Why Counting Calories Doesn't Always Work
Calories in, calories out is OLD NEWS.
It's like saying you should never run again because you have knee pain… it might be black-and-white true for a segment of the population, but for the masses, it just shows you haven't been keeping up with the science.
And before I get too far into this.. yes, creating a calorie deficit does work for a lot of people. Usually though, their bodies are already in a pretty homeostatic place. The other group this tends to work fairly simplistically with is those who have a huge calorie surplus. If you're consuming 5000 calories every day while you do nothing but sit in front of a screen, cutting and/or expending calories probably WILL help you lose some weight despite what's going on systemically or hormonally.
However, for many of us, especially mamas who are still struggling to lose those last few pregnancy pounds despite ALL the healthy habits, this just doesn't apply.
If you've got autoimmune conditions, food allergies or sensitivities, gut issues, a lot of joint pain, a lot of problems with your monthly cycle, whether you're a mom or not, cutting calories probably isn't working too well for you either.
There's many nuances to the debate to consider, but I can break it down to two key points going back to that knee pain and running analogy:
1) The how… HOW do you run? What's your gait look like?
HOW do you get your calories and expend the calories to create that calorie deficit?
2) The system... What else is going on that affects that knee? How's the core? How are the glutes firing? How's the foot and ankle moving?
How are the other systems working to support your metabolism and consequently weight loss? Is your nervous system frazzled? Immune system suppressed or overactive? What's going on in the gut? What's the interplay between the various hormonal axes?
Like most problems in our lives, and certainly with our bodies, the answers are multifaceted and shadowed with subtleties that can be easily overlooked even if it's right under our noses.
Unfortunately, just like there's still TOO MANY orthopedic and general physicians out there telling people they should never run again when they safely may still have many miles ahead of them, there's EVEN MORE physicians, trainers, coaches, etc. telling people they need to EAT LESS and EXERCISE MORE.
A previous boss of mine in my personal training days used to proudly say, "I can make anyone lose weight, even if they ate McDonald's for every single meal. It's all math- calories in/calories out."
Another trainer I used to take a class from told me once that he didn't think personal trainers really needed the education and certifications that the health and wellness community was pushing for. He told me in so many words.. "It's really so easy. We just need to know about the muscular system. I mean, calories in/calories out.. It's not more complicated than that."
Eye rolls, anyone?? (Their arrogance alone deserves massive eye rolls)
It's SO MUCH more complicated than that!
What about how that thyroid is functioning? What if you're dealing with PCOS or insulin resistance? What if the cortisol curve is off because of prolonged stress or overtraining? What if you're stuck in an estrogen dominant state? How's that microbiome doing? Is the liver being overtaxed? Is there an autoimmune condition brewing or present? Fertility issues?
What if you're on meds- how do they play a role?? Corticosteroids like prednisone can play havoc on the body for months after they've been stopped. Birth control pills and antidepressant/antianxiety meds have been known for decades as contributors to weight GAIN for many folks.
I could go on and on… So many things to consider!
If your body's systems aren't chugging along together merrily, you may not be able to shed the extra L-B's. Furthermore, pushing harder at the gym and/or cutting more out of your diet may actually make it HARDER to lose the weight.
Sometimes, we just need to nourish our bodies with the RIGHT things and move our bodies in the RIGHT way that's individual to US. Often, when we do this, we can let go of counting calories and we end up eating the right amount of food by listening to what our bodies are telling us instead.
And no, it's not true that this happens because we automatically consume less calories by choosing better foods. Many women are actually eating MORE because they were already eating a healthy diet full of whole foods and focused on minimal calories. They learn which healthy foods are right for their unique systems.
Who is ready to ditch the calorie counting and relentless workout schedule FOR GOOD??