Should You Be Counting Calories For Weight Loss?

posted on: April 04, 2017. posted in: Weight loss, Nutrition

We've had a question sent to us privately...

"Hi Liam! I just read your post about no foods being healthy vs unhealthy and it clicked home to me! I've done SW! and every single time I do, I just want a potato waffle! Or maybe 10! When I'm eating 'normally' I'm not bothered! My question to you is, should I be calorie counting? The thought of that is daunting! Something has to give if you want to lose weight?"

Hi there

What you've just explained is the difference between "controlled eating" and "intuitive eating".

When you go "on a diet", you are using your willpower to exercise control over the foods you eat. You are literally sectioning out a period of your life when you force yourself to eat in an unnatural way.

Dieters call this period THE TRACK.

As in...

"Right, I'm starting my diet. I'm on track!"

(applying willpower and in control)


"Bugger, I've broken my diet. I'm off track!"

(run out of willpower and out of control)

For example, as a Slimming World member you will control your intake of "syns", using your willpower to choose what the plan deems are healthier options, like "free foods" or "healthy extras". You will want 10 waffles, but you will rely on your willpower to only eat as many waffles as you're allowed within your "syns".

This kind of controlled eating has one major drawback.

It is completely TEMPORARY.

You can only controlled eat for so long, because it requires huge amounts of willpower to maintain. And research has now proven that willpower behaves very much like a muscle. It grows tired and fatigues. And when your willpower fatigues?

You hit the waffles... or 10... or anything else you've been banned from eating on your controlled diet.

In other words, you BINGE.

Some Slimming World members last a few weeks, some a few months, some a few years, applying their willpower to control their food intake, stick to the "syns" and lose weight. But they almost all (95%) eventually run out of willpower, and that point is marked by non-stop, uncontrollable binging.

All dieters know this too well.

"Sod it!! I can't do this anymore! I'm starving and even though I'm eating next to nothing my weight is going up!! That's it!! Time to binge!!"



The opposite of "controlled eating" is "intuitive eating".

Rather than relying on willpower to control what you eat, intuitive eating is about listening to your body, and in particular your natural "cues" such as appetite and cravings, then going with the flow.

You fancy waffle?

Eat a waffle!

You fancy two waffles?

Eat two waffles!

What you discover very quickly when you eat intuitively is that you binge far less, if at all.

And the reason for this is threefold.

1. You are allowed to eat anything you like. Which instantly eliminates the perfectionism, shame and guilt dieters have around food. In other words, there is no "track" for you to fall off. Many dieters find this both liberating and mind blowing.

2. By going with your appetite, rather than fighting it, you ensure your body is nourished and well fuelled. The more nourished your body is, the less it fights back with binging, because it has no need to binge.

3. Because you are not having to apply willpower to your every food choice, your willpower levels aren't constantly depleted. This means that if the urge to binge does come along, you have more than enough willpower to resist it.



So where does calorie counting come in?

Calorie counting most definitely falls under "controlled eating", because you are having to focus, think about and rely on large amounts of willpower to hit your calories / macros.

It's not a relaxed and natural approach.

It is a focused and controlled approach.

And for many people it is an absolutely fantastic approach, helping them achieve excellent nutrition and results.

But because it is a controlled approach it remains TEMPORARY.

Not even fitness models, athletes or sportspeople maintain calorie counting all year round. They'll plan in periods where they are hitting their calories / macros, and periods where they are relaxing and eating intuitively.

So should you try calorie counting?

As with all things Rebelfit and all things nutrition...

There is no single "right way".

Only exploring different approaches. Testing them. Tweaking them. Adapting them and making them work for you. And calorie counting might well be just right FOR YOU!

One thing I would say is to learn how to eat intuitively and have it in your locker. This ensures that whatever "controlled eating" approaches you try... from Slimming World to calorie counting to cabbage soup... when your willpower runs out (which it will)... you can fall back on intuitive eating, without all that post-diet binging that is responsible for so much long term weight gain.

Cycling between periods of "controlled eating" and periods of "intuitive eating" is one of many awesome, long term fat loss strategies.


p.s. If you'd like to learn more about calorie counting / macros, check out Richie Howie, he offers a great calorie based plan with education and support that's just £3.50 a month.

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