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Breaking the Calorie Counting Cycle

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Counting calories is a part of dieting that can get tedious fast. 

It’s hard to have a healthy relationship with your food when you’re obsessed with how it might throw you off your goals instead of thinking about how it benefits you. And if you don’t whip out your phone and open your calorie tracker every time you put something in your mouth, there’s the lingering dread that you might not reach your goal.

Try a different approach: Stop. Counting. Calories. And don’t feel guilty about it. Here’s why you should give your calorie tracker a rest: According to a 2017 UK study byThe University of Swansea, eating too few calories can backfire and sabotage your weight loss efforts. Our bodies have caloric needs. The natural response to a decrease in food often leads to a slower metabolism because your body thinks it needs to conserve energy. This means you would naturally burn fewer calories at rest. When we restrict foods, we could also miss out on essential nutrients, which can lead to fatigue, muscle loss, or a slower metabolism. This is why fad diets that dramatically cut calories don’t work long term.

So, when it comes to calories, instead of logging them for every meal, consider calorie tracking a helpful tool to use occasionally to make sure you’re eating enough. It’s not something you need to do every day. (For real.) It doesn’t make sense to focus on hitting the same number every day when no two days of your life are the same. Some days are easy-going, and others seem to run you over. Life is never constant, and calorie counting shouldn’t be, either.

At Found, we try to stay away from restricting calories. When you focus on calories, your focus becomes more about the number of calories instead of the quality of the calories.

So what should you focus on instead?

Track Produce and Portions

Since you’re not counting calories, turn your attention toward what your plate looks like. The Found plan focuses on whole foods rather than processed foods, along with portion control and mindful eating. Count your veggies
Fill up on vegetables and enjoy fruit. Not only will you get better nutrition, the water and fiber in produce helps you feel full and manage cravings. Upping the amount of veggies you eat can also help you avoid weight regain, according to a paper published in the journal Nutrients. And research by Harvard University shows the more produce people eat, the lower their risk for developing heart disease—people who ate an average of eight servings a day were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The 2020-2025 US Dietary Guidelines advise at least 2 to 4 cups of vegetables a day and 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups of fruit a day, depending on your gender and age. Track portions
At each meal, fill half your plate or bowl with vegetables, a quarter with your choice of protein, and a quarter with whole grains or starchy vegetables. (Examples of starchy vegetables include green peas, carrots, beets, potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash, beans, lentils, and corn.)

Another way to track your portions is to use your hand as a guide:

  • High-protein foods: A palm-sized serving for women and two palm-sized portions for men — such as meat, fish, poultry and beans
  • Vegetables and salads: A fist-sized portion for women and two fist-sized portions for men
  • High-carb foods: One cupped-hand portion for women and two for men — such as whole grains and starchy vegetables
  • High-fat foods: One thumb-sized portion for women and two for men — such as butter, oils and nuts

Need more resources to guide your meal planning? Take a look at our Meal Prep Guide and Plate Building Guide.

With your Found coach, we’ll help you find time within your schedule to slow down and eat nutrient-dense foods that you enjoy, practice self-care, and build on the tools that work best for you. Your tools will be your best support on those busy days. And guess what? If the tool doesn’t help you feel better, ditch it. We’ll help you find another one.

Have you checked in with your coach today? Take some time to log your meals and share photos so they can help you track your progress!

  • Fothergill E, Guo J, Howard L, Kerns JC, Knuth ND, Brychta R, Chen KY, Skarulis MC, Walter M, Walter PJ, Hall KD. Persistent metabolic adaptation 6 years after 'The Biggest Loser' competition. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27136388/
  • Leibel RL, Rosenbaum M, Hirsch J. Changes in energy expenditure resulting from altered body weight. N Engl J Med. 1995 Mar 9;332(10):621-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199503093321001. Erratum in: N Engl J Med 1995 Aug 10;333(6):399. PMID: 7632212. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7632212/
  • Nour, M., Lutze, S. A., Grech, A., & Allman-Farinelli, M. (2018). The Relationship between Vegetable Intake and Weight Outcomes: A Systematic Review of Cohort Studies. Nutrients, 10(11), 1626. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10111626
  • Nurses’ Health Study |. (n.d.). Retrieved January 29, 2022. https://nurseshealthstudy.org
  • The Simple Math That Helps You Feel Full On Fewer Calories. (2020, February 15). Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20044318
  • U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020. DietaryGuidelines.gov
  • White AM, Johnston CS, Swan PD, Tjonn SL, Sears B. Blood ketones are directly related to fatigue and perceived effort during exercise in overweight adults adhering to low-carbohydrate diets for weight loss: a pilot study. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Oct;107(10):1792-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2007.07.009. PMID: 17904939. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17904939/

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