The Slippery Slope of Calories In Vs Calories Out
I spent years, YEARS, correlating my meals to my workouts. I felt OK about going out to eat and having drinks on long run days, but would feel guilty having a drink if my workout “wasn’t very hard”.
It’s an easy trap to fall into, but it is SO 👏🏼 MUCH 👏🏼 EASIER 👏🏼 once you untie your daily activity with your daily calories. It’s not entirely our fault, because there are messages everywhere that do the math for us. How many posts and articles like this do you see around the holidays?
Want to know how to suck the fun out of every event? Focus on how much exercise it will take to burn off everything you touch. Try it!
Exercise should be the icing on the cake (pun intended). Yes, it’s part of the equation of the All Mighty weight loss, but working out should never be something you do to earn or deserve your food.
Women need more calories than we think
Since recovering my period, I’ve stopped counting my daily calories. Sure, I’ll look at food labels, but I no longer keep a running tally, something I did for over a decade. Generally speaking, women can easily eat around 2,000 every day. Here’s the kicker: EVEN IF THEY DON’T WORKOUT! Add exercise, especially moderate to higher intensity, and you’re look at 2,200-2,500.
Your body is doing far more than you think when you’re putzing around the house. Think of what’s going on throughout your cycle, all the hormones fluctuations, follicle creation, lining building, etc. That is just one thing going on under the surface that we need sufficient calories to support.
After cutting my running from 4-5 days a week to 2-3 days a MONTH, and eating to satisfaction, I gained enough weight to have a regular period, and leveled out nicely around 10-15 pounds higher than when I was meticulously counting.
It’s insane, I definitely thought I’d lose all physique but my definition is still there. It makes sense, because I’m supporting muscle growth and not ruining strength training progress by running off all my hard work.
How to stop the calorie obsession
Tune into hunger cues versus your schedule
Eating based on your workout schedule takes all the intuition out of feeding yourself, and can make you more obsessive over counting and equating calories to exercise.
Instead, start listening to what your body needs as opposed to what you think it should require. Some days you’re simply hungrier than others, but ignoring that because you “only did yoga” lessens your ability to know what your body actually wants.
I know I always tended to be hungrier the day after a long run, but felt I shouldn’t eat too much because it was a rest day. The reality was my body was repairing all the work I had done the day before and needed more.
Stop measuring and relying on calorie counts
I used to only make recipes that had nutrition info with them, or were simple enough that I could calculate what a serving was. If the recipe made 9 servings, I divided it into 9 servings so I knew what I was eating.
Again, this takes you away from intuitively nourishing yourself. Start cooking meals where you don’t know exactly how many calories are in them, and serve yourself what you think you want. Get more if you’re still hungry, or put some back if you got too much. Relying on calorie counts isn’t exactly accurate and it can really be a pain!
Focus on the workout you want to do, not the calorie burn
Choosing your workout – like choosing your food – should be based on what you feel like doing, not by how many calories it will burn. Working out for the calorie burn is a great way to turn exercise into an obligation. You’ll start to see your sweat session as a failure if you burned less than the days before, and it’s a trap that end in longer and longer workouts.
You know how somedays your 5 mile run feels like 8 miles, and others it feels like 3? That’s because there are a ton of factors at play. From the day you’re in in your cycle, to the humidity in the air, and the sleep you got the night before.
You will get more out of your workouts by giving your body adequate rest and going hard only when your energy is on fire. Slogging through a run only because you’re going to a BBQ that day is no way to enjoy running.
Here’s an idea of what exercise looks like in the obsessed phase, through restoring your body, and the sweet spot of freedom!
I cannot tell you how much less stress there is and how easier life is without constantly doing the calorie in and calorie out math. The amazing thing about our bodies is that they do a stellar job of managing all of that math for us. We just have to listen.
I offer free 30 minute Mindset Jump Start calls where you will leave with a few small goals to work on, and a clearer picture of what 1:1 coaching can do for you right now!