Calories. A small word that holds a tremendous amount of meaning to some of us.
I used to live and breathe by the calories I consumed because I was uneducated and misinformed on how to properly nourish my body. It all started my junior year of college when I began working out on a consistent basis. I hopped on the stationary bike for the first time, not knowing that it would lead me to completely spin out of control.
I say out of control because my habit of over exercising and undereating led me to develop an eating disorder. I didn’t know how to stop restricting food and my food diary scribbled with what I ate and their corresponding calories fueled my obsession.
FYI: This post is entirely about my opinion on calorie counting. You may feel something different, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!
First and foremost I want to start this post by saying how important calories (food!) are. They provide energy for our minds and bodies to function properly. This includes how we breathe, move, regenerate and repair cells, organ and bodily functions and so much more. Based on genetics, height, weight, activity level and other factors, each of us consume different amounts of calories each day.
Some of us who want to lose weight, decide to count calories so that we can control what gets put into our bodies. Calorie counting can have benefits for individuals, including helping us stick to our diets and possibly make better choices if we know the calories to fall within certain guidelines. However, most don’t consider the consequences that can arise from calorie counting.
When I first started losing weight, calorie counting was a wonderful little hobby of mine. After all, it was fun plugging numbers in and figuring out what foods and meals fit within my caloric range. After a while though, it became an obsessive chore. And that’s exactly what I want to talk to you about today + share a little about my personal story with calorie counting.
So let’s flashback to 2010 when I counted every single calorie that I put into my body. I’ll admit that in the beginning it absolutely helped me lose weight and stick to my goals when it came to food. I had a little notebook where I would write down everything I ate. The numbers allowed me to choose foods that were better for me, or say no to things that didn’t fall within the caloric guidelines.
But slowly, my calorie counting became obsessive and unhealthy. I’d write down the calories anywhere I could. I’d use the calculator on my phone to add up everything I ate. I wouldn’t allow myself to indulge in any of my cravings. I wouldn’t even eat the rice in my stir fry because it was too caloric. Over the course of a year I became malnourished and developed an eating disorder.
Certainly, my eating disorder can’t just be contributed to calorie counting, however I do think that if I had the freedom from numbers, I wouldn’t have been so obsessive with my choices.
These days are much different because I don’t count calories at all. I’m older, wiser and have moved on with my eating disorder struggle. It took me years to get to a place of both healthy and physical mindset when it came to food, but I worked hard to disrupt the unhealthy patterns such as calorie counting.
While I’ve pretty much got most of the caloric values of foods memorized because of my previous history with food and nutrition, I don’t bother to write it down or even think about the total I consumed each day. It’s just not ever a thought that goes through my mind. That being said, I feel incredibly grateful that I’m able to make food decisions based on cravings, nutrition-based knowledge and what will fuel my body.
Here’s are a few things I’ve learned when it comes to calorie counting:
Calories aren’t everything. They don’t account for the nutrition in food. The don’t make you a better or worse person because you had something with more or less calories. They don’t define who you are and they never, ever will. Calories will never give you satisfaction, they’re just a number. Calories don’t allow you to live in the moment and simply enjoy food or the people you’re eating it with. Calories don’t define your courage, bravery, success, passion, or ability to love. Bottom line: Calories are not everything.
More calories doesn’t necessarily equal weight gain and cutting calories doesn’t mean weight loss. Talk science to me all you want, but all calories are not created equal. Sometimes our bodies plateau and we need to actually eat more to see weight loss results. When you focus on calories, you’re less likely to get in the healthy fats your body needs to function at its highest level. (Fats tend to be the most caloric dense calories.)
Counting calories can lead to restriction & obsessive thoughts. Case in point = me. And thousands of other women (and men!) out there with eating disorders. Calorie counting can lead you to avoid good for you foods like protein, healthy fats, and even nutrient dense fruit. When you end up restricting the foods you love (like frozen yogurt or nut butters) from your diet, it can lead you to crave them even more, which can eventually contribute to you bingeing on these foods later. Allow yourself to have the foods you love or guilty pleasures in moderation (just keep portion control in mind) and you won’t have to worry about the calories in that ice cream cone!
Focusing on quality rather than quantity. This is a big one! Focusing on the quality of calories is so much more important than spending time worrying about how many calories you ate. A 500 calorie muffin from Starbucks has much less nutrient density then a 500 calorie breakfast of eggs, chicken sausage, sprouted toast, nut butter and fruit. I have to say that this is one of the most important things I had to learn when it came to understanding a balance towards food. For example, if the ingredients are wholesome, pure and unprocessed, it’s much easier to say yes to something like a brownie, grass fed burger or pancakes.
As a girl who is irrevocably in love with food but wants to fuel her body with foods that nourish & energize, it’s important that I choose ingredients that are of good quality. I’d much rather have a sprouted piece of toast than a white potato roll. I choose fruit rather then fried hashbrowns for brunch. I say yes to avocados on my toast instead of nutella. At most meals, I choose lean meats instead of beef. And of course, I typically bake with ingredients that I can feel good about.
Indulging in better for you treats!
That being said, I still make time to indulge. I never say no to a really good bagel or a chocolate chip cookie, but most of the time my indulgent foods are home baked goodies made with better for you ingredients. This is one of the reasons I love Simple Mills and how they fit perfectly into this message to #CelebrateSimple. Life is all about celebrating the simple things, am I right?
Just the other day I baked some brownies with the Simple Mills Chocolate Muffin and Cake Mix (made with almond + coconut flour) and hands down thought they were some of the best boxed brownies I’ve ever had. You’d never guess that they were gluten free or paleo. Even Tony gobbled down a few large brownies after dinner; it feels good knowing that he’s eating a treat that’s preservative free and made with 6 simple ingredients (plus eggs, vanilla and coconut oil). You can truly taste the difference!
I frosted the brownies with the new Simple Mills Chocolate Frosting that’s also free of preservatives, soy, gluten, grains and dairy! It’s so fluffy and full of chocolate flavor, I could die. I’d highly recommend it to those with allergies or if you’re just looking for a better for you frosting to try. The frostings are made with coconut oil, sustainable & non-hydrogenated palm shortening and sweetened with monkfruit (meaning they have less sugar and carbs than the leading frosting brands!).
I’m also a huge fan of the Simple Mills Vanilla Frosting spread on strawberries for a late night treat. You must try it!
Anyway, I had one of these big frosted brownies before lunch the other week and didn’t think twice about the calories in them (nor the fact that I ate it before lunch). They tasted damn good, were satisfying, and just what I needed in the moment.
I’d love to know what you think about my calorie counting perspective or learn about your personal experience with counting calories. Hearing from you means the world to me, so feel free to drop a comment below!
As always, thanks for being here for Wellness Wednesday! This post is in partnership with Simple Mills, a brand I trust. Thanks for continuing to support the brands that help make this site possible! xo.