"How many calories should I consume in day"
"If I'm not counting calories how do I control my food intake"
"What should I be eating to lose weight"
"Is ______ bad for you"
"I can't eat that healthy I have kids..."
These types of questions come up in my practice all the time. In a society that is over-obsessed about controlling as much as possible, we have lost track of the connection with diet, and our natural instincts to consume foods that nourish our lives.
Do you think our ancestors (or even our grandparents and some of our parents for that matter) even knew what a "calorie" was? Do you think they thought "hmmm, this meal has way too many calories in it" when they were preparing their wild caught turkey and fresh salad from the garden for their family for dinner? Or that while they were making their homemade apple pies they thought "there is too much sugar and fat in this slice of pie". No way man! The mind set surrounding foods has changed from primal, instinctive eating practices, to marketing-driven artificial food options, preservative-laden fake foods, high sugar diets, fast food diets, DIETS in general, "less is more", "food = calories = fat", and it's causing the disease epidemics our nation is currently faced with!
We need a reality check! We are not mathematical equations. Our bodies do not survive and thrive on 1500 calories a day because the FDA (or your trainer or your doctor) says that what you should eat to lose weight. How do they know? The variables surrounding someones individual weight loss are so complex, that simply reducing caloric intake is most of the time not enough, and definitely not sustainable.
We need to escape the media, stop listening to the false advertising statements about bad food being "good mood food" (i.e. Arby's marketing pitch right now...kills me!). What about YOU being in control of the food that is going into your mouth...not Arby's or the restaurant down the street or wherever else you like to buy your pre-made meals so you don't have to make them. Let's start there! Just making the switch to homemade meals as often and consistently as possible is half the battle. The next step is to begin listening to your body. The recommendation to eat every 3-4 hours is not a marketing pitch by the food lobbyists to get you to eat more, it actually holds some substantial weight. If you are feeding yourself wholesome healthy fresh foods, you are going to want to eat every 3-4 hours, because you're hungry! You put the right stuff in your body and everything else will fall into place.
It is actually important to realize that if you are eating healthy, it is near impossible to count calories (unless you've memorized it, which I have of course!) because healthy whole foods don't have nutrition facts. When you buy a whole chicken breast from the meat counter, a head of broccoli from produce, a bunch of bananas, a few olives from the raw bar, etc they will not come conveniently labeled with nutrition information. You know they're healthy because you care about and know where they came from.
QUALITY is your most important concern when you eat...not quantity. If you choose a chicken breast from a free-range poultry farm down the street, or organic Gala apples from the Western slope of Colorado, or organic baby spinach from a local farm, you are eating like your ancestors. It came from the earth, it came from a ethically and sustainably raised animal farm, and in some cases it may be minimally processed (if you buy dairy or grain products). That's it ya'll, it's that simple.
The suggestions and recommendations that claim a health condition being directly related to a single food item is crazy. i.e. "if you have high cholesterol you can't eat eggs, butter, or red meat", "fat makes you gain weight", "gluten is bad for you" (yeah, it is NOW, it didn't used to be!). Most every claim is due to our overindulgence as a society. We wouldn't have high cholesterol is we ate a normal balanced diet, and I guarentee it was not the eggs that caused your high cholesterol. We are so fat phobic in this nation that we are actually causing heart disease and diabetes because we're avoiding it. Fat doesn't make you fat, excess makes you fat! And gluten is the natural protein found in all grains (not just wheat, and that's a whole other discussion), and happens to be in whole grains that have nutritious value to them. It is bad for you NOW because it is over processed, over consumed and contaminates so many other non-gluten foods. We have ruined that for our species!
Let me re-cap...eat quality whole foods often throughout the day, being sure to pay attention to your "I'm full instinct" and you don't ever have to worry about counting calories! Listen to your body. Take pride in your food, and in all the opportunities you get to put yummy whole nutritious foods into your body, what a treat!