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5 BIGGEST REASONS WHY CALORIE COUNTING IS BULLSHIT!

As you start your food freedom journey, many questions may arise and a part of you will be struggling to just let it go, begin focusing on tuning into your inner hunger/satiety cues instead of a meal plan dictating your food intake.

One of these may be – how the hell am I supposed to stop counting calories, it’s what’s keeping me in control. If I let myself go, who knows how many calories I’d consume. If I give myself an unconditional permission to eat, I’d never stop (this is one of the most common fears when it comes to intuitive eating – it’s just restriction speaking, I promise). I must count my calories, otherwise I’m screwed.

But here’s the thing.

Counting calories is bullshit. Click To Tweet

Calories are just an estimated value. And, no matter how many calories we eat, we mostly don’t absorb all of them anyways. Especially when you’re dieting – stress negatively impacts our digestion, which means you don’t absorb nutrients from food as well as you would if you were feeling at peace around food. There’s much more that goes on in our digestion, metabolism and calorie absorption than a number on a package could tell you.

I remember when I was attending seminar while I was still studying to become nutritionist, my mentor told us an interesting story. She was researching some percentage values for nutrition guidelines and the values she got just didn’t work. She spent hours trying to figure out how did the team get 10% value for a specific nutrient when she was getting 8,4% over and over again. After starting to seriously doubt her own math skills, she called the team and asked how did they calculate the values, how is it possible the papers to say 10% and she kept on getting just 8,4%. The answer was: “You’re completely right, it is 8,4%, but we rounded it up.”

What I learned that day was that nutrition guidelines and calorie values on the packages are just an estimate. And this is completely normal. As someone who used to obsses over every single calorie I consumed (I used to put even my spinach on the scale before eating it), this evoked some pretty mixed feelings – I’ve wasted so much time worrying about something that wasn’t even a correct information. I let rough estimates decide my self worth.

I’ve felt kinda silly, I gave so much of my energy to something that deceived me. On the other hand, I felt even more determined to be free and teach others to be free as well.

1. CALORIE VALUES ARE NOT 100% CORRECT

Calorie values on the packages can be up to 20% wrong; they are just averages. Before you freak out, let me tell you; this is totally legit and allowed. Mainly because it’s near impossible to determine the exact number.

So, for example, you think you’re consuming 400 calories, but in fact you could be consuming 320 or 480 calories. You’re there, weighing your poor spinach, and the results aren’t even correct. You spend your precious time calculating how many calories more you’re “allowed” to eat that day… and the results aren’t even true.

Not something I’d like to rely on myself and certainly not something I’d like you to obsses about.

Translate this into your daily calculated intake: if you’re on some crazy diet that allows, lets say, 1500 calories per day you could be consuming 1200 or 1800 calories – while going through the trouble of restriction, measuring your food, ruining your mental and physical health. Stressed out, anxious. And for what?

A dangerous way to measure your worth, don’t you think?

2. CALORIE ABSORPTION

After you measure your portions listening to labels that are not 100% correct, your counting troubles are not over.

The problem is, calories go through our digestive system and we don’t absorb them at all. The value of what we absorb vs. what goes out undigested is different from food to food and from person to person, since we’re all unique. And it changes! Also, stress impacts how much nutrients (and calories) you absorb; so you may be eating a carrot “for health”, feeling anxious and stressed because you really, really wished it was a donut – and then your body can’t even absorb the nutrients properly. Diets are a major waste of time (and money, energy and health).

Lets say you ate a couple of walnuts and carefully read your label which stated that 30g contains 220 calories. However, reseach shows we absorb around only around 79% walnut calories – that’s 21% less than what you give yourself credit for! It’s a significant difference, making it only around 175 calories. You end up wasting your precious time and energy to measure calories eaten while they don’t even get absorbed.

But it’s okay – you’re reading this which means you’re on the right track to spend this precious time loving yourself and giving your energy to things that matter! And that’s amazing! So proud of you!!

3. THERMIC EFFECT OF FOOD

Another thing a number on a package can’t show you is energetic cost of metabolism. Different foods require different amount of calories to actually get digested, absorbed and processed.

Yes, digestion “burns” calories – which is just another factor of why counting them is pointless. Your body needs calories to chew food, to break it down to nutrients, to absorb these nutrients & to transport them around.

Thermic effect varies depending on the type of food you eat. For example, you’ll burn 20-30% of calories eaten just by digesting proteins, 5-10% by digesting carbs and 0-3% by digesting fats.

4. YOU ARE UNIQUE

How we absorb calories is unique and variable. Just as each of us is unique, our digestive systems are unique as well. That’s a wonderful news because it confirms you don’t need anyone to tell you what, when and how much to eat – your body already knows exactly what it needs. No specific program can reflect that with accuracy.

Therefore, the only logical solution to your food troubles is getting to know yourself, build up relationship with yourself and trust the wisdom of your body with practicing intuitive eating.

Our gut bacteria play a huge role in the way we absorb calories. Depending on the ratios of gut bacteria, some people absorb more or less calories. People with more Firmicutes bacteria absorb more calories then people with higher levels of Bacteroidetes! Sure, gut bacteria is not an only variable there is when it comes to calorie absorption, but it’s a great indicator of how much we cannot control the absorption – and therefore, it’s pointless to waste our time trying. (Not to mention other negative effects of dieting)

5. FOOD PREPARATION VS. CALORIES

As if it wasn’t defeating enough to spend so much energy on measuring deceitful numbers – they change when you prepare your meal.

Just chopping your food increases the calories we can absorb. The same happens when you process food in any way – either by blending it or cooking. Labels you read don’t take this into consideration.

For example, 100g raw potatoes have 146kcal. However, when you bake them in the oven, they have 172 calories.

The more food is processed, the more calories we absorb. Which makes sense; mostly, cooked food is easier to digest than raw food.

Yet, so many of us are lead to believe that if we’d just count and measure everything we eat, we could control our calorie intake, and therefore our weight. Not that simple, ha?

So many of us are lead to believe that if we’d just count and measure everything we eat, we could control our calorie intake, and therefore our weight. It's not that simple! Click To Tweet

WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS?!

Glad you’ve asked!

With so many variables determining our calorie intake, it’s easy to get confused and feel even worse about food.

However, there is a way to make peace with food and it starts with letting go.

There is a way to make peace with food and it starts with letting go. Click To Tweet

Just let go of the judgement and give it your best shot to tune in with you body. Trust your body to know exactly what you need and how much you need. Your body holds wisdom way beyond what our minds can comprehend. Your body knows everything it needs to keep you alive and at your own, unique health. Listen. 

In the beginning, this seems like a daunting task, but, like everything else in life, it can be learned. And learning comes with practice. Luckily for us, we eat every day, multiple times a day – there’s a lot of room for practicing.

If you feel like you’d love to have some support on your journey back into your body, you can reach out to me or you can learn more in my course Peace with Food, that has over a thousand happy students.

I promise you, the more you connect with yourself, with your body, the easier it gets to let go of obsession and judgement.

Instead of relying on external factors like time, meal plans, calorie counting to tell you what you need – rely on yourself.

No matter what diet culture might have told you, you CAN trust your body. Your body knows.

I know, this seems SUPER scary when you first start – and I’m not gonna lie, it is scary, but it’s totally worth it.

You are 100% worthy of freedom. You are worthy of giving yourself time, patience and tons of love on this journey.

Building a strong, loving relationship with yourself and food is not a “quick fix”. But the discoveries you’ll made on your journey are life-changing.

Just think about how much time you spend counting calories, restricting yourself, punishing yourself, judging yourself and notice how much willpower you have to do so. Then ask yourself what would happen if you use that willpower, time, money and energy on building a loving relationship with yourself.

Magic – that’s what happens.

YOUR TURN

Start small, but start now!

Don’t expect too much of yourself and don’t expect the journey to be linear, because it’s not. It never is. Nature moves in seasons, cycles and so do you.

If one day you’re right on track with building your food freedom and the next day you feel bad about yourself, know that it’s completely normal. It doesn’t mean you’ve failed, it means you’re human.

Notice the feelings, acknowledge them, feel them and let go. Then you’ll be free to move onto new adventures.

Notice the feelings, acknowledge them, feel them and let go. Then you’ll be free to move onto new adventures. Click To Tweet

If you need guidance and support – I’m here for you. Feel free to reach out!

Also, if someone you know would benefit from reading this, please share it with them. It could help! Thank you!

Lots of love,

Nina

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