I have a confession.
I used to be a calorie and points counting, scale watching, and weight obsessed basic chick.
I would be that person that read ingredient labels, tracked calories in my cell phone, and researched the amount of calories in meals online before ordering take out from a restaurant.
I also had a love-hate relationship with restaurants that started adding the amount of calories right on the menu. On one hand, I was like "Yes, less work for me to do" and I could just choose the meal with the least amount of calories. On the other hand, when I felt like eating something with more calories, it left me feeling guilty and awful when I saw the number screaming out at me from the menu.
Needless to say, my days of counting calories or points (or watching the scale) are over, THANK GOD!
I just don't believe its necessary, healthy, or beneficial to your overall wellness.
The biggest take away I've realized about calories is that ALL CALORIES ARE NOT CREATED EQUAL.
That 150 calorie pack of cookies is not going to assimilate in your body the same way 150 calorie salad would. It's like comparing apples to oranges. They are just two completely different things and affect your body in completely different ways.
A lot of times when you stick to counting calories and a specific number of calories per day, but you don't actually pay attention to the quality of the food you are putting in your body then you are more likely to feel hungry and unsatisfied throughout the day.
So, if I gave up counting calories and points, then how do I keep track of what I'm eating and how do I know if I'm eating too much or too little?
Well, first of all, I didn't give up ALL counting.
Only now, I count ingredients and/or chemicals. My main philosophy is to not eat anything with more than 5 ingredients in it. If a certain food contains a list of ingredients 2 miles long than most likely it is NOT a whole food and it most definitely contains chemicals that I just would rather not put in my body.
Another philosophy I have is to not eat anything that has ingredients that I can't even pronounce. I mean, if you can't say the word and you have no idea what it is, why would you want to consume it? I feel a lot better if I KNOW what I'm eating.
Lastly, I try to focus on eating whole foods that come directly from the earth. I try to stick to the outside parameter at the grocery store while avoiding the dairy section. When choosing mostly vegetables and fruits, there's no ingredients list to read so it makes it a whole lot easier!
If you are wondering how to know if you are eating too much or too little without keeping track of your calories, it all comes down to your intuition. A post all about intuitive eating is coming up which will really break it down for you, but for now, it's all about paying attention to when you are hungry and when you are full. Be aware of your hunger and fullness cues and truly listen to them to prevent under or overeating.
Now, I want to make it clear that by no means am I saying I'm perfect (or that you should be) or that I will never have something that has 6 ingredients in it. There are sometimes exceptions or circumstances where my options are limited. Also, I am a total believer in the 80/20 rule where I try to eat heathy 80% of the time and the other 20% of the time I'm more lenient with my choices.
I love food WAY too much to be overly strict or stick to any specific way of eating 100% of the time.
I've also found that when you obsess about eating a certain way or if you are too strict with the foods you eat, then you are more likely to crave and obsess over the food that you "can't have" which can just lead to emotional and binge eating or other eating disorders.
So to make it super simple for you, here are my tips for eating healthy, that do not involve counting calories:
1. Eat whole foods (vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, beans, nuts, seeds)
2. Choose foods with 5 ingredients or Less
3. Shop the outside parameter at the grocery store
4. Honor Your Hunger & Fullness
5. Stick to the 80/20 rule
When you eat this way, the calories will not matter. You will be nourishing your body with healthy, whole foods and you will be listening to your hunger and fullness cues which will help you from overeating.
Are you a calorie counter? Does it scare the crap out of you to think of not counting those calories? I'd love to hear your thoughts!