Is Counting Calories Outdated?

'Skinny Water'
I admit, when women talk about counting calories (or even worse, about diet products that may be low-cal but aren’t the slightest bit healthy, or filling), I cringe—which is why this Jane Brody column calling counting calories outdated caught my eye.

“It’s no secret that the long-recommended advice to eat less and exercise more has done little to curb the inexorable rise in weight,” Brody writes, pointing to the latest research from Harvard University regarding long-term factors that influence weight-gain. The Harvard Study followed more 120,877 doctors, nurses, dentists and veterinarians for between 12-20 years, and showed “… conventional wisdom—to eat everything in moderation, eat fewer calories and avoid fatty foods—isn’t the best approach,” according to Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and epidemiologist at the Harvard School of Public Health and lead author of the study. In other words, there are such things as foods you should and shouldn’t eat.

In my experience, measuring out portions and adding up calorie- or fat-counts leads to nothing but neuroticism, hunger and diet rebellion; cultivating healthy (and weight-gain preventing) eating habits takes really learning to prepare and enjoy vegetables, grains and other whole foods. Having a general awareness of how many calories are in various foods, and how many calories you’re consuming, is good, I think; but Skinny Girl cocktails and 100-calorie snack packs aren’t likely to get you anywhere for long.

This seems to jibe with the Harvard findings—’good’ foods, such as yogurt or certain nuts, were associated with weight-loss despite their high-fat status; meanwhile, even the smallest portion of some low-cal product made with white flour could be diet-killing, since refined carbohydrates slow down metabolism. Now bookmark Brody’s article (or, ahem, this post) so you can send it to your next friend who wonders why 40-cal-per-slice packaged bread isn’t helping her or him lose weight. Then smile as you grab another handful of delicious (and good for your waistline) whole almonds.

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    • Lauren Sab

      I love this post! I agree that counting calories, weighing and measuring everything is neither sustainable nor healthy. I definitely can’t stick to it and end up cheating and sabotaging myself. Also, it totally creates an unhealthy culture around food that is anything but the laidback, obsession-free enjoyment that should exist.