I have another pet peeve. This idea of EARNING the amount of calories you expend – essentially rewarding yourself with food. Many of the popular food tracking applications (and even some medical weight loss programs e.g., HCG programs) motivate you by encouraging you to EARN additional calories through exercise. The more calories you expend – the more calories you can add to your day. This is deceitful. This is a trick. This is a flat out LIE.
I have discussed your body’s weight set point, which regulates alongside your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate), RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), and other physiological functions. Eating consistent quantities – less than you have previously eaten – and regular activity is what will lower your set point. And it is changing your set point that is critical for sustainable weight loss.
The lies revealed…
I inconsistently experiment with MyFitnessPal (MFP) when I feel I am not consuming enough calories. According to yesterday’s summary, I had a 1164 calorie deficit. BULLS&*T. My logged physical activity (which by the way is completely inaccurate) EARNED me an additional 856 calories. MFP does not calculate caloric expenditure for strength training – therefore I did not EARN any additional calories for lifting heavy things and putting them down. Considering that lean muscle mass is what burns the calories, this is quite humorous to me.
NOTE: I did manipulate the default caloric and macronutrient needs to fit what I have determined for myself – the generic settings are not suitable for all, particularly not for the especially active.
MFP congratulated me and told me that if I make every day like yesterday that I would weigh 138.9 pounds in 5 weeks. Yesterday I was 153 pounds. The math from the girl who hates math:
153 – 138.9 = 14.4
14.4/5wk = 2.82 lb/wk
A one pound weight loss requires a 3500 calorie deficit.
1164 c x 7 days = 8148 c
8148 c / 3500 c = 2.3 pounds
So yes, MFP is working from the basic mathematical logic. They got the math almost correct!
Problem 1. I know my body, and I know that if I maintain a daily 1000+ calorie deficit I will gain weight as a result of my body going into starvation mode.
Problem 2. They have done the superficial math but what about macronutrient ratios? If I take in enough calories, but not sufficient protein for my muscular growth, I will gain weight. If I do not consume enough calories and still consume too little protein, I will gain weight. If my calories are on but I never eat vegetables, it could go either way. I could go on with examples, but I believe you can see my point.
With that said – what happens if I eat the calories MFP told me I EARNED? Would I lose weight? Would I gain weight? Would I maintain?
These programs are preying on a society obsessed with food – large portions, added sugars, and more. “I can eat this cake because I went to the gym and burned it off – I EARNed it.” WRONG. Again, one of the crucial components of a lowered weight set point is a reduction in calories consumed.
Have you been eating the calories you EARN through physical exercise? How are your results? The chances are that your results are not what you would hope for, given the amount of work you are putting in. Do you feel defeated? At a loss? Like a failure? Frustrated?Sick and tired? Not worth the effort? Does an effective weight loss program elicit these feelings? Absolutely not. These lies you have been told are not setting you up for success – they are in fact setting you up for failure. (This truly saddens my heart; I wish it were illegal.)
If you have been consuming EARNED calories, STOP NOW!!! You will thank me next week.
There is a fix…
Determine your caloric and macronutrient needs. If you need to, consult with an RD – a priceless investment in yourself. The absolute best way to know how many calories you need to maintain your current weight set point is to know your lean body mass. How do you determine this? Body composition testing – NOT BMI. You see, only your muscles need energy (i.e., calories) to sustain. If you consume more than your lean mass requires, it will be stored for later (it is a bit more complicated than this, but you get the idea).
Do not fall for the marketing! Do not let this world lie to you! We do not EARN food. Determine what your caloric needs are and stick with them – and do not forget to reassess this need when you have significant changes in body composition. Then, control your deficit through physical activity and expenditure.
Activity increases making you hungry? Eat more leafy greens – very few calories and they can sure fill you up!
Final thoughts –
Do you think that calorie counting alone is good strategy for weight loss?
Do you still want to count calories at all?