There are a lot of calorie counters out there: websites, apps, watches, and calculators of all sorts. That’s because calories are how we’ve historically measured a food’s value. The idea was that if you want to lose weight, you count calories, right?
Well, what if I told you that simply counting calories is totally misguided, and even counterproductive? In other words, when we count calories, we’re making the mistake of “not seeing the forest through the trees” when it comes to diets and weight loss.
Here’s why you should stop counting calories, plus 5 essential components that every effective and sustainable weight loss program should include.
First, Why Counting Calories Doesn’t Work
Calories are a measure of how much energy a food contains. However, consider that an avocado has about the same number of calories as a glazed doughnut, and you’ll quickly realize that all calories are not equal.
Even so, many diets wrongly view calories as all being the same. On top of that, the calorie myth is reinforced every day as top brands advertise unhealthy low-calorie products to health-conscious consumers.
“I’ll have the taco salad and a large Diet Coke, please… I’m on a diet!
As a result, dieters approach weight loss with the narrow and erroneous idea that consuming fewer calories is healthy, and results in sustainable weight loss.
That mistake could be the biggest reason that most diets are doomed to failure before they even begin. Think of calories as being but “a single tree in the wellness forest,” and you’ll understand the metaphor I’m going for here.
A better option? The popular wellness app, Noom, doesn’t count calories, but instead focuses more on “calorie density.” Basically, this means that water-rich foods are less dense, and the same amount will fill you with a fraction of the calories as calorie-dense foods.
Example: To understand calorie density, consider grapes and raisins. One cup of grapes will fill you about the same as 1 cup of raisins. However, the grapes contain only 62 calories, while the same volume of raisins has 500 calories!
So, if simply counting calories isn’t the path to healthy weight loss, what is? Here’s what your weight loss program needs to include to be successful:
1. Eat Real, Healthy Food
Sorry, keto and Atkins, but bacon isn’t healthy. If a weight loss program doesn’t include healthy foods like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and fiber, it’s incomplete.
Bacon? Really? Come on, you know that’s not healthy! Maybe you’ll lose a quick 10 pounds eating like a caveman or baby for a month, but you don’t have to think like one!
The fast weight loss you experience on a fad diet is likely unsustainable. Gaining all that weight back is demoralizing, and you’ll likely feel worse than when you started.
2. Accountability & Social Support
Going it alone on a diet is hard. Not only that, but studies prove that the support of a group greatly increases your chances of meeting your weight loss goals. This is why WW encourages members to add meetings, as it has been found to more than double the amount of weight lost, and increase chances of long-term success.
Don’t like the idea of meeting face-to-face with strangers? The best weight loss programs include supportive online communities of people going through similar challenges and struggles as you.
WW has recently added personal coaching (via chat) in an attempt to offer more support to those who don’t want to attend meetings. Noom makes coaching and group support a central part of their wildly popular wellness program. This may be why a study by Scientific Reports concluded that Noom users experienced an amazing 78% success rate for weight loss. (Wow!)
3. Behavioral Change
“Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.”Chinese Proverb
Since we’re talking about the importance of psychology with weight loss, I figured another metaphor was appropriate. Anyway, every time I hear about a celebrity going to rehab in Malibu, I’m skeptical that their problems will be fixed. That’s because if you don’t teach meaningful behavioral changes, you’re doomed to repeat past mistakes.
What’s true in Hollywood is also true in the world of dieting and weight loss: quick fixes don’t work. If you haven’t addressed the psychological component of your problems, you’ll probably end up back where you started. (Like a yo-yo!)
The best weight loss apps ask you to log your meals to really understand what you’re eating and break bad habits.
If a diet doesn’t address the significant psychological component of weight loss, it’s likely just a band-aid solution.
4. Simple / Easy to Follow
I get anxious looking at the menu at The Cheesecake Factory. I mean, it’s 21 pages long for God’s sake! Counting calories and following a complicated diet can also create confusion and anxiety.
Did you ever hear of the acronym, KISS? (Keep It Simple, Stupid!) I’ve found that it’s a good rule for weight loss, and life in general. Give me an app with a simple interface that reads like a Chipotle menu, and you won’t scare me away.
5. Few Restrictions
A good diet doesn’t have a lot of rules and a list of forbidden foods. Tell me that I can’t drink an occasional glass of wine, and Pinot Noir will haunt my dreams.
Successful weight loss hinges on positive behavioral changes and an understanding of food that lasts a lifetime; not a book of rules.
Which Diet Best Includes These Components?
Actually, that’s a trick question because the word “diet” infers a narrow, number-focused approach to weight loss instead of a holistic one.
So which weight loss program goes beyond counting calories and “sees the forest through the trees?” In my opinion, it’s Noom; a wellness app designed by behavioral psychologists, and not dietitians that have nailed the formula for effective and sustainable weight loss.
Noom came on the scene a few short years ago and recently exploded in popularity. In fact, you could say they’ve been “eating the lunch” of the heavyweight commercial diets, causing them to scramble in an effort to evolve.
Heck, WeightWatchers even recently changed its name to join the wellness movement, and now offers a personal coaching option. You might have even noticed that “diet” has become a taboo four-letter word in the
diet wellness industry.
So, while we maintain that, “no single diet is best for everyone,” we are impressed by Noom’s holistic approach to wellness, and the weight loss results that most users experience. How impressed? So much so that I joined to try it myself!
If you think that this, “Weight Watchers for Millennials” might be compatible with your lifestyle and weight loss goals, check out their free evaluation and 14-day trial here: