7 Alternatives to Calorie Counting (that actually work) for Fat Loss

Calories.

As a midlifer, you already know that we must be in a calorie deficit to drop fat. But did you know calorie estimations are grossly inaccurate on personal devices, online food trackers and even nutrition labels*?

*The 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA)  allows for a margin of error of up to 20 percent—for the stated value versus actual value of nutrients. source: US NEWS, August 21, 2012

By the time the clock hits midlife, you have likely been on dozens of diets if not more. The problem is that they all failed to provide sustained fat loss.

Think about the mental bandwidth required to learn a new diet.

During the honeymoon phase (aka the first week to 10 days) there is excitement and enthusiasm.

What happens next is the realization that this requires a huge willpower commitment. The willpower is necessary because before eating anything, the diet rules have to be consulted and the calculations on calories ( and /0r macros) have to be completed before eating can occur.

Sure, you could pre-calculate a meal plan and just eat the same thing every day, but that soon becomes boring leaving you in a state of food FOMO. I have seen this over and over again with my self and with my clients.

The outcome is that we become bored with the easy meal and a rebellion… aka… cheat… is right around the corner.

The truth is maintaining fat loss and a lean physique by calorie counting almost never happens.

What about those online apps for calories and macros???

After using one for over 10 years and keeping a paper diary on and off for the 10 years prior, and also coaching almost a hundred women to do the same, I realized one very important fact.

Diets make us dumb

Calorie counting plans, along with all restrictive plans breed dependency. This is a problem because we lose our natural born instinct to feed ourselves for optimal health.

Dependending on food diaries blunts our decision-making skills. We are all born with the ability to eat well. This is a human instinct. The exception is a very rare genetic disorder of obesity, called Prader Willie Syndrome. FYI: you don’t have it. If you did, you would know, because you would be stealing food left and right.

Back to the myth of calorie counting: I want to share a story with you.

I remember running into the bathroom in restaurants to consult my online food diary in secret before ordering. At home, my family backed away and let me weigh my food first because it took so long to get my measurements just right.

Every meal and snack I ate HAD to be calculated to match the numbers. But there were also those days where I secretly rebelled and overate. I overate because the satisfaction from the diet was zero. The next day I would vow to be strict and go back to dieting…and the cycle went on.

At one point to cope with boring meals, I had an abnormally large stash of mustard in my pantry to disguise my food with marginal calories. I ate it daily for years. Now I rarely eat mustard, because I am so sick of it.

Psssssssst…You don’t need a calculator, an extra hour a day, and a pre-fab/restrictive diet to normalize your size.

What you need to do is learn to trust your gut and get your metabolism fired up. Your gut gives you signs of fullness and hunger. But if you have a history of going on diets repeatedly, you may be a bit out of practice. This will take some time.

Take this one day at a time. You only need to worry about today.

Tune in to how your body feels when you are hungry and full. Relearning to feel fullness requires you to slow your meals down and be in the moment. This means not multitasking your meals.

If you are binging the answer is never a punishment cardio session and less food. It could be that you are trying to eat too little.

Or maybe you are using food as your only source of stress relief. The process of calculating calories and/or macros IS stressful. If you are a stress eater, you can see how this can backfire.

 

Using food to destress is not new or wrong. Eating definitely has an emotional connection. As far back as biblical times, food has been a central element in celebrations as well as in times of mourning.

So it is natural to use food as an emotional soother. It only becomes a problem when we keep reaching for food and it fails to soothe, like when we continue to eat even though we are full.  At first when we eat a delicious treat perhaps a sugar-laden food, the pleasure center in our brain lights up.

This is similar to the response from a cocaine hit. Overuse of food can lead to tolerance and that same amount of sugar, for example, doesn’t bring about the same feeling as it did the in the beginning. The problem is we keep reaching for more and more to find relief, and very soon our clothes are tight.

Instead of using all your willpower on trying to be perfect, go for consistency over perfection.  Follow these steps to stop calorie-counting:

1. Eat ample veggies

half your plate twice a day.

 

2. Have protein

with every meal meal

 

3. Drink enough water

to stay well hydrated.. clear urine most of the time.

 

4. Eat when you are hungry...

stomach growls

 

5. Don’t get over hungry or overfull...

pause during meals to let your stomach get the fullness message from your brain.

 

6. Find emotional relief

outside your pantry.

 

7. Exercise with resistance

most days of the week.  This can be as little as 20-30 minutes.

 

Fat loss does not have to be a huge time and mental drain. We have made it more complicated than it needs to be. Just be consistent 80-90ish% percent of the time.

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