Calories. The dreaded worst most associated with being healthy, or losing weight, is a pretty large misconception. Calories are energy, and humans need calories to perform daily tasks and ultimately live. So no, they aren’t actually evil like most think; they’re necessary. People with specific health or weight goals think that by practically starving themselves by limiting calorie intake will help them attain their goals, and for some, it may. But is it healthy? Far from it. The secret to not having to count calories stems from one main rule: clean eating.
Clean eating is the practice of eating whole, natural, (sometimes) organic, and virtually unprocessed foods that lack preservatives and nasty chemicals. By eating mainly raw, or steamed, vegetables, grilled meats or tofu and natural foods (no, not “natural” potato chips), you can achieve your weight goals quicker, and stop yo-yo dieting for good. Before you shake your head in disbelief (most likely because you’ve been counting calories all your life), bear with me.
The general consensus is that the fewer calories you consume, the less you will weigh. This has some truth to it, but mainly depends on what you are eating and how many calories you are burning off. Of course, not being Michael Phelps and consuming 5,000 calories of anything is never healthy, but some athletes do require a different diet than most average folks. Foods are not metabolized or absorbed the same. For example, eating a 350 calorie donut is not the same as eating 350 calories worth of vegetables. Don’t get caught up on the number of calories you are consuming when eating clean because raw vegetables and fruits contain a higher percentage of water and nutrients your body needs to stay healthy. For example, a donut has no nutritional value, and the processed sugar and flour inside the donut will store into fat, unlike the vegetables. You could eat however many vegetables you want (within reason), but they will never become fat as a donut would. Just “one more donut” would be different than “just a few more carrots.” This goes for any refined flour, like white bread, and sugary foods and beverages. The starches will turn into fat quickly, causing you to gain weight regardless of calorie intake. Other clean foods are grilled chicken cooked in olive oil, vegetables, fruits, natural nuts, natural nut butters, natural yogurts, skim milk, almond milk and other grilled meats. These foods are all unprocessed and don’t contain yucky chemicals. Even if you are limiting your calories, choosing a donut over healthy food and still staying within or under your calorie limit, you aren’t doing your body a favor because you aren’t receiving any nutrients. Don’t “save,” limit or count calories. Ever. Just eat clean. That’s so much easier anyway, isn’t it?
Eating clean is the greatest way to stay healthy because you are putting foods into your body that your body genetically knows how to break down. Chemicals and preservatives are hard on our system and can cause that unwanted sugar high or stomachache we sometimes feel after eating unhealthy foods, especially too much of them. Because seriously, who has ever felt sick after eating fruits and vegetables? Eating clean can help improve your skin, weight, and overall well-being.
Bottom line: It all depends on what you eat not how many calories you are eating. Allow yourself one cheat a week to prevent any bingeing.
- Read the nutrition labels, not just the packaging, on foods. Even if a certain cereal or yogurt says “natural,” don’t let that fool you! Read the ingredients to be sure they lack syrup, starch or dyes. Organic is also another marketing tool and doesn’t always mean that food is clean and natural.
- Listen to your body! Some people think they’ll be starving when they begin eating clean. The truth is, if you’re used to eating processed foods, your body will take some time to adjust. But listening to your body is key. Don’t eat when you’re not hungry or after an emotional breakdown. Instead, eat until you’re full, no matter how good it tastes. Eating clean also means controlling your portion sizes, not counting calories. Purchasing Tupperware containers to put each meal in helps with portion control, and makes eating clean more portable.