How many of you can honestly say you’ve gone your entire life without counting a calorie or thinking about a morsel of food’s after affects on your body (or your psyche)?
I can completely relate to the vicious food relationship cycle. I used to have what I thought was a healthy bond with all of my foods- french fries (my carbs), chicken nuggets (my protein), & a Yoplait made with REAL fruit yogurt for my fruit servings.
When you’re focusing on constantly trying to achieve and be your best, it may appear that counting calories falls into the same realm your bank account does. You add each meal’s calories up and subtract any extra if you have done even the tiniest bit of exercise. You then reward yourself with a before bedtime snack because you adhered to this archaic, unsuccessful system, but in reality you just negated any bit of physical activity you accomplished. You are a human being and entitled to live a little!
We are not Pavlov’s dogs. We are not meant as human beings to be tortured by break room goodies, saying no to breakfast due to an indulgent meal the night before, or even forcing ourselves to consume bland salads and juice fasts for a week post vacation due to the “damage that was done.”
America breeds a society of “fetch and rewarders”. We are all told from a young age if we complete a task, we will receive a reward. While this may hold true in terms of career, relationships, and spiritual beliefs, it doesn’t jive well when it comes to the realm of nutrition.
As humans we all need a certain amount of nutrients per day to survive and function properly. This varies based on the individual, but in general, we are born with the ability to decipher between satiation and hunger.
The problem enlies with our endless 24/7 food supply in the United States. We all know that pizza after a night on the town is a no-brainer. We know fast food restaurants cater to our palate’s every desire at the push of a gas pedal. We also know the impending frustration faced with having to keep our nutritional goals/needs in track and then obsessing about all of those non-nutritious foods we have rewarded ourselves with.
I have totally been a calorie counter/food obsessor. I laugh now, but in college I would literally estimate how many calories I had left to drink after I had just eaten literally my carbs and fats for THE WEEK! (without me knowing)
I didn’t learn this until a few years ago, but honestly, calorie labels are an invention of corporate conglomerates. They are meant to “guide” the public into believing they are obtaining or not obtaining daily nutritional needs from their products.
The worst caveat is that our marketing skills have become so much similar to real facts that we are no longer able to distinguish between what’s healthy for us versus what isn’t. Many times the circus of advertising on our meats, dairy, poultry, cereal and even fruit clouds our ability to even begin to turn over that box of mostly sugared cereal and actually take the time to read the ingredient list.
My advice to anyone who wishes to break free from the calorie obsessing cycle is to read the ingredients before even deciphering the calories/fat/protein/fiber of a particular product. Often times if an ingredient list begins with sugar or refined flour, you’ll want to put that item down. It’s EMPTY calories and will only create a further hunger within you.
While calorie counting is something I do not advocate, food journaling is absolutely 100% acceptable and encouraged. I feel that if you are trying to reach a particular goal keeping track of what you eat, how much you’re eating and when you’re eating it is an excellent tool for success.
I don’t currently food journal as I have become so accustomed to my portion sizes/eating times that it’s something I literally do in my sleep. I tend to make sure I have more than half of my plate filled with vegetables, a small side of a whole grain (quinoa, millet, teff, farro, brown rice) and a protein (eggs, chickpeas, protein powder). I also find that it helps to segment your portions for meals into small tupperware containers for the week. Meal prep is a plan I swear by!
My last suggestion for living a calorie free lifestyle is to gauge how you feel after eating certain foods or consuming certain beverages. Pay attention to your mental as well as physical state of being. In general refined/convenience foods create a fogginess/exhaustion within us while foods that are natural empower us with vitality and energy throughout our day.
If you have a serious tie to counting calories/food obsessing and aren’t able to break away you may honestly want to seek some help. It could be a form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and is not uncommon to occur in America these days, especially when it comes to the topic of food.
Peace, love, & healthy relationships with food!