In high school, when I first began to discover my passion for health and nutrition, I held onto the “calories in, calories out” motto that we hear from lots of health professionals. When someone is trying to lose weight, everyone tells them to monitor calories, reduce calories, count calories, it’s all about calories, calories, calories. It becomes something that can easily be obsessed over, and cause people to lose sight of true nutrition. This is exactly what happened to me when I started to become interested in nutrition and healthy eating in general. I used to count my calories like many people do, using an app on my phone. I didn’t really think much about nutrients, vitamins, or even macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat). All I cared about was the calories I consumed each day. This can become really dangerous if you’re trying to eat a well-balanced diet, or even a healthier diet in general. Many people (including my former self) think that eating fewer calories, regardless of the type of food is the way to weight loss, weight maintenance and a general healthier body. Eating fewer calories may cause initial weight loss, but definitely not a good long term approach to weight loss/maintenance. If calories are the main priority, actual nutrition can be forgotten about and “healthy eating” can just turn into calorie restriction.
When you restrict calories, specifically below 1200 calories/day, your body goes into starvation mode. If your body goes into starvation mode, it can hold onto everything you eat and lead to weight gain. Also, this type of “dieting” can really mess up your metabolism. Any diet that is less than 1600 calories is just a bad idea in my opinion. Calorie restriction can lead to binge eating (consuming a lot of food at one time) and just an unhappy mood. Trust me, I’ve been there, done that and it’s not fun at all. I see so many “diets” that promote eating less than 1500 calories per day, and it makes me so sad to see people try them and ultimately fail because of the calorie/nutrient deprivation. These types of “diets” cause the yo-yo effect that many people experience when trying to get healthy and eat better.
I have two really big problems with calorie restricting, and calorie counting in general:
|Just an orange and banana for lunch?!?!|
One is the fact that low-calorie diets are almost impossible to maintain long term. When we are on low-calorie diets, or restricting calories our bodies crave calories and ultimately crave not very healthy foods. This can lead to the return of an unhealthy lifestyle/diet and completely throwing away the mindset of eating healthy. When people think healthy eating, some think starving, and being hungry all the time, but the thing I love about eating a plant-based vegan diet is the ability to eat as much food as I care for, and not worry about calories. When eating plant-based, specifically a low fat high carbohydrate, calories are all coming from good sources so there is no need to worry about calories. Many people ask me about cravings, and if I ever crave animal products or unhealthy food in general. The answer is no! I no longer have cravings for unhealthy food (cheese, eggs, meat, fried foods, etc.) because I eat an abundance of plant-based calories and nutrients, so I never feel deprived or hungry for unhealthy foods that I used to love.
My other big problem with calorie restricting and counting calories is the loss of hunger cues. One thing that really gets lost when people start eating low-calorie is the ability to identify hunger and satiation. If calories are the only thing you’re concerned about, true hunger and satisfaction gets pushed to the side. Another thing I’ve learned from letting go of the “calories in, calories out” mindset is to listen to my body. When I’m hungry, I eat and when I’m full, I stop. This type of eating can really get lost when following a low-calorie diet because meals tend to be planned, measured, and portioned throughout the day. This is a very unnatural way of eating and can make your mind stop listening to your body’s natural hunger cues.
|Eat like Freelee the Banana Girl
(look her up on Youtube!)
Getting rid of the obsession with calories was one of the best things that’s ever happened to me in my health/food journey. Eating should emphasize abundance and happiness, not restriction and the feeling of deprivation. When researching a plant-based vegan diet/lifestyle I saw the amount of food that people living this way were eating. Increasing calories were emphasized, and promoted in a way that I had never seen before and it opened my eyes to the fact that our bodies need lots of calories.
When I began eating a plant-based diet, calories became completely irrelevant. It took me a few months to really begin to let go of the “calories in, calories out” mentality and ever since I was able to let that go, I haven’t looked back once. It is so freeing to know that whatever I’m putting into my body is doing my body well, and calories really don’t even matter. The reason why a plant-based lifestyle works is the increased intake of not just calories, but food in general. Eating is encouraged, calorie counting is only necessary to make sure you’re getting enough calories, not to see how few calories you’ve eaten each day. The more plant-based calories, the more nutrients/energy you’re getting. Most plant-based vegans eat close to 2800 calories a day, and are thriving.
|FullyRaw Kristina’s lunch|
Nutrients are more important to me, not calories, the ingredients in a food item are more important to me than calories, and eating as much food as my body asks for is more important than staying below a caloric limit everyday. After several years of calorie restriction, my body’s metabolism is still healing. I wish that I hadn’t spent so long caring about calories because in the end when you’re eating good foods, they don’t matter. That’s why encourage people to eat a plant-based vegan diet, because you can essentially eat as much as you care for. Calories are the last thing you have to worry about. Putting good food in your body, and listening to what your body is telling you is more important than calories, and that’s why calories just don’t matter.