Calories. You love them. You hate them.
You love consuming delicious and satisfying food, yet you loathe considering how much you consumed at the end of a day. What if we said “good-bye” to this love/hate relationship and moved towards honoring our bodies and minds with the way we eat?
If you consistently count the number of calories you eat daily, stop for a moment and ask yourself “why?”
Maybe you’re trying to lose weight, maybe its simply out of habit from former “diet days”, possibly its due to fear that you’ll consume “too many” and counting provides you the ability to prevent this. Or maybe a dietician or doctor recommended you do so. Regardless of your reasoning or motivation, let’s just take a few moments to consider this topic and assess whether crunching these numbers will aid you with your desired outcome.
Counting calories is not in and of itself a bad thing. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you’re fueling your body with. For instance, if you’re working a labor intensive job or have an active lifestyle, you’ll want to ensure you’re not only fueling your body with abundant nutrients but also enough calories (energy) to keep yourself running. Therefore its beneficial to have an idea of the general amount of calories in foods. For instance, does 1 cup of fruit or 1 cup of nuts have more calories? You may be chuckling, but some people I talk with aren’t certain. So if you’re overweight and struggling to lose pounds, its beneficial to know that consuming fruits in greater abundance than nuts will aid in your weight loss goals.
However, simply counting calories in/calories out alone will not serve you well in your pursuit of better overall health and achieving a healthy weight for your height and body type. Our bodies are far more complex than acting as a “human calculator” of sorts. There are a lot of factors that influence how many calories an individual burns daily including age, gender, height, current weight, and fitness level. Even two individuals with all of these factors the same can burn different amounts of calories depending on various aspects of genetics.
This is mind bending to some of you, I know. So what do we do?
The plan here is to get back in touch with your body’s instinctual sensations that tell you when you need to eat. You eat when you feel like it and don’t eat when you don’t feel like eating. Sounds pretty obvious and simple, right? Oh, I know its not, so don’t feel discouraged. We are bombarded with food all day long and some of us have a lot of emotions, even addictions, wrapped up in it. It’s a process to grow away from this. If you are struggling with food addictions or what you think may be an unhealthy relationship with food, I encourage you to seek out a trusted friend for accountability and encouragement, or consider meeting with a counselor to aid you in identifying root issues needing to be addressed.
For others, its about educating yourself on what a healthful diet is – one that will nourish not only your body, but your mind and spirit as well. By nourishing our bodies with more whole plant foods every day we can begin to learn true hunger cues and find greater satisfaction in providing our bodies with nutrient-rich foods rather than those that lead to an energy slump and poor health. When we consume foods that are saturated sources of calories (think processed foods) our minds are fooled into thinking we haven’t consumed enough based on the volume. For instance, you can fit 4 Oreo cookies in the palm of your hand. This amount of Oreos has 160 calories and 13 grams of sugar with no nutritional value for your body. Compare this to an apple. You can fit about half of one apple in your palm. This amount consists of approximately 50 calories and 8 grams of naturally occurring sugar. Add a tablespoon of almond butter to that apple and you have about the same amount of calories as those 4 Oreos, but the apple with almond butter provides you with fiber and protein as well as tons of micronutrients to promote overall better health, which your body utilizes to aid your immune system in functioning better, enables stable blood sugars, improved digestion, and a host of other wonderful things!
Whole plant foods are RICH in nutrients to fuel, nourish, and heal your body. At the same time they are relatively low in calories, high in water content, and full of fiber, so they fill you up easily, without getting excess calories that will lead to weight gain. Why not eat the foods that give you the most bang for your buck?!
If you’re used to counting calories and you adjust to a more whole food, plant-based diet, it may take your body time to adjust, but that’s okay! Over time your body will give you accurate signals to tell you how much it needs.
You may be wondering, so, where do I start?
- Begin small – Move towards 1-2 more whole foods daily for one week. You can do anything for one week, I know you can! 😉 Add a piece of fruit to each meal and a veggie to your lunch and dinner. That would be 5 additional nutrient-rich foods daily – awesome and so simple!
- Consider your goals – Where do you want to be in 1 week, 1 month, or 1 year? Would you like to have more energy to play with your kids or serve in your community? Maybe you want to stop some of your medications or have a better relationship with food. You desire to shed a few unwanted pounds without the emotional turmoil it often entails. Writing down these desires and making practical, sustainable, and enjoyable goals to pursue can make the journey fun rather than daunting. Enlist a friend to partner alongside you or schedule a time to meet with me for a consult to get started on the right foot!
- Enjoy – Take moments to enjoy the whole foods you’re eating without the stress and anxiety that calorie counting can often entail. Strive to practice thankfulness by celebrating the food you have to nourish your body and mind, leading to a greater joy in eating.
Most importantly, be patient with yourself. Dramatic change doesn’t happen overnight. See this as an opportunity to learn and grow and before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying an abundance of whole foods resulting in better overall health!