Spring Weight Loss Strategies - Should You Count Calories?

Welcome to spring!  Horse show season is under way and bathing suit season is just around the corner.  A winter of holiday feasting and reduced activity may have left you with a few souvenir pounds to help you to remember last season.  I was recently asked if I think that counting calories is a good way to lose weight so I thought I’d share my thoughts on this popular technique.

The short answer is that counting calories is a solution that may work but it is not something I recommend.  The reason I don’t recommend it is because I feel strongly that we should be eating whole foods – fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds (with occasional fish and eggs) – not processed, packaged foods.  Whole foods do not usually come with a nutrition label to tell you how many calories you are eating therefore it makes it very difficult to count calories if you are eating a whole foods diet (and by “diet” I mean lifestyle).  Eating a diet of low-calorie processed foods may help you to lose weight if your current calorie intake is higher than your calorie output but I do not feel this strategy will lead you to health.

Do I think that you should be aware of your calorie intake?  If you are eating processed foods or soft drinks - absolutely.  If you are eating a whole foods, plant based diet - No.  If you eat processed foods that come with a label that says how many calories it contains per serving, it’s a good idea to be mindful of that.  Many people don’t realize that a small box, bottle, or can may actually contain two servings so eating the whole package will actually give you twice as many calories!  I always recommend that if you are eating a food that has a label, read the label.  But it’s a good idea to eliminate processed foods and replace them with whole foods.  (See my blog on label readingfor more on this topic.)

Calorie counting is also a challenge because the calorie recommendations do not take into account the amount of physical activity you participate in, your body type, or your age (for the most part).  Extreme athletes may need over 12,000 calories per day while a small, inactive woman may only need about 1200-1500.  The RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) is based on a 2000 calorie diet.  If you attempt to balance your calories – intake: output – how will you measure output?  I feel like this technique, while historically effective for some people, involves a lot of calculations and a lot of processed foods.

If you are looking to improve your holistic health this spring by getting into better shape and shedding a few pounds, here are some of my recommendations:

  • Eliminate soft drinks (regular and diet)
  • Eliminate or significantly minimize your intake of processed foods
  • Eliminate artificial colors, sweeteners, flavors, and preservatives from your diet
  • Eat a whole foods, plant-based diet
  • Increase the amount of exercise you get
  • Drink half your body weight in ounces of water each day
  • Take it one day at a time
  • Set a weight loss goal (see blog on goals
  • Have a positive attitude (see blog on positive thinking)
  • Create a holistic health affirmation that starts with “I AM…” 
    • Example: “I AM a healthy and fit 138 lbs!”

Weight loss is not rocket science but it is a challenge in today’s society.  Our lifestyle of fast-food, processed food, and inactivity can make it very difficult to shed the pounds and keep them off.  Your weight, however, is a choice directly related to your lifestyle.  So, don’t go on a diet, choose a new, healthy lifestyle.  It sounds crazy, but I always go back to horse management... If your horse needed to lose weight, would you count calories?

 

Comments and sharing are encouraged.

 

For more information and to find out where you're Naturally Unbridled and where you're being held back, go to http://www.NaturallyUnbridled.com and take my free quiz.  You'll receive the "Heal Naturally" chapter from my book "7 Steps to a Naturally Unbridled Life" as my free gift to you!  Enjoy!

 

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Naturally Unbridled ~Holistic Equestrian Coaching

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Comment by Patti Bartsch, Ph.D. on March 24, 2011 at 2:53pm
Great point Marlene!  The rule of thumb when eating foods that come in a package (versus produce/whole-foods) is that the amount of sodium in milligrams (mg) should be less than or equal to the amount of calories per serving. 
Comment by Marlene Thoms on March 24, 2011 at 12:43pm

All good suggestions Patti. I would add to keep an eye on salt intake. If you are eating whole foods, generally not a problem, but too much or too little can skew our appetite. And in summer athletes need a good supply of salt and electrolytes. But at other times, too much salt just makes us retain water, feel bloated and salt craving makes us crave "something" and eat a lot of calories sometimes just to get the salt.

My secret to weight loss: choose your parents carefully, eat like a horse (lots of greens). But then you have to run like a horse! Actually just caring for a horse first hand burns lots of calories, but on long trail rides I also get off and walk part way, to stretch my muscles and it does burn a few more calories.

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