Why I Refuse to Count Calories

Losing weight and counting calories have become such intertwined concepts that, by many people, they’re considered inseparable.  

My experience has shown that when these two concepts are linked together they inevitably lead to dysfunctional eating patterns.

Counting calories is the antithesis of promoting sensitive listening to the body’s messages.  It shuts down our intuitive sense of satiation and undermines our body’s incredible wisdom of informing us as to what, when and how much we should eat in any given moment. 

By placing these arbitrary ceilings on our caloric intake we neglect our real-time sense of nutrient requirement. 

To maintain such a diet is to continually disconnect self from one’s bodily experience and to teach the body that its messages are less apt and intelligent than our imposed thoughts. 

When I went through my University education in nutrition and health we were introduced to the idea of foods being energy for the body and that each food had a calculable amount of energy, which was measured in calories.  Calories are used to fuel the body’s internal processes, which are significantly elevated when we exercise.  We were also told that fat was the way people stored excess calories.

It was such simple math; reduce the amount of energy ingested (restriction diet) and increase the amount of energy used (extended aerobic exercise) and you would see a decrease in bodyfat storage (weight loss). 

Yes, BUT…

The body, in my experience, is far too complicated and wonderful for such simple formulae. 

What I've noticed is that when people cut calories the body responds by altering its metabolism to accommodate the decrease energy ingestion.  That is, we slow our metabolic processes to conserve energy, store as much available energy in case the famine gets worse and in turn dramatically reduce our sense of vitality and motivation.  Yuk! 

And this makes complete sense.  If we found ourselves in a famine, the people who could not adapt in this way would starve to death, where others would survive. 

By repeatedly or continuously creating an artificial famine for your body you will affect the thyroid gland.  It will reduce its output of thyroid hormone which in turn can lead to lowered sex drive, brain fog, depression, fatigue, constipation, dry skin, slowed healing, hair loss and, of course, weight gain.

Binge Eating; The tide will come in.

Once the famine passes (read: we relax our rules on our calories), our body celebrates by encouraging us to gorge ourselves on the newly available food to make up for the deficit.  This cycle is so very common in all the calorie restriction diets I have ever seen, which makes for a highly successful business model (at the expense of the health of its followers, mind you).  This yo-yo diet style is unsuccessful, long term and is tremendously stressful for your body and harmful to your health.

 

Of all the reasons to avoid caloric restriction though, by far the one that I am the biggest proponent of is the disconnection aspect.  It takes a lot of willpower to ignore the cries of the body when its hungry. 

What if we treated our body with the care and attention we would offer an infant?

When a baby cries for food, we feed it.  It’s not being greedy.  It’s hungry!  When your body tells you that it is hungry, it’s because it needs nutrition!  Food does not always equal nutrition though.  If you are chronically hungry and you find yourself eating copious amount of food, it’s highly likely that the food you are eating is low in the nutrients that your body needs.

Never resist the urge!

If you’re hungry, eat good quality food that’s right for your metabolism’s needs!

If you’re thirsty, drink clean water!

If you’re tired, go and sleep or take a nap!

If you need to poop, go and poop!

If you need to pee, go and pee!

This is what you body in its real-time, sensitive wisdom is asking of you.  Why is it that we have built a culture around ignoring, avoiding or downright dismissing these clear and present signs of maintaining health and vitality? 

One of the core principles at Temple is the reconnection of people with the intuitive wisdom of their bodymind.  We encourage sensitive listening to the messages the body is offering us and learning how to decrease the ‘noise’ in the system. 

We are proponents of sensitivity. 

We want to be able to feel more deeply, and to be able to see, hear and taste more fully.  The old paradigm of imposing our will on the body as if it were some unintelligent machine is not welcome in Temple.  You are not a body and a mind; You are a bodymind – a superbly intelligent, amazing, cybernetic system that has millions of years of refinement that has brought you to this peak of biological expression on this planet.  I personally reckon that this deserves some respect and appreciation!