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?

The Top Ten Food Lies That Keep Us Overweight – Part Two

The Next Five Food Lies:  Part Two

In the last blog, I exposed the First Five Food Lies:

1.  All calories are created equal.

2.  All you need is willpower.

3.  Diet soda is better than regular soda.

4.  Low-fat foods are good for you.

5.  Whole grain foods are good for you.

 

Now let’s take a look at five more food lies that keep us overweight:

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6.  Eggs are Unhealthy For You – FALSE!  Eggs are just one of those foods that seems to be surrounded with controversy.  A lot of the debate has to do with the large amount of cholesterol in eggs.  According to Dr. Jon Berardi, founder of Precision Nutrition, research consistently shows that the cholesterol you eat has very little impact on how much cholesterol is in your blood.  (There’s only one possible exception here: diabetics and the 0.2 percent of the population with familial hypercholesterolemia. More research has to be done to confirm this.)  In fact, in controlled trials, when people were instructed to eat 3 whole eggs per day, they LOST weight, experienced decreased inflammation, and either maintained or improved their blood cholesterol levels.

Bottom line: Unless you have diabetes or a rare genetic disorder, eating a few eggs every day is not bad for you. In fact, egg yolks are one of the most nutrient-dense, antioxidant-rich and vitamin-laden foods on the planet!

victim card

7.  It’s All About Genetics – FALSE!  While it is true that there are genes associated with obesity, only 9% of overweight and obese people have the genetic or hormonal defect that predispose them to being heavy.  It is more likely that your weight is directly related to the habits of the environment you were raised in.  Even if you don’t eat exactly the way your parents do, it was within your home that you learned how to cook (or if you cook), what to eat, and how much to eat.  Plus, although our genes only change 2% every 20,000 years, by the year 2050, it is estimated that over 50 % of Americans will be obese (up from the current 35%).   What has changed over the last century has not been our genes, but our eating habits.  We have gone from eating about 10 pounds of sugar per person per day in 1800, to currently eating about 152 pounds of sugar per person per day!

Bottom line:  Obesity is caused by all kinds of factors, but genetics is the least of them.  The good news is that you can change this!

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8.  Milk Is Nature’s Perfect Food – FALSE!  This one was a tough one for me to get my head around.  I was raised to think that dairy was an ideal source of calcium and protein.  But there are several reasons why this isn’t the case.  Many people have adverse reactions to milk – inflammation, allergies, sinus congestion, intestinal issues, and asthma.  Milk also spikes insulin, which encourages abdominal fat.  According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of “The 10-Day Detox Diet,” it may increase the risk of bone fractures and osteoporosis, and even increase the risk of types 1 and 2 diabetes. If that’s not enough, think about it this way; in nature, milk is provided at times when you want to experience exponential levels of growth (infancy).  Soooo, if you’d like to grow at an exponential rate, drink lots of milk!

Bottom line:  Milk doesn’t always do a body good.  Get your calcium from green leafy vegetables instead!

Do low carb diets really workWeb

9.  Low-Carb Diets Are Bad For You – FALSE  First, let’s define a low-carb diet:  a diet that restricts the type and amount of carbohydrates you eat, typically a daily limit of 60 to 130 grams (or 240-520 calories per day).  The idea behind the low-carb diet is that decreasing carbs lowers your insulin levels, which causes the body to burn stored fat for energy which ultimately leads to weight loss. Here’s my take on it;  most overweight people don’t realize that they are actually on extremely HIGH-carbohydrate diets, and all research indicates that high-carb diets are not good for you.   When you substitute vegetables for the white flour and sugar (the bulk of carbs in the standard American diet), you will dramatically reduce your caloric intake and increase your vitamins and nutrients.  Don’t forget that vegetables and fruit are carbohydrates, too.  But back to the question – are low carb diets dangerous?  No.  Studies show that low-carb diets may help prevent metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood sugar, and cardiovascular disease, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Bottom line:  A low-carbohydrate diet is a highly effective, healthy way to lose weight and reverse metabolic disease.

eating frequently

10.  You Should Eat Frequent, Small Meals Throughout The Day – FALSE!  At first glance, this one appears to make sense.  The idea is that by eating frequently, you speed up your metabolism all day, and therefore improve your ability to burn more calories, right?  This idea has been put to the test and refuted multiple times; there is no significant difference whatsoever in terms of “speeding up your metabolism.”  As long as your total daily calorie and nutrient intake remains what it needs to be, the manner in which you consume those calories/nutrients just doesn’t matter. Plus, it’s impractical to be eating constantly.   According to Jillian Michaels, celebrity master trainer on “The Biggest Loser,” by grazing around the clock, you’re preventing your body from burning fat, and causing yourself to lose track of the calories you’ve consumed!   Jillian recommends eating every four hours to stabilize your blood sugar, optimize insulin production and manage hunger.

Bottom line:  For weight loss, keep it simple; eat three balanced meals, plus a snack between lunch and dinner.