The constant calculator in your head won’t stop running. Food has been reduced to numbers and fears. It started out as something to support your health, but now it feels compulsive – you think about it all day long. Food doesn’t have to be a math equation. Here are four things to do if you hate counting calories:
1. Go On A Calorie Counting Diet
Food is not a number. Food is food. Food is nourishment. Sometimes, the fear and social stigma associated with being overweight in our culture can distort our relationship with food to be something scary as well. Separate food from numbers. If counting soothes you, count the number of smiles on people’s faces walking by, not the calories.
Calories are simply energy. But in our body-fearing world, calories can equal body judgment or lack of will power. Smash that paradigm! Go calorie counting free as long as you can. Just say no! Do your best to shift your focus from the calorie information you already know and simply be present with the food on your plate.
Ask restaurants if they have menus that do not list calories. Select the meal that sounds most appealing, rather than focusing on the calories listed next to them. When you feel yourself reaching to peel the label open on packaged food, remind yourself that you’re striving for a qualitative, rather than quantitative, relationship with food. Leave the label down or turn it away from you. Or better yet, eat foods that don’t have labels at all!
2. Focus on Food Quality
Shift your focus away from calorie counting and onto quality of food. The higher the quality of your food, the more probability there is that you will reach your natural weight more easily. Your liver won’t be bombarded with extra toxins to filter, so it can focus on its job to clean the blood and metabolize energy. When we can put real food in our bodies, we don’t skip nutrients or use chemicals to substitute for nourishment, and our bodies utilize the food optimally.
What is quality food? Real, fresh, organic food that is naturally produced, locally grown, and nutrient dense. You get more with less. Quality allows us to relax our grip on quantity and trust our body’s fullness cues. We utilize nutrients and feel satiated without a false alarm, which allows us to trust our internal body cues rather than external numbers calculated on a package or menu.
3. Focus on Relaxed Eating
The field of Dynamic Eating Psychology teaches us that harried eating diminishes our capacity to listen to our body’s cues for fullness and satiety. Here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating we advocate “slow” eating. Eating in a slow, relaxed way with time and attention ensures that we will experience our meal. When we do this, there’s no need to overeat. Our natural appetite self-regulates.
Relaxed eating also allows our bodies to stimulate enzymes and acid secretions for optimal digestive function. It sends a powerful message to our nervous systems that we are out of danger or stress and can relax, let go, and recharge. When we eat in a parasympathetic (relaxed) state, we sense our fullness, feel more satisfied with less, and can metabolize more efficiently. Plus, it’s just plain more enjoyable to relax while eating a meal! Share a meal with a friend, make space for a meal, and treat it as an important part of your day. Your body will thank you.
4. Focus on Nourishment
Food is not about numbers – it’s an experience. Celebrate. Enjoy. Feel nourished by the food you take in. Reducing food to calories or numbers makes it feel like a chore. But food is wired very strongly in most brains to produce a powerful feeling of pleasure so that we survive by continuing to feed ourselves. Calories may give us energy, but food gives us nourishment.
The more your food comes the way nature intended, the more nourishing it is for your body. Keep it simple, organic, colorful, and full of nutrients. Make sure that the majority of your intake nourishes your body with healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates.
When we focus on nourishment it triggers a relaxation response, rather than a fear response. We can let our bellies open to receive the nourishment. We move through life more relaxed and at peace. We can view nourishing ourselves as a proactive and healthy thing, rather than a feared enemy in the form of numbers. Stick with focusing on quality food, and let your body — not a label — tell you the quantity it needs.
So, go on a calorie counting free diet, focus on quality, eat in a relaxed state and focus on nourishment. When you do this, you can relax the calculator and be with food as it’s meant to be – as nature provides it. You’ll establish a more trusting relationship with your body and food, and will free up energy for things that matter more in your life.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
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