I saw it again the other day, a phrase in an otherwise lovely book about diet and nutrition, where the writer refers to the “tedium of counting calories,” and recommends some way around the horror of addition and making lists.
I just don’t understand. Why is counting calories and nutrients so much more abhorrent than counting exchanges, servings, points? Why do we buy into this notion that reading labels and counting protein, fat, carbohydrates and calories are too hard for the average person to do? That it’s so much more complicated than checking off boxes, following a formula? Do we really imagine people are incapable of this simple act?
It’s so easy to find this information. It’s printed right on the packaging or readily available online or in simple nutrient counting books. So, can someone explain to me why we feel it’s necessary to devise diet after diet specifically to help people avoid a.) writing down what they’ve eaten today, and b.) what the values of that food are?
It strikes me that reading the nutrition labels is just plain good training. Something we should all do from an early age. We should know what the values of our foods are so we know when we’re eating well and when we’re not. Satiety can’t tell the whole story. Instinct doesn’t completely work. If it did, few of us would be fat.
When we tell ourselves that counting and reading labels is tedious, complicated, boring, annoying, we build a communal idea that this is hard work. But it is not hard work. Nothing could be easier or more straightforward. Nothing could be better for reinforcing nutrient and calorie awareness day after day until you develop a sense for the counts you need each day to sustain your body and/or lose weight.
Counting and tracking your food and reading labels helps us develop an internal database, building it as we go, negotiating with our appetites, understanding our favorite foods, local snack options. We can better manage the foods that we are most likely to encounter with this sort of learning, rather than try to surround ourselves with some diet author’s preferred foods, an artificial diet we would have a hard time sustaining after our interest in the diet scheme has worn off.
By learning to count what we know, what we actually eat, we can make smarter choices. We then learn from experience that we can fill up on a green salad for just a few calories and lots of nutrients, and that shortbread cookies “cost” us a lot for very little nutritional value or bulk. We are able to make smart choices without sacrificing that occasional cookie.
Learning by counting our food is the sane and sustainable choice, to my mind. It allows us each to eat as we will, what we will, when we will, the way we need to, and all of it under our own control.
Of course you can count. Of course it’s easy. Spread the word, willya?
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