As a vegan chef and especially as the chef to P90x creator, Tony Horton, people constantly ask me for the nutritional information and calorie count of my food. Here is what I tell them; I don’t believe in calorie counting…What? You don’t believe in calorie counting? But aren’t you a nutritionist and a vegan chef? Aren’t you into health & fitness??
Yes..to all of those questions, and now I will tell you why I don’t believe. Ok, so that’s not fully the truth…I DO believe that calorie counting works for certain & specific arenas, especially for people who are grossly overweight and have just started exercising. They need a starting point and a caloric deficit, for sure. But this doesn’t mean that they get to still eat crappy food, just less of it…what they need is a plan that will work for them to help them achieve their goals, AND it needs to be a healthy plan, not one full of processed foods, and potions..as Tony himself would say…and it needs to be a plan that teaches them HOW to eat, not just what to eat.
So, if you want to know my reasoning behind my “disbelief” in calorie counting…well, there are quite a few (and of course these are my humble opinions, so you can take them or leave them, but I just know what works for people, and I have many testimonials to prove it). First, calorie counting, especially if you are fit, or even not fit, doesn’t teach you how to connect to your food. It actually disconnects you from your food. Instead of seeing your food for what it is, fuel & nutrition for the body, we start to analyze it, count every kernel and wonder how many grams of forbidden carbs are in it. We label it, measure it and scrutinize it as if it’s the enemy, when it’s just the opposite. We don’t allow ourselves to enjoy our food, to taste it, and to connect to it. We eat on the go shoving protein bars down our throats as we cart the kids off to school and we wonder why we are so dang tired at the end of the day. We drive through fast food joints and look at the calorie count of something on the menu, and think, “I can have that because it fits into my caloric intake”, when in fact the food is loaded with saturated fat and is just plain BAD for you!
Every time I host a new cleanse group, about a week after we are into it, I challenge my participants, many of who are Beachbody coaches and avid exercisers, to let go of the calorie counting just for 30 days. Most of them sneer at me and think, “This lady is crazy,” but when I explain to them why, they understand. And when they do it, they understand even more.
Yes, it’s true, as I said above…I am a chef and a nutritionist, and I am also an advocate for Intuitive Eating or Listening to Your Body. I know some of you may think, this chick is off her rocker and out in woo-woo land, but I must tell you, when you start to eat really clean and listen, really listen to what your body needs and wants, you will find a whole new relationship to the way you eat & live. Some of you may be thinking, yes, I listen to my body and it tells me I want; potato chips, or ice cream. And my response to that is, that’s not your body talking, that’s your emotions. Or your body may be so toxic that it really could be saying that. This is usually the case when people have addictions to sugar, caffeine and processed foods. But usually our bodies will want healthy, whole foods that are nutrient dense and loaded with fiber, complex carbs, healthy fats and lean proteins.
Another part of listening to our body, is eating until we are 80% full and then stopping. More often than not, we overeat, unless we are depriving ourselves with calorie counting, but we never really know if we’ve gotten enough food or enough nutrients. If you are truly eating clean, healthy, whole foods, you will really feel a difference and you will be fuller sooner and longer than if you eat processed foods, and you will get the extra added bonus of NUTRIENTS!!!
During my 30 day cleanses when people give up their calorie counting, what they realize is that they can eat as much as they want of all the healthy foods allowed on the cleanse, and still drop weight and have enormous amounts of energy (after they get through the god-awful caffeine withdrawls, that is). When you eat a diet that consists of mostly whole foods and minimally processed foods, your body will begin balance itself out and utilize your food for fuel instead of storing it. Now, this is only if you are eating WHOLE FOODS and not all the processed, sugary stuff. I say stick to 90% whole foods and give yourself a little window to allow for some healthy processed stuff, like brown rice crackers, sprouted grain breads or agave sweetened, whole grain chocolate chip cookies.
Calorie counting won’t teach you anything, except how many calories are in a piece of whatever. But, what intuitive eating will teach you is that you can actually listen and hear what your body wants and needs without depriving it. Calorie counting is deprivation. It’s a way to prevent ourselves from enjoying our food because we have to count it before it goes into our mouth and what fun is that? How about just chopping up some fresh, amazingly crisp veggies, and putting them together in a delightfully delicious recipe and eating until you are 80% full?? Now that sounds like a plan to me!
Lastly I want to say that part of reconnecting to our food is to cook it ourselves. And again, you think, this chick is crazy, I am too busy to cook. If you want to live a healthy, long life and have amazing energy, cooking your own food and knowing what you are eating is part of that plan! Bring it back to basics, back to the times when we used to sit with our families in the kitchen and share a meal. Involve your kids and show them how important food is to their well-being. It will help to bring you closer with your family and even your friends. I’m not saying you need to push vegan food on anyone, but what I am saying, is slow down, take some time, stop counting and reconnect to your food. Your life WILL CHANGE!!!