Focusing on calories consumed/burned as the only metric to determine whether you’ve been “successful” in a given day is a recipe for sucking all the joy out of exercise and nutrition.
Health and fitness is so much more than “calories in/calories out” but the diet industry wants you to keep buying their “low calorie” snacks, shakes and their expensive apps and trackers, so this narrative will continue to be pushed forward.
There is SO much more to fitness than the size of your body and the number of calories you consume/burn.
Here’s what happens when you only focus on calories burned/consumed:
1. You gravitate toward pieces of equipment that give you a (highly inaccurate) number of calories burned. These are typically cardio machines that don’t help you get stronger, move better, or acquire new skills.
2. You gravitate toward less nutrient dense foods. When you’re trying to eat as few calories as possible, you end up seeking out foods with fewer nutrients too. As a result you’re less satisfied and more likely to fall into a restrict/binge cycle.
3. You lose (or never find) the joy in training. Movement and exercise should be enjoyable and feel good physically and mentally. But constantly focusing on whether or not you burned enough calories makes it feel clinical and stressful instead.
4. You let fitness take over your life rather than fit into your life. Lugging a food scale around, entering every morsel you eat into an app, exercising through pain/exhaustion because you “have” to achieve your daily caloric burn. Life ends up revolving around food & exercise.
Here are some other metrics you can focus on instead to keep the joy in your training and help you feel more fulfilled in your workouts:
2. Strength gains
3. Mobility increases
4. Improved recovery