I bet you’ve heard that if you burn more calories than you eat you’ll lose weight. It’s that simple right? Wrong! When people ask how many calories are in my recipes, I say….no clue! I gave up counting calories when I gave up eating processed foods, and here’s why?
I used to count calories like a demon, and it was exhausting. Every meal required a knife, fork and a calculator, leaving me feeling deprived and hungry. And if I blew my calorie count watch out… I would eat an entire pack of Tim Tams, and back it up by starving myself the next day. Basically, I had one seriously unhappy relationship with food.
I stopped counting calories, when I gave up sugar and committed to eating less processed food. You can read more about that here and here. I was so sure I would put on weight. I gave it a month and watched the scales like a hawk. But guess what? I didn’t put on weight, and I was eating cheese for the first time in years. Turns out when you feed the body what it needs, it will take care of the rest.
So why didn’t I put on weight?
Well it turns out not all calories are created equal. Sure 100 calories from cake and 100 calories from kale have the same amount of energy. But there is a huge difference in the way your body processes calories from different types of foods.
Healthy nutrient rich foods like vegetables, nuts, chicken and eggs provide your body with long lasting energy, stabilise your blood sugar, and keep you fuller for longer. Processed foods like soft drink, muffins, and french-fries have the opposite effect. Those foods spike your blood sugar, throw your hormones out of whack, and leave you hungry and unsatisfied. A guaranteed ticket to eating more and storing fat more easily.
You can’t trust the numbers…
Turns out, the calories on a nutrition label, may not be worth the paper they are written on, because the number of calories you actually take in will depend on how food is cooked and how your body reacts to it. Who would have thought raw vegetables have less calories than cooked. And foods that are harder to breakdown, like protein, well they actually end up having fewer calories, because you use energy digesting them.
If you focus on calories you might not be getting all the nutrients you need…
Just because food is low in calories it doesn’t mean its good for you. Low calorie drinks, yoghurt and biscuits, supply little or no nutritional value. So by eating these foods, in place of nutrient dense foods, you are just depleting your body of the vitamins and minerals it needs to stay in tip top shape.
High calorie can be healthy…
I used to think that fat was public enemy number one. True fat is higher in calories than other foods. But, good fats from fish, eggs, cheese, butter, avocados, nuts and seeds are chock full of vitamins and minerals and keep you full. So even though you’re eating more calories, you actually end up eating less overall, and be healthier to boot.
So what do I do instead of counting calories?
Its simple really…
- I eat nutritionally balanced meals made with real food…well most of the time anyway, hello Friday night dumplings!
- I eat when I’m hungry, and stop when I’m full.
- Whether its steamed greens or a big bowl of pasta, I listen to my body and give it the foods that it feels like.
Do you count calories? I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.