If you went up to someone and asked them about their house, what kinds of numbers do you think they’d throw at you? Maybe the cost? Or the square footage? Maybe the acreage of their land even? But you wouldn’t expect them to tell you the number of bricks.
That is calories(the bricks) in a nutshell. It is a single marker that is definitely a valid number that can make a difference in the look and stability of the body (house), but is not the only thing that people would want to know if they wanted to know about a house. So, why do we simply count calories when trying to lose or maintain weight?
I believe I learned from The Paleo Coach that this idea is over a hundred years old and has simply been passed down through general knowledge in the health world without being challenged. Only in the past few years has the calorie myth been refuted heavily, with some diets still relying on it because their business model thrives on it.
There are lots of things that you should count before you count calories when looking for optimal health, if that is what you want to do:
Fat/Carb/Protein Ratio – 55%/25%/20%
Omega-6/Omega-3 Ratio – Ideal 1:7
Body Fat Percentage
Hours of Sleep per night
These are just the ones that I try to keep an eye on from time to time, but there are a lot more than these that can make a huge difference in how healthy you are. So, if you want to count calories, then count calories, but look at these other items first, and see how you are doing, then look at calories. My calories typically vary anywhere from 1,700 all the way up to 4,500 depending on the day.
While it is true that a calorie restricted diet will allow you to lose weight because your body will be trying to find energy to get you through your day, it will also break down your muscle in the process, causing you to lose good muscle, instead of fat. It also builds unhealthy habits that can cause stressors on your body in the long run. Also, what are you going to do once you are done with your “diet”? Will you keep eating the way you have been eating or will you go back to your previous diet of junk?
The vast majority of people will go back to the junk food diet because they never learned how to eat, only how to restrict and eat different processed food than they were before. It is a much better use of your time and energy to learn to eat healthy following something like a Paleo template that you can maintain over the long haul so that even if you don’t stay completely paleo, you aren’t veering back to a Standard American Diet that will derail your progress.
So, the question is, what will you count? Will you keep counting calories and burning calories by running on the treadmill for hours? Or will you eat a nutrient dense diet that will satisfy you and teach you how you were supposed to eat, and be able to maintain it for a very long time?
The choice is yours.