For decades, one of the most common ways people have tried to lose weight is by counting calories. We've been led to believe that by simply taking in fewer calories than we burn off, those unwanted pounds will fall away and be gone forever. On paper and in our heads this makes sense. After all, if you normally consume 2000 calories per day and then drop down to 1500 calories per day, the math supports that you should lose weight. And you will. At first.

Like many other diets out there, this “calories in vs calories out” is based solely on numbers without taking into account things like nutrition, health, fitness goals, etc. It's possible to hit your number target for the day in any number of unhealthy ways, many of which actually work against the way the body was designed to function, resulting in a slower metabolism and even compromised immune function. Restricting or cutting out entire food groups, excessive exercise, consuming pre-packaged, low-calorie meals, skipping meals in order to “save” those calories to be consumed later in the day, all focus on one thing, calories. How to keep them from entering the body, and/or how to burn off as many as possible of the ones that got in. Sound exhausting?

In order to lose just one pound, the body has to either burn off or create a deficit of 3500 calories. That's a big number. And focusing on that number – counting, doing the math, buying low-cal packaged foods, working out like a crazy person, checking FitBit or Apple Watch hoping to hit those targets is work. A lot of work. And like I said earlier, you can get results doing this. But for most people it's short lived. No wonder statistics say that less than one percent of people can maintain a DIEt for life. And honestly, diets are liars. They make promises and never deliver long term.

Aside from the obvious stress of counting calories and the pressure to be perfect in order to achieve results, this approach doesn't address any of the six components of health – stress, sleep, water, nutrition, exercise and supplements. In fact all it does is really just create more stress, mentally from trying to be perfect and get those numbers to line up, and physically due to the lack of attention paid to creating health.

On the flip side, when we focus on building up the body and doing things that create health, making our calories count, rather than counting the calories, great things begin to happen. In fact the only time I look at calorie consumption with my clients is if they aren't eat enough. Yep, that's right. More often than not the people I work with are not eating enough. They come from that place of restriction and are afraid that if they eat more they will gain weight when in fact their bodies are not taking in enough nutrients to get the job done. Not providing your body enough nutrients causes the body to go into starvation mode, saving and storing almost everything it does get, as fat. Once they understand this and start giving their bodies what it needs, it's amazing the wonderful things that begin to happen in very short order.

Choose whole, single-ingredient foods, put together in a way that stabilizes blood sugar. Drink lots of clean water, get out and moving every day, reduce stress, get enough sleep so that you feel rested in the morning, and use quality supplements to fill the gaps in meals, nutrition and nutrients. Repeat daily for best results. And in doing so, you're creating healthy habits that, when maintained consistently over time, will help you to not only look and feel better, burn fat, lose weight and turn on metabolism, but will also help balance your hormones, reverse disease, increase energy, improve concentration and focus, and strengthen your immune system. Pretty cool list of side effects, yes or yes?

So as you think about your next meal, snack, grocery shop or dinner out, focus on the food rather than the number of calories. Because when you buy, prepare, serve and order more whole, single-ingredient foods, your meals will naturally be higher in vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fibre while at the same time contain far less sugar, no additives or preservatives, and yes, also a lot few calories. Naturally.

If you're looking for more ways to make your calories count and take back control of your health, join the8 Weeks is All it Takes! group on Facebook.

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Kelowna Nutritionist STOP dieting, start living! Lose the Bloat, Melt your Belly, Love Your Life!! Last thing, last time, believe it! Sign up to receive my bi-weekly FIT Nutrition blog, and get started today.