The following article was written by Heinen’s Chief Dietitian, Melanie Jatsek RD, LD.
You’ve probably heard the saying, “a calorie is a calorie.” While technically correct, your body treats calories differently depending on their source.
For example, if you were to eat a 600-calorie meal of nutrient-poor, refined foods like pizza, pretzels and chocolate chip cookies, you probably wouldn’t feel satisfied for very long. There are a couple of reasons for this.
- These foods cause a sharp spike and crash in blood sugar, triggering rebound hunger.
- Your body experiences satiety, or feelings of fullness, from nutrients (not calories), so it will continue eating in search of the missing nutrients. This is why it’s so easy to dig into a bag of chips and eat until there’s nothing left.
On the other hand, a 600-calorie blood sugar-balancing meal like a nutritious green salad with raw veggies, a nice piece of wild salmon and Fx™-approved fats like sliced avocado, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of nuts or seeds, will surely turn off your hunger switch because your body extracted everything it needed from that meal.
The Hidden Reality of Counting Calories
Human beings don’t like restrictions. We detest the thought of being told we can’t have something. Whether it’s calories or a specific food, restrictions by their very nature drum up feelings of scarcity, which is something we are born to fear. Tell me you don’t feel a little anxious when you imagine running out of money, time or food. Do you get a sinking feeling in your stomach? I know I do!
A scarcity mindset automatically places food on a pedestal and assigns it power. When a diet tells us we can only have so many calories, it’s in our DNA to become totally preoccupied with food. It’s all we can think about! Rather than nourishment, food becomes a tool to manipulate for the purpose of shedding pounds. To stay in your prescribed calorie range, you may find yourself choosing nutritionally void, calorie-controlled snacks and frozen meals, but your body remains physically hungry, your mind stays hyper focused on food and eventually you revert to your old ways.
A Realistic Alternative to Calorie Counting
Instead of counting calories, focus on enjoying wholesome Fx™-approved meals and listening to your body. Babies are masters at listening to their bodies and are the most brilliant eaters of all. Although you’re all grown up, you still have the raw materials to be a more mindful eater. If you slow down and listen—I mean really listen—your body will tell you when it’s had enough.
Calories tell you absolutely nothing about the nutrition inside of food, so please stop counting them. Get back to the basics: eat wholesome food 80% of the time, reserve 20% for a little fun and pay close attention to what your body is trying to tell you. It’s always speaking and knows exactly what it needs. Are you listening?