One of the biggest mistakes people make when switching to clean eating is assuming that calories are no longer of consequence. Well, the “bad” news is that calorie counting always matters … that will never change. The “good” news is that there are many apps out there that make tracking your food intake (and water and exercise) relatively effortless, whether you download an app to your phone or use your computer. It’s too easy not to do it when your health and weight loss are riding on it.
Everyone knows that too many calories will make you fat. I don’t think a technical explanation is needed other than to liken it to a bank account – debits and credits. If you eat more than you burn off, you’ll gain weight. Simple as that. But did you know that too few calories can not only inhibit your weight loss but also cause physiological problems?
Back in the 80s, medically supervised diets that involved very low calories and shakes were very much in style, especially after Oprah came onto the stage in size 10 jeans pulling a Radio Flyer loaded with fat. Very low calorie diets can certainly yield super fast weight loss, but the method is not without risks. Not only that, but people who do very low calorie diets seldom keep the weight off long term unless they adopt a healthy lifestyle. And it’s not exactly intuitive to transition from nothing but shakes to handling everyday food choices. This is why I believe that baby steps are important to creating a healthy lifestyle that you can maintain. Extreme, sudden changes can, and usually will, set you up for failure. Take it a step at a time, be patient with the weight loss and treat it as a reward … a byproduct of getting healthy. If you’re making truly healthy choices – and I’m not talking about the brand in the grocery store freezer – health and weight loss will happen, and faster isn’t always better.
Side effects of too few calories may include fatigue, constipation, nausea or diarrhea. Seems a small price to pay for a potential weight loss of 40ish pounds over a twelve-week period, right? WRONG. You could also develop gallstones as the result of too few calories, and complications from gallstones, such as inflammation of the gallbladder, blockage of the common bile duct, blockage of the pancreatic duct, and an increased risk of gallbladder cancer may be life-threatening.
Seeing that scale move isn’t worth all that, especially when I see so many Plexus testimonials from people who have lost inches and sizes without seeing a shift on the scale. Keep it in perspective – that number on the scale does not determine how you’re feeling, it cannot describe a healthier state of being (and appearance!), and it sure doesn’t determine your worth. Throw the scale in the trash if you need to. If that number dominates you, it’s time to break free and live life without it. I did it, and I highly recommend it.
The numbers that SHOULD dominate you, however, are those calories you take in every day. One piece of misinformation that concerns me is that people who have begun to shop the produce section more than the processed food shelves at the grocery store may think that they are exempt from calories. That isn’t true. For me, eating clean means that I must be vigilant in ensuring that I get enough calories every day, which is important not only for the aforementioned health reasons, but also when you let your calories fall too much for too long, your metabolism goes right down the tubes with it. Your body will start conserving, rather than burning, and when you feel like you’re not losing anymore, despite being so disciplined and good on your diet, the truth is, you’re probably not losing anymore. Being a product of the 70s and 80s, my gut instinct was always to cut calories even more – do the words “crash diet” ring a bell with anyone? If you want to lose weight, and keep it off, this mindset is the kiss of death. When you’re hitting your calorie goal consistently and the weight loss (or inch loss, however you want to look at it) stops, the key is to INCREASE your calories for a couple of days, not cut them. Get that metabolism working again! Don’t give it more reason to hibernate.
On the flip side … some of the healthiest meals I have eaten have been extremely high in calories because they are laden with protein and healthy fats. I could put away 500-700 calories in one sitting with a reasonably small amount of food on a dessert plate (avocados and nuts will really push calories over the top), and if I hadn’t done my homework and my calorie tracking, I would think that since I’m eating healthy foods, I could just do that all day long and never have to worry. While my heart health would thank me, my backside would not be as pleased.
My daily calorie goal is 1200-1500 calories, so you can see how having that serving of super nutritious food four times a day could come out to nearly 3,000 calories. I would not lose weight that way. You wouldn’t just go shopping with your debit card and spend, spend, spend without tracking your purchases and balancing your checking account, so be just as vigilant with your body and the calories that go in and out.
If ever a race were won by “slow and steady,” it’s the weight loss race. Anyone who has much weight to lose will not want to hear that – I know I didn’t. But making yourself sick will represent a much bigger setback than slow, steady weight loss ever will. In one year, if you lost “only” two pounds a week, that still comes out to 104 pounds. Where would you rather be in one year? Still yo-yo dieting, losing, then gaining, then losing, then gaining? Or down to your goal weight/size and feeling healthy enough to get out and enjoy life?
Here’s my advice, and this is from someone who has been all over the map with yo-yo dieting and repeated failed attempts at getting healthy:
- Use your Plexus products to HELP YOU make the changes YOU need to make for the long-term. Plexus Slim to manage cravings; ProBio 5 for a healthy gut (poor gut health is a lot of the reason some people gain and are unable to lose weight); and BioCleanse to ensure that all that clean eating and gut cleansing leaves your body once and for all.
- Take baby steps to work in good habits that you’ll actually stick to. Start small, such as eliminating sugar from your breakfast and having protein instead. Cut sodas. Incorporate a salad or other greens into your daily diet. As the Chick-fil-A cows would say, “Eat mor chikin.”
- Movement is important for all your body systems. When you’re feeling better because you’re nourishing your body rather than depriving it, you’ll be more likely to want to burn off that excess energy that you didn’t used to have. Stroll the baby, walk the dog, put on some disco and dance, shoot hoops with your teenager, do yoga, Zumba! The list goes on and on. Just find something you like and try to do it as often as possible. You’ll get hooked, I promise.
- And last, but not least, determine your calorie goal and monitor it daily. You may be way over your calorie goal, or you may be way under. Neither is acceptable to your body, so choose your calorie tracking method and get to it. If your results are anything like mine, you’ll feel twenty years younger instead of twenty years older.
There are many great calorie tracking apps out there, but my personal favorite is myfitnesspal.
It’s free, and it does all the calculating for you, up to and including restaurant menus and a bar code scanner, as well as a daily nutritional food profile that tells you how much protein, sugar, sodium, fat, etc. that you’re taking in. Nothing could be easier. I also like that you can make your food diary viewable so that if you’re working with someone to figure out what’s wrong (and right) with your diet (or theirs), you can take a peek and no one can claim they’re “eating healthy” after they’ve killed a bag of Donettes for breakfast. Just sayin’! Accountability is king, and a great place to start is with your own calorie counting. Be diligent – it’s your life and health on the line.