The other day I got a message from someone telling me that they loved my blog, resonated with my writing….and asking how many calories I eat in a day. That one came as a bit of a shocker, because really truly I haven’t counted calories in about a year. I used to be OBSESSIVE about them. I used to walk into grocery stores, with no intent of buying anything, and stare at nutrition labels for hours. I would comb the internet reading crap about fat calories, skinny calories, empty calories, calories, calories, calories. It consumed my head and no matter what I was doing I was constantly thinking about calories and how much I could eat (but wouldn’t) and how much I could burn (and then some), etc. I often wonder what I could’ve done with my mind if I cleared out all that bullshit.
But I do often get questions about my diet and food intake, and so I thought I would write a bit about that because it is important to me and my health. It’s interesting that I was asked about my caloric intake, because of all the aspects of my food/diet, calories just don’t factor in. That category is nonexistent for me. And that’s because they’re SO unimportant. I focus on the quality of the food that I am putting into my body and the nutritional/emotional benefits. My body works better than it ever has, eating astronomically more calories than I used to. When I was counting calories my food was so disgustingly bland, boring, and repetitive because there were only a few set foods that I deemed “calorically acceptable” My diet now is anything but boring, and most of my meals are probably calorically worth more than I would have eaten in an entire day.
So that leads me to what I eat now. My basic food principles are:
- I do not count calories. I eat when I’m hungry, sometimes when I’m not. I think about my food in terms of the way that it makes me feel, not it’s numerical value.
- The bulk of my food comes from vegetables, lean proteins, wholesome carbs, and healthy fats. I incorporate each of these categories into each meal. In terms of proteins this is chicken, turkey, fish, legumes, etc. My carbss come in the form of sprouted grain products, sweet potatoes, and fruit. I avoid most white carbs – these are generally processed and stripped of nutrients. I eat a good amount of fat in the form of avocados, olive oils, seeds and nuts.
- I do not eat anything processed, and I don’t eat something if I can’t pronounce what’s in it. I found if I eat these things my body feels sluggish.
- I try to avoid added and refined sugar.
- I am almost completely dairy-free. It wrecks havoc on my digestive system so with the exception of the occasional ice cream or sprinkling of cheese I avoid it.
- I am an avid snacker. I find that snacking throughout the day keeps me energized and doesn’t leave me starving for massive meals. I usually have a snack mid-morning, a snack (or two, depending on my activity) in the afternoon, and a dessert-ish snack at night. These snacks are usually made up of a carb and a fat, so think a banana with peanut butter, a KIND bar, an apple and handful of nuts.
- I treat myself. I think it is SO important to not rule your life with “bad” or “good” foods. Labeling foods as “bad” will make you crave them more, and soon those two lists will become concrete and controlling. My body needs soul foods (ice cream, peanut butter cookies in particular) just as much as it needs fuel food. I find that this balance makes me feel my best, and my most healthy.
And that’s about it! It’s pretty simple. I also allow my body and eating habits to adjust based on the stage of life I’m in. Some weeks look more conventionally “healthy” than others. Some weeks have multiple nights of ice cream or chocolate or whatever. My body has learned to trust that I will never deprive it, that I will listen to its cravings, and that ultimately I will take care of it. It doesn’t hold on to every little treat that I put in it, in fact my metabolism is the highest and most efficient it’s ever been partially because I don’t deprive myself. And above all, I DO NOT COUNT CALORIES. Don’t do it. It’s useless, doesn’t correlate to “healthfulness”, and makes you live in an arbitrary box that probably doesn’t even benefit your body. Plus, once you start doing it that habit snowballs until every food item around you turns into a number. That is just not a way to live life. Trust me, there are SO many better ways to fill your head rather than with caloric values. Fill it with memories with those you love. Fill it with memories of baking cookies with kids, eating an awesome meal with your friends, sitting and enjoying a warm pastry while its blustery outside. If you fuel your body correctly, listen to what it wants, exercise it appropriately, I promise that your body will thank you for it. It’s not about calories, but about caring for your body, giving what it needs, especially if that’s a chocolate chip cookie (or two).