Saturday, April 21, 2012

Calorie Counting - the Enemy of Ditching Dieting

Unfortunately, with the use of "apps" on smart phones and IPads to track daily food intake, calorie counting has spiked in popularity.  The use of calorie counting came into vogue around the turn of the 20th century.  Scientist Wilbur Atwater put food in a "bomb calorimeter" and burned it to discover the amount of ash and heat produced.  In doing so he measured the amount of energy that was released by the food.  It was a science experiment. An experiment that was not aimed at giving we humans something to obsess over.  Calorie counting is an activity that can keep you entrenched in the diet mentality and/or disordered eating behaviors.  Calorie counting keeps us from trusting our own body and our own brain in choosing how to fuel our body.  Isn't it interesting that the rate of obesity has increased as our calorie "awareness" has increased?  Our relationship with food, eating and activity is far more complex than any calorie counting app can account for.  For that matter, calorie counting does not ensure that you are consuming a nutritional intake that is balanced in relationship to vitamins, minerals, protein, fats and carbohydrates.  You could be consuming a low fiber diet with very few vegetables (therefore, low in cancer fighting anti-oxidants) and yet be meeting some techno-app's calorie recommendation.

Here is the bottom line;  you will NEVER know exactly how many calories you are consuming or spending!  Labels that list caloric content can be off by up to 20% of the true calorie (i.e. energy) content of the food in question.  Many factors influence how many calories your body needs in any given day.  There is no completely accurate way to know what your basic metabolic rate is, what the thermic effect of the foods you are eating might be, and the amount of calories you are burning through daily movement and exercise actually is on any given day.  Why bother?

Instead of calorie counting, try using an app that is directed towards mindful or gentle eating.  Instead of concentrating on limiting calories, try focusing on increasing your fiber.  Pursue nutrition goals (not rules) aimed at fighting heart disease, cancer, and diabetes.  Make activity a natural part of your day, not a calorie burning mechanism.  By ditching calorie counting, you will move towards ditching dieting!  You will be finding the middle ground.  Such a peaceful ground it is!

May you learn to trust yourself with food, eating and weight matters.