The above equation seems simple enough. But does it really work? Unfortunately not. Check out the surprising reasons why calorie counting ISN’T reliable:
1. Calorie counts on food labels are often imprecise.
The calorie counts on food labels are often just averages. The actual calorie count you consume is usually higher or lower than the exact number on the label. For example, a 6-ounce filet mignon can range anywhere from 323-506 calories, even though the sizes are all consistent at 6-ounces. In addition, food companies can use up to 5 different ways to estimate calories, so the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) permits up to a 20% error rate in calorie reports. [http://health.usnews.com/health-news/blogs/eat-run/2012/08/21/when-nutrition-labels-lie]
2. The amount of calories in food changes depending on how it’s prepared.
Cooking food generally makes more calories available for your body to absorb, and most food labels DON’T reflect that. [http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2013/02/have-we-been-miscounting-calories] For example, an average-sized raw, white potato contains roughly 100 calories, but when it is baked (without adding any ingredients), its calorie content jumps up to 193. It’s nearly impossible to go to a restaurant to eat without knowing EXACTLY how each ingredient is prepared in meals. You can definitely guess how many calories are in your meals, but based upon how it’s cooked, you’ll never really know exactly how many calories you are consuming. Wouldn’t it be easier if you could base all of your portions off of the size of your hand? Guess what–it IS possible! That’s exactly what I walk you through in my free portion control guide. [https://sarahpelc.lpages.co/portion-control-guide-support/]
3. As humans, we aren’t great at eyeballing our portion sizes.
This study suggests that people over-estimate portion sizes at most meals, so it’s easy to consume more calories than you intend to. [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000282239500422X] Often times, condiments and side dishes are the hardest to control the portion size. Adding an extra tablespoon of peanut butter to a piece of celery and you’re looking at an extra 90 calories. Better yet, adding an additional tablespoon of olive oil to a recipe automatically adds about 120 extra calories to your meal.
4. Calorie Counting can make you MORE hungry
Restricting the calories you eat is a deliberate attempt to lose weight, which forces your body to use its stored fat for energy. In other words, you are mildly starving yourself to lose weight. Given that fact, it’s completely normal to expect to feel hungry when counting calories. Chances are, when you’re expecting to feel hungry, you will actually FEEL hungry.
Check out this study. [http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/003193849090112H] It contained two groups of women–one who practiced restrictive eating (like calorie counting) and the other who ate normally. Both groups were given either a high-calorie or low-calorie drink before a meal, some of which were labeled incorrectly (for example, a high-calorie drink with a low-calorie label). The group of dieters reported feeling hungrier after drinking a drink labeled low calorie, regardless of how many calories it actually contained. On the flip, the group of women who ate normally reported feeling more satisfied and full, regardless of how many calories the drinks contained.
5. It encourages you to believe that “low-calorie” and “healthy” are the same thing.
According to this survey by CNN [http://www.cnn.com/2017/05/16/health/healthy-foods-confusion-study/index.html], approximately 8 out of 10 Americans are confused as to what is considered a “healthy” food. So often, we mistake items that are low-calorie, low-fat, or low-sodium to be healthy. However, there can be a HUGE difference in low-calorie foods and healthy foods. For example, think about the 100-calorie snack packs that are often found in cookie and cracker aisles. Although the actual calorie count is low per serving, I encourage you to take a peek at the nutrition labels. You’ll probably find that these snacks contain a low percentage of any real nutrients, like protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. You can see that even though these snacks have a low calorie-count, they aren’t the healthiest option and they definitely DON’T leave you feeling full and satisfied, which causes you to eat more.
So, what’s the solution?!
What if I could share a SIMPLE way to portion out your meals that DOESN’T even involve the word calorie? Better yet, you can take this system with you EVERYWHERE–to work, to restaurants, and even on vacation!
Because our hands are proportionate to the rest of our bodies, we can use them as a guide to help control portions! Take a peek at your hand… See the size of your palm? THAT is approximately the serving size of protein you want to include in every meal. See the size of your thumb? THAT is approximately the serving size of healthy fats (olive oil, peanut butter, etc.) you want to include in every meal. Now position your hand into a cupped-shape… THIS is the size of smart carbs (whole grains, quinoa, sweet potatoes, and 100% whole wheat breads) you should include with every meal. Lastly, make a fist with your hand. Try to include 1-2 fist-sized portions of vegetables to every meal.
If you try to stick to the guidelines above, you’ll NEVER have to count a calorie again, and you’ll learn how to best portion your meals in relation to the size of your body and your goals. This is the easiest way to lose weight, stay in the right mindset (meaning ditch the deprivation) and make healthy choices that let us actually eat out and enjoy life!
If you’d like an easy tool to help remind you of the portion sizes, grab a copy of my free Portion Control Guide that I use with my clients! It teaches you how to portion out ALL of your meals and focuses specifically on how to make adjustments to the hand portion sizing based on your personal weight loss goals. Click here for a copy. [https://sarahpelc.lpages.co/portion-control-guide-support/] I know this can work for you, as it’s worked for countless clients I’ve supported in losing weight WITHOUT starving themselves. It is truly possible to live a full life (in a body you love) without counting every morsel you eat from now until eternity.