How Much Does Calorie Counting Really Matter When It Comes To Losing Weight?

By Jackie Wicks, PEERtrainer Co-Founder
"Calorie counting is a proven method to control portions. In order to achieve sustainable weight loss there are 3 other things to focus on that are as if not more important."

Key Concepts: Diet Fusion, Nutrient Density and Group Support- combined with Calorie Counting help lead to sustainable weight loss.

1.Diet Fusion Summary

2. Nutrient Density Summary

3. Group Support Summary

When people first make the goal to lose weight, they usually start at the ground level:  their calorie consumption.  They follow the conventional wisdom that if you burn more calories than you consume, you will lose weight. 

Many follow the well known and published guideline that for an average woman, if you consume 1800 calories a day, you will maintain your weight.  So with that guideline in mind, they think…hmmm, if I just decrease that input by 300 calories, meaning elminate an extra cookie and my lattte, I will lose weight.  And I’ll step up my workouts a bit and I am on my way. 

There is some truth to this.  You will have some success following this formula, but the problem is this:  all calories are not created equal.  A large apple that has 100 calories and a 100 calorie chocolate chip cookie snack pack are vastly different commodities when it comes to losing weight. 

The reality is, that just looking at the actual calories of something is incomplete, in the same way as only looking at the fat and the fiber of a food or a meal is incomplete picture. You have to look at the actual food. 

The Great Song Analogy

It’s similar to a great song.  You can’t just single out an instrument, or a verse and say, this is why this is a great song.  You have tempo, the person singing it, how it was produced, who is playing the instruments, that all work together in a very specific way that makes you say, this is a GREAT tune.   

To look at an apple and say, well it makes a great snack because it has 100 calories, and it’s high in fiber and low in fat is erroneous.   It makes a great snack because it’s loaded with high quality nutrients that all work together to make it a healthy food.  Remember when you used to hear someone say, don’t eat that bread, it’s just empty calories?  It is virtually empty of nutrients. 

Next: One Food That Helps Your Body "Work"

Nutrients, meaning macronutrients like calories and vitamin C, are one piece to the puzzle but miconutrients, meaning potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, phosphorous…this is where it gets good.   Specifically in an apple, the micronutrients help your body work:

  -The Pectin in apples helps to remove harmful toxins and get them out of the body

  -Recent study shows that apples - the richest sources of flavonoids—gained a 20% reduction in their risk of heart disease.

High nutrient foods are what your body craves and what it needs to be an effective weight loss machine. 

You’ve always heard, eat your fruits and vegetables, but when you don’t really know why, and you have some success just cutting your calories, you think, I know I need to but it’s a lot easier to just reduce my calories and grab a slice of pizza. 

The problem is when your body doesn’t get food that’s high in nutrient content, it wants more food.  This is why it’s so hard to just have one slice.  Your body says, I’m still hungry, where are my nutrients?  And you eat and eat and eat because your body hasn’t gotten what it needs yet.  When it comes to fruits and vegetables as high nutrient foods, it’s a gestalt view:  the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. 

You can’t just pop a pill of vitamin A and think it’s as good as eating a carrot.  It’s the composition of all of these macro and micronutrient that work together in this delicate blend that give nourishment to your body.  It’s not just the fat, or just the fiber, it’s the whole of the vegetable. 
I’m not suggesting that you stop counting calories

It’s important to have a sense of portion control and live in “reality” of what a portion is.  It’s one of the key pillars in our discussion of what we call Diet Fusion.  The reality is, if you’re stuck at a children’s carnival and the only thing to eat is a hot dog or cheesburger you’re not going to leave to go get a spinach salad and that’s when calorie counting (and fat/fiber or using the weight watchers points sytem becomes a huge help). 

If you’re going to have a cheeseburger, you might as well know how it fits into the rest of your day.   What I am suggesting is that only reducing your calorie count (and increasing your workouts) will get you a bit of success, but it might be hard to sustain this down the road. 

When you start to incorporate some high nutrient foods in your diet like vegetables, you start to see remarkable strides and it really speeds up your weight loss efforts.   When you look up calories in sweet potatoes, pay attention to all of the micro nutrient content. 

You want to do this with all of your foods. 

The more nutrients you see listed on the nutrition label, the better fuel you’re giving your body and the more you speed up your weight loss.  Increase the vegetables.  You will speed up your weight loss.  The next thing I hear is this:

-    But I’m too busy to make separate meals.
-    My children don’t like vegetables and they’re not going to get eaten
-    They’re too expensive
-    It’s easier to just pick up a pizza
-    I don’t like vegetables
-    Who has time buy them, chop them up and actually make them taste good?

This is all legitimate.  Two kids meals are $4.37 at McDonalds and not only is it easy and cheap but you get to see instant smiles on your childrens’ faces.   This is why we do this over and over.  I don’t see people go from cheeseburgers to spinach and bean soup overnight. 

The key is to discover that fruits and vegetables can be easy, they can taste good, and they don’t have to cost an arm and a leg.  This can be done is manageable and easy steps and this is one tool we give people in the coaching program:  make a list of all the vegetables and fruits, all of them, and start circling the ones you like. 

What Fruits and Veggies Do You Like?

Artichokes?  Blueberries?  Fresh Maine corn?  All vegetables.  Sure some are higher nutrients than others, but just actually realizing that there is a vegetable or two that tastes great is liberating.  Post the circled list on the refrigerator every time you see it.  What you focus on is what you tend to get and we want you to get into the habit of seeing foods you do like so they get bought at the grocery store. 

What starts to happen is the calorie counting, coupled with the high nutrient foods, starts to sink in and you start to get the real results, the sustainable weight loss you crave. 

Next: The Path To Sustainable Weight Loss

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