I’m doing it again. Back to counting calories.
Confession: normally I don’t do this. I just eat intuitively, listening to my body’s hunger and fullness cues. I maintain my weight with this method and I don’t have to fret too much about my food besides creating something beautiful and tasty for dinner! However, since I want to lose the extra 10lbs hanging around from Zoey so I can wear all my old clothes, back to the food and exercise log I go.
Yep, that’s it. Basic math. Calories in < Calories Out. Simple.
So how come so many people struggle to lose weight? There are a plethora of reasons, however I believe one of the biggest ones is lack of knowledge or confusion by the food industry to sell more products. So I want to address a few misconceptions about healthy eating. These apply not only to people looking to lose weight but also those just wishing to maintain and not gain.
1. Vegetables aren’t helpful when covered in a heavy dressing such as caesar, thousand island, or ranch. So if you order a salad and cover it in a thick dressing, theres no health halo for you. This is the same for crudites dipped in french onion dip or ranch. Solution: Order your salad with either a light vinaigrette or the heavy dressing on the side. Before you spear some lovely leaves with your fork, dip it in the dressing first! This allows you a taste of the dressing with every bite and you’ll be surprised how little dressing you end up using. As for rich dips, substitute some of the dressing with greek yogurt or find a lighter recipe that still does the job. I personally don’t like raw veggies with a dip very much so I find another way to serve veggies that pleases without the extra creamy calorie dense dressing.
2. Sugar is sugar! Don’t be fooled into thinking a cup of orange juice is better for your weight loss than a cup of coke. They have about the same amount of calories because they’re both sugar! Yes the orange juice has more vitamins and minerals and is the better option, but don’t drink it as much as water or you’ll end up with excess calories you didn’t want. This is especially important to realize with children. Juice is a much better option than coke or super sweetened tea but water should make up a majority of what they (and adults) drink. Solution: Drink water more than anything else. Have a cup or two of juice when it fits in your calorie count, or use a small splash with each cup of water to sweeten it up just a bit. I even water down my son’s juice with a one to one ratio of water to juice. So instead of him getting say 16g of sugar with his cup of juice, he only gets 8g (thats still roughly two teaspoons! See why he only gets juice once a day!) and doesn’t get accustomed to a super sweet drink.
3. It’s not effective to totally skip treats or to try and “healthify” every last thing you eat. Think of it this way, if you eat a 100 calorie bag of those overly processed cookies because you’re craving a cookie, are you really going to feel satisfied? Be honest! I know I didn’t. So I’d end up going and eating a cookie (or three) because I still craved them and usually overindulged to make up for my disappointing attempt at ignoring said craving. So I not only ate an additional 100 calories of food that didn’t satisfy me, I also ate more of the item that did satisfy me. A double hit of extra calories is not good for weight loss or maintenance. Also, don’t be fooled by items like chocolate covered raisins as being better than M&Ms. Raisins are pure sugar, just like chocolate (see #2). You may end up overindulging in the seemingly “healthier” treat, because of the false premise that “its good for you”. Solution: Just eat a reasonable portion of the item you are craving. One trick to doing this is to separate the portion you want to eat from the whole. For example, count out the number of chips or M&Ms you’d like to eat based on the extra calories you have available for the day, and place them on a plate or in a bowl. This way you’re not trying to keep track of how many you’ve eaten out of the bag and avoid the trap of falling into a mindless binge. Another trick is to not buy the item in bulk and have it hanging around the house in the first place. Instead enjoy a single serving outside of the house. Yes, this may be more expensive and buying in bulk is usually a better value, however, that should help slow you down to really decide if the treat is worth it or not. And remember, every once in a while you can indulge and go all out. It takes more than one day of over-eating to add just one pound of fat to your frame.
4. Low-fat, low-carb, or low-calorie is not always better. Actually, usually it’s worse. When food manufacturers take out a macronutrient like fat, they usually have to replace it with more sugar in order to maintain and palatable product. With low-carb items, the replacement ends up either being more fat or artificial sweeteners or chemicals to keep the texture similar to the original product. Low-calorie foods end up with lots of artificial sweeteners and chemicals, which don’t trigger the same fullness and satisfaction signals in your body. Hence why the scenario in #3 plays out the way it does. Solution: Real food is always better. If you want a lower calorie muffin, eat less of it! If less doesn’t keep you full as long, then make it yourself with a few tweaks. Add more fiber by switching part or all of the flour to whole wheat and/or add in some rolled oats. Add more protein by switching some of the dairy to greek yogurt and/or add an extra egg white or two. I’d rather have a smaller portion of a homemade cheesecake than a full slice of low-fat, low-cal cheesecake. You’re body knows what to do with carbs, protein, and fat, the macronutrients in real food. When you start putting in a bunch of chemicals to replace real food, it wreaks havoc on your endocrine system and therefore your metabolism.
As you can see, these tips tend to overlap each other a bit. Thats because the resounding message I want to get across to those trying to lose weight is: Count the calories you burn and count the calories you put in. Make sure your calories in are 500 calories less than what you burn in a day for a 1lb weight loss every week, 1000 calories less for a 2lb weight loss every week. What you are putting in should be real food, not fake food claiming to be better (trust me, you can’t get better than God’s own recipes). And most of all, don’t get discouraged by the scale!!!
What are some common misconceptions about food, health, weight loss, etc. that you’ve seen throw people off track? Do you ever question advice from a friend, magazine, orother source about these subjects and want some clarification? Just ask!