Stop Counting Calories. Seriously.

Counting calories is a staple of a lot of diet plans and fitness apps. They insist that if you want to reach your goal weight, you must eat under so many calories a day. Depending on your app, and your goals, often times this leads to unhealthy calorie suggestions. For me and my goals, one app told me I couldn’t eat more than 1000 calories a day — less than half the amount of the recommended calorie intake by the USDA. Eating less, exercising more doesn’t work. But eating the right thing does.

Quality, Not Quantity

Mindfulness isn’t just for yoga and meditation. You should also be mindful of the quality of the food you’re ingesting, rather than how much or how little. Equestrians are notorious for trying to live off of espresso drinks alone. Yes, they have calories. But not the right kind of calories. In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a story of more than 120,000 people over 20 years which determined that changing what you eat, instead of how much you eat, has a much bigger impact on weight-loss and muscle gain.

Another study, this one conducted by McMaster University, discovered that “people who ate more than 68 percent of their total calories from carbohydrates were 28 perfect more likely to die.” In terms of fat, “their risk of death decreased.” But that doesn’t mean you should cut out carbs completely and live on foods with fat, or vice versa.

Yes, You Still Need Fats and Carbs

According to Mahsid Dehghan, MS.c., Ph.D., the lead author of the McMaster study, diets like the “keto diet” that are high-fat and low carb, are bad for you. Your body needs the right kind of carbs (complex, not ultra-processed) to keep your energy levels up. If you reverse this diet and load up on carbs instead of fats, you may be at greater risk for heart disease.

How to Keep Track Without Counting Calories

Free fitness apps are focused on calories over nutrition contents. However, many do offer a simplified breakdown of the macronutrients of the food intake. For Fitbit, you get a breakdown in a percentage of carbs, fats, and protein. Fitocracy Macros is an app that’s focused on food intake and macro breakdown specifically. If you want to pay for an app, My Fitness Pal’s Pro version will give you a more detailed macronutrient breakdown of everything you eat.

Eating healthy isn’t about a number of calories you’re eating in a day. It isn’t even about low-carb, high-fat diets or the reverse. It’s about maintaining a steady level of the right kind of carbohydrates, fats, and protein to keep your body going. Keeping track of what you eat is a good thing. Just make sure that you’re keeping track to make sure you’re eating enough of the right stuff. And for many of us, it’s making sure we’re eating enough, period.

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