Wellness Myths

Calorie Counting: Do or Don’t?

January 26, 2022 Season 2 Episode 37
Wellness Myths
Calorie Counting: Do or Don’t?
Show Notes Transcript

We’ve done NOOM. We’ve done Weight Watchers. Next up is calorie counting! We’re talking MyFitnessPal and your likely fraught relationship with it. Calorie counting has been touted as the way to claim control over your body and eating habits but is this really true?

What does "calories in, calories out" mean? The girls discuss all this and much more in this myth-busting episode.

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Hey nice. Hey. Em so I don't know if you got the today's dietician or not today's dietician the nutrition smart. Brief. Yeah. SmartBrief, and okay. Before you like go off on them. Okay. First of all, I just want to say again, so they, so we get sent as dietitians, these nutrition, SmartBrief, then we get them what? Probably once a week, No, I think we get them like almost every day. Is it every day. I don't know. I'm out here deleting a lot of them telling you guys like they have good information sometimes, but also they have just really outdated information. Like it'll be breaking news. If you introduce like higher allergen foods earlier into your child's diet, they're less likely to be allergic. I mean, that's something we've known for a long time, Yeah. I feel like that's something that like your pediatrician, like would even usually mentioned to you. Yeah. So like that's not new information, but they kind of frame it like, wow, look at this. But I was happy to see today. They had some research on, you know, how there's always this big debate of what time of the day is best to eat. And I think we even did an episode about that, or we might've talked about it a little bit. When we did our breakfast episode, but it's what time of the day is best to eat. And it talks about dinner and skipping dinner or eating a late day. And the article basically that's linked, goes into why it's actually better to eat dinner later, rather than skipping it. Because basically your body is going to want to make up those calories anyway, the next day, which can lead to bingeing or overeating the next day, because your body's like, I need more calories. So you're not actually doing yourself any favors. By skipping dinner. So even if you have to eat really late, it's still better to eat something rather than nothing. And my advice would be, you know, you probably don't want to eat in the lay down right away if you can help it. So even if you do like 10 minutes of like walking back and forth in the hallway of your house or something like that you know, to kind of bring your insulin back down into a better place before you lay down Definitely eat dinner, no matter what time. Yeah, I feel like that's, that story is kind of the perfect segue into talking about calorie counting, because I know that a lot of folks who are calorie counting are skipping the last meal of the day because they've already spent too much on other foods throughout their day. So I loved hearing that piece of information that basically encourages us to do that. Yeah. So we are talking all about calorie counting today. Calories in calories out. Is that the way to do it Absolutely. Emily's rolling her eyes. All right. Let's get into it. So on today's episode, we are talking about calories then. Hold on. Hold on one second. Okay. Okay. So literally no one takes health care more seriously than Emily. So we were recording. She gets a call from her doctor. She literally throws her hands up in the air. People Theros. Air. And then like panics is like, I don't know what she's doing with her keyboard, but it's like my backers calling. I'm going to pause the recording. She ends the whole recording. Well, can I say I'm desperate for my physical therapy for all. Like, I'm really just trying to get my shit together in order. And the healthcare system is not supporting me, so I really just had to jump on it. Okay. Yeah, I just wish you could have all seen like the queer, like shock and panic. was fully panicked. So. Today, we are talking about calorie counting. And this is something that I think a lot of people have been given the idea that a calorie is a calorie. And that's, you know, then some people start saying like, no, it's not, but then that still always lingers is this like calories in calories out thought and thinking that's the only thing that matters when we're looking at. Which I think it's interesting because. It's almost like that saying, got bastardized into it, having to do with health when it really had to do with weight loss, which also weight loss is not that simple either, but that is like a very rudimentary way of describing weight loss. So it's like, even if they were saying that in that way, it's like, that still has nothing to do with your overall health and your other behaviors. Like Vanessa said, And we'll get into, I mean, there's a lot of reasons that, I mean, calories in calories out ignores so many things that actually contribute to your weight. But we'll get into that a little bit later. First, I want to just start with what a calorie actually is. Because I feel like calorie is something that people refer to a lot, but not a lot of people actually know. What a calorie is. So basically a calorie is just a measurement of energy and how they created this measurement was by burning food and seeing how quickly it raised the temperature of water. So Now when food companies. Create their products. They're not actually burning foods. So mountain Dew isn't like burning mountain Dew or anything like that. So there's four. Calories per gram of carbohydrate, four calories of gram of protein, and then nine calories per gram of fat. So that's actually what food companies are using to make those nutrition labels. So it's not actually a hard and fast science. It's more of an estimate. What you're seeing on those nutrition labels, as far as calories. I think that's something that will be kind of surprising to people because we tend to think of calories as a hard and fast thing. Like when we look at a calorie range or when a calorie counting app gives you a specific number or something like that. So that's really interesting. Yeah, And so then when we're looking at these calories and. People start to started to kind of wonder why, you know, when we were thinking of calories in calories out, and a lot of times when you're using that, you're looking at weight loss. And so people started to wonder why, okay. So if so-and-so is eating this many calories and I'm eating that many calories too, how come we're not yielding the same results? And that happens all the time and that's because. Calories in calories out ignores so many things that contribute to your weight. So some things that contribute to your weight are gut imbalances, genetics, hormones, sleep, quality, stress medications, and. What your body actually needs. So if you have deficiencies, whatever, it might be, there's so many things that go beyond a calorie is a calorie and everybody's body is way different. So you're not going to process those things in the same. Yeah, it's, it's very clear. And I think everyone can kind of see that everyone's metabolism is really different. We could all eat the same way and yield very different results. And sometimes it's kind of a good thing because we all have different needs. Like it shouldn't be quite so easy to be like, okay, you're this weight and this height, this is how many calories you get. And I know sometimes these apps like my fitness pal, you can put it. I exercise this much or whatever, back in the day, it was definitely like you put in how much you exercise it minus the calories away from you. Like for the day, or like added some or. A lot of apps, like do it differently, but really in reality, it's like, you might need to eat a little bit more or maybe your protein needs are a little different and these apps or any kind of self prescribes, like calorie deficit, aren't taking into account all of those extra things that Vanessa just mentioned not to mention like socioeconomic factors, like maybe you have access to. Free food at some point that you need to take advantage of, or maybe you don't have that aspect of control over each and every part of your diet. So there's also those aspects as well. That those apps clearly don't consider. And my idea of calories in calories out would basically say. You ate a hundred calories worth of candy and a hundred calories worth of celery. That would be the same thing. And I think pretty much everyone can recognize that that's not the same thing, right. With the candy. You're getting sugar with the celery. I don't know why I used to celery though. It's such an Yeah, eating that, eating a thousand calories of I said a hundred, I said a hundred, but it's still a lot. That is. But you know, obviously with the celery. you're getting fiber, you're getting new, other nutrients, other vitamins, you're getting water. It's just two completely different things. So, I mean, no one can really argue that those are the same, not to mention That you know, the candy in this example is. Spiking your blood sugar which causes an insulin spike. It is going to turn those calories into fat rather than utilizing the nutrients that you have in a more nutrient dense. So the conclusion to all this is that counting calories, whether it's an app, like my fitness pal or calorie counter, all of these things are a big over-simplification and they're taking all of the health out of your diet. They're really just looking at calories in calories out, and it's a hyper-focus on weight. Okay. As we've been saying might not even work at that point. And there is a lot of research that says even using an app, like my fitness pal where you can track your calories every day, it still doesn't lead to that. Long-term weight loss. So even if you know, you, you might have a result in the interim when you're just kind of learning and you're immediately taking your calories back, eventually you might want to start not tracking. It kinda reminds me of like weight Watchers or the new stuff. It's like, I mean, eventually you're not going to put your food into this little app every single day, all the time. And then things will kind of change and shift. Or if you have a really low calorie count set, then you're eventually going to need to finally recoup all those calories. So there's that aspect of. Yeah, And I was looking at some research of people that had been using apps, like my fitness pal, and they had really low satisfaction. And basically that was just because, I mean, yeah, you start. You know, tracking your food's in there and recording things, but they were losing steam and losing motivation. They didn't have any personalization or Anyone, you know, coming in and telling them, Hey, this is a change you can make, or this is something that you're doing great at. There wasn't any like that human factor of encouragement or personalization. And so it sounded like, I mean, they're kind of just getting bored and I don't blame them. I mean, logging everything you eat for the rest of time seems like a nightmare. You know, there's some instances where you do, you might want to record what you're eating. If you're finding that you're reacting to something or you're having something go on you know, in that case, it can be helpful to see, you know, you're tying. You know, some CA if you think you have an intolerance or something like that is going on related to what you're eating, but just to track, just to see how many calories you're eating a day. Sounds exhausting. Yeah, totally. I mean, there's, there can be a lot of reasons to track your food intake. There's actually a feature on the software that I use that allows people to do a food and mood journal. And it kind of talks about like your symptoms. You know, if you have like IBS or any kind of digestive problem, and you might be trying to draw those links between like, oh, Red peppers for me that I can't have something like that. And there's an option for me as a practitioner to hide the calorie counts of the foods that people input in there. And I always do that because it's just one of those things where I don't want you to think about an external, like how many calories are in something to decide if you can eat it or not. And. Those apps and the external externality of calorie counting can really take you out of that normal hunger and fullness response. I think it can be really scary to, to stop doing it like cold Turkey. I had this client recently where she was kind of, wanting to continue tracking calories. And it's, it's really hard to track calories and do intuitive eating because you're letting this app dictate how much you're eating on a daily basis. And so we're kind of thinking of like how. Why do you really want to keep doing that? Right. And ultimately, we kind of realize it's like, I need to take control of my health. Like I need to take control of my body. I need to find kind of this control as a response to the anxiety that my body might be changing or I'm nervous about it changing or something like that. And so I think that if you're currently counting calories with my fitness pal or whatever, I'm kind of digging deep as to like, why you're doing that. Right. Like Vanessa said, there may be a reason that you want to keep track of what foods you're eating. But if it's really like, just to make sure you stay in check in this like arbitrary goal that you've set, which we need to talk about the 1200 calorie myth and then the second, but You know, really bringing yourself back to why do you feel out of control around food? And a lot of the times the answer to that could be because of that restrictive binge cycle. And really the answer to that is seeing a dietician and figuring out doing some therapy uncovering where that began. But. I think that it, my fitness pal is kind of like a nice little security blanket that people have to ensure that they're not overeating or that they have some semblance of control over their body. Yeah. And I think there is something to, you know, some people like seeing data. I know, You know, for my husband, he loves seeing data. Like when he works out, he loves seeing data. And that's something it's harder for me to understand because I don't, You literally couldn't be the opposite. Yeah. You're like the opposite of that. You're like, what? Like, why would I do that? Yeah, but if you do love data, I mean, there are a lot of other things that are actually valuable to track. Like you can track how many servings of fruits and veggies you're getting in a day, the quality and the quantity of your sleep your cycle, your water intake, how much fiber you're getting. So there are. Other things that you can track that would actually be more beneficial to your health. In with all of those things, you're trying to get more rather than less. And I think that's just a healthier way of looking at things too, when you're trying to get more, rather than restrict yourself. Yeah, we always take a more additive approach. And I think also too, there was some research where think a common question of like, well, but what if I still want to take control of my health in a way, even without calorie counting there was a study done. Of people at risk for cardiovascular disease. And basically the studies show that dietary intervention like consuming fatty fish or limiting saturated, fat, something small, like, you know, additive, or maybe just like being more mindful of your intake that. Dietary intervention achieved consistently large reductions in risk, irrespective of weight. So weight loss interventions are rarely sustained, which we all know that. And since my fitness pal is really just focused on that, right? It's not focused on health behaviors. Like Vanessa said, it's not going to tell you like, oh, you haven't eaten, you know, enough fruits or vegetables for the day or whatever. And even if they do, it's still a school problematic. I see the new episode because they do talk about that for certain. We still don't like that shit. But you know, there's data that says, even if we make these dietary changes, like eating more fruits and vegetables, that has a significant impact on our health. Irrespective of. Which means without losing weight or with losing weight, it doesn't matter. So shifting that focus away from calories and emphasizing a dietary pattern that focuses on the quality of your food rather than the quantity will help to reduce risk of certain diseases. Yeah, and I mean, it makes sense to more thinking quantity versus quality when you're eating a better quality diet and you're getting more fiber, you're getting more fruits and veggies. You're going to have more energy. And that in itself, I think is motivating to keep doing those things because when you feel good, you want to keep feeling good. If you're simply restricting calories, You might feel the opposite. You might not feel good. You might feel hungry, you might feel tired. You might feel hungry, you might feel hungry. That's just the core of everything you're going to be hungry. yeah, truly No, one's happy when they're hungry. No, no, I think that's pretty broadly understood. I mean, Snickers has really smashed the hangry idea down our throats and like, we all get it. We see those commercials and we get it. And Hey, I'm not saying that you should like, like Snickers is the answer. But it's definitely a thing Craig doesn't okay. Quick Gabby. Craig, like does not believe in being hangry. Yes. Even though he himself. It's a blood sugar response. Exactly. I'm like, it's a physiological thing that's happening. It's not made up, but he will tell me God, I'm so glad he's not home right now. I'm like so worried. He's going to walk in the door at any moment. He will tell me that I can not blame my like poor Oh, on the fact that I haven't eaten. And like, I'm here to tell him that. Yes, I can like physiologically. I can't. You can be blamed for not appropriately planning your food and fit, lacking to feed yourself as an adult. I'll give him that, but you can't, it's a physiological response. Like that's, it's not up for debate. Yeah, but I just Craig getting upset when he doesn't eat too. He does he get angry? Yeah, he does. I could see him being real sensitive to that, I he does, but he doesn't recognize that for Yeah. Classic man. Can I hope he doesn't listen to this episode. Who's probably not going to, he's probably going to be like, whatever. So I think this is the perfect time to talk about the 1200 calorie thing. So many people think that this is like the magic number in order to sustain weight loss or, The magic number of restriction. And I know we've said this before, but I just want to be really clear the needs for a toddler like a baby. They need a thousand to 1400 calories per day. So like you as an adult, as a potentially a menstruating adult, as an adult that works out as an adult that uses their brain for like an eight hour Workday. 1200 is just never going to cut it. And not to say that some days you might consume 1200 calories and feel really full, right? Depends what that makeup is. Maybe we eat tons of fruits and vegetables, and you were able to feel satisfied by that. But our calorie intake is more about weekly than daily and that's what I think. is Well, I can't pick a top worst part of the apps, but one of the worst parts is definitely the fact that it really simplifies it into each day when your calorie needs would differ throughout the week. And so, you know, if you have your goals set at 1200, I'm worried that if you hit a thousand, you're feeling really good about yourself and that you're happy that you're under your calorie goal at all. Right. And it might seem like, oh, a hundred calories. What's the big deal. Even like the, my fitness pal website is like 1200 is the absolute lowest you can go before, like detriments to human health happen. Yeah. They even have this article. That's like what 1200 calories looks like in a day and they give this a little disclaimer at the top and they're like 1200 calories per day is not a lot. If your goal is weight loss, it's close to the minimum that the Institute of health recommends for women. And it's literally the lowest count recommended for men. And so they're like this idea can seem pretty daunting. They're saying the good news is it doesn't mean you have to survive on rice cakes and boiled chicken. Either. You can really eat a variety of satiating and nutrient rich foods. Here's a menu that illustrates how delicious and satisfying 1200 calories can be. And wouldn't, you know, this is written by a dietician to which. It just hurts like that extra little zing to your heart, but basically they talk about 1200 calories. And I think this is good for everybody to understand, to know like what that really means. So they've got half a cup of oatmeal with walnuts and blueberries for breakfast. It's a 300 calorie breakfast. There is 11 grams of protein in this, which okay. That's, that's fine. You know, like I would love to see like some seeds on top of that. But And more protein. You know, how about like 30 grams? yeah, and more protein, it would be great. Like if we could at least get like 15 in there. Right. But they can't put too much because they can't add too many nuts because then it would be too caloric and too much fat. And then they've got as a snack, mid morning snack is half cup, cottage, cheese, and a pair, which that's not like a diet food. I don't know what it is. I know some people like cottage cheese, but whatever it Okay. I, I actually, I want to say something about cottage chiefs here, because I I have always liked cottage cheese knew you were going to like, and I haven't had it for a really long time. Then I had it again recently and I was like, this is good. This is really good. And so then I was like trying to put some cottage cheese on Craig's dinner plate, like as just like a little, like, not even a side, just like a sauce, basically like a, nothing, just a little. Blop of a cottage cheese. And he was like, not having It I literally eat it off his plate. I was like, if you're not going to eat that, my God. Oh my God. so. so then the lunch. So yeah, so far we've got the oatmeal with Walton blueberries, then half a cup of cottage, cheese, and a pair, and then a Mediterranean chicken salad for lunch, which is 300 calories. It's 28 grams of protein. Okay. And the salad, it looks like chicken, some spinach, a little bit of cheese chickpeas. Then your evening snack is half a cup of carrot sticks, which is like a very small amount. Hard-boiled egg. Wait, wait. It gets worse. Even just a hard-boiled egg and for whole wheat crackers. Like, it's good to have mindful eating. This is where like, oh my God, I swear. People come for us. Like, oh my God, you're just want to stick your hand in the cracker box and eat a bunch of crack. Right? No, but like selecting four is absolutely absurd. If you want four, that's fine. But like looking at that meal plan and being like, okay, four crackers, 1, 2, 3, 4, like that is not a way to live. That's I, I don't know. You know what, and I just want to say, I like, I don't want to offend anyone out there. If you are someone who like only wants four crackers and that's what you're feeling. That's fabulous, but I don't think I've only eaten four crackers in my entire life. no, unless it's like, unless it's the artisinal crackers I get from the farmer's market that like eight bet, $8 a bag. And I'm like trying to conserve or something. Yeah, Or like the really big crackers or something, right, right. But yeah, for these are like weaknesses, like their wheat thins. I'll tell you, they just can't use the brand name. And then, so then, okay. You've had your four weekends, a hard world, egg and carrots, and then you're going to have shrimp tacos for dinner and that's 298 calorie dinner with 22 grams of protein. It's just, you're limiting yourself so much in such a low amount of calories. Yeah, this person is like, they're getting in fruits and vegetables. It's not to say that they're not, but it's like, there's no extra room for anything that might bring you a little bit of extra satisfaction and it's really rigid. Yeah. any time, like you said, I mean, I think the four crackers is a perfect example. Like if you, I'm sorry, but if I sat there and counted out four crackers, I immediately want more like the fact that I am counting that out and saying you can only have four little crackers today. Ness that's I immediately know immediately. I want more. It's interesting too. Like, I think about something kind of on the flip side where like, if I'm looking for a snack and I'm more like taste hungry. Right. Which means like I'm not super physically hungry and I'm feeling like more, like, I just need a little something for satisfaction. I'm hungry enough to where like, I'll enjoy food. I'm not stuffed or anything. And then sometimes I will look at. Let's say like the pizza roll box or something, we'll just use pizza rolls. And like, I see. Okay. Like for pizza rolls 150 calories. And I think if I had like, okay, that's like pretty much what seems like a good amount for me that I would want, and that will be enough to satisfy my like light, light hunger, and then my taste craving at the same time. But if. Spoiling my dinner, something like that. So it's not like you couldn't eventually get to a point with calories and a relationship with calories where you look at it sort of objectives and use it to guide your decisions. That being said, like, if I have four and I want more, like I'm going to eat more or I'll find something else to eat or whatever, it's not like this rigid thing or on the other flip side with granola bars, like I want the most caloric granola bar possible because it's when I. Failed to prepare breakfast for myself. And I need like a meals worth of calories and a granola bar, like two 90 plus. Great, love it. So it's not like you can't use calories as part of your whole picture on your tool, but it can't be your only tool. And also I would never recommend looking at stuff like that. If you're fresh off counting calories, or if you have kind of a disordered mindset around food that. But it's like, it's not like it's all absolutely horrifying if you look at the calories at all on anything, but it's just this intense thread of restriction that runs through all of our conversation about calories. Yeah, absolutely. So if you're listening to all of this and thinking, oh no, I count calories and now I'm not quite sure. Or if you're even just like open. Taking a different direction. I would get really clear once again about your why, of why you're counting calories, what you're trying to get out of it, what feelings are driving it. If it's about shame, like about your body or about your food choices I recommend. Obviously working with the dietician. If that's not within your reach, then the intuitive eating workbook can be a really good place to start and it might be nice because you feel like you're still getting that kind of like active engagement with you and your health. And you're filling things out. You're reading, you're understanding and just basically allowing the information to come from you rather than an external app. If you're wanting, just to learn how to balance your diet and you were trying to use my fitness pal for that. You know, if you're looking at macros or something like that, like proteins carbs and fats, it could be fine to familiarize yourself with protein amounts. Like what's the protein serving and how can I feel satiated in my day? You know, like there's seven grams of protein in half a cup of beans, or if you're vegan or vegetarian, you should be getting like three to four servings of lagoon. Soy milk or lentils, beans, whatever. In your day, there's nothing wrong with learning about food and nutrition. There's just other ways to do it. Then calorie coffee that will deliver less harm. And then really coming into terms with. Your feelings about control, about food and your health and your body. And maybe looking at a different avenue to do that, that has a little bit less side effects, or even like, if you're really interested in the data, like those different things that Vanessa mentioned you could get a whoop band, like correct us. That's what he does. Right. Yeah, Craig Scott, the whoop Craig's big whoop back. And I, it was pretty cool. I will say little advertisement for. whoop. It is pretty interesting. Especially if you want to track your sleep. And honestly, I feel like that's one of the most valuable metrics that you could track for your health and that a lot of us. ignore is sleep for. Yeah. And all of those things, too, you have to also have the conversation what's in your nature will tracking all of those things lead to you, becoming obsessive with it, right. Even if it's not particularly calorie counting, or if it is something that. You know, it was a little bit more holistic, really have that conversation with yourself and think, okay, is this supporting my health journey, my life true health journey, or is this adding anxiety and giving me undue stress when really I should just be like trying to eat more vegetables. I couldn't be quite that simple. So now you know what to do if you're trying to get away from calorie counting, you know, the dangers, and I think we can send them back into the world's. Feeling free to eat more than 1200 calories. When Elsa, Yes, please, please do eat more than 1200 calories. if you take away one thing, take away that, just keep eating, just keep eating.