Is Calorie Counting The Best Diet

Are There Downsides To Counting Calories

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Although tracking your calorie intake can be an effective tool for weight loss, it might not be suitable for everyone.

In particular, it may not be recommended for those with a history of disordered eating, as it could foster an unhealthy relationship with food and worsen symptoms.

According to one study involving 105 people diagnosed with an eating disorder, 75% reported using an online tool to count their calories and 73% noted that they felt this contributed to their eating disorder .

In another study, counting calories and self-weighing more frequently was linked to increased eating-disorder severity among college students .

Several studies have had similar findings, which suggests that weighing your food or using calorie or fitness trackers could contribute to unhealthy eating habits in some people (

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    Doesnt this have too many calories?

    My husband asked me that question a hundred times while we completed the trials of the most popular diets around in search of the perfect diet. He just couldnt wrap his head around ditching calorie counting and actually losing weight.

    Is that true for you? You are not alone.

    For years, counting calories was king for weight loss. And for some, simply counting your calories may be just the right diet.

    Should You Track Your Calories

    Given the numerous potential sources of error, is tracking calories even worth it? Monitoring what you eat can be an important step in developing healthy eating habits and even losing weight, if thats your goal, says Brooke Tompkins Nezami, a behavioral nutrition scientist at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A 2013 study, published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, found that when people simply tracked their diet for eight weeks, they ate two more servings of vegetables a day than they did at the beginning of the study.

    Consistency is a better predictor of success than accuracy, Nezami added. In other words, people who benefit from these apps arent hitting their calories on the nose every daytheyre just paying attention.

    Tracking the calories themselves might not even matter. People benefit from just writing down what they eat, without the calories themselves, Nezami says. And for some people, this system might even be more beneficial. Calorie tracking is time consuming. It can be burdensome for some people. And thats one reason that we started exploring alternative, potentially more simplified tracking methods, Nezami says. One of those methods includes sorting foods into three categories: green, yellow, and red, based on their calorie content, and simply monitoring how many red, or high calorie, foods you eat.

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    The History Of Calorie Counting

    People haven’t been counting calories forever . The idea became popular around the turn of the 20th century, according to Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS, a board-certified nutritionist and author of Living the Low Carb Life: Choosing the Diet that’s Right for You from Atkins to Zone, and The 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth: The Surprising, Unbiased Truth About What You Should Eat and Why. At that time, scientist Wilbur Atwater noticed that if you put food in a machine, called a “bomb calorimeter,” and burned it, you could measure the ash and heat to find out how much “energy” was released and therefore how much “energy” was in the food. The idea caught on, and people began counting calories — that is, calculating exactly how many calories were consumed when eating particular foods, and “burned” when engaging in different activities. “A spate of diet books in the early part of the century popularized the notion that it’s all about the calories — and it’s been with us ever since,” Bowden tells WebMD.

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    Pictured recipe: Superfood Chopped Salad with Salmon & Creamy Garlic Dressing

    OK, OK, we know calories are important. It’s basic weight-loss math: You need to eat fewer calories than you burn if you want the pounds to come off. But when you get caught up counting calories, you can miss the bigger picture. After all, we eat food not numbers, and our bodies don’t treat all calories the same. “One hundred calories of broccoli, for instance, is filled with fiber that satisfies hunger, but 100 calories of soda will cause a blood sugar spike and crash and actually leave you craving more calories,” says Carolyn Dunn, Ph.D., R.D.N., L.D.N., a nutrition specialist at North Carolina State University in Raleigh. Besides, most people are pretty bad at tallying calories-generally erring by about 110 over or under.

    The good news? There are lots of other ways to cut calories that are way more intuitive and conducive to getting those extra pounds off- than counting. Take a look, and make this the year you win at weight loss.

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    Visualize Your Goals And Track Progress

    Of all the pros of using calorie counting apps, the main advantage is that you can visualize your goals and track your progress toward them. By having a set goal and an easy way to see how close you’re getting, you can motivate yourself to make better decisions about the food youre putting into your body.

    Calorie tracker apps allow you to see what you eat, the nutrients you need more of, the exercise you do, and the progress youre making to force you to be honest with yourself. Hopefully, it inspires you to live a healthier lifestyle with better food choices.

    Be Present To Shed Pounds

    Recent research found that when people did a short mindfulness exercise called a body scan meditationin which you take stock of how you feel insidethey were better able to pick up on internal cues that signal hunger and fullness. People who are more mindful have also been shown to experience fewer weight fluctuations over time.

    Even though eating quality calories will help you crave treats less, there’s still room for the occasional indulgence. Dr. Ludwig is a fan of dark chocolate, which has heart, brain, and satiety benefits. If that doesn’t do it for you, you can keep the occasional cookie in the mix. “After cleaning the metabolic slate and lowering their insulin, people may be able to enjoy pastries, pasta, etcetera in moderation,” says Dr. Ludwig. If you miss these foods, he recommends experimenting to see what you can handle before cravings are triggered. “For others whose metabolism doesn’t tolerate that as much, the benefits of being in control of hunger and not having to fight cravings will be much greater than the fleeting pleasures of those processed carbohydrates.”

    As for Rabe, she ended her year of dodging calories by embarking on a new one in which she embraced fat and reduced sugar. She lost about as much weight while gaining leanness, strength, and a steadier stream of energy.

    “I feel so much freer to not be restricted and obsessed over calories,” she says. “I’ve made some really major changes in the quality of my diet, and I feel I can sustain them.”

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    How Many Calories Should You Eat For Lunch Or Dinner

    The number of calories you should eat for lunch or dinner varies based on many factors, including your personal preferences.

    For example, while some people may enjoy eating a large lunch and smaller dinner, others may decide to distribute their calorie intake more evenly.

    Therefore, because everyones needs and preferences are different, its best to find what works for you and stick to it when planning your meals.

    People Are Bad At Estimating What They Eat

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    Many studies rely on self-reported data via participant food diaries rather than direct measurements to determine how many calories people eat or burn through physical activity.

    Unfortunately, food and activity journals are not always completely accurate.

    In fact, studies report that participants significantly underestimate how much they eat and can underreport their calorie intake by as much as 2,000 calories per day.

    Similarly, people tend to overestimate how much they move by up to 72%. This holds true even in cases where participants are paid to be accurate (

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    It Causes You To Ignore Your Own Body And Needs

    Our bodies send signals to tell us specifically what we uniquely need. Your hunger and satiety signals are your bodys way of telling you what it needs to feel and function at its best. This may be that it needs more food for energy or that the portion of food you ate was too much .

    When were not in-tune with these cues, it can be easy to overeat or under-eat because were following strict portion guides instead.

    So many things have taught us to disconnect from our own bodies and focus on external factors, such as:

    • Counting calories, macros, or points
    • Fasting
    • Eating until your plate is clean
    • Eating a specific portion size from a diet or plan

    In contrast, an example of an eating style where youre listening to your own body and your bodys needs is mindful eating. With mindful eating, we focus on developing a strong mind-body connection with compassion and without judgment. This allows you to understand what works uniquely for your own body. Youre then able to accept that what works for someone else may not work for you.

    This is why so many diets, plans, and trends dont work. Theyre one-size-fits-all solutions. They ask us to follow specific rules without having us tune into our own bodies to see if its actually working or not.

    When youre more in tune with your own body, you build the confidence to know what to eat, when to eat, and how much to eat based on your unique needs.

    How To Start Counting Calories The Right Way

    The first thing you need to do is determine how many calories you need each day. Counting them does you no good if you’re eating too few or too many. The absolute best way to determine your daily calorie allowance is to work with a registered dietitian, physician or certified nutritionist who can take your weight, height, health history and goals into account for an ideal daily calorie number.

    If seeing a pro isn’t on the table, however, you can use an online calorie calculator, like this one from Mayo Clinic, to find out. Most calorie calculators use the same formula, the Mifflin-St Jeor equation, which accounts for gender, height, weight, age and activity level. Like the disclaimer on Mayo Clinic’s calorie calculator says, other factors also influence your daily calorie needs. Pregnancy, illnesses and occupation contribute, too.

    Once you have your number, you can start counting your calories. To create a deficit, eat fewer calories than your maintenance number, and to create a surplus, eat more. You can keep track in a pen-and-paper journal or use a calorie-counting app.

    The See How You Eat food journal app focuses on taking photos, rather than logging words. This is a great approach to food journaling if you find yourself forgetting to write down the details.

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    Delete Calorie Counting Apps

    This might seem simple, but it is an important first step for committing to stop counting. Otherwise, you might be tempted to pick it back up if you don’t feel progress as quickly as you’re expecting. Plus, calculators and calorie counts might not even reflect what you’re actually eating. “The calories you see on nutrition labels are also notoriously off. A food manufacturer can be 20% off on their calorie counts on labels,” explains Sharp. “It’s also important to note that every apple will be different and every pound of meat will be different, making actual accurate calorie counting impossible.” Getting calorie counting apps off of your phone can help you move away from strict tracking for good.

    Be Friends With Fiber


    Soluble fiber dissolves in water and creates a gel in our body,” Zellner explains. “It helps a specific set of bacteria in the digestive tract and creates a fatty acid called butyrate.” Butyrate promotes digestion and fullness, which help with weight management. Supporting butyrate and bacteria in the gut is a really great way to keep the body in balance, Zellner notes.

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    Focus On Protein Choices

    Protein is indeed an important part of your dietary needs. That said, not all proteins are processed by the body the same, and if weight loss is your goal, there are certain proteins you should try incorporating more into your diet for the best results, Gans says.

    I suggest going for lean protein when choosing meat for your meals, Gans says. Lean proteins are meats that are lower in fat. Gans encourages going for meats like skinless chicken, poultry, or ground sirloin.

    Calorie Counting Can Lead To Disordered Eating Behaviors

    When were working with clients who have previously counted calories, we generally also see that they unintentionally have an unhealthy relationship with food. In many cases, this can present itself through disordered eating behaviors.

    Unfortunately, in todays society, many disordered eating behaviors are considered socially acceptable, or normal. You may not realize that these behaviors may be a sign of an unhealthy relationship with food.

    Here are a few examples of disordered eating behaviors:

  • Yo-yo dieting
  • Anxiety around eating certain foods
  • Rigid nutrition or fitness routines
  • Extreme feelings of guilt or shame after eating
  • Obsessing over your weight or body image
  • Feeling out of control around food
  • Keeping up with every nutrition trend
  • When youre counting calories, it can be far too easy to develop these unhealthy eating behaviors. Youre so focused on eating a specific amount of calories per day that it can lead you to constantly think about your food choices.

    Being so controlling over your food ultimately leads you to feel more out of control. It can feel like eating well is really challenging to maintain, which overall is very negative for your physical and mental health.

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    What Is The Top Calorie Counter

    The best calorie counting app is not the one that is expensive and not the one that is free as well. Instead, the best one is the one that offers you the benefits that suit your health needs.

    For example, if you are on a keto diet, a calorie counter app that focuses on calories and exercises is not considered the best for you.

    What I Dont Love About Counting Calories For Weight Loss

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    • Nothing is truly off the table That doesnt really mean you should eat your daily allowance in cheeseburgers from McDonalds for weight loss. You can, but should you? Does that really make you healthier? Believe me, if it worked my husband would be the first in line.
    • Just cutting back is difficult for many There is no doubt that some foods are more addictive than others. No one craves an onion like they do sweets and chips. So, saying that you can continue to have those foods can be a slippery slope. One piece of candy leads to two and then you forget how many you had. And your counting accuracy suffers.
    • Calorie counting accuracy is questionable See above. People notoriously underestimate their portion sizes and overestimate their exercise with calorie counting apps. When they stop losing weight, they have no idea why. I do they werent accurate on their consumption.
    • You have to stick with the work When you eliminate food groups for weight loss, most people get used to the mental transition with time and know what to avoid. Unless you stick with the same foods daily, you will need to continue calorie counting for weight loss.
    • Some studies do support food elimination diets for greater weight loss There are studies to support greater weight loss with the elimination of carbohydrates and studies to show better health outcomes with healthy fats. That being said, what study shows improvement in obesity in America today? None. Do the right diet for you.

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    Calories: Different Kinds And Their Effects

    The main sources of calories in a typical person’s diet are carbohydrates, proteins, and fat, with alcohol also being a significant portion of calorie intake for many people . Some studies have shown that the calories displayed on nutrition labels and the calories actually consumed and retained can vary significantly. This hints at the complex nature of calories and nutrition and is why many conflicting points of view on the “best” methodology for losing weight exist. For example, how a person chews their food has been shown to affect weight loss to some degree generally speaking, chewing food more increases the number of calories that the body burns during digestion. People that chew more also tend to eat less, since the longer period of time necessary to chew their food allows more time to reach a state of satiety, which results in eating less. However, the effects of how food is chewed and digestion of different foods are not completely understood and it is possible that other factors exist, and thus this information should be taken with a grain of salt .

    Disadvantages Of Calorie Counter App

    The main enemy or disadvantage of a calorie counting app is inaccuracy.

    For this reason, make sure that the one you are downloading is legit and has some positive reviews.

    Furthermore, usually, calorie counter applications come with a demo version where interested individuals can try using them.

    However, there are some features that need to be bought. In this case, a consumer must subscribe and pay some amount of money to enjoy the full version of the app.

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