We live in a time when fads are selling. From politics to nutrition, our culture has been prepared for the latest. The hottest. A must. This year’s macro is next year’s no-no (hi, carbs). One day dairy is forbidden; Next, cheese can help fight heart disease. Are we juicing? Are we not juicing? Do we wear shoes on the running track? Are we even allowed to run? And let’s not start fasting.
But when it comes to wellness we question the notion that there is only one fit.
As the longest-running authority on the ecological approach to wellbeing on the internet, we decided, with real old-school journalists on our team, to also use the best of old-fashioned shoe leather newsprint. We provide a forum for debate on wellness issues, but this is not your cable news professional’s false equivalency. We are driven by evidence and curiosity. Our standards are high and we do not condone bs Enjoy the positive turmoil and let’s all learn together.
To begin? Count calories.
For years we followed the principles of calorie intake, calorie expenditure. Under the Weight Watchers brand, or simply disguised as pen and paper, counting calories has been touted as the secret to healthy, sustainable weight loss.
“Not all calories are created equal, and one calorie doesn’t tell the whole story.”
But times change, and for many experts this way of thinking is reductive at best and dangerous at worst. Elise Museles is an attorney-at-law, the certified eating psychology expert and the Once Upon a Food Story presenter. We sat down with her and fitness expert Jillian Michaels to learn both sides of the story when it comes to calorie counting. You can read Jillian Michael’s approach to counting calories to weight loss here.
OA: So, Elise, let’s start with a simple one: Are all calories the same?
Elise Museles: No! But that cannot be said enough. I think this is where the inherent problems with counting calories lie.
If we go back to the basics, which even an elementary school kid would understand, if you had soda and broccoli, for example, and you showed a thousand calories each, they would understand that you are getting so much more nutrients in that big mound of broccoli versus a few Cans of soda. Not all calories are created equal, and one calorie doesn’t tell the whole story.
OA: Is counting calories ever a healthy habit?
IN THE: First of all, remember: we need calories. It has become kind of a word that has a negative connotation, but all foods are energy and calories, so a calorie is not necessarily a negative thing.
“It makes eating about the numbers rather than seeing the full story.”
I think this basic understanding of calories will be helpful to people. For example, I like adding a little fat to my morning Matcha Latte, but I also like to eat. But if I put in a few tablespoons of fat, that would be a lot of fat for me in the morning. So I know the calories and make a conscious decision not to get my calories from extra coconut oil. I would rather eat something different that is more satisfying to me. But it’s not just about the calories. I ask: Is that how I want to refuel? And I decide … no. I would also like to have something to eat.
OA: Is there anyone you would recommend calorie counting to to start a weight loss journey?
IN THE: When people were really not that aware of their eating habits and come from a place of health where they haven’t had restrictive or obsessed foods in the past and educate themselves. For these people, learning calories as a unit of measurement of energy is important, just as you would learn why it’s high in vitamin C, see the different components of food and think about what it can do for you – that it can energize you, that it can help you think more clearly – and really relate it to the positive way that calories can help you live your best life … that is helpful.
OA: When can counting calories become a harmful habit?
IN THE: The problem is that people are obsessed with it. It’s obviously a slippery slope, but as with anything, you want to get back to the why: what is your intention? What will this information do for you? Will it help you make healthier choices or will it guide you on a path to being obsessive and restrictive?
“I think adding numbers is a lot easier than tuning into your body when you haven’t been connected in a long time.”
It creates stress around the food. It makes eating about the numbers instead of seeing the full story, all of the different elements of food. Food or nutrients or the connecting part. You’re missing out on all of that, let alone the pleasure piece.
OA: When we talk specifically about weight loss, there is this “calorie intake, calorie burn” attitude. Does this physiological approach to weight loss work?
IN THE: I do not believe that. Because not all calories are created equal. And depending on your hormones, your level of exercise, your personal metabolism … Allergies, intolerances, so many factors play a role. So, when you are more connected to the feeling you have after eating certain foods, or when you quench some of your cravings, you can make smarter decisions and better adjust to what is working with your body.
Stress can also affect your metabolism, digestion, and nutrient absorption. So this affects the way your body handles calories. And that stress can come from being restrictive, having a set of food rules about numbers and calories, and then having behaviors that backfire. Then you get angry with yourself and start the whole cycle.
OA: Why do you think calorie counting has long been such a popular approach to weight loss?
IN THE: I think adding numbers is a lot easier than tuning into your body if you haven’t been connected for a long time.
There isn’t a really simple formula to help anyone with this, is there? It is much easier to count calories than, for example, reducing stressors in your life so that your body can function optimally and do what it has to do with the food. So I think people like to have answers and answers that are sometimes even outside of themselves and don’t require them to do the deeper work.
OA: For someone whose brain is almost hardwired to count calories, macros, or carbs … what’s a good strategy to break away from those behaviors and take a more holistic approach?
IN THE: Back to the basics. How, which foods do I actually like? Healthy, not healthy, it doesn’t matter. But I’m really trying to reconnect with your body. Often we can convince ourselves: I don’t like brownies; I don’t even like avocado. But really, because you told yourself that, because you believed it because of the numbers for such a long period of time.
So don’t necessarily eat all that stuff, just go back to: What do I like? What makes me feel good Only then can the conversation shift in your own head.
Based on bio-authority
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