I remembered feeling a little empowered stepping into a gym to fulfill my New Year’s resolution. Because what can be more empowering being in control of your adulthood? It was mid-March, but better late than never.
Similar to the widespread of convenience stores popping up like mushrooms in every crook and cranny, gyms are franchising rather quickly, all fully equipped with the latest equipment and state-of-the-art technology. And one high-tech fitness apparatus that established gyms would have is this particular weighing scale that scans your total body composition. From body fat, to your water retention, this apparatus measures it all. And from that, you’re formulated an optimal fitness target, of which it projects the amount of calories you should take each day.
With calorie counting, I didn’t see food as what it was. Instead, I saw them as numbers.
It was honestly interesting to see what Science had to say about my fitness level, and I did my best to abide by it. So aside from working out, I listened to Science and calorie counted my way to health. After a month’s in, I lost weight, became super fit and felt very beautiful, but at the same time, I was mostly unhappy and depressed, where guilt became a common emotion that came creeping in every other day.
With calorie counting, I didn’t see food as what it was. Instead, I saw them as numbers. My mind would immediately calculate the number of calories of each dish, and like a spreadsheet, I would mentally do transactions of my daily calorie intake minus the calories I already eaten to see if I could afford for the remaining calories of a single piece of Kale chip. And if I exceed my calorie count, guilt will come creeping in as an attempt to devour the surplus calories.
For the sake of my mental state, I eventually gave up calorie counting. I actually never enjoyed it and was so afraid I would develop an eating disorder. It also got me thinking if calorie counting is truly an accurate and ideal way for anyone to lose weight. So here’s what I found:
Calorie Counting Does Work
I’m not saying calorie counting doesn’t work for weight loss. It does. As mentioned before, I saw the abs of my labour with regular exercise. From the two hard-boiled eggs I had for breakfast, to the protein shake I guzzled down after a workout, I noted the number of calories down on a food diary. Ugh, I know right – a diary for food. But what affected me with calorie counting was my emotional well-being, and decided that being happy was so much important than a hot bod.
Word of the Day: Insulin
Found in your pancreas, insulin is a hormone that is responsible for absorbing glucose, which serves as energy and can be converted to fat, in the blood. So eating the right kinds of food affect the way insulin responds in your body, in a way we metabolise or store calories. Unhealthy food that raises insulin turns into fats, while whole foods, which take longer to digest, don’t raise insulin therefore is definitely a healthier way of eating.
Quality Trumps Quantity
Calories are described as units of heat to measure energy. It doesn’t nourish your body, but gives it energy. So put it plainly, there is no such thing as a calorie different from another. One calorie found in a piece of fruit, is the same as one calorie found in a slice of cake. The only difference is the nutrients found in the respective food types that nourish your body with vitamins and minerals in carbs, fats and protein. Nutrients are what make or break your health.
Restricting Your Consumption
Remember that different food metabolised differently. Hence, focusing on just calories would restrict you from nutritious food. Be educated with healthier alternatives like food that contains complex carbs, lean protein and healthy fats. Consider the benefits you’re getting from these real foods instead of doing the math for the calories intake.
The Inaccuracy of Calorie Counting
Unless you always prepare your food with fresh ingredients, you most probably won’t exactly know how many calories are there in say, something you ordered in a restuarant or something you purchased off the shelf. It is also reported that calorie value listed on a label of a packaged item are not accurate. So if your food labels is not able to give you the right calorie figures, then doesn’t it defeat the purpose of calorie counting?
Eating shouldn’t never be overly-analysed. Speaking from experience, it isn’t fun to see my food as plate of numbers, and you shouldn’t too. Listen to your body, have that slice of cake and allow your body to naturally find its own shape of health.