Can you even imagine what it would be like to go through the day and NOT be consumed with how many calories you did or didn’t eat?
The age-old mantra – calories in, calories out – has been the gold standard for EONS. But how accurate is this REALLY? And more importantly, what are we missing when we focus on calories as the “be all, end all” of how manage our food intake?
FIRST OFF, it’s important to understand that different foods affect our bodies in different ways. The food we eat directly affects the hormones that regulate when and how much we eat, as well as how efficient our metabolism functions.
A diet with adequate protein, for example, can increase the metabolic rate by 80 to 100 calories per day and significantly reduce appetite. In one study, such a diet made people automatically eat 441 fewer calories per day. They also lost 11 pounds in 12 weeks, just by adding protein to their diet.
Even more critical is the long term effect that processed foods have on our bodies. Chemicals, additives, and preservatives are added to processed foods to increase shelf life and in many cases are deliberately made to enhance an addictive quality. Growth hormones and antibiotics are in our meats and dairy.
But many of these additives disrupt the function of our digestive and hormonal system and are actually known as obesogens. Obesogens can contribute not only to weight gain but heart disease, diabetes and high cholesterol, just to name a few.
We could go on about all the different foods having vastly different effects on hunger, hormones, digestive, but the take home message is the effect they have on our health AND weight.
NEWS FLASH: The TYPES of foods we eat are just as important as the amount of calories we are eating.
What this means (in a nutshell) is that broccoli, olive oil, blueberries, and walnuts are going to have a vastly different effect on our hormones and metabolism than the same amount of calories from french fries, donuts, or a bagel.
SECONDLY: Our focus on calories takes us completely away from our own internal cues of hunger and fullness! This is a huge mistake and oversight.
Think about all the fancy app gadgets that have sophisticated methods for calculating calories. So far, we have not encountered one app that leaves room for observations, a KEY component of food journaling.
We can’t tell you how many women (and men) we have counseled who base their whole day around their calorie (or points) allotment, without any thought to what they are actually feeling. Was the food satisfying? Did it enhance or deplete your energy? Did you stop when you felt full? Was the meal balanced? How quickly did you eat?
That being said we know that tapping into your internal cues for when to eat and when to stop is no easy task, especially if you have been relying on the external cues (calorie or point numbers) to dictate your intake.
But we are here to tell you that with a little practice (and willingness to trust in your body’s signals), it CAN be done and you CAN free yourself from the chains of calorie counting.
With our private clients and in our group programs, we encourage food diaries but never ask for calorie counts. We want to know WHEN you eat, WHAT you are eating, and HOW you are feeling. We are much more interested in how long a meal or snack kept you satisfied, whether or not it was nutrient rich, how mindful you are when you eat, and how many times you chew your food.
Here is a challenge for you:
If you are chained to calorie or points counting, we urge you to take a day off and trade in your calorie app for 24 hours of mindfulness. Take a deep breath and relax. Pay attention to how you feel. Eat slowly, chew thoroughly. Eat without distractions. Smell and taste your food. Just for one day be really present in the act of eating and noticing your signals of hunger and fullness.
Let us know how you do! Share your thoughts with us, we would love to hear from you.