At the foundation of every weight loss program is one fundamental law: the number of calories taken in must be less than the number of calories expended. For that reason, many diets are focused on counting calories, a very specific way to keep track of food intake. Another approach is sensible eating, also referred to as “intuitive eating.” This less strict alternative to counting calories is more about accepting and following good eating practices routinely, rather than micro-managing food intake. If you’re looking to lose weight, here’s a look at the pros and cons of calorie counting vs. intuitive eating.
As far as counting calories is concerned, there is no upside. In fact, nutrition specialists now warn that this approach can actually sabotage a weight loss program. This is primarily due to the fact that calorie counting is based on the assumption that all calories are created equal. But clearly they are not. Case in point: “Which is healthier, a one hundred calorie serving of fruits or vegetables, or a one hundred calorie cookie?” While counting calories makes food intake more of a quantity issue, studies show that true sustainable weight loss is more about the quality of the foods we eat, as well as how our bodies react to those foods.
There have been entire books published on the topic of “Intuitive Eating”. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s use the term sensible eating, which is something we can all readily relate to. Sensible eating is more of an approach to achieving and maintaining good health than it is about losing weight. When we eat sensibly, we are more aware of our food choices and we tend to steer ourselves toward those foods that are known to promote better health, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. This doesn’t mean that we have to become vegetarians to lose weight and stay healthy. But sensible eating suggests that meats should be consumed in moderation and our meals be more balanced. As always, you should visit sites such as Patientfusion or ZocDoc and consult with your doctor before beginning a new diet.
Portion size is another aspect of sensible eating, as reducing portion size means that we can still eat the foods we enjoy while increasing the health and weight loss benefits. Sensible eating is also about respecting hunger signals the body gives off by eating smaller meals more often throughout the day. And when the sensation of fullness comes, we need to respect that too by resisting the urge to over indulge. Processed foods have no place in a sensible eating mindset. Many contain chemicals and other additives that our bodies don’t know what to do with. This causes extra stress on the digestive system, which can result in inflammation and the release of the stress hormone cortisol. Excess cortisol can affect the natural balance of other body hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. And all three of these hormones play a major role in the amount and location of stored fat. Another aspect of sensible eating is adequate water intake, as water facilitates all biochemical processes in the body and helps to eliminate toxins. Fiber intake is also important for healthy digestion and for promoting and prolonging the feeling of fullness that helps reduce food intake. Ideally, sensible eating is self-promoting as it makes you feel better and brings on weight loss without the feelings of being deprived that can lead to binge eating.
In the end, feeling great and losing weight all comes down to what we eat. And sensible eating can help your body achieve a healthy balance that promotes fat loss, lean muscle retention, a better functioning immune system and all-around better health. By eating sensibly, along with getting regular exercise, you’ll enjoy a full and energetic life for many years to come.