Trying to Lose Weight? Stop Counting Counting Calories!
The diet and food industry has long sold us the idea that in order to lose weight, we should count calories, limit portions, and exercise more. That maintaining a healthy weight is all about discipline, willpower, and self-control.
But listen up friends. We need to ditch this mentality. Like STAT. We need to stop counting calories (and carbs and fat grams and anything else for that matter!) and switch our focus to consuming whole, real food and to upgrading the QUALITY of our diets. I know counting and measuring can be hard to let go of but a new study that was reported on by the New York Times last week may help you change your mind.
The study found that people who focused on adopting a high quality diet instead of counting calories or measuring portions lost a significant amount of weight over the course of a year.
This goes against the recommendations made by most popular diet programs. But I'm telling you whole, real food is where it's at. I say this not only as a health coach and someone who has studied over 100 dietary theories BUT also as someone who has overcome a 20+ year struggle with food, weight, and body image. This is the answer.
Because here's the thing. Whole, real food nourishes our body in a way that artificial and processed food does not. Plus, our appetite regulators work better when we eat whole, real food. And, for some people, the formulation of ingredients in processed foods can contribute to continuous cravings, overeating, compulsive eating, binge eating, and feelings of being out of control around food.
So it's time to let go of this antiquated idea that's it all about calorie balance and instead start focusing on things like:
- Eating the rainbow. And I'm not talking about Lucky Charms. I'm talking about eating plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Ditching processed and refined grains and choosing minimally processed whole grains. Think quinoa, legumes, lentils, brown rice.
- Nutrient density. Start choosing foods that give you the most bang for your nutritional buck.
- Getting back into the kitchen and cooking. I get it. It's tough. And if I'm totally honest, I don't even like to cook. I wrote all about that in my "I am a Health Coach BUT Don't Like to Cook" post. But cooking at home is one of the single most important things you can do to take control of your health.
- And improving your overall relationship with food.
And this is exactly what the people in the study did.
And what's super interesting is that the study actually set out to compare how overweight individuals responded to two different dietary protocols: low carbohydrate vs low fat. Researchers also wanted to know if a person's genotype influenced their ability to lose weight and metabolize fat and carbs.
Here's how it worked:
Over 600 participants were split into two groups - a low fat group and a low carb group. Neither group was given restrictions in terms of calories, fat grams, or carbohydrates. Instead they were instructed to "focus on eating whole or 'real' foods - as much as they needed to avoid feeling hungry" (O'Connor, 2018).
Participants in both groups were taught to eat high quality food (nutrient-dense and minimally processed), cut back on added sugar as well as highly processed and refined food, and start cooking at home. They were also coached on various behavioral strategies to help them make these dietary changes. The difference between the two groups was in the foods they were instructed to consume.
The low-carbohydrate group was told to choose foods like "olive oil, salmon, avocados, hard cheeses, vegetables, nut butters, nuts and seeds, and grass-fed and pasture raised animal foods" (O'Connor, 2018). The low fat group, on the other hand, was told to choose foods like "brown rice, barley, steel-cut oats, lentils, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, quinoa, fresh fruit, and legumes" (O'Connor, 2018).
And after one year both groups lost significant amounts of weight. And neither group counted calories, fat grams, or carbohydrates. Neither group limited portion sizes. The focus was always on quality and behavioral change.
The study's lead researcher, Christopher D. Gardner, Director of Nutrition Studies at the Sanford Prevention Research Center, said that "the people who lost the most weight reported that the study had 'changed their relationship with food'" (O'Connor, 2018).
Dr. Gardner does point out that there was wide variability in the results - some people lost a lot of weight (50-60 pounds) and some people gained weight - resulting in an overall average loss. It is also impossible to know whether the participants will return to their old style of eating now that the study is over.
However, the big takeaway point is that the quality of your diet matters. And so does the relationship you have with food.
So if weight loss is what you are after, it's important that you understand, that it's not about counting calories, carbs, or limiting portion sizes. It's not about adopting a new diet program or exercise regime. But it is about upgrading the quality of the food you eat and changing your behaviors, thoughts, and feelings around food.
Now it's your turn. I'd love to hear from you. What are your thoughts on the study? Leave a comment below to let me know what resonated with you the most.
Are you ready to say "peace out" to the 100 calorie pack and adopt a new way of thinking?
Then you, my friend, are in the right place! This just so happens to be my thing. And the way that I want to help YOU.
If you are interested in redefining your relationship with food and finally taking control of your weight, start by joining my online community and gaining access to my free library of resources.
Inside you will find resources like my "Diets Don't Work. This Mindset Shift Does." article which will help you break the diet-deprivation cycle for good. It teaches you a simple technique that you can begin using today that will change how you think about food and help you instantly upgrade the quality of your diet.
Gain free access to my Resource Library and download your copy today!
Weight Loss Study Sources:
New York Times Article:
O'Connor, Anahad. "The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity, a New Study Finds". www.nytimes.com. The New York Times. 20 February 2018. Web 25 February 2018.
Original Research Results as Published in JAMA:
Gardner CD, Trepanowski JF, Del Gobbo LC, Hauser ME, Rigdon J, Ioannidis JPA, Desai M, King AC. Effect of Low-Fat vs Low-Carbohydrate Diet on 12-Month Weight Loss in Overweight Adults and the Association With Genotype Pattern or Insulin Secretion The DIETFITS Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;319(7):667–679. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.0245