If Calorie Counting Doesn’t Work, What Does?

Learn how to trust your beautifully smart body

Calorie counting and I have a long history! Keeping mental track of my calorie consumption is a habit I’ve learned to break. My education as a holistic health coach enabled me to make this personal change 10 years ago.

Are you still obsessed with calorie counts and the ‘willpower method’ of managing your weight?

Truth Talk about Calorie Counting

calorie counting

Imagine a sweet gala apple in your hand. If you think of it as a 100-calorie snack, you’re seeing only part of its value. That apple isn’t just calories. It’s also nutrition. Fiber, potassium, and vitamin C — valuable nutrients your body can use to thrive.

What else are we missing when we think of food only by calorie counts?

Imagine putting that crisp apple to your mouth and biting it. Can you taste the sweetness? Is the juice dripping down your chin? Did you ever pick a fresh apple off a tree? How about your last visit to the farmer’s market–was it a delight? Did you buy this delicious apple there?

Real Food Heals

When we only evaluate our food in terms of the calories they contain, we miss out on the human/food connection that is such a pleasurable part of life. The joy of eating real food comes from both the pleasant experience as well as the nutritional value. We can eat and enjoy the kind of real foods that we love. Calorie counting or decision-making solely dependent on a number can be released. Our beautifully smart bodies can take over from there.

Releasing the Calorie-Counting Obsession

My long term experience in counting my every calorie was innately restrictive. I tracked everything I ate so I’d feel good at the end of the day about living a 1,200-calorie lifestyle. This never truly helped me maintain a body size or fitness level. Calorie counting is not a sustainable method for dropping weight, either. The natural weight range for each of us is regulated by our appetite and metabolism. This happens through a series of hormonal signals–not by a calorie deficit.

Did you know? The myth of weight management through calorie counting (restriction) assumes there’s a standard calorie intake for all adult humans. Our particular nutritional plan should take into account other factors…more important factors. We should make decisions about what to eat based on our age, metabolic rate, activity level, and genetics. We should also monitor our sleep, stress, and how active we are on any given day. You know, the holistic health approach to wellness!

Reading the Entire Food Label

The Food and Drug Administration standardized the 2,000-calorie recommended allowance (RDA) in 1968. This happened near the time I sat in Ms. Tanaka’s home economics class in Arvada, Colorado. She taught us how to read food labels and make educated choices during our field trip to the grocery store. And of course, our teacher explained to the 25 girls in her class that counting calories are key in maintaining our girlish figures!

During my holistic health education decades later, I was taught that the RDA was a marketing tool. It was also hugely inaccurate. The FDA allowed a 20% margin of error on food labels. My wild guesses about the calorie count of food I ate weren’t any better! And what happens to most people when they are super hungry but only have a 50-calorie “allowance” left on any given day? We fool ourselves (fool our minds, maybe, but not our bodies!) by eating nutritionally void foods like sugar-free gelatin cups or half a bag of baked potato chips. In essence, we lie to ourselves so we don’t have to feel hungry or feel like a calorie-counting loser. Has that ever happened to you?

Making Friends with Food Again

Home economics teachers are not taking kids on too many trips to grocery stores today. We all get wellness information now from a variety of sources. Jonathan Bailor wrote The Calorie Myth which teaches us that our unique bodies have a set point size and shape. Ms. Tanaka knew nothing about a set point. Bailor tells us we can deprive ourselves of food and over-indulge in exercise, yet over time, our bodies will gravitate back to our natural, personalized set point. Is there a wellness answer? Can we make friends with food and our own bodies and stop our calorie-counting mindset?

The Primary Nourishment Path to Honor our Body

In my coaching practice, I teach people around the country to reach for Primary Nourishment. This balanced technique helps us all make decisions based on wellness goals instead of on our negative self-talk. Many of my coaching clients release the silent scream in their heads!

     “You’re out of control!! You’ve gotta drop this weight!”

They replace their restrictive calorie counting focus with a kinder, more sustainable method of decision-making. They learn to focus on the good.

Focus On The Good

Eating mostly real food, as opposed to processed, packaged food with a label, is a wellness habit that can be built over time. By eating plenty of nourishing whole foods, we can balance our hormone levels and watch our smart bodies use the calories we consume for an active lifestyle. We can feel satisfied with our food choices. Would you like to relish the sweet juice of fresh fruit dripping off our chin in the summertime? We can gently release the need to rely on processed foods, acknowledging that they are cheap substitutes for the real thing. And we can release the need to use calorie counting or negative self-talk when we make food decisions.

Focusing on real food means to fill our kitchen with the food we can count on, instead of food we have to calorie count. We can more gently stop eating foods that contain ingredients that lead to cravings, inflammation, and hormone imbalance.

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