Ask Alfonso: Am I Too Young To Count Calories?
I am currently 18 years old. I was wondering if it is any good to try to dramatically cut your caloric intake / restricting macronutrients when you are still a teenager (and probably still growing!)
I used to be 110 pounds at 5”1’ with a medium frame, but I shed lots of belly fat by simply eating clean. Eventually I cut my calories to about 1,200. Then I gave up, restricted myself to 1,600…cutting carbs….cutting fats….cutting grains etc., but I never felt satisfied with any approach and felt terrible emotionally and physically.
I am now around 103 – 106 pounds with much less fat but still feel terribly trapped by dieting! I also have lost my periods for a good few months and sometimes go into desperate fruit binges from a week of carbo-phobia and worrying about calories.
I would really like to get the nice, lean, toned abs but how can I do this without making my body feel miserable. Should a growing teenager at a healthy weight even worry about counting calories / macros? I don’t want to harm my body anymore!
How are you? I must tell you when I read this question I felt a sense of urgency because it seems to me you have, or are on your way to developing, a bad relationship with food. And at your age we can address and fix this matter much easier than later in life.
Okay let’s go step by step. Is it okay to dramatically cut calories? Sure, perhaps for maybe a day or two as part of a fasting dieting plan or at the beginning of new strategy. In a normal eating regimen the calories ebb and flow anyway so it’s normal to have fluctuations in daily amounts. BUT, I would NEVER suggest a dramatic cut in calories long term as part of a regular regimen as it’s a surefire way to a lifetime of diet and weight struggles. And as a slight correction, at 18 years old you’re NOT growing anymore Lucy, at least not in the developmental sense! Most girls hit full height and reach maturity by age 16 at the latest, so I wouldn’t be concerned about stunting your growth.
It seems to me you are a bit obsessed with food and have already displayed the beginnings of what might become an eating disorder. I understand the entire ‘carbs phobia” issue, but the binging on fruit is dangerous as it can pre-dispose you to binge with other foods down the line. No binge as a rebound is good. We can’t really worry about what you’ve done in the past but we can learn from it. So as a rule if your body feels terrible on a certain diet – something is wrong! Bad feelings, whether physical and / or emotional, aren’t normal parts of a good diet. What you eat should make you feel alive, energized, increase your stamina and endurance and overall you should feel amazing! So that’s clue number 1 something isn’t right.
As for cutting fats, grains and other food groups I’d have to again say no – unless of course you follow a certain plan like the Paleo Diet that omits certain foods for philosophical reasons. But your diet has to be a realistic plan for you to stick with or you’ll just end up binging on that food group like you’ve done with carbs.
I do really think that you should be aware of what you’re eating. Too many people feel as though it’s not necessary to count calories or watch their food intake. I totally disagree. As we get older, good habits, like bad can become second nature. So I will suggest that you count calories a bit, but perhaps fluctuate them between 1,600 – 2,000 depending on how active you are. At just 103 pounds, your BMR is probably around 1,300 or 1,400 calories, so we’ll add in additional calories (fuel) depending on what you’re doing each day.
In the end Lucy you need to not look for a quick fix diet, but a way of life that you can sustain. Too often we associate the “D” word with deprivation, bland food and general misery. I’ve said time and time again that I have the best success with a diet of vegetables, limited fruit, lean meats and healthy fats. This seems to work best for me and I tend to stay away from rice, potatoes, breads and other typical starches, but above all I KNOW what I’m eating and how much.
So try eating a healthy diet that fits your life, be aware of what you eat and learn to view food in a healthier way. Chances are you haven’t harmed your body – yet – and most of your issues are psychological rather than physical. At your current weight you’re in a perfect spot to get on the right path and succeed in life! Good luck Lucy!
And if you have a question – please just click here. I’d love to help you!
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