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Why Calories Don’t Matter When It Comes to Weight Loss

February 26, 2016

calories dont matter

Weight gain doesn’t happen overnight. It happens over time, when the energy we take in through food is in excess of the energy we burn from being active.


So, it makes sense that the same is true for weight loss; it doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time.


So how can you keep up your weight loss progress when it seems like it’s taking forever to shed the extra pounds? Our answer might surprise you: stop focusing on the calories.


By focusing instead on whole foods, moderation and balance, you’ll change the way you think about food and in turn, change your lifestyle and body.


Quality First


You’ve probably heard the phrase “calories in, calories out.” But there’s a lot more to it than that!


Not all calories are equal. What that means is some calories are digested differently than others depending on their quality and where they came from.


While processed, unhealthy foods make it easy for your body to gain weight, natural, whole foods do the very opposite; their high fiber and nutrient content makes them much easier for our bodies to pull energy and nutrients from. We burn those calories and use those nutrients much more efficiently, so to speak.


For example, consider 100 calories worth of fresh orange slices, which are filled with fiber and vitamins, versus 100 calories worth of packaged orange juice, which, unfortunately, is mostly sugar. Though they both represent 100 calories worth of energy, they have a totally different effect on our body’s blood sugar, energy levels, digestion and more.


Some calories are fattening; others boost our metabolism. Some calories make us crave more; others fill us up and satisfy our hunger.


Everything you eat has an impact on your body that goes far beyond a calorie value. When you start to think of food in this way and stop paying attention solely to the calorie count on the label, you’ll have a much easier time losing those few extra pounds through eating the right kind of foods.


Mind Moderation


Portion sizes have exploded over the last several decades.


In 1955, the McDonald’s hamburger weighed around 1.6 ounces. Now, it’s jumped up to 8 ounces. Back then, you could only order one size French fry—it was smaller than today’s “small” portion.


It’s not hard to believe, then, that Americans’ perception of what a “normal” meal looks like has exploded as well. It’s known around here as portion distortion.


Divine Caroline has an excellent visual of these changing portions over time here.

popcorn then and now

All those extra calories on the plate have a dramatic effect on your waistline. Eating just 100 calories more per day than you burn, for example, will result in you gaining 10 pounds over the course of a year. After a few years, it really adds up!


To combat this unnecessary weight gain, mind your meal sizes. Just because it’s considered a “dinner” portion at a restaurant doesn’t mean you have to eat everything on the plate. In fact, it’s probably plenty for dinner tonight and leftovers for lunch tomorrow.


You can also adjust your portion distortion by using smaller plates at home.


Balancing Act


Your meals shouldn’t be boring. By that, we don’t mean eating something different at every single meal. Rather, we mean including all major nutrients on the plate for breakfast, lunch and dinner.


At each meal, aim to get a serving of high quality, lean protein, veggies, fruits and whole grains for optimal satiety. Stay balanced by eating on a regular schedule every four to five hours.


When you focus on quality foods, practice smart portion control and eat a variety of nutrients, your diet takes care of itself and counting calories becomes secondary.