Why counting calories doesn’t always work 100%

The more you crash diet or lose and gain weight, the less calories you need to survive

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you’ve probably counted calories.

And if you’ve ever dieted, you’ve probably tried a bunch of weird diets. (Weird fact: the majority of people we’ve spoken to about how many calories they think they should eat per day to lose weight is 1,200 for no apparent reason). It seems like people have just ‘heard’ over the years this is the goal number, but we digress and let’s move on.

So, here’s my straight to the point list on why calorie counting doesn’t always work (sure it’s good but if you are only using calorie counting as your tool to lose weight you are going to get lost pretty quick).

1. You probably don’t know your BMR (basal/base metabolic rate).

This is what your body needs to function and stay alive. Without this baseline, everything is just guessing. You need to know your weight, activity level, age, gender, height and how many times you exercise a week. Take a look online for a good calculator.

2. Food labels are off by as much as 25% in either direction – that’s a HUGE variance!

3. Your gym equipment is also off by as much as 25% (or more in some cases) with how many calories it’s telling you you’ve burned. (Between this and the food labels we could be off by 50%!)

4. We all process and absorb food differently.

5. Not all calories are equal. This thought process sets you up for failure. If you ate 2,000 calories of Big Macs a day vs. 2,000 calories of healthy food, you might be the same weight in the end but you’ll look and feel entirely different.

As you can imagine, it can feel like you’re doing ‘everything right’ and still not losing the weight. How discouraging, huh?! This frustration is what often makes us think our metabolisms are broken, or we decide to resort to some crash diet, a million supplements, or even weird HCG injections (please don’t do these).

Here’s what you need to know:

Tip: the more you crash diet or lose and gain weight, the less calories you need to survive, so essentially your BMR goes down. Your body is adaptive like that. So, no more crash dieting, ok? Good, glad we got that out of the way.

Tip: focus on eating protein, fibrous carbs like fruits and veggies, good fats, and some high quality starchy carbs. Not only will you naturally decrease the number of calories you’re consuming while staying fuller, but you’ll simultaneously increase the number of calories your body actually needs to digest the food!

Tip: unless you’re training for a competition, you don’t need carb or calorie cycling, special diets, or beat down workouts five days per week to lose weight. You need the right consistent efforts over time and a little patience.

Tip: don’t compare yourself to others. The body is a crazy unique thing, so what your friend is doing likely won’t have the exact same effect on you…expect it and focus on YOU.

Tip: weight loss truly occurs through a balance of good nutrition, strength and cardio training, proper sleep, stress management, hormonal balance, and hydration. So unsexy but so true.

It’s heartbreaking for us to watch so many people struggle because of the wrong approach.

Self-compassion also plays a HUGE role in fat loss, so be sure to speak kindly to yourself always. Remember, focus on the big picture and combine your efforts between eating better, working out, doing a little cardio and cutting out some stress. If you need help, we are here. Ask us anything!

Jack Wheeler is a personal trainer and the owner of 360 Fitness in Red Deer.

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