Is Your Body a Bank Account, Or a Chemistry Lab?

counting calories

 

Like so many people, I’ve had a complicated relationship with food.

As a teenager in the 70’s, I remember my well-respected pediatrician writing down the simple formula for weight loss on a little sheet  of paper: “One gram of carbohydrates
has 4 calories, one gram of protein has 4 calories, and one gram of fat has 9 calories.  So eliminate fat, and you’ll lose weight.”  Wow!  That sounded so easy! And I was good at
math. So I tried it.
“Thus began the calorie-counting, fat-free, processed food era of my life.”
In my mind, I associated dieting with self-deprivation, so I began looking for caloric
“bargains.” It was just like the doctor said; if the food said “fat-free,” it was way
lower in calories.  If it was lower in calories, that meant I could eat more of it and
avoid being hungry!  If it said “sugar-free” AND “fat-free,” I could eat even more!
Over time, I was no longer eating to satisfy hunger or to nourish my body.  It was all about scouring the labels and bargain-hunting (calorie-wise) for the lowest-calorie food.  I had completely lost touch with whether or not I was hungry.
Weren’t we all playing the same game?
This rather disjointed view of food continued into adulthood.  All three times I was pregnant, I gained a whopping 50 pounds. After all, I was eating for two, so I felt entitled to more food.  It was good for the baby, wasn’t it?  (I must have forgotten that one of us only weighed a few ounces!)  In order to lose the weight after each pregnancy, I would start counting things again – sometimes food exchanges
(remember those?), sometimes points, and sometimes calories.  But as soon as
I stopped counting, measuring, or else inevitably started cheating the system,
the weight would start to sneak back on.  Looking back, I see that I was treating my body like a bank account, counting debits in (food) and credits out (exercise).
For the record, counting calories isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but that method backfired on me, and perhaps it backfired on others as well. Yes, counting calories can be a very successful method for weight loss.  Research does show that when people start writing down their food, they begin to eat less simply because the act of writing makes them more aware of what they’re eating.  I get it.  And it’s absolutely true.
But as I learned more about nutrition, I knew I was eating way too many chemicals and processed foods.  The media started to report that fat was GOOD for you, and that it was necessary to eat it.  But I still wouldn’t “splurge” for it, calorie-wise.  Everything was
sugar-free, fat-free and processed. Deep down, I knew that wasn’t a healthy way to eat.
I wasn’t paying enough attention to the quality of the food I was eating.
I don’t know how or when it finally dawned on me what my mistake was;
IT’S NOT ABOUT MY WEIGHT, AND IT NEVER WAS.
In the end, it’s about HEALTH.
THE HUMAN BODY IS MORE LIKE A CHEMISTRY LAB THAN A BANK ACCOUNT.
 It’s all about the QUALITY of the food and how it interacts with the body.
That’s when I made a shift in my eating habits.
The shift is that now I look for nutrition bargains instead of caloric bargains! I look for the food that has the most nutrients per serving instead of the least calories.  Wow!  What a concept!
One by one, I changed each meal around:  coffee and a veggie omelet for breakfast, using coconut oil in the pan; a salad with chicken or fish, some nuts and FULL-FAT dressing (GASP)!  Snack is my splurge – usually a high-protein Quest bar.  Dinner has 2 hot veggies and some lean protein again.  And wine sometimes.  And I thoroughly enjoy a gooey chocolate dessert once a week.
I feel so much better now.  No more counting, no sweet cravings, no energy dips, and no frustration over the scale anymore.  It takes care of itself now because I’m eating much more nutrient-dense food.  My food and I now have a healthier relationship.
Does calorie-counting work well for you?  Or did you have a similar experience to mine?