As you start your food freedom journey, many questions may arise & 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 life.
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. I must count my calories, otherwise I’m screwed.
But here’s the thing, girl.
It’s just an estimated value. And, no matter how many calories we eat, we mostly don’t absorb all of them anyways. There’s much more that goes on in our digestion, metabolism & 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 & 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 & asked how did they calculate the values, how is it possible the papers to say 10% & 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 & calorie values on the packages are just an estimate. As someone who used to obsses about every single calorie I consumed, this evoked some pretty mixed feelings – I’ve wasted so much time worrying about something that wasn’t even a 100% 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 & teach others to be free as well.
1. CALORIE VALUES ARE NOT 100% CORRECT
You see, 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 + allowed.
So, for example, you think you’re consuming 400 calories, but in fact you could be consuming 320 or 480 calories. Not something I’d like to rely on myself & 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.
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, some calories go through our digestive system & we don’t absorb them at all. The value of what we absorb vs. what goes out undigested is different from food to food & from person to person, since we’re all unique.
Lets say you ate a couple of walnuts & 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. So you end up wasting your precious time & energy to measure calories eaten & 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 & giving your energy to things that matter to you. 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 & 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 & 0-3% by digesting fats.
4. YOU ARE UNIQUE
How we absorb calories is unique & variable. Just as each of us is unique, our digestive system is unique as well. That’s a wonderful news because it confirms you don’t need anyone to tell you what, when & how much to eat – your body already knows exactly what it needs. No specific program can reflect that with 100% accuracy.
Therefore, the only logical solution to your food troubles is getting to know yourself, build up relationship with yourself & trust yourself!
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!
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 suddenly have 172 calories.
The more food is processed, the more calories we absorb.
Yet, so many of us are lead to believe that if we’d just count + measure everything we eat, we could control our size. Not that simple, ha?
OMG, WHAT CAN I DO ABOUT THIS?!
Super glad you’ve asked!
With so many variables determining our calorie intake, it’s easy to get confused & feel even worse about food.
However, there is a way to make peace with food & it starts with letting go.
Just let go of the judgement & give it your best shot to tune in with you body. Trust your body to know exactly what you need & how much you need.
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.
I promise you, the more you connect with yourself, with your body, the easier it gets to let go of obsession + judgement.
Instead of relying on outer factors like time, meal plans, calorie counts to tell you what you need – rely on yourself.
I know, this seems SUPER scary when you first start – and I’m not gonna lie, it is super scary, but it’s totally worth it.
You are 100% worthy of freedom. You are worthy of giving yourself time, patience & tons of love on this journey.
Building a strong, loving relationship with yourself + food is not easy nor quick. 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 & notice how much willpower you have to do so. Then ask yourself what would happen if you use that willpower, time & energy on building a loving relationship with yourself.
Magic – that’s what happens.
Start small, but start now!
Don’t expect too much of yourself & don’t expect the journey to be linear, because it’s not. Nature moves in seasons, cycles & so do you.
If one day you’re right on track with building your self-love & 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 & let go. Then you’ll be free to move onto new adventures.
If you need guidance & 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,