I have never been a big fan of calorie counting, I believe that anyone can reach their ideal weight through simply eating whole foods and becoming more in tune with their bodies subtle signals, so they can learn what’s best for them by tuning into their true hunger & fullness signals. When I lost my weight 8 years ago, I never counted calories, preferring to focus on 6 small meals of whole foods, and exercising consistently.
I have had many friendly arguments with my personal trainer friends who swear by calorie counting and think my intuitive eating method is rubbish. Calorie counting is premised on the idea that in order to lose weight you must be in calorie deficit, this is mostly true, and is also a massive oversimplification of a complex process.
Recently when I came across My Fitness Pal and was focussing on getting lean after I had my baby, I thought I would give calorie counting a genuine go to see what difference it made. I’ve kept a diary now for a month and it has been an interesting experiment.
Calories are simply a measure of the heat energy in food, typically measured by burning 1 gram of the food. Kilojoules measure the same thing by a different measure. 1 calorie = 0.004184 kilojoules. 1 gram of Protein and Carbohydrate is 4 calories, whereas fat is more than double at 9 calories. 1 gram of alcohol is 7 calories.
Calorie counting is a very specific food diary. Food diaries have been proven to help assist with weight loss through keeping yourself accountable for what you eat. If you don’t want to write it down, then it’s probably not a good choice. This is especially true if your diary is being monitored by your dietician, nutritionist, personal trainer or other health professional.
When you understand that a Big Mac burger meal, with fries and a coke has the energy equivalent of 70% of the daily calorie recommendations for a sedentary woman, it can help you to realise just how much energy you’re overeating when you make poor food choices. This can lead you to searching for lower calorie and healthier options, and learning more about nutrition.
It’s pretty motivating to log a 500 calorie workout and know that the workout ‘counts’ towards your weight loss goals. Sometimes it is difficult to see how the everyday small choices lead to your weight loss goal, counting gives you a little bit of positive reinforcement for every workout you do and reminds you that every workout and every meal counts. This works even better when you wear a heart rate monitor and can accurately measure your workouts. It can also help to motivate you to exercise a bit more or harder on a day that you have overeaten so that you finish the day in calorie deficit.
What can be measured can be improved. When you log a days clean food, within your calorie goal, along with a good exercise session you know for sure that you’re ending the day one step closer to your goals. Calorie counting takes the guesswork out of losing weight and helps you to be specific, accurate and make every day count. It also gives you feedback that you can change. If you get to the end of a few weeks of counting and haven’t dropped centimetres then you can go back through your diary and reflect on what better choices you could have made. This can help to fast track improving your nutritional and exercise habits, and help you reach your goal faster.
Many people unwittingly eat almost double or triple the recommended serving sizes of foods, because they’ve never measured their portions. Spending a few weeks measuring all your food brings your portion control back into line, and teaches that you don’t need to stuff yourself.
Calorie counting can lead to becoming slightly obsessive about what you eat and how you exercise in order to finish every day in deficit. It can lead to black and white, good or bad type thinking that is a part of a dieting mentality and not ideal for long term, sustainable lifestyle change.
When you count calories, you are counting calories, and sometimes macronutrients; protein, carbs, fat. You’re not counting micronutrients, enzymes, phytonutrients, vitamins, fibre, nutrients. It might lull you into thinking that lower calorie foods are always better. This is not the case. Sometimes it is, for example when you compare a deep fried chips to oven – baked sweet potato chips. Sometimes it is not, like when you compare a homemade protein bar made with organic coconut oil, nuts, whey protein and mashed dates, to a store bought aspartame or sucralose sweetened protein bar, or when you compare fresh, ripe avocado to low fat processed mayonaise. With whole foods, in many cases the calories are higher because they include healthy, nutritious fats, the kind of fats that need to be included in a healthy diet. There are many, many nutrients that we need in real food, that processed foods just cannot compare to. If you are always chasing the lowest calorie option, then you may be missing out on lots of important nutrients. The key is to chase the most nourishment for every calorie you consume, making sure every calorie counts to nourish your body.
The calorie focussed mindset could possibly discount strength training, or restorative exercises like yoga or pilates, because they may not burn as many calories per hour as a spin or step class. However these types of exercises are critical for building lean body mass, improving core strength, balance, flexibility, fascia release and many other health benefits. It could also encourage overtraining, spending hours on the stepper or cross trainer to burn as many calories as possible. This kind of endurance training is ok sometimes, but can raise cortisol and can sometimes have detrimental effects on your health. Again, balance is the key, mix up your exercise week to include some strength, some endurance, some speed, some flexibility, balance and relaxation, in whatever forms take your fancy and you’ll be fine.
Calorie counting can be a little bit tedious, you have to remember to log everything a couple of times a day, so you don’t forget what you ate. For it to work accurately you must weigh, count and measure your food. This means that you need to eat in or prepare your food yourself, or keep yourself to very strict simple meals, like meat and veggies that you can estimate the measurements of when you are eating out. You must be honest, accurate, and consistent. It is much less tedious these days than how it was in the past having to write it all in a diary, working out the calories and counting them all yourself. Things like my fitness pal, and other online food diaries make counting really simple and easy to do on your iphone, but you still have to do the weighing and measuring.
Your body responds to each food differently. Each food has a massive impact on insulin and glucose on your blood stream which affects how, where and what, your body does with the energy from the food. A calorie of protein does not affect your body the same way that a calorie of carbohydrate does. It is far too simple to give you the whole picture.
The calories equation is often perceived to be calories in – through eating, and calories out – through exercise. However exercise is not the only way you can burn calories. You can burn LOADS of calories just keeping your body temperature stable. Cold exposure has been proven to massively affect fat burning. To understand more about these last two points I highly recommend reading the 4 Hour Body by Tim Ferris.
Calorie counting is not meal planning, its tracking what you ate, after you ate it. If you don’t track it quickly after you ate then you can forget what you really ate, forget to log condiments, sauces or dressings that can load up the cals. Counting is excellent for all the reasons I mentioned above, but it is not proactively meal planning. To create optimal health and body composition, co-create a few daily menu plans with a nutritionist, dietician or trainer, or research, learn about nutrition and create one yourself. Create a plan that suits your lifestyle, tastes and body goals, then follow your meal plans 6 and a half days per week. Yes, eat the same thing day after day, rotate the plans if you like, this is the simplest and most proven method of quickly reaching your body composition goals.
After giving it a real go and after considering all the benefits, I think calorie counting is an excellent short term tool to use for between 1- 2 months only to teach you about better nutrition habits, and to help you become more aware of what you eat and help yourself move forward towards your goals. Once you have learned about good nutrition, you can then more easily listen to your own intuition and hunger.
Calorie counting is not necessary for extended periods of time, it is not necessary for weight loss and can stop you enjoying your food and a balanced, relaxed healthy life. If you know you tend to get a bit obsessive, stick to counting for 1 week at a time only, here and there, to help educate yourself about your food habits or rein in your portions.
For more on the pros and cons of calorie counting check out Tom Venuto’s blog post here.
Let me know your experiences of calorie counting…
“Having ongoing training is essential for our team and our business. It’s important to look after the people that look after others. Kylie has the experience, professionalism and knowledge to engage with our team and help them understand about human behaviour and why people do what they do. In the wellness and health industry it’s a different sales and service delivery and it’s imperative to keep on top of these understandings to perform at our best to help others. We couldn’t recommend Kylie high enough.”
“I have worked with Kylie over many years. She has helped me as a Business Mindset Coach, as a motivational speaker for my gym clients at both Vision Personal Training & now at Flow Athletic.
I bring her in to train my Personal Training teams in mindset, communication and how to coach our clients better and excel in our own personal mastery as fitness leaders.
At my recent Fitness Business event, my gym owner colleagues were blown away by her talk, saying she is the best speaker they have ever seen.
After every event we always get rave reviews about her talks and training.
I highly recommend her work.”
“I finished the Spiritual Awakening Course yesterday and I found it truly amazing. An incredible next step after our coach training. I feel so much more enlightened and “opened-up”. It has really opened my eyes to the power of the universe and the energy flowing in each of us. I loved it – thank you.
I am feeling so lucky at the moment. So many things are just falling into my lap. I visualise it and set my intention to manifest it and it comes. Things such as getting more clients, needing help to put my business online, not knowing how to get known in my local community etc. Courses / insights / clients have just fallen into my lap at the right time.”
Of course I am still learning and growing, but the course has really helped. Thank you”
“Before I met Kylie I was feeling very lost working full time in law in Sydney CBD. I’ve known my whole life that I was here to help people, but I just didn’t know exactly how. So when I found Kylie, it just was really fitting that it was going to help me ground my magic. I started the coach training and had an amazing time. It was beautiful to go through the process of having a mentor that had that spiritual element and that holistic element, as well as the very grounded science-based knowledge as well. So that really helped me to conjure that for myself.
I started my business before I even finished the course. I just started putting myself out there. And now I’ve gotten it to a point where I’ve got really grounded solid message, and two years later am running a multi-6 figure coaching business as a leading pioneer in my niche, helping clients all over the world.”
“Before I signed up with Kylie I had a busy PT business… I was exhausted and on the brink of burnout and no matter how hard I tried, I had reached a ceiling in my income that I just couldn’t break through. After completing my NLP Coaching certification, I found my true voice and the energy of my business has been completely transformed. I’ve created an online program, up-levelled my entire business and totally smashed my previous income goals. I make decisions more confidently and I can help my clients create change in their life even faster. On a personal level, NLP gave me the inner strength to leave a toxic situation and rebuild myself which lead to me discovering the love of my life! Today I am living the life that I’ve always wanted – but just hadn’t been able to put into words. I have never been this happy or this powerful. If you want to manifest the life of your dreams I would not hesitate to reach out for help from Kylie.”
Before attaining my NLP Coach certification, I was an online trainer who was getting excellent results for “some” of my clients. I used a mixture of experience, intuition and an exhausting “helicopter-parent” style of accountability coaching. It was like the 20% of the clients who weren’t getting good results took up 80% of my effort, and it was draining my passion for my business. This meant my income was never predictable, I worked way too many hours, and I was constantly putting out spot-fires for energy-vampire clients.
Completing my Certification with Kylie has been the best decision of my career. The very next month after finishing I created a new and improved program with better boundaries and made $30,000 in new sales. I now have a repeatable system to coach my clients and I can get them both immediate AND long-lasting change, sometimes in less than 40 minutes.
In the past 12 months, I have doubled my freedom and fulfillment in my business I have created raving clients who snap up my offers and I’ve breathed fresh air into my business creativity. My income has remained the same, whilst I have halved the amount of work I was doing. This has given me the freedom to be a present mum and earn an excellent income from home.
I signed up with Kylie because I knew that to have a bigger effect as a PT I needed to improve my understanding of how the mind works. Through NLP Coach training I now have great coaching techniques that break through all sorts of negative behaviour patterns. I’ve noticed big improvements in all areas of my life including my own personal finances and my client retention. This has allowed me new freedom to work on scaling my business and helping even more people with less one on one time from myself. The coach training has given me the ability to fully unlock the power of your mindset and those that don’t have this skill are only tapping into a small amount of their potential.
This morning I had a kick-ass coaching session with Kylie Ryan.
We’ve been working together for a couple of months, and she’s the perfect person to help me integrate the rapid transformations I go through regularly. I’d been getting this vision of my fully mature creative and entrepreneurial self. His discipline, commitment, and command of wealth was 10x what mine is now, but it wasn’t really about money for him. Our coaching sessions usually roll with me saying, “Kylie, I want to be, do, and have EVERYTHING” and Kylie helping me find the archetypes and parts that aren’t integrated and bringing them together. MAGICK HAPPENS EVERY TIME.