When you're looking to lose weight, or even maintain weight, you might find yourself taking part in the cruel habit of counting calories. Everyone's sitting down for dinner discussing their day, what's up the rest of the week, and chiming in with a funny story, while you're wrapped up in calculating how many calories your chicken breast has with that added sauce.
While it's been noted by health experts that keeping track of your calories at first is a great way to know how many you're really consuming a day, the constant calculating can take its toll, feeling more like a task than a helpful tool.
Even nutritionists find it daunting, like Lily Nichols, RDN, who had to do it while working toward her nutrition degree."The more I counted calories, the less I was paying attention to the food in front of me," she writes on her blog. "It was like looking at a spreadsheet on a plate." She urges clients to steer clear of counting calories and instead simply opt for eating fresh, whole foods.
Here are five good things that result from giving up on counting calories.
- Those mini chocolate bars will stop having such a hold on you.
"When you stop focusing on calories but rather what actual foods are colourfully adorning your plate, chances are good you'll also start paying more attention to the flavour, aroma, colour, texture, temperature, and experience of the foods on the plate," says Wendy Bazilian, RD, co-author of Eat Clean, Stay Lean and Prevention's nutrition advisor.
2. Eating will actually be pleasurable again.
"There's a reason why 'irritable' and 'upset' are words associated with the stomach and digestive system," says Bazilian. "Relaxing a bit about and around the meal while eating clean with real wholesome foods—preferably seated and without distractions—you'll enjoy a stress-free moment in an otherwise time-strapped and stressful life."
3. You'll lose weight (yup!).
"You don't absorb all of the calories found in whole foods, thanks to the fact that your body has to break them down," says Nichols. "Studies show that you only take in about 20% of the calories in nuts, for instance, but because nuts are high in calories, people who count calories shy away from them and opt for something like a highly refined breakfast cereal instead."
"When you start focusing on whole, real, nutrient-rich foods, you benefit from water-rich fruits and vegetables, fiber- and protein-rich beans and nuts, and other foods that satisfy appetite and boost metabolism," says Bazilian.
4. You'll have more energy
"Numbers don't nourish you," says Bazilian. "When you focus on what you are eating—look at it, chew it, feel it, and eat at regular intervals, you may find your energy is steadier, cravings are diminished, and you find yourself thinking less about hunger."
5. You'll get really down with your body.
"Instead of relying on your bodily cues, you just rely on the number requirements," says Nichols. "People are sometimes surprised," she says, "and don't believe that you can sit down to a brownie and have a couple bites and then say ‘you know, I've had enough.' "
Are you ready to stop counting calories?