3 Reasons to take MATH out of your Weight Loss Equation

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Is math a big part of your weight loss equation? Take this short quiz to find out:

  • Do you use a calorie counter to keep track of how many calories you consume?
  • Do you use an activity tracker to keep track of how many calories you burn?
  • Do you keep a food diary where you write down every item you eat & drink, plus how many calories it contains, grams of fat, sugar, sodium, etc?
  • Do you use a "points" based system to determine what you can eat in a day?
  • Do you check the number of calories for your food before deciding if you should eat it?
  • Do you feel guilty for eating a "treat" if you haven't been very active that day?

If you answered yes to any or all of those questions, then chances are your weight loss equation goes something like this...

Weight loss     =    Calories In < Calories Out

I know that because I used to think the same way. But what if I told you that equation doesn't work very well (if at all), especially long term?

Here are my Top 3 Reasons Why I took MATH out of my WEIGHT LOSS EQUATION:

3. Restriction

Counting calories may work in the short term; but statistically, in the long term, people who go on calorie restrictive diets gain the weight back plus more. We have an entire society of "yo-yo" dieters.

The main reason this doesn't work is that restricting calories often restricts nutrients. Our bodies are extraordinarily made to communicate within themselves. When we eat a wholesome meal with lots of nutrients, our hormones send messages to our brain letting it know that enough nutrients have been supplied to keep the body running optimally. Our brain then lets us know that we're "full" and should stop eating. But what happens when we restrict what we eat, or we eat processed foods that have the nutrients taken out of them (and artificial ones put back in), is that our brain never gets that signal. It's still waiting for the proper supply of nutrients to be delivered before it lets us know that we're good. That's why I can eat one bowl of homemade soup with meat & vegetables and be full for a few hours but I could stuff myself til I'm sick on Chinese food and still want more an hour later. It's not the calories our bodies are looking for, it's the nutrients! So if we're regularly restricting our nutrients, our brain is always going to be causing us to feel hungry and crave foods. In addition, when our bodies aren't being properly nourished, they hold onto fat and go into "starvation mode."

Also, when we pay too much attention to calories, we neglect eating the foods that are best for us--especially healthy fats, which have the highest caloric content. I could do an entire post just on this alone, but what I will say now is that increasing the amount of healthy, natural fats (like butter, lard & coconut oil) in your diet will do way more for your weight loss and overall health than restricting calories will ever do. It seems counter-intuitive, doesn't it? Eat more to lose more? Yep. I'm currently experiencing it in my own life.

And finally, do you plan on counting calories and restricting your food intake for your entire life? Probably not, especially because of the 2 other reasons I mention next. So when you stop, you'll gain the weight back, plus interest.

What's a better option?

  • Stop counting calories!
  • Don't completely cut out any of the macronutrients (fat, protein & carb)
  • Avoid modern processed foods that contain no real nutrients
  • Eat good, wholesome, nourishing food
  • Focus on natural fats, followed by proteins, vegetables & fruits
  • Stop eating when your brain signals that you're full

If you focus on eating wholesome, traditional foods, your body will be well-nourished and naturally drop to its optimal weight.

2. Guilt & Deprivation

When your focus remains on what NOT to eat, rather than what you SHOULD eat, it's inevitable that you're going to mess up. If you spend your whole day thinking "I'm not going to have a piece of cake at Sarah's birthday party tonight" then your thoughts are going to be consumed by that cake! It doesn't matter if you've been telling yourself "no" all day or not, your mind has still been focusing on that cake all day. So what happens when you get to the party? You either give in and feel guilty or you stay strong but feel deprived. You may think you've "won" by not having a piece, but you've still not addressed the underlying issue, which means you will be faced with the same dilemma the next time you have a desire to eat something that contains a lot of calories or is unhealthy. The feelings of guilt when we eat foods we think we shouldn't and the feelings of deprivation when we don't eat foods we really enjoy are usually what cause people to stop their current diet.

What's a better option?

  • Stop counting calories!
  • Learn what foods are good, wholesome, and nourishing for your body and eat LOTS of those with no guilt
  • Learn what modern, processed foods do to your body so you have a purpose for avoiding them
  • Embrace the 80/20 rule--eat good food 80% of the time and allow yourself 20% grace so you feel neither guilty nor deprived
  • Take care of yourself emotionally so that your happiness, joy, comfort, etc. do not come from food

1. Purpose

Focusing on counting calories for your weight loss takes your focus off the purpose of your weight loss. When you're busy counting calories, you see each day as either a pass or a fail, depending on whether you burned more or consumed more calories. Your entire success comes down to those numbers. But what about your life? Your health?

When we lose sight of WHY we want to lose weight, it's easy to give up.

What's a better option?

  • Stop counting calories!
  • Have a VISION for your life & your health--where do you see yourself in 5 or 10 years? What do you want to have accomplished?
  • Pay attention to improvements in how you FEEL! How's your energy, sleep, mood, pain, etc?
  • Make SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound)

That being said, I still have an equation that I follow for a healthy life...

Good In     =     Good Out

What do I mean by that?

I know that when I put into my body good, wholesome, nourishing food, what I get back from my body is energy, health, healing, and a life lived fully.

Getting to--and staying at--a healthy body weight is a side effect of having a healthy body. Start there first.