Welcome to my second post on building a healthy relationship with food! Previously I spoke about ‘Guilty Eating’ and how indulging in a large piece of cake or a drunken stop at Maccas drive-through can potentially end up sending you into a vicious downward spiral of emotion that turns into a continuous cycle of bad behaviour and feelings of worthlessness. I also talked about why it doesn’t necessarily need to be that way.
While I’m no mental health expert and certainly do not claim to have any nutrition-related qualifications, I believe my own experiences, research, attempts at dieting (which have been A LOT) and watching those around me endeavour to find what works best for them, have helped me to gather an understanding of the basic principles which do NOT seem to support a healthy mental relationship with food.
Extreme calorie counting, I believe, is one of these. Now I understand that calorie counting works for some people and is the best way they can maintain portion control but my god it is a tedious process! I’m currently in week 3 of the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation which is very focused on counting the calories of the food you consume as you are given a daily allowance (determined by what program you choose).
As part of this program, today I weighed out 40g of baby spinach for a pita pocket sandwich with 125g of chicken breast, 60g of low-fat ricotta cheese and half a grilled zucchini . . . WHO AM I?! By counting all the calories of my snacks, cups of tea, morning coffee and even my treat meals I’ve pretty much taken the joy out of eating! Now don’t get me wrong the 12WBT program is a nice, achievable and well-balanced option for those trying to achieve a particular goal, but can we focus less on how many calories are in the food we are consuming and more on the quality and nutritious value of it?
This brings me to my next point, not all calories are equal. I Quit Sugar gives some brief great examples of this in the following article https://iquitsugar.com/dont-count-calories-2/. Also, Damon Gameau talks about his experience in That Sugar Film where he discovered that the diet he adopted to have 40 teaspoons of sugar a day for 60 days actually matched his previous sugar free and whole-foods diet in terms of the amount of calories he consumed per day here http://www.thatsugarfilm.com/my-calorie-results/. Despite the fact he wasn’t eating any more calories than he was previously, the quality of the food he was consuming still resulted in him gaining weight and developing fatty liver disease!
Another factor to consider is that when counting calories it’s far easier to reach for the pre-packaged foods which have the amount of Kilojoules or calories listed on them rather than opting for the fresh produce and weighing it all individually, therefore creating bad choices and habits. We also tend to opt for low-fat dairy options when calorie counting which quite often have sugar added to them in order to make up for the lack of taste from the removed fat, therefore upping our sugar consumption each day.
Now I can preach on and on to you about how adopting a (mostly) sugar-free lifestyle and eating real, wholesome food and plenty of it is the true path to happy eating, but the truth is that it really is the case for me! I’ve never been happier with my diet than when I am enjoying delicious slow-cooked lamb shanks or a home-made chicken soup where I know exactly what has gone in it and the ingredients are measured via rough handfuls as opposed to grams on a set of scales, or when I have a huge salad with avocado, cheese AND nuts in it. Sure, when I eat like this I’m not at my absolute skinniest (which is probably technically underweight) but by participating in regular exercise (even if only going for a walk) I still like to think I’ve got a body good enough to make a few heads turn hehe. The important thing is mentally I’m guilt-free, satisfied, nourished, less stressed and therefore healthy overall . . . and I ENJOY FOOD!
So there you have it, my reasons for why calorie counting is not the pathway to building a healthy relationship with food. In summary:
- It’s takes the fun out of eating and turns food consumption into a chore
- Not all calories are equal
- Opting for lower calorie low-fat dairy options can increase daily sugar consumption
- It can create bad habits in terms of reaching for easily measurable pre-packaged foods as opposed to fresh produce
- It’s tedious, boring and I hate it!
Here’s hoping I haven’t offended anyone too much,