Today I want to address a question that I get asked on almost a weekly basis: “Do you count calories? Why don’t you post nutritional information for your recipes?”
Before we get to that, though, I want to let you know about some other fun happenings.
- A few weeks ago on the Daily Bites Facebook page, I asked if people would be interested in seeing the foods I eat on a daily basis to help give an overall picture of what healthy eating might look like in general. The response was a resounding YES! So this week I will be sharing photos of many of my meals and snacks on the Facebook page all week long. They won’t be pretty—just quick point-and-shoot pictures. But if you want to get a glimpse of my plate day in and day out, here’s your chance! Head on over and “Like” the page for all of the updates.
- Speaking of Facebook, the Daily Bites page recently rolled over to 2,000 likes. Thank you, thank you! To celebrate this special milestone, I’ve got a fun giveaway coming up soon. Stay tuned.
- And one last thing: Maggie from She Let Them Eat Cake is giving away a copy of my book! Head over here for your chance to enter.
Okay, now let’s talk calories.
Like I said, I get asked very regularly why I don’t provide nutrition analysis for the recipes here at Daily Bites or for those in my book. The answer comes from a very deep personal place for me that I want to share with you. I think it will help you see where I’m coming from.
A few years ago when I first cut out gluten and dairy from my diet, I experienced some serious weight loss issues leading up that point. Doctors “unofficially” diagnosed me with anorexia and even suggested counseling. But I knew that my issue wasn’t only a psychological one. As much as I wanted to eat, I just couldn’t at the time because I was so sick. Food tasted horrible and only made my digestive system and stomach cramp with pain.
Eating gluten- and dairy-free helped immensely to repair all the damage that had been done. Slowly—so, so slowly—I started to gain weight and feel better over the next months and years. But it was a long and winding road back to optimal wellness for me.
During my “weight gain years” as I call them, I was facing quite a few emotional battles as well. I won’t get into the details, but I’ll just tell you that I was going through a period of grief of sorts, for things far different than the death of a loved one. For a stretch of time, every day felt like a struggle. Thin as I was, I hated the way I looked and felt like it was an inaccurate representation of the fun and quietly confident person I knew that I was inside.
To help me gain weight, I made sure to track what I ate and count my calories to ensure that I was eating enough to put on a few pounds every few months. (Yes, it was that slow for me.) Everything I read told me that in order to achieve my health goals, I needed to keep a detailed food journal and count my calories. So I did. And I hated every minute of it.
I know hate is a strong word. But let me tell you that I mean every word of this: I hate putting a number on my food. Food is nourishment. It’s fuel. It’s a life source. And it absolutely drives me crazy when I have to slap a number on my smoothie or salad or muffin. For me, counting calories takes away from the enjoyment of food and skews mealtime into something that’s a source of anxiety and displeasure.
After a few months of counting calories for weight gain purposes, I threw my hands up and stopped. I wasn’t enjoying food the way it’s meant to be savored and loved. Every meal and every snack became a source of dread. I couldn’t wait until bedtime so that I could at least have a stretch of 8-10 hours where I didn’t have to think about food.
So, long story long, that’s why I don’t count calories. The whole process of pinning a number on food and tracking each morsel just gets me down. The minute I start doing it, I’m transported back to that dark time in my life when every day’s battle was just to get through it.
For the people out there who count calories in the name of weight loss or fitness, I guess all I can say is to each her own. It doesn’t work for me and I don’t think it ever will. And quite honestly, the healthiest people I know have never counted calories a day in their lives and have no problem maintaining an ideal weight. That’s saying something.
In our world of extreme body image idolatry and the desire to look a certain way, I think the worst thing we can do for our health (and the health of our children, the future generation) is to continue obsessing over the numbers behind our food. As I get older, I’m learning more every day that life is all about balance.
To keep things in perspective, I ask myself: when I’m old and gray, am I going to look back on my life and wish I would have been more diligent in my calorie counting and food journaling? Am I going to beat myself up for not being 10 pounds lighter in my 40′s and beyond? Will my dying regret be that I should have worked out just a little bit more for those tighter glutes and more shapely arms?
I think not. As important as food is to our lifelong health and well-being, our lives should not revolve around it. The food choices we make, crucial as they are, do not ultimately determine how long we live or how successful we become during our years on this earth. It’s too easy to lose sight of that when we’re investing precious time and energy into numbering what we eat.
The cold truth is, our bodies will age. They will sag in strange places. They will lose their strength. They will fail us. We will die. And in those final days, speaking for myself, I don’t think I’ll care one fragment of a bit about the calories I ate in my twenties.
I don’t want to live a numbered life. I want to live a nourished one.
What are your thoughts on calories and how they factor into balanced living? Do you count them? Why or why not?