How to Make Your Body Count Calories So You Don’t (Consciously) Have To
I’ve long said that calories aren’t everything, because they really aren’t. To understand how to lose weight, one has to first look at their overall lifestyle. Calories in and calories out just doesn’t cut it. Here are some ways you can make your body start counting calories without you having to log a single meal.
OK. So your body doesn’t actually count calories. It does, however, regulate how many calories, or how much food, enters your body. In order to do this properly so that your body avoids gaining weight, specifically fat, there are certain lifestyle habits that are imperative. It’s not difficult or expensive, and any time you put into your lifestyle now will save you both time and money in the long run when it comes to your health.
Restful sleep helps to regulate two hormones that govern hunger and satiety. These hormones are:
- Ghrelin – the “hunger” hormone
- Leptin – the hunger suppressing hormone
Inadequate sleep, 6 hours or less per night, increases ghelin and decreases leptin. This results in the body becoming more hungry, causing a person to overeat even when they do not need any more calories. Since leptin is suppressed, a person may eat far too much during the day than they would if they would have slept at least 7-8 hours per night. It’s so cool how just 1-2 more hours can make a huge difference in body composition.
2. Sugar and Grains
There are many reasons why I do not recommend sugar, especially refined sugar that includes a large amount of fructose. The monosaccharide fructose reduces leptin circulation in the body, thus reducing the satiation we are supposed to feel when we eat enough. Sugar in general increases gherkin, increasing our hunger and the amount of food we eat.
Grains are less problematic than sugar, but still should be avoided by most people who are struggling to lose weight. The high glycemic load of grains, due to their high carbohydrate and low fat, fiber and protein content, make it exacerbating on insulin levels (especially if you are eating according the the food guide pyramid!). Insulin, over time, reduces the cell’s ability to take in blood glucose. This excess blood glucose more than likely stores as fat, leading to weight gain.
As you can see, it’s not all about the calories! Sometimes it’s about the foods we’re choosing to eat.
Stress eating is nothing new, and you’ve probably have heard of it (or experienced it) at some point in your life. Stress can also mess with your hormones, prevent you from exercising and increase your craving for refined carbohydrates (quick energy) to combat the stress.
Too much stress can also reduce the amount of hours you sleep, which in turn messes with your gherlin and leptin hormones. As you can see, everything in health is connected! Tips for combating stress include exercise (even if you have to drag yourself into it — you’ll feel better afterward), meditation, laughing (watch a funny movie or read a comedic book), connecting with friends and family and a healthy diet.
Appropriate sunlight exposure helps our bodies produce vitamin D. Cholesterol in our skin is converted into an active form of vitamin D that our body uses to fight off infections, improve our immune system, reduce our risk for heart disease and helps out metabolism. Vitamin D also plays a huge role in our hormones, including ghrelin and leptin.
Vitamin D deficiency is rampant today, due to a wide number of factors. Then again, so is obesity. See any correlation. There are of course many, many contributing factors to a person;s weight, but can lack of sunshine be one of them? Most definitely yes. Sunshine also stimulates seratonin production in your brain, which also governs your eating patterns. You have to receive sun, safely, without protective sunscreen or sunglasses. Be smart – don’t stare directly in the sun and wear a hat to protect your face (the skin on your face is thinner the rest of your body, and more prone to damage).
Exercise increases insulin sensitivity, which helps you take in blood glucose so your cells can utilize it for energy. When you cells do not do this properly (called insulin insensitivity), that blood glucose may be stored as fat.
Physical activity also gives you a better mood, reducing the likelihood of stress eating and over consuming calories. Exercise also helps regulate your hunger and satiation hormones so you don’t eat too many calories that your body doesn’t need.
You do not need to count calories in order to be healthy! In fact, it is rather unhealthy, to me, to always log every single calorie, every single day. It takes away time to do other things like enjoy your life, work, exercise, help others, and more. Counting calories only leads to depressed feelings when you go over your caloric budget, which brings guilt. Guilt and food should not be in the same sentence.
Your body naturally knows how much it needs for energy purposes, as the content above describes. Our ancestors of course never counted calories, because they didn’t have to. Our hunters and gatherers got their food, ate it and moved on. With a healthy lifestyle, your body can bring itself into equilibrium and bring you to the weight you are meant to be at.
Did you use to count calories? Do you still? Let me know!
This is The Healthy Advocate.