Several years ago I trained a great client who showed up for every session with a calorie-counting heart rate monitor ready to go. I also had another client around that same time who would show up shortly after breakfast worried about the 200 calories she just ate...and whether or not they would increase her body fat.
We all need to eat. We should all get some sort of exercise daily, or at least most days of the week. When we do either of these things - ultimately - it should be to help our body. Make it healthy (ier). Make it strong (er). Make you happy (ier).
I appreciate when someone is cognizant of how much they fuel their body with food, and how they expend energy. If knowing, roughly, how many calories go in and out in a day works for your system, great! YES, when we first start losing weight, it's extremely motivating to know that a ride on the bike burned 500 calories. That said, if you start becoming consumed by calories burned in a workout, you're no longer exercising with health as the primary focus. Sure, some of us (myself included) train to get faster or better at a particular sport, but the measurable in this case is performance. If you can somehow manage to shift your train of thought to the benefit of the exercise you're performing to how it will enhance your overall health (a stronger core, improved cardiovascular capacity, a healthy back, less-achy joints), you'll likely yield some great results.
Exercise should not be a chore to simply burn calories. Where is the enjoyment in that? Whatever your commitment is to a workout - whether it's a 60-minute yoga class, walking three miles, or running ten - do it with a healthy intention.
When it comes to nutrition, it's helpful to have guidelines in terms of how many calories are in any given food. For instance, I know that I'd have to be Peter Cottontale himself to really do any harm to my diet by eating carrots endlessly. When it comes to my love of almond nut butter, however, I'm aware that I'd have a pretty hard time hopping around by eating this food non-stop. Beyond that, I try to eat nutritious foods regularly without worrying about consequences on the scale. While not all of us are walking food encyclopedias, we do know the basics:
- Fried food is unhealthy
- Fresh food is healthy
- Avoiding water is bad
- Drinking water regularly is good
- Eating to capacity is unhealthy
- Pushing the plate away when you've had enough is healthy
- Donuts for breakfast are bad
- A nutritious breakfast is good
- Candy and sugary sodas are bad
- Fruits and vegetables are good
I'm not advising anyone to disregard calories. They're helpful for measurement, provide us with guidelines and should be understood. But when the goodness of how you exercise and how you eat hangs on every little calorie, it's time to relax a little. Once you've got a good routine down (healthy/responsible eating and a good amount of exercise), enjoy the benefits of a healthy body!