Counting Calories

Sahara smiling at camera in front of building structure.
I still have no idea what to do with my hands
I'm going to preface this post by mentioning I never really counted my calories before. Minus my high school years where I would look to see how many calories was in something in the supermarket, I never really tallied them up at the end of the day. As I spend more time scrolling through social media than most (hi unemployment/freelance-and-temp-work-is-kinda-slow-at-the-moment) one thing I did see a lot of was Instagram banning photos of products that promote weight loss this past week. Instagram is an app I have a love/hate relationship with, but this was a massive step in the right direction. Something that I think that the media pushes into our point of view a lot in the form of advertisements is dieting and the idea that all calories are bad for you.

Most of my friends have in one way or another attempted to convince me to diet or I've seen several people on Instagram announce they are going on a diet. But the thing about diets is that it's not something long term technically speaking. If it was, the diet industry wouldn't be worth $72.7 billion in the US. 

This kind of reminds me of the movie Joy.
Joy created a mop that had the tag-line "The only mop you'll ever need".  Most companies didn't want to bring her mop to their customer base because if that's the only mop they'll ever need then the company itself will be decreasing their current profit. The companies thrived on people always buying new mops because the mops weren't meant to last - Joy's mop on the other hand was meant to last.

How does this relate to the diet industry?

Well, if diets truly worked wouldn't consumers (us) be the winners in the equation, not the diet industry? The only diet you'll ever need is a tagline to most diets. When people do one diet,  find that it's not working for them, then they try another, and another, and so on.  The diet industry profit increases because they are constantly telling consumers that they need to lose XYZ to be healthy and in order to lose XYZ you have to follow this strict diet that is so strict that you will give it up in a week or so but then pick up a different diet and the cycle continues. 

Personally, I've tried taking out an entire food group once. For one day. That lead to me feeling extremely weak and near the point of fainting while on public transportation. The food group I decided to take out? Sugar/Fruits.

Fruits are naturally high in sugar and surprisingly one year ago a lot of runners were preaching to take out fruits from your day-to-day because of their naturally high sugar. I don't think anyone is immune to falling for some sort of fitness/health fad diet, if it's all we are being shown we'll fall down the rabbit hole at least once. Even a lot of diets promote the idea of taking out fruits, and it's something that, although I fell into the fad for precisely less than 24 hours, never made much sense to me.

Sahara smiling at camera and walking in front of building structure.

After that fainting scare one year ago, I began to think differently on what I decide to put in my body (and what I decide to not put in my body). Fruits are naturally high in sugar, not processed, N A T U R A L. The more I thought of the idea that nature's candy had to make its way out of my life because of what diet trend was on the rise, the more I began to wonder how we went from an apple a day keeps the doctor away to every fruit must be taken out of your diet. I love munching on grapes, apples, blueberries, strawberries raspberries, mangoes, cherries, watermelon - fruit salads are basically my go-to snack. 

So I decided to chuck every diet trend into the wind and eat.

Overall, I'd say since not paying attention to diet trends was perhaps the best step forward I could have ever taken. I focus on what I know my body needs: Eat my fruits and vegetables, and protein in the from of grains or meat. Generally speaking I don't eat processed foods, I was never the snacker of Doritos, Oreos or Potato chips*.

* = hi if you eat any of these or all three, I'm not a dietitian or certified nutritionist, I'm just a runner who likes fruits and feels more energized after munching on a fruit salad. Do I have the odd Oreo? Yes. Do I eat chocolate chip cookies? Yes - especially if they're homemade! This is just a disclaimer that I know what works for me and my body, and that I loosely live by the 80/20 rule. 80% good 20% freestyle. please live your best eating life not by following how everyone else approaches food but by what's best for you and your body.

Diet culture is pretty much everywhere on social media, especially the idea that you should be counting your calories.

As I mentioned above, I have several friends who did try to get me to either go on Keto or Military Diet. Both of those diets promote cutting out entire food groups. The Keto diet basically kung-fu's its way through carbs - by that I mean the idea is to minimize any carbs you eat: Cut out fruits and smoothies, regular potatoes, sweet potatoes, lentils, pasta, beans, bread etc. I can't be the only one wondering what's left for there to shop for for food? A friend of mine tried to get me into it but my issue always came down to: sweet potatoes are great for you, what did lentils ever do to deserve this treatment, you do know that beans are high in protein, and that fruits are from the literal soil.

Okay while we're on the topic of sweet potatoes: Did you know sweet potatoes have a lot of nutrients that are good for your body, such as vitamin B6, potassium, and IRON which your body NEEDS to help you grow strong?

Anyways - I've pretty much been solid on never cutting out foods out if we don't count my short lived one day of cutting out fruits.

Sahara smiling at camera in front of building structure.
me as I have no idea what to do with my right hand so I guess I'll just hold the bag

A few months back, a friend of mine was trying to get me to count my calories using the MyFitnessPal app. In the beginning, my initial reaction was to mention I wasn't interested in counting my calories because I didn't want to become calorie obsessed. As long as I am eating all nutritious foods, why should I be counting my calories?

And then I kept getting advertisements for supplements for athletes on every. social. media. platform.

At the moment, I'm not deficient in anything and I'm a-okay health wise so I tend to rely only on nutritional benefits from foods that I eat. As an athlete, one thing I see a lot of are supplements and how I should be taking them. At the moment, I don't take any supplements mainly because I personally try to get as much nutritional benefits from the foods + snacks that I eat. I try to eat as much protein. Drink Fresh juice. Literally anything and everything except taking supplements is my life. As the promotion of supplements on every platform I scrolled through increased, I began to wonder: Am I eating enough? Am I eating the calories someone my height, weight, training should be? Should I be taking supplements?

One month ago, I decided to try the MyFitnessPal app for 2 days.

How did the short-lived calorie count go?

Well, it turns out I'm not eating enough. On the MyFitnessPal, it said that I should be having 1990 calories a day (technically speaking based on Calorie Calculator I should be having 2,321 calories a day) On two of those days, I didn't even reach it. On day one, I fell short by 283 calories and on Day 2 I fell short by 1,000 calories. What I noticed was that although I say I get all I need from the foods that I eat, I'm not eating enough to match my height, weight and training at all which means my workouts (although going great!) could be better if I ate more. 

I don't plan to count my calories (at the time of writing this) in the very near future.

My life isn't about calories, it's about am I eating enough to feel energized, feel good, and put in the work needed in my workouts. I personally don't like the idea of counting calories (I don't have anything against anyone who does) I just prefer to focus on is this something that has nutritional benefit or not. Although I don't plan to count my calories in the near future, I do think 6 months from now it'd be a good idea to see if I've changed at all.

Sahara smiling at camera while walking in front of building structure.
What are my thoughts on taking supplements?

Long term athletic wise not health-am-I-deficient-in-this-wise? I have to do a lot more research to make a well-informed decision. Yes I see the benefit of having supplements for athletes, but there's always the nagging thought of natural natural natural. 

Before even thinking of supplements though (athletic wise not health-am-I-deficient-in-this-wise) I think the most important thing is to make sure you are eating enough on your own which is the step I'm currently at.

Calories aren't all that bad for you, and bread really isn't the end of the world. I almost talked myself out of making an avocado bagel one day for lunch because oh no bread but then I was watching a video of a day in the life of an olympian and she was having an avocado bagel and you can best believe I paused the video to make one myself. Also, pasta is not the end of the world, eat a full bowl. 

There's so many foods that we either subconsciously cancel out or intentionally avoid and I think a lot of that comes from misinformation being spread. The best advice I can give is do your own research from non-biased verified™ sources to come to your own conclusions.  Also, take everything an Instagram "Nutritionist" says with a massive grain of salt. Unless they have a degree and or are certified: Run, and run far.

Have you ever gone on a diet and then gave up soon after? Do you count your calories or live semi-free-style like I do?

19 comments:

  1. I really thought this post was going to promote diet culture, but I'm so glad it didn't! I really enjoyed the read <3 x

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    1. Glad to hear you enjoyed reading and that I managed to surprise you with the direction I ended up taking this post :)

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  2. I really avoid counting calories at all costs, and I love that this blog post took a completely different turn to what I thought it would x

    Kayleigh Zara πŸŽƒ✨ www.kayleighzaraa.com

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    1. Yes 100% same! Since my short lived counting calories, I really can see how easy it'd be to only think of foods in calories and not in nutritional value - glad to hear you enjoyed reading!!

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  3. I have never counted calories. Personally, I think it would be stressful for me to feel as if I could not eat something or should not eat something. It is better for me to create healthy meals. Fruits may be high in sugar but they provide one of the best natural sugars a body can find.

    I love that you have shared this, along with the creepiness of getting ads for supplements. You just know someone is peeking at your interests!

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    1. This was one of my first times counting calories to a T, I don't think I could ever recommend counting calories unless you're doing what I did and seeing if you're eating enough and not below what you should be. I can imagine it would be stressful seeing what you can and can't eat, so many different diets promote cutting out food groups or labeling one type of food as 'bad' when it really isn't. Fruits are honestly my favorite, can munch on a fruit salad any time any day - the best form of natural sugar, nature's candy!

      Yess! So many advertisements for supplements it was like every other post on instagram was an advertisement!

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  4. If you wanted to try tracking, I'd use Cronometer instead. Although it does track calories, it's much more focused on micro nutrients, breaks down all of your amino acids as well as overall protein. It's what I use to calculate the nutrient intake in my recipes and find it really useful. I used it religiously when I first went vegan and it really helped me find any potential gaps before I got a deficiency. I only really use it for my recipes now and only track a full day occasionally now I know my body and have a better grasp on plant based nutrition in general but I think it's way better than My Fitness Pal if you care about general health rather than just cals in and out. You've done really well to avoid diet culture, especially being athletic. It can definitely be a slippery slope. And it's so true that people jump from one fad to another!! (I don't understand keto either) x

    Sophie
    www.glowsteady.co.uk

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    1. I haven't heard of Cronometer before but based on what I'm seeing on the app store it definitely looks 100% better than Fitness Pal, especially love the macronutrients section that includes Energy, Protein, Net Carbs and Fat rather than only focusing on just calories consumed. That's actually the one thing I will say that the apps are great for, to make sure that you're getting all the nutrients your body needs.

      Diet culture is everywhere and it's WILD how many diets there are geared towards athletic people - one that's purely just liquids or one that cuts out fruits entirely when in actuality our body needs a good bit of everything.

      Thanks so much for reading Sophie!

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  5. I’m so glad you didn’t promote diet culture — this was so refreshing to read!

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    1. That is one thing I'll never be promoting on any platform of mine - thanks so much for reading, Molly!

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  6. I found counting calories and cutting out carbs and sugars a nightmare experience, it became all consuming whenever I wanted to eat. I had to give up after a couple of months because it was making me miserable

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    1. I can 100% relate - one thing that diet culture in the form of advertisements on our social media try to convince us of is that we need to cut out X food groups. This then negatively impacts how people view food in general even though having a good bit of everything is the best way forward. Hope everything is going well on your food journey now πŸ’•πŸ’•

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  7. Diet culture is so damaging, I don't count calories, I take into account the nutritional value of things, and that is pretty much it!

    Love, Amie ❤
    The Curvaceous Vegan

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    1. It really is so so damaging, especially since so many advertisements on social media promote diet culture so it's a lot of what we see on a daily basis. Yes! That's the best way to about it - take into account the nutritional value only and you're golden!

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  8. I like the 80/20 rule! For me it's a lot harder to actually get fruits and vegetables where I live so for now I'm just trying to eat as best as I can and work out daily (or as often as I can) but when I get back home and live in a place where it's more accessible to me I definitely want to try and increase my natural sugar intake as opposed to the yummy--I mean processed-- sugar.

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    1. The 80/20 rule really changed the way I viewed food, and personally is a great way to make sure I'm getting all my necessary nutrients without being so so strict on myself for say a cupcake or cookie. Yay for working out daily and eating great, hahaha some processed sugar every once in a while isn't too bad!

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  9. Hey Sahara not sure my comment went through so I'll just send this one too 😁

    I definitely agree with you about the diet industry. The diet industry is looking for repeat customers and not invested into making lifestyle changes that are long lasting for the consumer. I never participate in diet because they simply don't work. It's more of an effort to make you feel like you're missing out versus making you feel whole about yourself. I choose to eat what I want based on how I feel. I know that I need healthy carbs, fruits, vegetables and protein so I try to include all of those in each meal or snack every day. This was such a smart post I'm so glad I'm not the only one who doesn't focus on calorie counting.πŸ‘πŸΎπŸ˜ You did a lovely job, explaining this perspective to us πŸ‘πŸΎπŸ˜

    Natonya |
    https://justnatonya.wordpress.com

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    1. Hey Natonya! Thanks so much for double checking your comment went though, your second one (this one!) came through :)

      Yes 100%, the diet industry definitely relies on repeat customers who jump from one diet to the other and as much as they preach about lifestyle change in relation to whatever diet is popular, it can't be further than the truth. Yesss that's the best thing, choosing what to eat based on how you feel and making sure you're eating all fruits, vegetables and protein throughout the day, best way to live life to be honest!

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Natonya, it's means the world - so glad to hear you enjoyed reading!

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