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Is It Really All About ‘Calories in VS Calories out?’

Posted by Nancy Anderson on

You know what really buffs my buffers?! (thomas and friends reference #boymom) lol. Ok What really buffs my buffers is when I see people talking about how “simple”weight-loss can be” as long as you are in a caloric deficit. Although, I know we all would love to believe our future hot bod is as simple as a few numbers added and subtracted, that claim is old news, outdated, and let’s face it, IF it really was that easy, do you think the United States would be 70% overweight?

Using calorie in vs. calorie out equation as a full proof way to lose weight is a a big old fat old myth. Legit may be the most pervasive myth in health and wellness (that and the myth that pregnant women shouldn't get their heart rates up while exercising)—🙄

The truth is, losing weight and staying lean and healthy is NOT as simple as "eat less, exercise more." Seriously, just banish this idea from your mind. I actually cringe a little when I hear nutrition and fitness "experts" promote this concept on national news. Side Bar- if you want to hear a funny story about this, go to my stories from today.

Not that there is anything wrong with these trainers btw, I get it, nutrition can be confusing and conflicting! And I love that we are all working to help others live healthier lives— I think everyone means well! Good hearts all around. But chalking things up to calories in calories out is really leaving out a lotttttt of the story. I am hoping to help at least my community have a better understanding of why that is with this blog.

Alright friends and frenemies, buckle up! Here are just some reasons why simple "calorie counting" is misguided at best and counterproductive at worst:

• Not all calories were created equal. For instance, it takes more energy for your body to digest protein and whole foods than it does to digest carbohydrates and processed foods. In other words, 300 calories worth of blueberries and hard-boiled eggs affect your metabolism, blood sugar, hormones, and rate of fat loss WAY differently (and way better) than 300 calories worth of gluten free crackers, and bologna. A simple math equation just can't capture this important nuance.

• Our bodies evolved to protect ourselves during times of famine, which our ancient ancestors dealt with on the reg. What this means is that when caloric intake is drastically restricted (when we "cut calories"), our bodies pump the brakes on our metabolism, which slows down the rate of fat loss. Talk about the exact OPPOSITE of what we want. (Note: cutting calories is NOT the same thing as intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating, which my clients and I practice and have talked about before—more on that another time maybe.)

• Overeating is no question a key contributor to overweight and obesity, and many people DO need to consume less food if they want to get back to a healthy weight. But as Primal Blueprint author Mark Sisson points out, focusing only on how much a person eats doesn't address WHY they're overeating in the first place. And without understanding the WHY behind your actions, you are less likely to achieve long-term success. This is because improving your health is as much about examining and adjusting your perceptions and beliefs as it is about changing your diet and lifestyle.

• Losing body fat is not the same as losing "weight," aka: You. Must. Eat. Enough. To. Support. Lean. Muscle. Mass. This is because you want to be strong at every age, workout hard, AND keep your metabolism purrin' like a finely-tuned engine (since muscle burns more energy than fat). Sure, you MAY lose weight by cutting calories, but if you're
not eating enough to support your activity level, then you will lose muscle mass in addition to fat. That's no bueno as far as your short-term AND long-term health is concerned!

• There are SO many good reasons to exercise, the very LEAST of which is because it helps you "burn calories." It's way more motivating to focus on the other benefits of your workouts—better stress management, strength, endurance, body composition, sleep, hormones and confidence, to name a few—than to focus on however many calories your treadmill says you burned, which likely is not an accurate reading, anyway. (Hint: nutrition labels often aren't accurate either, and can underreport calorie count by as much a 20% according to the FDA. So that throws the whole calorie tracking thing out the window on it’s own).

In my professional opinion, you are MUCH better off focusing on the QUALITY of your food rather than the quantity. Instead of counting calories, count on eating whole, nutrient dense, minimally processed food that's free of additives and oh-no-no's like gluten, gf flours, and sugar AND offers you the right amounts of macronutrients (proteins, healthy fats, and good carbohydrates) .

While you're at it, you're also better off focusing on the quality of your exercise, hydration, supplementation, sleep quality, and stress management...in other words, there are plenty of other things to prioritize over how many calories you're eating—or burning, for that matter that will affect your waistline. For example, it blows my mind how everyone over looks supplements.

Did you know deficiencies ALONE can cause weight loss resistance? Did you know that 30% of Americans are deficient in important nutrients like magnesium, vitamin c, vitamin e, and vitamin A? And that’s just using the FDA’s recommended intake which is too low for most IMO. Not to mention in the US 9/10 people are deficient in omega 3 fats. This is something that I program REGULARLY in my plans for this reason. Why? Because this powerful fatty acid will help cool inflammation and control blood sugar. AKA a fantastic contribution to a recipe for.... yup, FAT LOSS!! 😃 I could go on for a while, but you get the idea. It’s way more than calories, or macros for that matter.

Speaking of, you guys are ALWAYS asking me for my personal macros, my personal calories, and what exact ones are in my plans. Do I plan out my programs using macros? Yes. Do I look at the calories? Yes. Is that alone going to get you the results you would expect from my programs? No. This is why I say ‘no’ when you try to cherry pick all the time 😝. There are so many other things that I work on when programming a nutrition guide.

When I create my programs, I am strategically placing foods together to best control insulin levels, giving you enough but not too much. While also looking at timing in the day of certain macros and what other macros are delivered with them, looking at eating windows, I’m looking at variety, I am looking at sulforaphane, herbs, spices and nutrients that work as aids to my goals for you- detoxing, insulin control, gut health, correcting deficiencies, cooling inflammation, supporting metabolism and honestly the list goes on and on.

I don’t want any of you to feel like you need to be counting calories all the time. I WOULD like to see you all caught up on counting your veggies though. I would LOVE for a new trend to rise from counting calories to counting veggie servings out daily. You start at 0 and goal is to get to 7 and then extra credit if you get to 9 and then a gold star when you get to 12. Yup, that’s DAILY! It’s can be the My Fitness Pal of 2019. Let’s make it a thing 🥳

In closing, to make things clear: Yes energy balance DOES matter when it comes to losing excess body fat. But can you be in a calorie deficit and not lose weight? Yes again. For optimal results, be sure you're putting your energy toward the right aims, and towards the whole formula for weight loss not just one calorie in and out concept. My programs, including the 30 Day Slim Down, 10 Day Detox, and The Bible Diet, and Move Your Bump meal plans model this to a T. Check us out if you'd like to learn more. Xo.



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  • Hi! I use MyFitnessPal — but mainly for tracking my water intake, exercise activity for the day, and counting my veggies for the day!!!

    Patti on

  • It’s amazing how brainwashed the world is to thinking about calorie deficit. I haven’t counted my calorie intake in a long time but the mindset is still engraved in my brain! Information like this definitely helps flip the script!!

    Lauren on

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