We have probably all resorted to the cumbersome task of counting calories or points, weighing, measuring and calculating amounts of food we eat to help us control our weight. Following a diet such as this isn’t easily maintained for a lifetime. Who has time to count calories all day, every day for the rest of your life?
If calorie counting worked long term then we would be the thinnest country on the planet. Americans are obsessed with dieting and spend nearly $40 billion a year on weight-loss programs and products. Yet, you would never know it by looking at us. According to the CDC, 2011-12 data shows that 69% of Americans are either overweight or obese. Sixty-nine percent! That’s insane!
Since eating real food, I have freed myself of that daily burden. To me, eating real food isn’t about restriction and worrying about how many calories a certain food contains. It’s not about depriving myself of good wholesome treats. Eating real food is about eating unrefined, nutrient-dense foods that fill me up, make me feel good, and are helping to fight disease rather than fuel it. In my opinion, this is a much more sustainable way to stay healthy long term.
Here’s why I stopped counting calories and chose real food instead.
- All calories are NOT created equal. For example, 100 calories of anti-cancer, immune-building, high fiber berries or pomegranate is far superior than a 100 calorie snack pack that is loaded with chemicals, refined ingredients and coloring. It’s more about quality, not quantity.
- Crap is crap no matter how many calories it contains. Healthy, nutrient-dense foods will help keep hunger at bay, minimize cravings and help maintain stable blood sugar levels. Nutrient-dead foods will spike insulin, cultivate cravings and encourage overeating.
- It’s too restrictive. I love to eat and I eat a lot. Just ask my husband. But nothing takes the joy out of eating like counting how many crackers I can have, writing down my points in my food journal or measuring how many beans I throw on my salad.
- You don’t listen to your body. If you are constantly worried about tracking every scrap of food you are eating you are far more worried about meeting your calorie goals then satisfying your hunger. If you eat 500 calories at one meal and leave feeling hungry do you just have to suck it up until the next meal? Or if you are closing in on bedtime and haven’t reached your caloric goals do you eat even though you’re not hungry? Eating when you are hungry and stopping when you are satisfied is a much easier, enjoyable experience.
If I’m not counting calories, what do I do?
I eat in a way that is not just focused on weight loss, but also focused on optimizing health and promoting longevity. Eating delicious, health promoting meals has allowed my body to lose cravings for sugary, greasy, disease-causing foods while filling me up. Once I started focusing on nutrients rather than restrictions the weight fell off naturally and dieting was a thing of the past.
Get back in the kitchen.
The real remedy is to return to the kitchen and embrace good, old-fashioned home cooking. It’s an important commitment, but can be done…and is fun too! Strive for a diet of at least 80% unprocessed food (focusing on a wide variety of vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, nuts and fruits) while allowing “life” to happen the other 20% of the time. Not only will you gain numerous health benefits but you will gain the satisfaction of being able to control the ingredients that go into your food.
Until next time, keep it real.
Dr Fuhrman’s ANDI list is a great place to find the nutrient density of certain foods and how well they score.
For additional info, Dr. Mark Hyman has a great article about Why Calories Don’t Matter.