Why I Don't Count Calories and You Probably Shouldn't Either
It's Holiday time! This is my favorite time of year with all the good vibes, cool weather and amazing food. It's such a time of gratitude and celebration, and gathering around a table to eat together is something I love. Food is nourishment, for our bodies but often for our souls too. It should feel good. We have senses to experience the taste, texture, temperature and smell of food for a reason. Food is SUPPOSED to feel good.
But too often we just so caught up in the "supposed to" and "shoulds" of eating and the joy is lost because we've come to care more about how we look, or we guiltily eat junk foods, knowing they're bad for us.
I love food and after having the experience of being "fed" through a feeding tube when I was in the hospital (I can't describe having flavored goop delivered to my stomach, through a tube that went up my nose, as anything close to pleasant), and being unable to bite into anything even verging on firm in the four years I wore partial dentures, I value every moment I get to eat and chew and sink my teeth into something delicious. And I don't worry about Calories. EVER.
The photo on this post is the breakfast I had the day after a full Thanksgiving dinner last year. I am not fat. I just eat the food, provided it's real food, and not too much of any one thing. I strive for balance, not deprivation.
I recently discovered gluten free croissants that I got shipped to my door from Baked2Go.ca in Montreal, and talk about the joy of eating! It's been YEARS since I had a croissant because I have a pretty serious intolerance to gluten. And I had kind of lost hope that anyone would be able to create a GOOD gluten free version of that yummy French pastry. But these... warmed in the oven, that crisp flakiness on the outside giving way against my teeth to the soft, layered, buttery inside... bliss.
Is it "healthy"? Nope. Fattening? If I ate them all the time, probably yeah. But do I care? No. Because it was a treat. And giving myself permission to enjoy a food I love, when I know it's still real food, made in a bakery, is way better for me than stressing, feeling guilty, or hating myself for indulging! All that does is release stress hormones that can contribute to gaining weight probably more than eating the food one time.
*** Obviously if you have medical condition or are under the care of a physician, you may need to take a different approach. And everyone is different. Do what is best for you!
Because of things like stress hormones and many other factors, getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is not as simple as calories in, calories out. The food and diet industry would like us to believe it's that simple though!
Why isn't it?
All calories are not created equal. Our bodies digest, process and use different foods in completely different ways. Take, for example, 100 calories of candy and 100 calories of broccoli. About five Hershey's Kisses would have 100 calories but 100 calories of broccoli (raw) is four cups!
There's not much nutritional value in five Hershey's kisses, and four cups of broccoli is a lot to eat, and requires way more energy to chew and digest. Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 Calories per gram and fat has 9 calories per gram. So while food that contains a lot of fat does have more calories, that doesn't mean fatty food will make us fat. Many fatty foods are also laden with sugar, but healthy fats like extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil, while calorie dense, have a lot of nutritional value. Our bodies get a lot from just a little, and it's hard to overindulge on food that contains those healthy fats.
My rule of thumb is to just eat real food that doesn't come with a label or a list of ingredients. If I do that, I don't have to watch my weight because I don't fall into craving unhealthy snacks and my body gets all the nutrition it needs. I like sweets a lot, but I definitely notice that when I don't eat much sugar, I don't crave sugar. And vice versa, if I eat too much, I crave it ALL THE TIME and I have to make myself detox and make better choices. Date rolls (dates smushed up and rolled in chopped nuts) are my go-to to satisfy a sugar craving and replace the junk I might eat otherwise. Dried fruit is awesome that way.
As the holidays approach, maybe you're worrying about "holiday weight gain"? Well I have some good news for you... it's pretty much a myth. If you do gain weight at this time of year, it's probably more of a reflection of your overall lifestyle and weight as a whole, not a once-a-year anomaly, so if you do gain significant weight, take it as a signal that shifts need to happen in your life beyond declining dessert at Thanksgiving dinner.
So enjoy your holidays, and enjoy the food! Don't worry about the Calories, now or ever. Life's too short not to indulge a little bit. Just stay mindful and notice how you feel in your body. If you feel tired and cranky all of a sudden, think about what you ate. That might be more relevant than your previous night's sleep. Eat real food - the turkey, the stuffing, the veggies, the HOMEMADE pie made with real ingredients... avoid the junk - it doesn't serve you. And have a wonderful time!
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