If you’ve read any of my other articles or have watched my videos, you’ll know that I prefer a simple approach to being healthy.
Eat natural foods, exercise often, and fast occasionally fast.
Notice I said nothing about counting calories to lose weight. Why? Because it’s a terrible idea and will only make you fatter.
The reason for this is simple: counting calories takes too much work to do properly.
It requires too much mental energy that could be spent on more productive things. Like literally anything.
Counting calories to lose weight makes you focus on the wrong thing
The main reason that I believe counting calories to lose weight is wrong is because it implies that all calories are created equal.
This is simply not true.
The simplest example I can give of this is that eating 2000 calories of raw sugar is not the same as eating 2000 calories of liver.
The sugar has virtually no nutritional value, will spike your insulin through the roof, and make you feel awful.
The liver, on the other hand, is the most nutrient dense food on the planet and has virtually no effect on your insulin levels.
However, people who talk about CICO (“calories in, calories out”) seem to neglect this important detail.
For that matter, to take CICO at face value without considering other things like ACTUAL nutrient value of the foods you’re eating and their effect on insulin levels is not only a huge mistake, but irresponsible – especially when it comes from so-called fitness “professionals” trying to sound smart.
All that said, the most important reason counting calories to lose weight is a bad idea is that it forces you to focus on your caloric intake INSTEAD OF eating nutritious foods.
People who push CICO make only a casual recommendation that you should “stay away from processed foods” or some other such nonsense.
And while that’s technically a true statement, it fails when it doesn’t put the main emphasis on choosing the correct foods that have a high nutritional value.
Which brings me to my next point…
Eating healthy foods is more important than counting calories
Any time I hear about someone trying to count calories, I pretty much know right off the bat without even looking at them that they’re extremely overweight.
This may sound like an obvious statement – why would someone obsessively track their caloric intake if not to try to lose weight?
While there may be some exceptions to this rule, i.e. professional bodybuilders and fitness models, 99 times out of 100 the person who is tracking their calories is extremely overweight or anorexic.
We’ll go over eating disorders in a later article, but for now let’s talk about why counting calories fails people who are on the 30+ side of the BMI scale.
I mentioned this in the last section, but ONLY counting calories to lose weight does not account for the varying effect that different foods will have on your body.
Consider the following substances:
- 20 grams of carbs from pineapple juice
- 20 grams of carbs from oatmeal
- 20 grams of carbs from wheat bread
- 20 grams of carbs from refined white sugar
People who advocate counting calories for weight loss would have you believe that these are all equal when anyone with even a modicum of fitness experience would disagree.
This may sound like sacrilege, but forget about science for a second. Test it for yourself.
Do you think that eating spoonfuls of sugar is going to make you feel the same as eating a small bowl of oatmeal? If you can’t figure that out, then I don’t know what to tell you. That’s just common sense.
And this is my main problem with counting calories: it encourages people to abandon common sense in favor of some essentially arbitrary numbers that they find on the internet.
Why not instead just encourage people to eat nutrient dense foods like meat, eggs and raw dairy? I honestly don’t get it.
Calorie restriction for weight loss – you’re getting warmer
Theoretically, the point of counting calories is to keep track and LIMIT the amount of calories that you ingest in a day.
You want to stay under your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) for the day so your body burns more calories than you put in your body.
The idea is that if you put less food in your body than your body needs, it will burn fat for fuel. And while this is technically true, it is only half of the puzzle.
“Calorie restriction” can be interpreted in several different ways.
- Does it mean reducing the amount of calories you eat per meal?
- Does it mean reducing the amount of meals you eat per day?
- Does it mean reducing the amount of meals you eat per week?
In my experience, the best way to practice calorie restriction is the third option: reducing the amount of meals you eat per week.
I’ve written before about how fasting (or doing the Snake Diet) has tremendous health benefits: increased energy, autophagy, weight loss, higher athletic performance – you name it.
Arguably the best thing about fasting is that it encourages you to eat healthier foods almost automatically.
When you don’t eat for so long, you’re less likely to binge for the simple reason that you’re SO hungry that even eating a boring salad sounds amazing.
Still, it’s important to note that the problem with the idea of “calorie restriction for weight loss” is the same as general calorie restriction: it doesn’t taken into account the differences in food types and macronutrients.
In other words, reducing the overall calories you consume in a day is less important than choosing the right foods to reduce.
If you reduce your calories to 1000 per day and all you eat are Krispy Kreme donuts, then what good are you really doing yourself?
Sure, you may drop a few pounds. But you’ll feel awful, have no energy, and probably catabolize some of your muscle mass in the process.
Is that the point? Do you really have SO much muscle that you can afford to do that? Somehow I don’t think so.
The only good calorie counting diet plan is a dead calorie counting diet plan
I can picture you now, sitting at your computer and Googling this phrase: calorie counting diet plan.
You’re 100 lbs overweight, still don’t have a gym membership, and have a pantry full of processed foods in colorful packaging.
Why are you looking for shortcuts? Do you REALLY want to lose the weight?
Part of me wonders if you’re even really trying.
The answer is simple: stop trying to count calories. It’s pointless, stupid, and a total waste of time.
Throw out your unhealthy food, join a gym, and eat one meal a day. That’s all you need to do to stay healthy.
Eat 90% of your calories as lean cuts of meat, eat them once a day, and I promise you’ll lose weight.
Hit the gym 4-5 times a week and the results will be even more pronounced and you’ll achieve them faster.
But no, you would rather sit online and “research” the perfect diet plan so you don’t have to put any mental energy towards the task of actually trying to lose the weight.
And look, I get it. I always try to make things easier for myself because I know there’s a greater chance I’ll actually do them if I don’t have to think too hard.
We’re really the same, you and me. The difference isn’t that I’m better or “more disciplined” – the difference is that we’re just focusing on different things.
You think that counting calories for weight loss is the way to go. You think that’s the answer.
On the other hand, I’m over here with much smaller requirements: eat natural foods (mostly raw meat) and eat them once a day or once every two days.
Done. End of story. No Googling necessary.
Do you know how liberating it is for me to have a single guideline when it comes to the foods I eat? “Eat mostly raw meat.”
Imagine how much easier that is compared to looking up every single food on the internet, writing down how many calories it has, totaling that up at the end of the day, and then calculating after every meal if you’ve eaten too much and have to scale it back a bit.
FURTHERMORE, you’re not even accounting for the differences between foods and their effect on your insulin levels.
How much more can I really say about this? Stop counting calories for weight loss. Focus on eating healthy foods instead.