horizontal-2520940_1920.pngFew have lasting success taking weight off because thy have been brainwashed into a tight and linear way of thinking. We now look at food as an energy value, rather than the quality of what we eat. It’s calories in – calories out!

Don’t get me wrong, calories are extremely important to human health, as our body needs calories to survive. Without energy from food and drink, our cells would die, our hearts and lungs would stop, and we would perish.

So if we consume just the number of calories our body needs each day, every day, we will probably enjoy a healthy and energetic life. We also have to consider that not everybody requires the same number of daily calories. Health, work demands, sex, weight, height, and shape all play various factors in how much we should consume on a daily basis.

What type of calories should we consume?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11.3% of people’s calories in the United States come from fast foods. By any standard, that’s a figure high enough to cause health problems considering rancid fats, chemicals, additives and other unsavory ingredients these foods contain.

Empty (discretionary) calories are another factor in national weight problems. These contain little nutritional value and posses virtually no dietary fiber, amino acids, antioxidants, dietary minerals or vitamins. Most empty calories come in the form of solid fats and sugars. Solid fats may come in the form of natural beef fat, shortening and butter. However, it’s the type commonly added to industrial food processing that gives us the most problems.

Sugars are sweeteners added to foods and beverages during processing, with the most common types being sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup, which are mainly composed of about half fructose and half glucose. Unfortunately, added sugars and solid fats make foods and drinks tastier to those conditioned to processed foods and are major contributors to the obesity epidemic.

Now That We Know What Calories Are, Should We Count Them?

A major question for those trying to lose weight is should they count daily calories? The answer is no—at least not as it’s commonly understood. Counting calories can be useful at times. Athletes in weight classes or those in sports cutting down to playing weight may need to pay closer attention to their intake.

Sometimes people may have a special event coming up ( a wedding) and want a quick little fat loss boost. I get that they may want to look better at a situation within the framework of a goal. They need a short-term boost that is understood to not be sustainable.

For most of us, long-calorie counting is problematic on several fronts. First we have to figure out how many calories are in the foods we eat. That takes a bit of research across books, websites and databases. Assuming that these sources are correct (many are off by 25%), you also have to factor in your calorie expenditure each day, which may have another 25% average measurement error. You also have to pull out measuring cups in restaurants to a chorus of boos from friends and face “helpful” family members who think you’re wasting away when you lose more than five pounds. At home you have to haul out the scales daily and keep track in some type of app, web service or hand written notes. Just reading all this look tedious. No wonder so many give up on the idea and go back to eating as before.

I go against the grain of common thought today and tell my clients to ignore their caloric intake, focusing instead on estimating quantities.

So How Do We Do This?

In general, you will expend more energy than you take in to lose weight. Knowing that, most have been taught to count calories to ensure they’re in a deficit. In a rather large way, that’s true. Except as I’ve shown, counting calories is a major pain you’re unlikely to sustain over time.

Instead, try focusing on eating healthier, natural foods in the right proportion. Most of these are low calorie anyways, right? For proper portion control, use your fist, palm, cupped hand, and thumb to practice portion control.

Here’s how it works for most sedentary people:

  1. One flat palm of your hand determines your protein
  2. Two flat palms determine your veggies
  3. One cupped palm of your hand determines your carbs
  4. Your thumb determines your fats

Remember that your hand is a personalized (and portable) measuring device for your food intake. If the hand is bigger, or smaller, use that measurement.

Of course, just like any other form of nutrition planning — this serves as a starting point. Remember to stay flexible and adjust your portions based on your hunger, fullness, and other important goals. If you need more food because of activity, simply add a little.

Fussing with numbers creates a lot of anxiety and confusion and almost never works out in the long run. That, quite simply, is why diets don’t work. They also don’t account for adequate nutrition intake. A whole food diet is based not only on portions, but also on quality of foods. Natural foods have much higher nutritional intakes that processed foods and therefore satisfy the body’s requirements for energy. Give it a try and see how quickly you lose weight.