I started counting calories in college. I was trying to lose weight, as women are instructed to do by every magazine, every TV show, every ad in between the TV shows, in movies, in diet books, in real life. Funny thing about women is that many of us can rattle off the calorie counts of certain foods like we were taught to memorize the presidents in elementary school. It’s not behavior you can unlearn easily.
Eggs. X calories each. Wine. X calories. Olive oil. X calories. X Goldfish crackers = X calories. If I just skimp on the oil in my salad I can shave off a few calories to hit my goal in MyFitnessPal. But I’ve been eyeballing so my calories probably aren’t accurate and that’s why I’m not losing weight, so now I have to buy a food scale and measure everything.
That was my general line of thinking. I didn’t get into measuring every last morsel for a few years, but once I started I was hooked. NOW things would go my way. I was under the impression, after reading lots of terrible information on the internet, that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie and if I come in at or under my goal for the day, I’d see results, no matter what I was eating.
The results were that I did lose a little bit of weight, but I also had low energy, I was depressed, my skin was a bit sallow. I obsessed about the amounts of what I was eating, grams of fat, grams of carbs, never enough protein. I read lots of diet advice online, but I knew nothing about what I truly needed.
Even though at the time I was staying in the calorie range (arbitrarily recommended by an calorie-counting app), overall, I did not feel great, except when I stepped on the scale and saw it go down. How sad is that?
I’ll share a story that I am now embarrassed to tell, but I’m sure many of us have similar stories. When I was in the thick of measuring everything, I remember being at my mom’s house putting together a smoothie. I used what I could in the fridge, including full-fat greek yogurt, which I did not realize was full-fat until I already put it in the blender. I freaked out because the grams of fat went over my daily limit. I refused to have it, tried to pawn it off on my sister and my brother-in-law, and ended up tossing it. I look back on that mini meltdown now and cringe.
I’ve learned so much since then. Not least of which is that fat is GOOD FOR YOU. It supports your brain, your nerves, your hormones––low-fat and fat-free foods starve our bodies of what we need to thrive, and many nutrients in our fruits and vegetables are fat-soluble, meaning they need fat to be properly absorbed. That smoothie I threw away was better for me than I knew.
About a year and a half after that freakout, I enrolled in the Academy of Culinary Nutrition where I received life-changing education about food and how it affects our bodies. I learned that, in fact, a calorie is not a calorie is not a calorie, meaning they’re not all the same. 100 calories of cauliflower is going to do much different things to your body than 100 calories of Goldfish crackers. Seems obvious, but I was deep in diet culture when that was my mindset.
We had weekly assignments that included making recipes with natural, whole foods. It helped me with some meal prep for the week since I got to eat my homework, so I was adding more healthful foods into my diet than normal.
As I was learning and studying the correct information about food and nutrition, rather than getting my info from random blogs, I figured if I was eating all of this healthy whole food for school, I will try not to focus too much on calories. I was also cooking from scratch a lot more, and having to measure every little thing instead of just quickly scanning a package label for the app was getting to be a pain.
The result of that? I did lose a little weight naturally because I was eating better, though that was not my focus this time around. My goal was to FEEL better. I previously thought losing weight would be exactly what made me feel better, but I didn’t realize that actually feeding ourselves nutritious, high-quality foods is what gives us energy, lifts our mood, and helps alleviate symptoms in many other areas. THAT is what makes you feel better.
Thin =/= healthy or happy. We need to get rid of that narrative, and I’m so glad that my education helped me change my perspective on this. Health and happiness and a good relationship with food are achievable at all sizes. It’s our habits we need to evaluate. Are they serving our health or taking away from our health?
You don’t have to get a nutrition certification to stop counting calories. Aside from education, I also started focusing on mindfulness. Doing breathing exercises, doing yoga to help connect my body and mind even further, really evaluating the quality of the foods I was craving––all of these things helped me see food in a different way and become more comfortable eating what I wanted WITHOUT counting every last bite.
I have also incorporated principles of intuitive eating. One is to not look at food in moral terms of good and bad. Instead of counting calories, I also used to keep a notebook and list all the foods I ate that day. I’d give myself points if I had a “good” day, and award myself no points if I fell off track….why??? Food does not make US good or bad, though we tend to punish ourselves that way.
Another principle I follow is “gentle nutrition.”
Gentle nutrition is trusting that you can enjoy what you want in moderation, but also that you’ll opt for nutritious foods not because they’ll help you lose weight, but because they make you feel good. That’s truly the basis of shifting your efforts and mindset from an unsustainable diet to a long-lasting lifestyle.
In my experience, calorie counting can very much lead to disordered-eating tendencies and way too much stress, so my approach with clients is focused on mindfulness vs. rigidity.
The average woman tries 16 diets throughout her life. This doesn’t surprise me as I’ve probably gone at least halfway through that, but I found my way out, and I want to help you, too.
My group program / online course is called Kicking Sugar + Carb Addiction, and it has a complete set of tools that I’ve used with myself and with clients to help stop counting calories, develop a healthier relationship with food, and put a stop to the never-ending diet cycle.
It’s a 6-week program with my guidance, designed to help you overcome cravings, improve your relationship with food, and create sustainable habits for your overall health.
You may not consider yourself a sugar or carb addict exactly, but one of the goals of this program is blood sugar stabilization, which is related to the problems I was dealing with (low energy, depression, anxiety, constant cravings, etc.) and much more.
In the course, you’ll learn:
- How sugar and carbs work in your body
- How blood sugar imbalances affect your health
- What your current habits are and if there are any patterns in your cravings
- How to overcome those cravings and avoid them in the future
- What to eat (with 3 weeks of meal plans to help combat your sweet tooth)
- How to cultivate a mindfulness practice
- How to meal plan and prep for yourself
- What to do if you don’t have moral support at home
- Intuitive eating principles to bring with you outside of the program
- How to create lasting habits
Standard enrollment costs just $33/week.
Premium enrollment, which includes 6 weekly private coaching sessions with me, allows me to tailor the group program to your personal needs. This costs just $83/week (a $250 savings overall on private coaching!).
You can do it from the comfort of your own home, at your own pace, (but with the support of an online community to keep you motivated).
I’d love to see you there! For more information on the course and to enroll, click here.
EDIT: Enrollment to KSCA is now closed. I am working on a new program, INTUITION NUTRITION, to be launched in January 2020. Click here to get on the waitlist.