Whaaat?! Aren't calories and macros important? I know for many these numbers hold a large significance in their daily lives. I say, if you love doing it, go for it! I personally have been there, done that, and my experiences with this were not near as healthy as the general population would assume them to be. I especially got tired of missing out on the fruits I love.
Starting at a young age, like many of us women do, I became incredibly self-conscious of my outward appearance. Looking back, it hurts me to think my eighth grade self was worried her thighs were too big. I began to weigh myself regularly, workout like crazy, and some days I would feel so down on myself that I would eat as little as my mom would let me get away with. Health became very skewed in my world, and rather than wondering if my body had the fuel it needed or focusing on what my body could do, I was concerned with clothing size, weight and the amount of calories I took in.
Later on in my 20s, I began to realize the importance of what nutrients in food did for our bodies and that fats, proteins and carbs should be considered at every meal. I played with apps and Fitbits to monitor everything INCREDIBLY closely; from a bite of food to a few extra steps. Although my mindset had shifted in a healthier direction, I was still obsessing over numbers and percentages. I even went as far as to add up all the macros of everything I put in a recipe and divide by the serving size I took. I'm exhausted just thinking about that now!
Numbers can create an unhealthy mindset in what should be a health journey. Although these experiences are totally different than the lifestyle I lead today, they did prove a learning experience. I no longer measure my macros, but visually I know what I need on my plate. I also learned a lot of healthier ways to cook and recipe alternatives. Even though this gave me insight, these are the benefits avoiding numbers have brought to my life:
1. Well-being. Now that I no longer focus on a number, I am able to be more present. Before, I was so focused on how those numbers physically appeared on me. Instead of using them as an excuse, I had to take a deeper look as to why I was unhappy. Working through this allowed me confidence in who I am and enjoyment in everyday life. I no longer go out with friends to dinner and pull out my calorie counter before ordering, or only drink a vodka soda because it's 80 calories. I focus on the person across from me and our time together while we have it.
2. I eat more whole foods. I feel calorie counting has become popular for a few reasons, one of which is that most of the food out there today is processed. If I am putting unknown ingredients in my body, then sure, I should probably watch how much I am consuming. If our body cannot dispose of it, it will store it. Whole foods are simple and we can easily utilize them for energy and nutrition while being capable of digesting them. I am also able to avoid reviewing labels for 10 minutes in the aisle. Time saved!
3. Satisfaction. I feel completely satisfied! I'm not hungry and I'm not overstuffed. Sometimes in the past I would feel as if I would burst if I had to take in another 20 grams of protein today or turn green if I had another salad. This leads me to...
4. Intuition. Focusing so much on numbers in the past made me completely ignore everything my body was trying to tell me. Now that I've let that go, I can sense more of what I need personally versus what I'm told is appropriate. Cravings are looked down upon but they can actually be indicative of something you are either not getting in your diet or that your body may not be absorbing. Instead of beating yourself up for eating a lot of carbs, ask yourself 'why could my body be wanting this?' Recently, I kept craving starch and fats. It had everything to do with brain biochemicals not properly converting and the minute I took Vitamin B6, they went away. I listened, I did the research and testing, and my body thanks me for it now. Our bodies are smarter than we give them credit for. If you look at an infant, they instinctively know when they are hungry and when they are satisfied. Unfortunately for many of us, societal pressures and low nutrient diets cause this basic instinct to become distorted. When we go back to basics and focus on healthy, whole foods it can act as a reset button. Over time you will find yourself naturally stopping when you are satisfied and cravings disappear completely (as long as there are no underlying health or absorption issues).
I am definitely not perfect. I still order pizza on occasion, drink wine, eat dark chocolate-you know, all the essential antioxidants :) The change for me is feeling free to be happy and human. I do not need to rebel because I am restricted by numbers. I can enjoy what food does for my body and focus more on what I want from the day. Calorie and macro counting can be useful tools when learning about nutrition or working towards a specific goal but it’s important to take a step back and ask yourself if it is helping you towards long term mental and physical health. If not, perhaps it is time to re-evaluate your goals and habits.
How do you view these numbers?