- Robin Rhine McDonald
Are all calories created equal?
By the end of college, I had gained about 20 pounds. Part of that was because I was super skinny in high school, and could stand to put on some womanly weight, haha. During those four years, though, it was hard to see the number on the scale go higher and higher. To combat those numbers, I went through different seasons of calorie counting in hopes of reaching my goal weight.
I didn't skip meals, Lord knows I couldn't, and I definitely didn't over do it with exercise. But I'd yo-yo with my weight. I'd be super strict on my calories for a season, lose the weight I wanted, then after a few months of not being so strict, I'd gain it back and more.
I remember one night in particular where my calorie counting really missed the whole healthy eating thing. I'd barely eaten anything all day, because I knew I was going to a campus event where there would be tons of desserts. I saved 1000 of my daily calories for free consumption of these desserts. When I got to that event, I went to town on cheese cake, cookies, chocolates... everything they had available. To my surprise, I didn't lose any weight that week.
In certain seasons, calorie counting was super effective. I really did lose the weight, even while eating the less than healthy foods. These days, though, I never count calories, and I've maintained my weight the longest I have since... I don't even remember.
Change in weight, whether more or less, is most beneficial and sustainable when it is primarily motivated by the desire to be healthy.
So let's get to it!
Are calories important?
Shouldn't they be counted.
The actual definition of a calorie is the amount of energy produced by a certain weight of food. However, if we allow ourselves to think that all calories are made equal, we might as well say that a pound of feathers is just as effective in building a wall as a pound of bricks.
The reality is, your body needs food for energy, and it will take what it gets to produce that energy. Yes, we can count macros and find the balance that will provide that energy. But at the end of the day, are we getting the nutrients we need?
What we eat directly effects the rest of our body, in all areas. Yes, ALL areas. When we eat, our body is expecting to receive nutrients. When we eat foods that do not actually possess those necessary nutrients like bread, candy, and other processed foods, our digestive system tells our brain, "Hey! We're still not getting what we need, you should probably eat more." People are likely to eat 30% more food when they start their meal with sugar or other high glycemic foods. When we eat nutrionally dense foods, our body will experience the benefit, and thank you with more energy, less stress, more focus, and many other gifts we're designed to get when we eat well.
It may seem that we have more control over our health when we count calories, but the reality is, unless we're eating nutrient-rich foods, we're not really controlling our health, we're controlling calories. That's because, the number of calories you eat does not translate to whether or not you are healthy. So if we're eating 1500 calories of primarily breads, cheese, and meat without any significant amounts of fruits or vegetables... we're not healthy. In contrast, eating 1500 calories of leafy greens, fish, nuts, seeds, organic chicken, and berries means you're probably healthy because you're eating foods that actually benefit your body.
Health shouldn't be about finding control. Health should be about living in the freedom of choice, and finding it in yourself by the grace of God to choose what's best for you - just like any other area of your life.
My encouragement to you is to toss the calorie counter, and consider what foods will actually bring you the nutrients you need to feel satisfied, to have energy, and to function the way you were made to.
For help on seeing which foods have the highest amounts of nutrients check out the ANDI or NUVAL food scoring systems. They both help provide insight to where you can get the best sources of nutrients for your diet.
In order to get even close to what our body needs for nutrition in a given day, we're supposed to consume 9-13 vegetables and fruits a day. I can honestly say that on a good day, I get to 5. Not only that, but even if you purchase all of those servings of fruits and veggies from the organic section, you're still not likely to get the nutrition you need to function optimally and fight degenerative disease. That's why I take Usana's multivitamin complex, Cellsentials along with several other antioxidant boosting supplements. I am a big advocate for a healthy diet and exercise, but I have not seen evidence that those are enough to provide my body with all of the nutrition it needs to thrive.
I hope this has helped you understand the answer to the age old question about calories.
Be well, friend!