I used to be obsessed with counting calories. I’d turn over to the nutrition facts label of any and every food and scrutinizing how many calories it contained and quickly calculating if I could ‘afford’ to eat it, if it would fit into my daily allowance I set for myself and how much I can eat if I wanted to.
I thought I needed to track my calories in order to know how much to eat as I couldn’t depend on myself to eat in amounts that were right for me. I had zero trust in my ability to regulate my eating in a balanced way. I needed an external indicator of how much I was eating.
My brain was a non stop calculator all through my teen years! I also desperately wanted to lose weight and I thought it was as simple as ‘calories in calories out’ – because everyone knew that, right?
Firstly, the weight your body wants to be at is way more complex than counting calories! So many factors determine body size that are in fact, for the most part, out of our control – such as genetics!
Second, there is a much much simpler way to determine how much food you need to eat – and here’s the secret – you were born with this simple method, which is hard wired into your system!
Imma about to reveal it to you! You ready?
It’s called your internal cues! Your body’s signals of hunger and fullness tell you exactly how much food you need to eat!
Let me explain HOW this works in your body and why you can stop wasting your precious brain space on being a human calculator all day and remove that stress from your life and just enjoy food again!
Calories are Just a Measure of Energy
Let’s begin with understanding what a calorie is and how it functions in your body. Calories are a measure of how much energy that the food provides. All this energy is eventually broken down in your body to be used as fuel so your body can keep living and functioning at its best!
Your Body Has It’s Own Energy Meter
When you eat a meal, your body breaks it down and most of it eventually gets converted to glucose, your body’s preferred fuel source, which can be measured in your blood.
When you eat a meal, your blood sugar will go up. When your body recognizes that you’ve given it fuel and has reached the amount it needs it will signal to you that you’ve had enough. You may feel this as a distended stomach, clearer thinking, more energy, etc.
As time passes, your body utilize the energy it received from your last meal. As your body uses up the glucose in your bloodstream to convert to energy, your blood sugar starts to go down – much like the fuel in your car when you are driving and using up the energy! When your body reaches a level where it needs more fuel to keep function as it needs to – it will begin to send you hunger cues!
You may feel a growling stomach, low energy, unfocused, etc. (more ways to identify hunger can be found here: 3 ways to identify hunger other than a grumbling stomach).
This is a signal that you need to eat and consume those calories aka ENERGY to keep your body going. And the cycle begins again – your body will signal to you when its full and has had enough.
Ya see how this works?
You don’t need to keep counting calories, you need to start trusting and listening to your body!
What About ‘Empty Calories’?
You may say, hold up, not all calories are created equal – what about foods that provide calories with zero nutritional values such as cakes, cookies, etc? Diet culture calls this ‘empty calories’
To an extent, you are right. Not all foods are nutritionally equal, but they are emotionally and morally equivalent. You are not bad for eating a cookie, or good for eating salad. The food choices you make should be rooted in what works for your body and has nothing to do with your character.
In addition, food is not just about nutrition. Food also provides joy, pleasure, connection – all things that delicious foods, nutrient dense or not – can provide! Enjoying all foods without guilt is a healthy eating behavior.
And to take it one step further – if you had nothing to eat but a cookie and you were hungry, eating that cookie will give your body the energy it NEEDS to keep functioning throughout the day. It’s all relative to your situation. So no, it’s not ‘empty calories’!
So next time you ask how many calories something has ask – practice asking instead: how is my body feeling? Will I enjoy this food? How full am I?
You have all the inner wisdom to know how much to eat and giving your body what it needs – without the stress of endless calculations, because there are more important things in life than how many calories something has!
If you’ve been dieting and overriding your internal cues with counting calories, food rules and diet plans – you may find it challenging, confusing, and even frustrating to figure out and recognize your internal cues of hunger and fullness. This doesn’t mean they are not there. Keep practicing, keep listening, keep giving your body what it NEEDS and with time you’ll get better with trusting internal cues as you become the expert of your body!
Need guidance to recover and trust your internal cues so you can know exactly how much to eat without guilt, stress, or counting calories?
Join my 6 week online program Break Free From Binge Eating!
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