Nutrition vs. Calories

We all know that food has calories. Some food has lots of calories, and some food have very little calories. I find unfortunately that many people are obsessed over calories. I used to be one of those people, and I share about my past with disordered eating here: My Story. I would count every single calorie I ate to make sure I never surpassed 1,200. On top of eating the bare minimum of calories, (not enough for a growing 16 year old) I was doing strenuous exercise each day for crew. I was running up to five miles a day, and rowing for an hour straight. I would get home and eat only a salad. I was so tired and weak every single day. On top of that, I was moody and miserable. I was skinny, but depressed. I was a mere 115 pounds, and I am 5’7, making me very underweight. In context, the healthy body weight for a 5’7 active teenager is anywhere from 125-155 pounds.

I would get sick often. I was not happy. I had a terrible relationship with food and with my body. I didn’t look healthy. All of this makes sense to me now because I realize I was not getting proper nutrition to fuel my body, or my brain. No wonder I was in a bad mood all the time, and became anti-social. All the calories I ate were coming from heavily processed, artificial food such as sugary granola bars, 100 calorie greek yogurts, or low calorie cereals. There was barely any nutrition in these foods, but they fit into my allotted calorie budget.

There is a very important difference between calories and nutrition and its this:

Nutrition matters, calories do not.

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Fresh fruit stand

Obviously, calories matter if you are severely overweight and need to lose weight to be healthy. But in general, calorie counting is very detrimental to your well-being. It creates a negative attitude towards food, and makes you feel restricted in your everyday life. 100 calories of junk food is not the same as 100 calories of fruit. One makes you feel crappy, and the other makes you feel amazing. Can you guess which?

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Organic, fresh strawberries

People need to stop viewing calories as bad. Calories are not the enemy. Calories are units of energy that fuel your body to do amazing things. The right calories help your body function to feel amazing both mentally and physically.

Another thing I want to mention is hunger. I used to view being hungry as a demon; a monster that wouldn’t leave me alone throughout the day. I would try to kill this monster by chewing gum, drinking artificial zero calorie energy drinks, and munching on carrot sticks or ice cubes. Ice cubes!!! That sounds so ridiculous to me now. Hunger means that your metabolism is trying to work, and your body needs more fuel in order to make it work. So feed it!!! Listen to your body. Eat good nutritious food. What do I mean by that? I mean food that is minimally processed and freshly prepared. Eat lots of leafy green vegetables, fruit, healthy fats like avocado or nuts, and lean proteins. Eat until you are completely satisfied. Indulge if you feel like it. Don’t restrict yourself. Don’t get mad at yourself for overindulging or eating something that is not “perfect”.

Ultimately, having a healthy relationship with food is so important for your overall well-being. If you are constantly stressed about what you’re eating all the time, you will never be happy with how you look. So let it go. Realize that you are perfect the way you are, and desiring to be anyone other than yourself is a waste of time. By focusing on eating healthy foods, working out, and loving yourself, the ideal body will come to you naturally over time. Trust your body, trust your intuition, and trust those hunger cues!

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