Why you should care more about health and less about calories

Why you should care more about health and less about calories

    We are trained to think that our biggest enemy is calories, the little devils that get into our closet and shrink our clothes. And since the market is very aware of the needs of its customers, it responded with a lot of low fat/low kcal foods that are even worse than eating the sugar in its raw state. Here are a couple of reasons that you should consider when choosing what you eat.

    Disclaimer: I am not in a way certified nutrition and all the examples are given from my own experience and struggle with food. If you are having any chronic disease please check with your doctors before following any advice. 

    A bottle of 0.5l of coca-cola has 200 kcal, and so do 2 bananas

    When it comes to the struggle of either weight loss or trying to make better choices when eating we are always balancing what we could get from one food or another. Sometimes if we are just counting calories we find that the foods that we know are the worst for your health are not as “bad” when it comes to what is on the label. 

    During my 20’s, when I first started working I gained 25 pounds within a year. I was addicted to Cola and Pepsi and would usually drink 2L per day. It was the only type of liquid, other than coffee that I would drink. Apart from the odious weight gain, my health was in the worst state ever, I was always with a sore neck and I would catch a cold instantly. But when it came to the calorie count it wasn’t that bad. I was in the 2000 kcal rate that was advertised, so why worry?

    The small number of calories enigma

    When it comes to the calorie count we often find that the healthy options have a lot of them, nuts, avocado, some fruits,  red meat, and so on, are often “worse” than chips, sodas, or candy. But if we look at the nutritional aspect, those cannot be compared, since the benefits that you will get from one, cannot be replaced. 

    Also, if you try to overeat while choosing vegetable fats (the good fats) or even meat, you will be surprised by how hard that can be. Same as trying to overeat fruits, such as oranges or apples. 

    The exact reverse can be said about the simple carbohydrates that are found in junk food. In 2011 I traveled to the US for the first time with the Work and Travel program. For 3 months, although I was having a lot of physical activity, I was getting fatter while being constantly hungry. I was eating and I was hungry almost instantly, so what changed?

    At that time I was not aware of the corn syrup that was used in the US and of the amount of sugar that was found in almost everything, even the bread was sweet there. Yet when I looked at the packaging there was “only” 50 kcal per portion of cereals or chips. 

    Coming for a country where healthy, natural and bio food was cheaper than the processed one, it was a surprise to see the effect that it had on my body and, unfortunately, on my mind as well. Food was all that I could think about and the more I ate the more I was hungry. 

    I came back to the US in 2017, in Chicago, and, unfortunately, I saw the same pattern, salads were way more expensive than most of the food you could find in the food court and the healthy options were minimal. 

    Furthermore, in the office free sodas and chips were available, and all my colleagues were drinking or eating those 3 or 4 times a day, because “those are diet sodas/chips”. Apart from one colleague, almost everyone was slightly overweight and was struggling with counting calories. Three years later when I left the project, they were in the same place, eating junk food and counting calories. 

    The “I will get fatter if I start eating those healthy fats” myth

    A concern that I also had when I was told I really need to get my cholesterol down if I don’t want a heart attack by 30, was that if I will start eating nuts and coconut oil I will gain weight. Also since most of my diet was on cheese and milk products, I was surprised when I was told that I should pick the fatty ones instead of the light ones because of the high amount of sugar that is replacing the fat in them. 

    A couple of months on my new diet and I was surprised to see that I was not gaining any weight even if I was eating more peanut butter and almonds than ever before. 

    Forget about the calories but watch out for the processed foods 

    The last thing I want in life is to keep on counting calories and reading the label on every single item, so I do my best to stick to a healthy diet of give or take 1700kcal per day. Some day it might be lower and others it might be higher based on my body's needs. After months of counting calories, I now have an idea of how much is about everything, yet I do not count them anymore. 

    The one thing I do follow is the amount of processed food I eat, it can happen for me to make a bad decision, I am only human, but I try to balance this with my other meals. As for the sweats, I do my best to make my own since I am able to control the amount of sugar, honey, or other (natural) sweaters. I try to stay far away from white sugar, corn syrup, or any other artificial sweeteners. Even if some of those have 0kcal I learned that health is way more important than that. 

    In conclusion

    We are so focused on counting calories that we are failing to see the bigger picture. We are eating more and more junk food that is labeled as low fat, just because it will look better on the app that is showing us how much we ate during the day. We stay away from foods that are nutritious and would give us the right type of energy because we are told that we should fear fats and carbs. 

    I prefer to have a balanced diet that includes all types of food, and this change gave me the best results this far.

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