Counting calories. Counting protein. The pointless “diet.”

I just read a blog about a girl who is trying to lose weight and get toned. She’s majoring in all these molecular sciences and says that she knows the science behind how to lose weight. Fantastic! Awesome! BUT, the only thing she tracks on a daily basis on her blog are calories and protein.

In general, I totally disagree with tracking your food intake by using calories, fat, carbs, anything. Unless you are an elite athlete of sorts or use your body to to an extreme, I think it’s pointless and that it’s unhealthy. It puts an emphasis on your intake and when you emphasize something for long enough, it becomes an obsession. I don’t think obsessions are ever good for you, especially with food.

I’m not against tracking for a week or so to see where you stand. Actually, it’s probably good to know your general intake at times. In the past, I’ve tracked everything and gotten a general idea of where I stand. I think the emphasis on intake should be how you feel and on eating real food.

I’ve been building muscle over the last five years, and when I quit working out or eating my normal amount, I lose weight. When I start working out and increase my food intake (because I’m hungry from working out), I build muscle. I am still building muscle now. How do I know? I can see it. I make gains in my weight lifting. Do I have any idea how much protein I eat on a daily basis? Not a clue. I don’t know how many carbs I eat. I don’t know how much fiber I eat. I don’t even know how many calories I eat. I pay attention to what I put on my plate and make sure I’m eating nutrient rich foods. I’m not some crazy athlete. I’ve gone through periods where I lifted heavy and worked out about 10 hours a week, and still made strength gains. I now have weeks where I spend 0 hours at the gym and weeks where I spent 7-8 hours at the gym. On gym days, I make an effort to increase my intake because I know I burned off more energy and need to refuel. On days where I don’t work out, my intake is still healthy (typically), but less.

Now, say, if I was going to the gym and doing the same lifts and never increasing my weight or never seeing any physical gains, would I look at my diet? If I was constantly tired and drained, would I look at my diet? Absolutely. Then I would think something in my diet is lacking because clearly, I’m dragging. Gains aren’t happening even though the physical work is there. And then there will be more than just looking at protein. Am I lacking because I don’t have any carbohydrates so I don’t have the energy to lift heavier? Do I need more protein? Are my chicken sausages just not enough?!?!?!

I just don’t get the point of picking ONE thing to track. You want to track protein? Well, what about cholesterol? What about fats?! (Fats are SO important!!!!) In the blog I just read, I saw hardly any fats at all. The omelets were egg whites (who doesn’t eat the yolk anymore?! It is so good for you!). There were plant of veggies and some tofu, but not much else.

I’m glad that nutrition is becoming more recognized these days. I haven’t decided if it’s because I surround myself with healthy people so of course I see health related articles and statuses all over Facebook or if it really is becoming a big deal all over the US! Staying fit and eating real food is really the only way to turn the healthcare industry around and to lead long, healthy lives. For the average person, this means doing anything active and making sure your plate consists of plenty of different colors that didn’t come from a box. In time, you learn how to pay attention to your body and to how you feel. You know what to eat and what not to eat and don’t have to count to figure it out…

(Again, people with exceptional fitness goals here are exempt from this belief… Fueling a body for 26.2 miles of running or becoming the next Ironman may take a little more nutritional planning.)

 

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18 thoughts on “Counting calories. Counting protein. The pointless “diet.”

  1. I completely love this post. It’s so true. People seem to think the only things to track are protein and calories. Everything (no matter what) when done long enough becomes an obsession…running…counting calories…heck even basket weaving.

    I’ve always thought it’s a lot easier to see gains through your own measures as well (looking and seeing muscle, etc).

    • Food just seems to be so easy to become obsessed with! A friend of mine obsessed over what she eats and how healthy it is and it shouldn’t matter that much! Especially because she DOES eat healthy! But after focusing on it for so long, it’s just a part of what she obsesses about! Protein is important, but when you’re missing out completely on healthy fats and other nutrients, that 60g of protein just seems a little silly to focus on. Your body needs SO MUCH MORE!

  2. I definitely think people can track to the point where it interferes with life, which is really sad. I know girls who’ve done figure competitions and tracked, but the smart ones don’t try to do that all the time. It can become an obsession for people to where they won’t eat something if it doesn’t fit the macros, even if it means missing out on a friend’s birthday, having to sit with their families in an ice cream parlor and watch because they can’t have any, etc. As cliche as it is (I know), you only live once… there is so much more in life worth stressing over besides every single calorie, gram of fat/protein/carb. As long as you eat relatively healthy most of the time, I think all is fine…

    • Agreed! And hey, if somebody really genuinely DOES NOT want to eat ice cream and watches everybody eat it happily, then good for them! But if they sit there like, “That looks SOOOO good,” then just eat some!

      • Oh yeah, I agree with that, if they just don’t want it at all. But it’s no fun to impose something on yourself that doesn’t let you enjoy life, especially on special occasions (my job used to take us out for ice cream occasionally… it was so much fun, and I miss that).

  3. I can see what you’re trying to say but in order to do this properly, you really do need to track things at first, especially to loose weight. Tracking calories and macros is pretty much essential when first starting out, you just need to know what you’re consuming and how much is what. What’s the proper amount of calories, protein, fat, carbs, etc. What does the proper portion sizes look like and how much calories do those sizes pack. People are starting off because they don’t know and listening to their body is not enough. It is dangerous as you have mentioned and it can create an obsessive mentality over it, especially when they are not doing it to become an athlete or a particular goal in mind, I agree with you. They need to learn how to implement their limits and learn how to make it healthy for their mental state and learn a routine where eventually they don’t have to rely on counting. But at first if you don’t know nutritional facts and don’t have a background in this stuff, it’s impossible to get to your goals. People will just hit walls without it, I have had and have had to count, I hate doing it. For most of the average wanting to “tone-up”, a simple food diary starting off without counting much would probably be enough as long as their body fat percentage isn’t too high.

    I get concerned for girls who are “recovered” from eating disorders and now compete in bikini competitions or body builders. And I put recovered in quotations because I feel they replaced one obsession with another. I personally don’t think it’s healthy for them to take on that role where they would have to now count macros, be keeping in mind their protein intake and fats when they were once keeping in mind their calories, that to me still keeps them in an unhealthy mindset. But everyone else is like, “Oh wow that is awesome, look at what they have done, really turned things around.” They just found an alternative to their addiction, one that is healthier for them physically, but not mentally. That concerns me especially since body dysmorphia has been increasing in males due to male fitness models, physiques, and body builders.

    Carbohydrates really come into play with cardio. When it comes to building muscle, it’s about protein that’s complete in its amino acid profile and fat. That’s what the body mostly needs for that component. The amount of energy we need for daily activity and to lift weight weights doesn’t rely that heavily in the consumption in carbs. CrossFit does have a bigger amount of cardio involved in it, so in doing CrossFit, more carbs would need to be consumed. But if it’s lifting in the traditional sense, carbs don’t enter the equation as much, it’s protein and fat. Can’t build muscle without the fat either, that girl has her nutrition incorrect, she needs her essential fats. I see that a lot too, especially on Tumblr, part of the reason why I don’t browse on there anymore. They really had things backwards like that girl. I mean, one girl on there is my height, 5’8″, or an inch taller and wants to get down to 128 pounds, that’s almost underweight if we go by BMI and she teaches aerobics with a vegan diet. Does she plan to just pass out in the middle of class? She lost a massive amount of weight and despite her young age, has had a big amount of loose skin, that is probably linked due to her vegan diet and all the cardio, no muscle and a proper amount of protein to tighten the skin back. I looked at her intake, she was miss calculating her protein incorrectly, like she was taking in her protein in the beans before they were cooked and not afterwards. Plus no protein from any beans is complete in its amino acid profile, tofu is but it’s not high quality. We are MEANT to survive on animal products, it’s complete and high quality.

    Haha sorry this is so long. Short story, yes I agree with 100% that it can get obsessive and that girl’s nutrition is not correct. I do think it is essential for majority of people to count at first to know what they are consuming, it’s kind of like a reality check when researching nutritional facts lol. But for majority of these people, once they get the hang of it and become educated in it, I do think they need to switch from what you say to listening to their body as they are not athletes and if they aren’t body building or running marathons, there’s not a huge need for it.

    • I think if your only goal is to lose weight, eating REAL food will do it. Are you REALLY going to overdo yourself and not lose weight because you ate too many veggies? Eating too many eggs for breakfast instead of eating an egg McMuffin? My sister counts only calories to lose weight. Has it worked? Yeah, so far. But she still isn’t eating that healthy. She eats smaller portions of healthier food (for her), but it’s not like she’s eating tons of fruit and veggies. If people focus ONLY on eating real food, it’ll be hard NOT to lose weight if that’s the goal. I’ve never lost weight on purpose, definitely not in large amounts. But I know people who ate Paleo 80% of the time from CrossFit and have lost HUGE weight (well into the 100s). After 5 years of seeing plenty of people eat that way (and I’m not pushing just Paleo here- I’m pushing the real food) without counting anything and just focusing on what they eat, numerous people have lost tons of weight. So that’s why I think if you want to do it for a week or so to see what you’re taking in, fine. But really, I think the use of eating real food is manipulated for almost anything you want to do with it- weight loss, muscle gains, whatever, without ever having to count specifics for the most part.

      • The issue also becomes that they might be under eating and be eating 1200 calories a day because they think that this is right. So counting prevents them from over eating and under eating. Also, meat products and carbohydrates are a lot higher in calories than veggies, so you can easily over eat while eating healthy as a female especially, even more as a smaller female, not so much as a male. The thing with following Paleo, it kind of is already calorie counted for you. Especially for new people to it, it’s recipes in the right portions and they’re going to be hitting a proper calorie intake because of it. But for those without guidelines, counting or another thing like Paleo is what they need. Counting is learning a lifestyle and way of eating just like Paleo, you just pick what fits your personal lifestyle better. Loosing weight is all about what you eat, exercise only helps up to 30%, and that is a calorie deficient at the end of the day, it’s the first law of thermodynamics. At the end of the day, that’s the simple science behind it and it’s about the energy, the calorie.

    • And by the way, totally agree with you about figure competitors. While it may be a much healthier obsession than not feeding your body, it’s still not mentally good for you.

  4. I’m curious to know your thoughts on cross-fit for beginners. I used to do a lot of classes at the gym and running outside. I did a lot of body pump, body combat and body attack. So I was in decent shape, and then we started traveling and I didn’t join a gym, and running in this area sucked. I bought the insanity tapes but just couldn’t make myself do them. I really want to get back on track with this next assignment and I’m wondering if cross fit may be a good option. Is it good for beginners? and what about with a weird work schedule? I feel so terrible not working out, I have to find something to do!

    • I did it for part of this assignment. Typically they have an on ramp type class that you’d have to do if you’re new to CrossFit. Some gyms have a sort of variation (the one I was at up here changed to a morning class as an on ramp type of class). I did find that since it is expensive and I spent a lot of my days off exploring, that I ended up wasting a lot of money on CrossFit since I didn’t go nearly as much as I should have. I joined a regular gym that has a lot more CrossFit-type stuff (kettle bells, ropes, free weights) and have been much happier with being able to go when it’s convenient for me instead of being stuck to a schedule. However, I will probably continue to go to CF gyms while I travel, but I think I’d opt for a punch card (you typically can pay like, $160 for 10 classes or something) and do that in addition to a regular gym. But CrossFit is definitely for beginners, you just have to see how the schedule will work with you for those on ramp classes! And meet the owners/trainers cause a lot of them may set up individual times if you explain the situation!

      • Hm! I will have to look into it in the area we are going to next. I am going to be working 4 -12 hour shifts a week so my time is going to be limited. I may just have to join a local gym for their treadmill!

      • 4 12s?! Why?! That’s too much!

      • I know! It’s such a long story! Basically I was having trouble finding any open positions that paid well in Cali. When I finally found one to interview at the end of the interview the lady goes “so this position is 5-8’s” and I said no, online is said 3-12’s. So she’s like well our needs have changed so how about 4-12’s. And I was feeling kind of desperate for a position so I went into that whole “you can do anything for 13 weeks mindset!” Haha. So hopefully it won’t be that bad and I’m going to be making a ton so it should be worth it! (Fingers crossed! 😳)

      • I don’t even want to go to Cali because of all the pain in the ass things I hear! I mean, I know people LOVE it there! But I just read on a forum the other day that they won’t grant you a Cali license without a speech class in college! I never had one! So I don’t know that I’d even get a license there! I did 4 8s and then 5 8s here at first and absolutely HATED IT! I now do 2 8s and 2 12s one ween and 2 12s and 1 8 the next and am very happy with it. Where in Cali will you be? I have a friend looking to go to San Diego at the end of Oct! And I’m totally planning on road tripping along the coast in the near future! We could meet up!

      • I’ll be near San fransisco so yes we have to plan a meet up if you come through that way!

        I never had a speech class in college and they accepted my credits! They didn’t on the other hand accept my first set of fingerprints so that along with their poor communication was a pain! (I didn’t find out until 3 months after I submitted my application that they had rejected my fingerprints) so yeah, total pain in the butt. AND, the pay in cali(especially southern Cali) is nowhere near what I thought it would be. There were places offering less than I make here in MT! So if we didn’t really want to go to Cali, it would not have been worth it!!

      • Oregon rejected 2 sets of my prints! But the 2nd set was HORRIBLE! I wonder why they rejected a girl for her speech class? I read other people say that was standard too! How strange! I will definitely be letting you know if I come through Cali! That would be awesome to explore together a bit!

      • Reading that blog now from you, actually! I see the details!

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