed to feel!”
5 Quick Tips:
• Pay attention to portions— eat until you’re satisfied versus eating until you feel stuffed.
• Read your labels, and know what’s going into your body. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, then your body won’t know what to do with it.
• Eat throughout the day to avoid starvation mode.
• Eat within an hour of waking up to get your metabolism going.
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