A client asked me the other day if I counted calories. When I told her that I do not, she replied “then how do you control your food intake.” Alas once again I came face-to-face with that common misconception that calories are the way to control your weight. This is not really the case. Sure if you are consuming 12,000 calories a day you might need to count them to learn exactly how many calories foods/meals actually are, but in general calorie counting only serves to stress out people seeking to lose weight (lower fat levels).
After 17 years as a fitness professional, I know what amount of calories I consume in general on a daily basis without having to count them. More importantly, I know that counting calroies is not as important as burning the calroies I consume. So for all of you who sweat over calorie counting, you can relax and still lower your body fat levels if you’ll just follow this simple formula:
FUEL IN VS. FUEL OUT
There’s no need to count calories if you’re eating six small “sensible” meals every day (with allowances for larger meals or less “sensible” treats) and moving enough throughout the day to burn your fuel (or calorie) intake. If your goal is to lower body fat (i.e., lose weight) then you need to burn more fuel than you ingest. Remember, if you ingest more fuel (calories) than you burn, that fuel will be stored in your body as fat. Continue in-taking more than you use and you will continue to store, and gain, fat.
In plainer terms: if you are going to have a pumpkin spice latte on a daily basis, along with pizza, pasta, and a lot of processed carbs, you’d better be working out at least two-hours a day to balance it out. If you’re eating MY way, even if you throw in ONE Starbucks high caloric treat during the week, you don’t need to “count those calories” because you’re consistently burning your fuel source, and building enough lean muscle to burn excess fuel.
I’ve addressed this issue several times through the years that I’ve had this blog, and clearly it needs repeating on a regular basis. Calories and/or carbs are NOT the enemy to our bodies. What is the enemy is the amount of excess calories or processed crap that most Americans put into their bodies. Since the great depression we have evolved into a Nation of super-sized, overly-salted, overly-sugared, overly-processed meals where 90% of the working population do not ride-share (drive alone in their cars), and work highly sedentary 8-hour days in forced air, fake lighting environments.
All of this has left us with a huge obesity problem in both adults AND children. To my perspective, the first way we can reverse this is to instill in everyone the concept that food is for our survival first and foremost. While I am a “foodie” who enjoys the artistry and wide variety of flavorful meals, sweets, and wines I still keep moderation in place by always observing the rule of “fuel in vs. fuel out.”
So stop counting calories if that’s your thing, and shift your focus to acknowledging that your body is a machine. Like a car needs quality gasoline, oil, water, well-kept tires, and regular maintenance, our body needs small amounts of healthy fuel on a consistent basis, while balancing it out with effective fuel-burning movement, followed by adequate rest. In this way your “machine” will stay lean and healthy for a very long time.