“Do you really need to know your energy balance total?” Barbell Medicine, Ep. 176: Determining Calorie Intake Part II

I said it yesterday, but it’s worth repeating–learning about how our bodies work and the truth about calories and energy balance can help us to deprogram from diet culture and learn to have a healthier relationship with food and our bodies in the long run. Of course, the thoughts we have when we consume this information makes all the difference.

If you listen to this podcast, or consume any other information, with the mindset of looking for “tricks” or “tips” to help you lose weight, then you are using it to perpetuate harm to yourself. Not all weight loss is harmful, but the goal, in my opinion, should be finding an enjoyable, healthy life we can sustain and then letting our bodies define what size and body composition that settles at. That’s the inverse of diet thinking, trying to figure out what lifestyle is necessary to maintain a certain size or body composition.

I know this can sound counter to my love of bodybuilding, and I recognize that I’m probably an outlier in the community. But since I’m not ever going to compete, I get to do bodybuilding at whatever pace and with whatever preferences help me feel good and happy in my life and in my body. So, when I listen to a podcast like this that tells me how variable the systems are that lead to our body size and composition, I hear that as freeing information. It liberates me to further let go of the traditional goalpost of a particular body fat percentage. There is no endpoint since bodies are going to continue to change throughout our lifetimes, and the result at any particular time is a combination of my choices and my genetics/unique body type. So, I can just focus on the things in my control, being as consistent as I can, working at the level of intensity I can sustain, practicing taking small steps towards my goals and making them habitual.

Jordan and Austin reinforce this perspective, emphasizing over and over again that micromanaging our food consumption, setting goals based on external tools like calorie totals, and even measuring our success based on weekly weight trends, fails to help people find sustainable, lifelong patterns of healthy eating and weight management. This is a health-focused perspective I’d love to hear echoed in more of the evidence-based fitness world. I think the bodybuilder types especially have a tendency to forget that not everyone needs to get granular to see positive changes in their health. Whether or not it results in getting officially lean or even so-called “normal” weight, we benefit from focusing on what Drs. Baraki and Feigenbaum call “health-promoting diets.” Listening to conversations like this one can serve as a useful reminder of that.


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