I’m sure calorie counting is something we have all done and maybe what some people are still doing. I remember when I was 16 using the app My Fitness Pal to monitor my calorie intake and boy was it miserable! FIRSTLY, what the heck was I doing worrying about calories when I was 16? I think this maybe has something to do with not accepting that my body shape was changing and I thought restricting my calorie intake would stop my hips and thighs from getting bigger (silly billy). Secondly, I would only do it for a few days at a time because I either lost track, found it too time consuming or was well aware that I had binged on junk food and gone over my calories for the day.
So what exactly are calories?
By definition calories represent units of energy provided by a particular food, but thinking they are alike is like saying I can sing like Beyonce because I have vocal cords. This is very untrue; Beyonce is a good quality signer, and I am not. *other popular artists are available. What I am trying to say is that calories are not equal. An avocado is certainly not the same as a chocolate bar! Your body reacts completely different to different types of foods and will use and store the energy in a different way.
I think it is far healthier to become more educated and aware of the foods we should be eating for a healthy body and lifestyle, because calorie counting can be a slippery slope as I know some people try and function on a low calorie microwave meal, mug shots or save up their calories for a McDonalds.
I also know from personal experience that when we are trying to stick to a limited amount of calories per day, we tend to opt for foods that are either fat free or low fat, and make every effort to skip carbohydrates like rice, potatoes and even vegetables. But doing leaves us starved of vital nutrients and fibre. Good fats and carbohydrates are what our bodies run off for energy and if we are restricting ourselves from these foods we can end up feeling tired, moody and stressed. We can also experience headaches because low fat foods contain so much sugar as a replacement. Research has also shown that low calorie diets and calorie counting leads to increased cortisol production, a stress hormone, which can lead to a build up of toxins, insulin resistance, weight gain, and cardiovascular disease. High levels of cortisol have also been linked to depression.
The best ways to have a healthier diet are to:
- Focus on whole foods (vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and grains)
- Cook your favourite meals from scratch (even if that’s pizza or cake – you’re more likely to eat it less this way too)
- Use Google to find healthy alternatives
- Eat when you’re hungry (make sure you are prepared with snacks to hand like energy balls, granola or a piece of fruit)
- Stop eating when you’re full (our eyes are bigger than our belly, so try and remember that you can always finish it later or the next day)
I feel incredibly grateful that calorie counting for me is a thing of the past and I can enjoy food for what it is without a digit being attached. This also goes for when I go food shopping, I don’t look at the calories, I make my decisions based on the ingredients list to ascertain if it is good quality or not. (This is a habit that I highly recommend by the way, because you end up becoming a lot more aware of what you are actually eating). I think my relationship with food improved once my confidence grew with making better decisions for myself. I now really appreciate the nutrients involved and it makes me so much happier knowing that I am nourishing my body with good stuff.