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Thread: Why Count Calories?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2010
    Whitehorse, YT

    Why Count Calories?

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    Okay, I've been eating Primal/Paleo for almost a year now. I think I get it, overall. When I first started out here, I saw a lot of threads that contained somewhat relieving information that calorie-counting is really unnecessary; eat until satisfied. Then when you're hungry eat until your satisfied again. Fair enough. That's what I do, and that's what feels good to do.

    Lately, however, as I've been skulking around the boards -- and skulking through Robb Wolf's boards -- I've seen a lot of people writing about counting calories, or watching calorie intake, or any number of expressions that indicate the same idea: watch how much you eat.

    So, I'm a little confused: why the shift? Has there been a shift? Or am I just seeing things for the first time despite looking for a long time? Certainly calorie-counting isn't what our ancestors did, so why do we? What is the concern? Doesn't calorie-counting just lead to maintenance diets? And isn't the point of the Primal/Paleo lifestyle to eat, drink, and be merry, not monitor, eat, and be concerned?


  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2009
    San Diego, CA
    I blame people interpreting Primal/paleo as permission to inhale as much bacon and butter as they want to.
    You lousy kids! Get off my savannah!

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    North Carolina
    Quote Originally Posted by Grumpy Caveman View Post
    I blame people interpreting Primal/paleo as permission to inhale as much bacon and butter as they want to.
    Yup, I think primal/paleo gives license to those with addictive personalties to go hog wild with fats- (pun intended!) Bacon, almond butter, coconut milk, etc could be triggers for some people so they count to help keep themselves in line...
    Have high hopes that journaling can keep me on track: If you are on twitter hit me up so we can keep each other motivated:

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    I think there's a lot to be said for relaxing and eating when you're hungry, but there's also a point people can get to where.... what they're doing isn't working anymore. At that point, if it were me, I would count calories and macros for a few days just to see where I'm at. Maybe I stopped losing weight, and after a "check-in" like this it turns out I'm eating three times as much as I thought. As someone who's had an interesting time trying to listen to hunger, I could really see that happening down the road.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Washington state
    I use fitday because it's fun. Some days I'm at 1400 calories, most days around 3500 calories. I look like I've always wanted to and am still losing weight and gaining muscle, so it's fine by me. Yes, trying to eat to attain a certain number of calories is usually pointless. But I suppose if I got into the 4000 to 5000 calorie zone I'd want to know about it.
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  6. #6
    What neither Robb or Mark have ever said is that its impossible to ingest too many calories (for weight loss) so long as the calories are primal. That doesn't mean that calorie counting is part of the Primal Blueprint. What it means is that if you're doing all the other stuff correctly, and you're still not where you want to be, you can consider counting some calories to give yourself more data.

    Without speaking for Robb or Mark, I don't think either would find that controversial. When someone says, "I've been primal for six months and I'm not losing any weight," I think it's kind of naive to assume that we can give that person meaningful advice without knowing his or her caloric intake. Because if it's consistently 1000 our advice is likely to look a lot different than if it's consistently 4,000.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    for me, starting to count calories is just another piece of data and another variable I have at my disposal to tweak my routine to get the results I'm after.

    say I'm totally pooped one day during a workout session I normally have energy for:

    Sleep? check
    Sunlight? check
    Fats? checkish
    Calories? hmmm....maybe

    I oversimplified it but that's the gist. I also know that I used to believe in calorie theory, read GCBC, dropped calorie theory, came to these boards, got success, and have now arrived at a partial agreement to calorie theory.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
    Quote Originally Posted by cranehigh View Post
    I think there's a lot to be said for relaxing and eating when you're hungry, but there's also a point people can get to where.... what they're doing isn't working anymore.
    I agree with this - counting calories may not be necessary for everyone, but for those who are looking to manipulate their weight either upwards or downwards and are having difficulty getting there, tracking one's nutrition is useful.

    Regarding counting calories and weighing, I firmly believe there's a right and a wrong way to do it. I could write up a whole post on what I believe the right methodology is, but that's a topic for another thread. Short version: use over-time averages instead of single data points, and accuracy is not nearly as important as consistency.
    Last edited by jsa23; 09-20-2011 at 03:49 PM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Feb 2010
    West Los Angeles, California
    The logic behind calorie restriction is that ancestral humans did not have access to unlimited food. There were periods of abundance and periods of shortage, and humans have some unique adaptations to deal with that, such as the ability of the brain to burn ketones instead of glucose. So if you want to mimic the stresses of the ancestral environment, calorie restriction (either overall, or through intermittent fasting) is a big piece of the puzzle.

    That said, I don't think you need to restrict calories or fast intermittently to be healthy. But a little of it is certainly good for you, according to studies and personal experience, and will help you lean out if that's your goal.

    Personally, I have never counted calories (except to make observations like, OMG, I just ate 2000 calories of macadamia nuts). I do have a tendency to overeat which seems to run in my family. IF keeps it in check painlessly, and turns my propensity to gorge into a virtue rather than a vice.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Aug 2011
    Bay Area, CA
    Learn More
    I started out not counting calories. Then I stalled for a week+ so I started counting calories. I found that the occasional cheats I did weren't making my calories go above my target range, and on the whole I was eating too little, not too much. So that helped me see that when I eat junky carbs, there is something else going on there that prevents me from making progress.

    An interesting thing for me was that I was not eating enough protein. I tracked that back to too much bacon and other fats. Basically, fat satiates your appetite. So if you eat meat that is proportionally too high in fat, you don't get enough protein with it before you body gives you the 'I'm full' signal. So I had to swap out fatter meats (like bacon and pork shoulder roast) for satisfying, yet not quite as fat laden other meats (like dark chicken meat). That brought my protein back up, fats about the same and carbs stayed they should be so long as I keep away from processed crap.

    I will still enjoy bacon as I desire, but I just know that if I eat bacon for breakfast that I probably will have to eat a lot of protein for dinner.

    Making that change helped me get back on track. I wouldn't have figured that out if I didn't count calories.


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