E3: How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight?
I hear from so many people that have been counting calories for years with very little results. In my latest youtube video, I’m breaking down the limitations of calorie counting and what to focus on instead.
They think, “Maybe I just don’t have the right number of calories,” or “Maybe I should try this different strategy for counting calories.” But here’s the truth: people have been counting calories for decades and yet 70% of Americans are either overweight or obese.
The “eat less, move more” messaging that has been blasted on repeat by the diet and weight loss industries for decades just doesn’t work for most people, and the research on weight gain and obesity is starting to show this. Today, we’re going to talk about five reasons calorie counting may not be as effective as you thought and eight things to focus on instead.
5 Reasons Calorie Counting Isn’t Effective
1-Different Foods Have Different Metabolic Effects
Not all calories are the same. Calorie counting implies that 100 calories of one type of food has the same energy potential and will have the same biological effects as 100 calories of a different type of food. In reality, though, you could eat 100 calories of doughnut and 100 calories of broccoli, but the doughnut is going to impact your metabolism and your body very differently than the broccoli.
2-Food Labels Aren’t Always Accurate
The calories food companies report on the back of their packaging can actually vary up to 20%! So if you’re relying on the “calories in, calories out” equation for weight loss, a 20% discrepancy in the nutrition information you’re collecting can make a pretty huge impact.
3-Your Personal Caloric Needs Are Hard to Calculate
If you wanted to know the actual number of calories your individual body needed on a daily basis, you would need to spend thousands of dollars on technology to help you calculate that accurately. There are some basic equations you can use that are based on things like age, gender, and physical activity that can give you a general idea of how many calories your body might need. But there are a lot of other factors that impact your caloric expenditure, including genetics, stress, and even dieting history.
The science shows that restricting your calories slows down your metabolism, both short term and long term. So, unfortunately, if you’ve done a lot of yo-yo dieting in the past, your body is now less efficient at burning the calories that you consume. For example, say you’ve dropped down to only eating 1,200 calories a day for a few months instead of your normal 1,600 to try to lose weight. Once you start eating more calories again, you’ll likely gain weight because your metabolism doesn’t recalibrate as quickly.
4-Accurate Calorie Counting Requires Careful Measurement
In order to accurately calculate the calories you’re consuming, you would have to weigh every single bite of food that goes into your mouth. That would mean never eating out and always preparing your food at home, which just isn’t sustainable. I never want anyone to weigh every single bite of food! That doesn’t create a healthy relationship with food at all, and my goal is to help people understand how food can nourish, heal, and fuel every cell in your body.
5-Everyone’s Gut Microbiome is Different
Research has exploded over the past 10 years around how the microbes in your gut can impact your weight and metabolism. It’s not just about how much you’re eating–it’s also about how much the microbes in your body are absorbing. There’s a 2-9% variation from person to person on the digestive waste that’s created from the food you consume, which will impact how many calories your gut absorbs and how much weight you gain from a meal.
One of my favorite animal studies demonstrating the power of the gut microbiome involved researchers injecting some of the stool from a lean mouse into an obese mouse. Without affecting the diet or physical activity of the obese mouse, the obese mouse actually lost weight. The opposite happened when the researchers in turn injected stool from the obese mouse into the lean mouse. Clearly, the microbial population living inside you has a profound effect on your metabolism and weight.
8 Things to Focus on Instead
Now that we’ve talked about how ineffective simply counting calories is for losing weight long term, let’s walk through some of the other factors that impact weight and metabolism.
1-Blood Sugar Imbalance
Blood sugar imbalance can lead to insulin resistance, which can make it very difficult to lose weight, especially around your abdominal area. In order to bring insulin resistance down and increase your insulin sensitivity again, you need to focus on balancing your blood sugar at every meal.
If you are looking for more blood sugar balancing recipes, checkout The Being Collective, my meal planning and coaching program that’s designed to help you improve consistency without putting so much thought into what you’re making for dinner each week. By joining The Being Collective, my dietitians and I help you create a weekly plan for you and/or your family with hundreds of recipes that are blood sugar balancing, an automated grocery list and a meal prep plan. We would love to welcome you into our community!
It’s really hard to lose weight when your body is inflamed. Inflammation slows down your metabolism and causes your body to hold on to fat cells. Just swapping out some of those highly inflammatory foods for anti-inflammatory foods can make weight loss so much more attainable.
Your gut microbiome is the epicenter of your health. It not only impacts metabolic health, but it also impacts autoimmune health. In order to build a healthier gut microbiome, you want to focus on optimizing the diversity of strains living inside you.
More From This Episode
Watch my latest video on How Many Calories Should I Eat to Lose Weight? To learn more about the five additional aspects to focus on instead of calories. This episode is perfect for anyone still stuck in the calorie-counting cycle or who has tried everything to lose weight with few results.
If you want to learn even more about how to improve your personal body composition, build lean muscle, and support your metabolic health, get in touch. I’d love to talk to you about how my team can help you not only feel great in your clothes, but also increase your energy, improve your labs and symptoms, and change your relationship with food.