If Counting Calories Doesn’t Work, Do This Instead

Associating food to numbers has never worked well for me. Actually, associating food with anything at all has always been confusing to me. I can’t call food good or bad. I can’t describe my lunch as being 600 calories, or my dinner as being 450.

Photo by Pickled Stardust on Unsplash

Humans are creatures of habits. For ages now, we have been taught that doing something bad deserves punishment, and doing something good grants a reward. Per this logic, I would think that eating bad (unhealthy) food deserves punishment, and eating good (healthy) food grants a reward. Unfortunately, I only ended up punishing myself and never rewarding myself.

If I used that logic with bad food, why couldn’t I with good food?

Humans are wired for negativity. As a human in my early 20s discovering living life independently (which largely includes being responsible to feed myself) I learned how important it is for me to have a good relationship with what I’m eating.

“Negative information causes a surge in activity in a critical information processing area of the brain, our behaviors and attitudes tend to be shaped more powerfully by bad news, experiences, and information.” — Kendra Cherry

Counting calories makes me obsess over every single thing I consume in a day. Instead of ordering what I really want at a coffee shop, I start to think about how many calories my drink has. Logically, I begin thinking if I’ve had 300 calories from my drink, I should probably reduce my dinner by 300 calories as my latte made up for it. (red flag!!)

What Do I Do Instead Of Counting Calories?

Intuitive eating! It is a very fun way of being mindful of what you’re eating and improving your attitude towards your body image. Most importantly, it’s a fun way to stay sane.

Intuitive eating means not following a diet of any sort, and primarily focuses on listening to your body and your hunger cues. Listen to your cravings, satisfy them in a healthy and moderated way (although the occasional overeating is bound to happen, like on Thanksgiving for example, and is perfectly okay!), and move on with the rest of your day. It is an attempt to decrease the binge effect that comes with the restriction of sugar, fried food, or anything else that’s bad.

Here’s how to get started with Intuitive Eating

  1. Say NO! to diets and restrictions
  2. Listen to your body and pay attention to when you are hungry and when you are full.
  3. Accept all food as equal — no “good” and “bad”
  4. Indulge in the satisfaction factor that comes with satisfying cravings, instead of putting them off and binge eating later
  5. Exercise in a way that you enjoy most and feel the most healthy — walk, run, weight lifting, yoga, you name it. Keep your body moving.
  6. Take care of your health — mentally, physically, emotionally. Eat what is good for you, and what makes you feel good.
  7. Take care of emotional eating by finding another means of channeling those emotions — writing, exercising, talking, screaming into a pillow, whatever works for you.
  8. Respect your body image — this is a tough one, I know. But it gets a lot easier after accepting you’re no longer eating good/bad food.

I’m Not Saying EVERYONE Should Stop Counting Calories

Oddly enough, a lot of people mistake their relationship with their mind, body, and food to be something that is in common with other people. How can it be? We each have unique minds and bodies, so it seems obvious that we each don’t eat the same way, and we each prefer different methods of staying mindful of what we’re eating.

I may not be good with counting calories, but one of my closest friends counts calories as part of her routine from time to time because she enjoys knowing and being in control of the number of macronutrients eaten per meal.

I would never enforce my habits upon her, nor would she enforce hers upon mine. What we do enforce between each other are support and positive energy!

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Meghana Murthy

Meghana Murthy

Data Science | Octane | New York City | Books | Piano | Music