Counting calories can severely damage your relationship with food and it can easily get you obsessed, feel guilt, and want to keep striving for an illusion of perfection. There is nothing wrong with having full disclosure of the calories you are consuming. However, there is a difference between understanding complete nutritional information about your food intake, as opposed to blindly practising calorie counting. Constantly counting macros and calories will not only damage your relationship with food and impact your mental health, but also those who live with you.
And so, we spoke to Eshanka Wahi, a wellness advocate and nutrition coach to know more about how counting calories and macros can impact one’s mental health. She started by saying,
While I understand that trying to lose weight without knowing your calories is similar to trying to train for a race without knowing the distance. But it’s not something that should be repeatedly calculated each day. A basic framework needs to be known to achieve weight-loss goals, which should either be done by understanding nutrition deeply before you start your health journey or with the help of a health coach who is not fixated on overtly counting your calories.
Focussing on counting calories often results in restricting some nutrient-dense, healthy whole foods. Especially good fats which are rich in nutrients and vitamins, as these food synergies give you complete nutrition and keep you satiated for a longer period of time.
Categorise health as physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Constantly counting calories is a detriment to mental and emotional health. You need to tap into all of these areas to create a holistic upgrade in lifestyle. If you intricately know your calorie intake, in the long run—it would impact your relationship with food.
To state a simple example of the inward complexity of this math—the same number of calories from different food families will have a completely different impact on your genetic expression, fitness and health. 1000 calories from leafy greens, broccoli and 1000 calories from gummy bears, candy, processed sugar can never be compared to achieve fitness goals.
Moreover, calorie counts can never be precisely accurate because of the complexities of all the variables involved like,
- The quality of food products can never be averaged, depending on factors such as ripeness, organic, frozen or fresh produce.
- The microbiome of everyone’s unique digestive system converts into energy completely differently
- Inaccurate nutrition labels, data errors due to margin of error and so on.
In Eshanka’s opinion, the kind of energy, time and effort that goes into calculating everything that goes into your mouth; is just not worth it!
Not enough emphasis is given on how deeply it can impact mental health and can develop into major body image insecurities. You need to have a healthy relationship with food and eat intuitively when hungry as opposed to counting calories or obsessively measuring food.
It is extremely empowering to know what your body knows best, intuitively! Thus, I highly encourage you to listen to yourself which validates through ‘gut signals’.
Something that Eshanka highly recommends is intuitively eating and below are some of her tips:
- Listen to your gut. The more you listen to it, the louder it gets.
- Need over greed. Eat when you’re hungry and not because you are bored, emotional or just conditioned to eat at a particular time.
- Pay full attention to your meal when you eat and notice how you feel during and after eating it.
- Make it a priority to eat healthy, nutrient-dense food that tastes good too. There are so many options in this category, you just need to intelligently explore.
- Be flexible 10% of the times to eat food for the soul even though you know they are not ‘healthy’. It is okay to be flexible with food sometimes.
- Never compare your health journey, goals and results to another person. Everyone is different. Accept this innately.
Eshanka highly recommends that you create a lifestyle that is based on intuitive eating which will promote an extremely healthy attitude towards food and will make you always love your body. Honour your hunger and feelings, make peace with food, be grateful for what you eat, and respect when you are full.
Your health goals should not be about being strict for a month; it should be a healthy and sustainable lifestyle forever. You should not be miserable while trying to attempt it, so find what works for you, get the guidance, get educated and run with it forever.
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