Why Worry about Calories? There’s enough to worry about already

 

Rather than count calories, I prefer to follow the kindergarten rules, or what my family calls the cottage rules.

You know, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full. The very basics of listening to your body also include sleeping when you’re tired and going to the bathroom when you get the urge.

Yes, there are days when I don’t heed those signals. Some days I eat too much; other times I eat too little or stay up too late.

In the end, it all evens out…more or less, maybe gaining or losing a few pounds here and there.

Being healthy is the key for me, more than the weight. Feeling energized enough to do what I want to do in life, and fitting comfortably into my clothes.

With so many variables in life draining our worry batteries, something as basic as eating ought not be added to that list. Better to stay present to your body and your food while you eat it, and pay attention to when it’s had enough or needs more.

So, let me expand on some of those rules.

Here’s a rough guide to some of the ways your body talks to you at mealtime, what it might be saying, and how you might want to respond.

1. Hunger is your body’s way of saying your blood sugar’s getting low, i.e. your brain needs food.

Choose something nutrient dense (not refined) to ensure that your blood sugar will stay on an even keel for a good while.

 

2. When you start to feel energized during a meal, that’s a sign you’ve had enough and your digestive tract has started to work on it. Yes, this requires you to slow down and draw a certain amount of awareness to your body as you eat.

Stop eating. (Anything left on your plate can be packed away for snack later, or tomorrow’s lunch.)

 

3. If you feel sluggish at the end of a meal, you may have eaten too much, and more energy than necessary has been diverted to its digestion.

Other than just wait it out, and not engage in anything too strenuous, you can take some bitters to speed the emptying of your stomach.

 

4. Getting jittery or sleepy immediately after you eat starchy/sweet food can be a signal that you’ve eaten too little protein or fat or fibre in that meal/snack.

Eat a stalk of celery, to help your body metabolize the excess sugar, and a handful of nuts or seeds to add protein, fat and fibre into the mix.

 

5. A heavy feeling, like the food’s just sitting in your stomach can be the result of a fat-rich meal. For me, it’s always the creamy dessert at the end of a big meal that does it. Alcohol can also slow down or even stop your digestion.

The heavy feeling may also indicate low stomach acid, especially if you just ate a meat meal. Heartburn, belching, constipation and gas are other symptoms of that state.

Drink a shot of water with lemon juice or apple cider vinegar to stimulate your stomach and get things going.

 

Adolescent rules that also make sense:

When I was 14, my girlfriend and I came up with the rule that if you eat the same number of calories as your best friend, they cancel each other out. We were notorious for making Dagwood-worthy sandwiches and decadently dressed ice cream sundaes, so it was crucial that we find a way to be “allowed” to eat that way and still be true to our Seventeen-inspired world.

There may be no scientific proof, but I still believe in that theory.

Enjoying a meal in the company of people you love, of friends who make you laugh and stimulate your mind – people with whom you can truly be yourself – is just as nourishing to your being as the food on your plate.

Have you ever noticed you can eat some of your no-no food on holiday without issue and you might even lose weight? Or, that you can drink cocktails & wine at a party where you deeply connect with others and get no hangover?

If your heart, your mind and your soul are nourished as well as your body, you raise your vibration, stoke your inner fire, which raises your metabolism. Everything works better, when you’re in your body, in your flow, including your ability to digest, absorb, assimilate and eliminate – you extract the goodness and release anything that doesn’t serve you on all levels.

Which leads me to conclude that the connection to, and expression of, who you are is what matters most to good eating habits. It’s a matter of being your Self.

The bonus? When you’re satiated at a deeper level, you body won’t be looking for the love, connection, attention and fulfillment in a bag of chips or a pint of ice cream.

 

Note: If you’re working hard to lose weight or have just started a running program or intense exercise of some sort, and it’s best that you do count calories for a time, read this first.

 

What do you notice your body doing during a meal? Does it change depending on the day? When you share your thoughts in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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Putting Calories in their Place

I don’t count calories: in life, nor as part of my practice.

I believe in consuming a variety of flavours and textures and colours and quantities. It makes me crazy to hear women talking about food as if it were a number. That said, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to know how many calories it takes to sustain your body.

Let me explain why calories are not something to fear and a 2-step approach to weight loss without counting them.

A calorie is a unit of energy. That’s it.

The number of calories you need in a day is simple math. Energy in = Energy out = Energy needed to maintain health & fuel daily activities.

The ONLY reason it’s important to know how many calories you need is to keep your body humming and carry out your day’s activities, without depleting your system.

Activity here can be exercise, work, thinking, bodily functions, emotional stability, proper sleep, strong immunity, being present to your life in every way.

Without the right amount of energy, your body will start compensating in all sorts of ways that impact your health and ability to perform. Think of how you get all irrational when your blood sugar’s low. With too few calories to maintain the basics, your body will start to cut out “non-essential services” such as reproduction (messing with sex drive, your period, bone density and fertility). I don’t need to tell you all the issues you get into from excess.

Let me put this another way:

We women do a shitload of stuff every day. We need to nourish our bodies properly to keep up with ourselves.

You can’t be the best possible you and show up fully for your life on a latte and a salad.

To determine how much you need to eat in a day, depending on your size and activity level, there are apps for your phone, or you can find an online calorie calculator, such as calculator.net. To give you a general idea, the average person needs about 26 kcal/kg of body weight. For endurance athletes, that could go up to 50 kcal/kg. (If you’re 135 lbs, you’re looking at a minimum of 1600 calories just to maintain healthy functioning of your body.)

Check it out as a reference point. You may learn that you’re taking in too many… or too few calories to sustain your health.

At this point, I invite you to consider this quote from a quote from Albert Einstein:

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

What does this means for you here?

Take some time to count calories and get a sense of how many you need in a day, then throw it all out the window and listen to what your body needs. It’s like when you have your first child, and you read the baby book so much, it’s falling apart. After a few weeks & months, you start to trust yourself as a parent, and one day you “forget” to look in the book, and just go with your gut.

Same with food.

The recommended numbers (calories, grams, servings) are averages. Very few of us do the same thing day in & day out – some days you think more, some days you stay up late. Some days you exercise and others you stay in bed. You can’t expect to need an identical number of calories, grams of protein or whatever nutrient every single day.

How, then, do you get enough to eat in a day?

Two Rules of Eating:

1. Cup your hands in front of you. The size of the bowl it forms is your stomach’s capacity. No matter how often you eat in a day, never eat more at one sitting than can fit in there. It’s the quality and proportion of what you put in the bowl that makes the difference. (Read details in my articles about protein, carbohydrates and fats.)

2. I believe in eating when you’re hungry, and stopping before you feel full. The beauty of this principle is that it forces you to slow down and pay attention to your body, aka putting the emphasis on how you eat.

Learn to listen to what your body needs at a given moment. Are you hungry? What for? Are you thirsty?

We spend so much time worrying about what we should do, that we don’t always listen to what we want & need. What would be completely yummy in this moment? Is it even food?

Scale Series 3The biggest focus on calories, of course, is weight loss. And I don’t deny that for some of us, this is a necessary step. (Many of us, however, just need to improve the distribution of our pounds.) Mathematically, the equation changes temporarily: input < output.

Two steps to reducing calories without counting them:

A. Move your body more and in any way that feels good – even if it’s not terribly fun while you’re in the middle of it! Before changing your eating habits, your metabolism, hunger and body composition will shift.

Bear in mind, the scale won’t budge as quickly, so better to judge by your favourite jeans.

B. Put the emphasis of every meal on vegetables, always eating according to your hunger and stomach capacity (Rules 1 & 2 above). Fill half your plate with these gems that are high in vitamins, minerals, water and fibre, and you automatically displace higher calorie choices. As a bonus you boost elimination of the bits you don’t want.

Make sure to get adequate protein and fat into your day, throw in some whole grains and you’re on your way!

The best part: Once you start making conscious choices according to need, on a regular basis, your body, having felt the difference, will start to ask for the healthy things.

What food rules do you follow when it comes to healthy choices? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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image by Ben Earwicker, Garrison Photography, Boise, ID, www.garrisonphoto.org