A frequent question i get asked is, do I count calories? And the answer is no i don’t. From the ages of 11-16 i obsessively counted calories and anything that was high calorie i would avoid and my food choices were only based on what had the lowest calorie content. However with recovery physically and mentally from my eating disorder i stopped letting calories and the number of calories in food affect me, and now the calorie content in food or my meals doesn’t bother or trigger me. I still know the calorie content of most foods and can do a pretty good guesstimation of the calorie content due to my previous obsession with the numbers but also because of my studies, however whether my meal is 300kcal or 800kcal really doesn’t bother me because it is all relative and it is about the bigger picture i.e all meals over a longer period of time.
For my university program and in my future job i will have to count calories for others and maybe write meal plans or at least work with food, nutrition, alternatives and all the different recommendations and i luckily have no problem with that. I don’t mind counting calories for others but don’t personally do it for myself.
I don’t find it necessary to count calories, it is time consuming and turns food into just numbers when it is so much more than that. Food has nutrients, energy, different components. There is the standard comparison of diet soda vs a smoothie, and the smoothie has more calories but also has more nutrients and vitamins and minerals. However some days the diet soda might be most optimal and other days maybe the smoothie, one isn’t necessarily better than the other. Or for example sugar free candy v.s nuts. The nuts have more calories but are alot better for you to eat with all the healthy fats and vitamins, fiber and minerals. Low calorie doesn’t mean healthier or better just like high calorie doesn’t mean unhealthy or worse for you. My main tip is to focus on nutrients and eating lots of “whole plant based foods”. Foods that have alot of vitamins and minerals and limit the amount of processed and sugar laden food. If you focus on eating lots of vegetables, grains, fruits, legumes and “whole foods” everyday and then every now and then eating more processed foods. Processed food isn’t necessarily bad, but it shouldn’t make up the whole part of your diet and a too high consumption of those foods can be bad, but too much water or too much potatoes or beans can be unhealthy as well, so it’s about balance. A balance and moderation of all the foods and your whole intake, not to mention that everyone’s balance is different.
Calories aren’t bad. I once thought calories were the worst and anything that had alot of calories was unhealthy. I choose diet noodles over bean pasta and sugar-free candy over real fruit.
I do understand that there are times in life when you may need to count calories or be more aware of how much you are eating, whether it is because you need to gain weight or lose weight, or just to maintain. For example if you maybe get diagnosed with an illness or if you have a complete lifestyle change either from extremely active to very inactive for a longer period of time or vice versa, then it might be god to figure out how much you need and how much you are eating. However my best advice is to go to a dietician or someone to help you with a meal plan. This is so that they can do all the behind work with the cloaries, recommendations,fat,protein,carb ratio etc It also means that you get a meal plan with different altneratives, you get advice and also YOU don’t have to focus on calories instead on maybe portion sizes and different meal alternatives.
Seeing food as just numbers is draining and takes the fun away from cooking and eating food. You just see it as numbers and don’t enjoy the taste or eating more when it’s delicious or trying new foods. Or maybe you are like me… you know the calorie content and count the calories in food but don’t care anyway because you know it really doesn’t matter and as long as my weight is stable and my blood tests are fine i see no point in counting calories or changing how/what i eat.
Do you count calories? Do you find it helpful or a compulsion?