By Nichole Rich, Ph.D.
In my years of working with clients on a journey to weight loss the question always comes up, “How many calories should I have?” Through the early years in coaching it was always easy to figure out that number and count the calories throughout the day. As long as you stay consistent and stick with that number, voila! The weight comes off.
But guess what happens?
You might feel cravings, lightheaded, moody, and so hungry that you seriously start to consider gnawing on your arm. And you become addicted to the scale. It creates a whole mindset that you are so focused on numbers and being cranky that you lose sight of the ultimate goal, which is being at your healthiest.
If you’ve never attempted a healthy eating program counting calories CAN be a great place to start to get a pulse for where you are. When I look at food logs for people looking to shed some serious weight I actually find that people aren’t eating enough or they just aren’t eating the right foods.
First, let’s start by talking about your body. Your body is a machine. It is the only vehicle you will have for your entire life. Just like the car you use to take to work except you can’t trade in your body. With your car, you schedule regular maintenance and make sure you put the right gas in the tank. You want to be sure that you:
- a) put enough gas to get you where you want to go and
- b) put the right fluids in to make sure it runs optimally and efficiently.
You should think about your body the same way. Do you track miles on your car or count the gallons of gas that go into your tank? In some instances you do, but overall, you just know what the right things are for maintaining your car and keeping it running.
The same can be said for your body and the foods you eat. As I mentioned, most food logs that I have looked at show me that people aren’t eating enough. If you’re working out, your body actually needs the calories to burn. Without the right amount of foods your body will rebel and will fight to hang onto whatever it has stored. You may lose weight in the beginning but when your body is in constant depletion you might hit a plateau.
If you have some weight you want to shed you will need to develop a healthy relationship with the right foods, eat often, and choose the right portions. Let’s see what this looks like.
Step One: What are your favorite fruits, veggies, starches and proteins? Discover the essential foods that will keep your body running and energized. Cravings are a signal that you are lacking some essential nutrients in your nutrition plan. Learn what those are and make sure you are getting the right nutrients.
Step Two: How often are you eating? To stimulate fat burning for weight loss you will want to keep that fire burning all day. That fire (your metabolism) needs kindle (food). Eating 5-6 small meals of the right combinations throughout the day will keep your metabolism going and will spark that weight loss.
Step Three: Do not eliminate food groups. There is a myth that cutting carbs will help with weight loss. Unless your doctor gives you a medical reason for cutting out carbohydrates from your nutrition, you need to keep them in your day. When you cut food groups you deprive your body and you might feel those cravings.
Step Four: How much are you eating at one time? Portion control is important. In the beginning of a weight loss program you might feel like you’re eating too little but most people I work with say that they feel like they’re eating so much! Your portions should be just enough to make you feel satisfied and ready for your next meal two and a half to three hours later.
As you see, the calorie math is the big highlight of the past. It is true that there are some medical conditions that require you to watch your calories. It is also true that counting your calories in the beginning of a weight loss program can be a great platform for which to plan out a healthy course of action. But, if you are a healthy individual, counting your calories would not be the absolute best way to enjoy your meals and have a successful weight loss journey. Don’t you want to savor the taste of a nice ripe strawberry instead of seeing a number every time you put it into your mouth?