We have landed in an era where food is measured in numbers. We plan our breakfast plate as 100 Kcal + 200 Kcal + 250 Kcal and not as a glass of milk, an egg and 2 pieces of toast with butter. The numbers will always add up to be the same, but there are unlimited ways to fill those numbers. So, instead of the above breakfast you could have a glass of juice, a doughnut and a muffin OR a large bowl of yogurt and mix cut fruits with honey. All these add up to a 500 calorie breakfast.
Let’s say you are advised a 2000 calorie diet per day. And all you need to do in order to stay fit is eat within that limit.
So your day could start with a cheese sandwich or vada sambhar for breakfast, a large burger and cola for lunch, a samosa or sevpuri at snack time and fried rice or a pizza for dinner.
You could have a bowl of poha/ upma/ toasts with milk for breakfast, chapatti, vegetable and curd for lunch, a fruit for a snack and a bowl of salad and soup for dinner with some steamed quinoa or daliya.
While both options are designed to form a 2000 calorie diet, the correct answer is neither. Surprised? Let us tell you why.
While the first option is low in nutrients and high in fat and sugars, the second option could get boring for you after a while. Where is the taste?
While your body needs nourishment, your tongue or rather the mind craves for the TASTE. The secret lies in finding a way to keep both your mind and body happy.
Here is a really short story about the Counting Calories Diet Plan.
Diet Plan: 2000 Calories a day to lose 2 kgs a month
Me: Ok, cool. So I can eat a couple of doughnuts with my coffee for breakfast (that’s around 500 calories), a burger and fries for lunch (that’s around 700 calories) and some fried chicken for dinner (that’s another 500). Oh wow, I still have 300 calories left for the chocolate ice cream I so love.
Diet Plan: Ummm, I will be right back … (disappears)
See what do we mean ?
Here is another way to put it. Let’s say you are a healthy weight individual and don’t need any diet plan or apps to help you. Now, if calories in v/s calories out method were the right approach to weight maintenance then it means that you are eating the right amount of calories, since you are maintaining your weight. As per the calorie counting approach, if you were to add one apple (approx. 100 calories) to your daily diet then – Hold your breath ! – you would gain over 5 pounds in one year and 20 pounds in 4 years. If this makes sense to you then you can stop here and go back to facebook, twitter, google or whatever it is that got you to this blog.
So our point here is, just counting calories does not work. Healthy weight loss is not as simple as calories in v/s calories out. It is a combination of many other factors such as:
- A calorie is not ‘a calorie’ – A handful of almonds and a glass of cola both have around 160 calories. But do we need to tell you which one is healthier? The cola has large amounts of sugar (The liver cannot handle the sugar from the cola and seeks help from insulin which can only store this sugar as fat.) whereas the almonds have good fats, minerals and fiber. Take your pick!
- Time of meal consumption – Calories from a bowl of ice-cream at night almost entirely get stored as fat in the body, but the same when enjoyed in the morning/afternoon has a better chance of getting burned through the day.
- Portion size of the meal – Instead of eating too much at a time, eat smaller, frequent meals.
- Activity before and after the meal – Don’t take an afternoon nap immediately after lunch. Move around a little, preferably sit in the vajarasana for 10 minutes. Similarly after a workout session feed yourself well with proteins and carbs.
- Food pairing and combinations – Don’t have your desserts along with your lunch or dinner. Have the sweet as a meal by itself, two hours after your main meals, preferably in the day time.
- Gaps in-between two meals – Never starve yourself for long hours, never more than 2 to 2.5 hours. Enjoy some fruits, peanuts, sprouts, other nuts etc., in between meals.
- Quality of ingredients and cooking style.
Focus on the TYPE of calories and not the NUMBER of calories you consume.
As Mireille Guiliano the noted author of the book French Women Don’t Get Fat, says
“Once you have to start counting calories, it takes away from the joy of eating.”