Most of us have been taught that body shape and size are simply a matter of calories in versus calories burned.
With this kind of approach, it makes sense that we would think going on a diet to lose weight would be the best thing for us. Culling our calorie consumption will inevitably lead to us shed that body weight we are so desperate to lose – right? Unfortunately for many, this is not the result.
When you look at the biochemistry of the body, all the millions of reactions that are taking place every second of every day, it's not as simple as calories in versus calories burned. And research has confirmed that not all calories are created equal.
At the most basic and fundamental level, the way that you feed yourself is the way you demonstrate care for yourself. If you're constantly judging yourself based on how you look, what you ate today, the number on the scales every morning and how you failed to stick to that daily exercise plan, how do you think that translates in terms of self-care?
Aside from the distress that comes if diets we try don’t work, or if we just put all the weight back on after we've finished it, here are some other reasons to switch out of that dieting mentality.
1. It Can Communicate To Your Body To Store Body Fat Instead Of Burning It
Your body has an ancient mechanism that wires it for survival. While modern life might have changed significantly compared to our ancestors’, our biochemistry is still much the same. Historically, food scarcity (or a significant calorie reduction) indicated to the body that there was a drought, a war or some other natural disaster that meant food might not be available for a while.
Under these circumstances, do you think your body is going to continue allowing you to burn body fat as a fuel? It's going to want to store anything it can to prepare for a future where food might not be available for long periods of time and slow our metabolism down so we're not burning as much energy throughout the day. Our body doesn't realize that there's actually an abundance of food available to us and we're just choosing to minimize our calorie intake.
Many people could do with cutting down on their consumption of highly processed foods that are packed with refined sugars, trans fats and low on nutrients (and consequently often high in calories), but thinking about food solely as calories and limiting our intake of them can increase cortisol (our long-term stress hormone) production and could result in your body storing even more fat than it did before the diet.
2. For Many People, Weight Challenges Aren't About Food
At the heart of any addiction, whether that is an addiction to food itself or simply an addiction to constantly judging yourself based on the size and shape of your body, regardless of its shape and size, is the belief in your own deficiency and the assumption that it can be fixed with an external substance or regimen.
People eat unresourcefully for many reasons. It can be a biochemical reason, such as low blood glucose, that leads someone to polish off too many sweet foods for afternoon tea. It could be emotional, such as when someone feels rejected when a colleague gives them constructive feedback, and they try to block the pain of this perceived rejection by eating. Or it can be both. Often it is both.
With any system that addresses weight, unless it also explores what is literally at the heart of someone's situation, rather than the size of their thighs, it won't work.
3. You Have To Be Healthy To Lose Weight
We all assume that in order to be healthy we have to lose weight when in actual fact, the opposite is true. If our body is not healthy, all of our biochemical processes suffer, one of which is our body’s ability to burn body fat as a fuel. When we switch our focus to eating more real foods, avoiding processed and packaged foods, and focusing on our health rather than our weight, our body and our health benefits and weight loss is a natural byproduct of good health.
It is time to stop dieting and start nourishing. It's time to stop counting calories if you do this. If you need to count anything, count nutrients and amp them up, and count synthetic substances and omit them.