By Rosie Battista, Nutritional Education Trainer and Lifestyle Coach
As far as I am concerned I am nearly done obsessing over numbers by counting calories.
I spend most of my life counting calories as my method for weight control. It was either the amount of calories, the number on the scale, the size of my jeans, or the candles on my birthday cake. It was always a numbers game. It was a simple concept; the lower the number the better I feel I could control my weight. These numbers only succeeded in making me feel fatter and older the more I obsessed over them. It was not till later in my life that I realized that, in reality, none of these things were the right thing to focus on.
The first thing we all need to stop counting is our calorie consumption. Believe it or not, life was not always this way and weight control happened naturally. I began to wonder when the phenomenon of calorie counting began and whether or not people understood what a calorie actually is. On a whim, I asked a few random people of random ages. Here is what they came up with in response to my question, “What is a calorie?” One person simple said that “it has something to do with food intake.” Number two said, “you’re allowed to take in a certain amount and that equals fat, so you really need to watch how many you take in.” And lastly, and my personal favorite, responded, “I don’t know, but they are not a good thing!” By no means am I making fun of these people because with all the media clutter, bad press, and deceitful marketing, I admit that I also had to do my own research to get the cold hard facts.
In 1907, one of the first known nutritionists, Wilbur Atwater, invented the calorimeter. If you burn food in a calorimeter, you could measure the ash and heat to find out how much “energy” is released and therefore how much “energy” is in the food. In other words, calories equal energy. Now we can apply this concept to our bodies, which act much like the calorimeter, even though our bodies don’t quite “burn” calories like the calorimeter yet spend energy breaking down our food into “energy.” After analyzing the calorie through our chemistry goggles, we can further discuss why a “calorie” should not be feared and obsessively counted. After all, we do need calories to sustain life and have the food energy to go about our busy days.
Fad diets love using the calorie counting method and these diets and new ones flood the market daily. Food companies even make calorie content their main selling point.
Just consider a 100 Calorie Pack of Hostess Twinkie Bites. (Who decided that 100 calories was the baseline for a healthy snack anyway?) Even Vitamin Water’s new line of Zero Drink is obviously named for the zero calorie content. So does this mean that you can drink all you want because it has no calories?
Let’s face it, these selling ploys work and we continue to count our calories because we love the simplicity of it. It is much easier to work by numbers than to truly understand the complexity of a balanced diet. Do not let the calorie content cloud out the true nutrition value of your foods you need to eat or dictate your body’s true nutritional needs.
There are a many other reasons to base your food choices on criteria other than calorie content. For example, if the food you eat contains fiber, it will keep you feeling full longer. And if you are eating nutrient rich foods your body gets the nutrients it needs with much less food. Nutrient Rich foods help promote health and longevity. I guess you can call that a bigger bang for your buck, another thing we Americans love.
Here are 2 simple tips, to wean yourself off of the counting craze and to help you start getting more nutrients from the calories you are taking in.
Remember this motto:
Instead of counting calories, make every calorie count!
Eat foods that are nutrient rich (foods that are as close to nature as possible – these foods have no calorie counting label on them!). They are foods like, dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, whole grains, and fresh fruits. They will keep you fuller longer and you will wind up eating less naturally with more energy.
Stop thinking about the calories of the foods you eat and start thinking about how the calories will fuel your body make you feel. Do you feel the same when you eat two cookies as you do when you eat a nutrient rich apple?
On a personal note, I’ve let go of all numbers and counting…neither the scale, the label in my jeans or the 50 candles on my last birthday cake mean anything. I feel great, count, less calories and enjoy myself more than ever before.
It doesn’t hurt to know the calorie count in a food, but you don’t need to constant count calories by playing the numbers game. What you need is to make every calorie count, and you can only do that successfully when you eat a nutrient rich diet.
Making every calorie count is the key to natural weight loss!
Rosie Battista is a Nutritional Education Trainer in training, is the co founder of nutrientrich.com and The Lifestyle Coaching Center Online, in Livingston NJ. With the Eat, Think and Live Better method, she coaches members and clients on how to live at or near their idea weight all year round, while achieving even their most ambitious life goals.