A calorie is a calorie, as they say. And that may be true—but that doesn’t mean that all calories are created equal.
Everybody knows that you can’t compare 100 calories worth of broccoli to 100 calories worth of Big Mac. And even if you tried, it would only serve as further proof that the mechanics of good health are a lot more complex than calories-in-calories-out.
Don’t count calories to lose weight
The truth is that losing weight—and more importantly, keeping it off— does require some number crunching. But calories are often the least important one on the list.
Following are five figures you should be keeping track of instead…
It’s taken far too long. But experts have finally realized that added sugars—and high fructose corn syrup, especially—is the true villain behind our country’s twin diabetes and obesity epidemics. And of all the indulgences that could throw your health into a tailspin, this one is probably the most harmful.
That doesn’t mean you have to swear off all sugar forever. (Though, let’s be honest—it certainly wouldn’t hurt.) But ditching sugary drinks of any kind—whether it is soda, sweet tea, or even fruit juice—is necessary, at a minimum. And removing other sources of refined, added sugars such as breakfast cereals and canned fruit from your diet is an even smarter step.
While you eat less sugar, you need to be eating more protein. Why? Because it keeps you fuller for longer, for starters—buffering your body against post-meal blood sugar swings and helping to ward off energy plateaus and snack attacks between meals. But a regular protein boost will also help you to maintain lean muscle mass and keep your metabolism revved—essential components to any successful diet plan.
So swap out your afternoon chips or granola bar for a handful of almonds or a hardboiled egg, instead—your body will notice the difference, and so will you.
Studies suggest that chronically not getting enough to drink, what researchers call inadequate-hydration, may be a major hidden factor behind the obesity epidemic. Which means that simply drinking more water might be an effective solution.
Drinking more is one of the easiest changes you can make. But the benefits to your body are undeniable; and that includes helping you lose weight.
You can throw in some lemon, cucumber, berries, or mint leaves if you like. But no matter how you dress it up, good old H20 will always be the best way to hydrate your body.
The fact is time spent in bed is every bit as important to your waistline as time spent in the gym. And research shows that seven to eight hours a night is the sweet spot for shuteye.
Anything more or less than that is bound to push the needle on your scale—and not by a small margin. One study revealed that sleeping fewer than six hours a day or more than nine hours a day raises risk of obesity by roughly a quarter.
It’s true—sunshine can help you stay lean. Or at least, the vitamin D it helps your body to generate can. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Because we now know, that vitamin D plays a critical role in preventing everything from depression and Alzheimer’s to heart disease and cancer.
More than one in three American adults suffers from a D deficiency, experts estimate. And that’s a real problem, whether you count calories or not.
Spending 20 minutes in midday sun daily—without sunscreen, and with most of your skin exposed—is one way to keep your stores of this critical nutrient up. But for most people, it’s still not enough. Which is why the Vitamin D Council recommends supplementing with 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day.
To lose weight and keep it off you don’t have to count calories. Keep track of these other five figures instead.