I used to listen to many of Jillian Michael’s podcasts (big fan of her push for organic, especially meat!) and she always repeated in her boisterous raspy I’m-going-to-get-angry-at-you-tone ”it’s simple math to lose weight people, calories in need to be lower than calories out!!!”. I was first thinking “Yeah, you’re right Jillian. It’s just as easy as calorie counting and exercise. Duh.” She meant that if you eat 2000 calories and burn 2500 in a day, you will lose about 1lb a week, simple math. I was such a fan, that I programmed it into my head to suggest to future clients who want to lose weight. I should have known better than to believe the first thing I heard on the subject, especially from a celebrity who often has to generalize to the masses. Then I recalled how calorie restrictive programs like Weight Watchers with “points” for each item of food you eat, became the newest fad not too long ago. I mean, millions of dollars on their microwave-meals huge. Helps when they hire actresses and famous singers to sell it too right? This program may be my least favorite with their “eat anything you want, as long as you don’t go over your points” plan. Well played sales and marketing, well played.
Here is my positive spin. If you eat healthy and clean already, this is exactly how someone should lose or maintain healthy weight. It works for a select few. For the greater population who struggle to find their healthy path in life… this is why it will not work for you:
1. Not all calories are created equally! Many labels says “low calories” like diet soda, red licorice, synthetic sugars, jell-o, microwave popcorn, plastic puddings, ice cream sandwiches and “light” yogurts with ingredients like modified corn starch (likely GMO), artificial flavor, aspartame and skim milk that has been thrown around a centrifuge as such a high rate it separates the natural “unwanted” fat. (If only it were common knowledge that fat in dairy helps absorb the nutrients.) Some even have Yellow #5 and Red #40, both studied as hyperactive and decreased brain function triggers in children.
Even though something may only be 90 calories, I would much rather someone eat a 250 calories avocado ANY DAY over a fake sugary yogurt with artificial everything. Unless you have a solid grasp of how certain calories are beneficial based on their origin, don’t be tricked into thinking the calories matter. The NUTRIENTS MATTER! That is what you should primarily base every food decision on – the nutrients.
2. Inaccurate for 99% of the population – There’s an app for that. Put in what you are eating, let it calculate the butter, bread and jam and VOILA! you have your total at the end of the day. Lets look up that avocado I was talking about. A 200g avocado is about 320 calories. Now did you weigh your avocado? Did you take into account the larger than usual pit it had? No, me either! So your avocado could have been 50 calories larger or smaller than mine. And if every meal is estimated on this “roundabout” calorie index then you can assume you might be anywhere from very few to hundreds of calories off your count in reality. And those hundreds add up at the end of the week… and then you were no better off counting at all. If you are open to it being inaccurate, then it can be a useful tool in knowing how to get near your basal metabolic rate. (the minimum calories you need to break even each day)
3. Obsessively unnecessary for most. I remember someone saving their points (ie eating less everyday) to be able to get that piece of cheesecake on the weekend to fit into their weekly total. Does that really make for a healthy lifestyle? Eating anything you want, as long as you stay under the calories, certainly may sounds simple but they started to memorize what every food’s points were. And if they were hungry at the end of the day, but had no points left then you aren’t healthier, you are miserable! The main point I’m trying to make is that counting makes you count EVERYTHING you eat. That happens to be the one activity we do all day long, everyday. That is a lot of counting and a lot of processing in our already-super-busy day. Throw away the pen and paper, close the app down, give your child back their calculator… the counting can stop.
A better solution? Menu planning and food journaling. Both items myself, or any local nutritionist can walk you through if you don’t know where to start.
Food Journal. A local famous friend of mine is a middle-aged jet-setting business-goer who reached his goal of being under 20% fat by journaling his food and realizing EXACTLY what was going in his body. This not only gave him a good idea of the calorie quality, but made him accountable to writing down “four deep fried donuts and a large pop” if he chose to be rogue in London. Him, and countless others I know, have all appreciated the increased awareness from their food journal.
Meal Planning. You are less likely to choose fast food, or unhealthy meals if you are planning them in advance. Pinterest has great ideas for a family chalkboard meal planner, not only cute but something everyone will appreciate and look forward to doing! You may find you will be more inventive, have an easier time grocery shopping, have to make fewer last minute decisions when you are “hangry” and reach your health goals faster. You can write in your plans to take a day off, or even write in “leftovers” like our best friends do at least once a week on their board.
This is going to be a new goal of mine in the near future. As I sit here glaring at my kitchen wondering what I’m going to make with my lentil rice I just started on a whim…and all of my local meat is frozen. Veggie stir fry it is! Remember friends… NUTRIENT COUNTING ONLY!
Agree? Disagree? Different idea than you are used to? Comments welcome.
*Note I am not implying Jillian Michaels disregards food quality, but it is often left out of her main push to count calories. She is a big fan of whole foods and healthy living. Hence why we love her.*