Let’s face it; exercise is great for increasing muscle tissue, increasing bone density, improving energy levels, increasing your ease of activities of everyday living, helping with disease control/prevention with illnesses such as diabetes, high blood pressure, different cancers, etc., BUT, when it comes to losing weight…..calories are king. Exercise definitely helps with weight loss. Increasing muscle tissue to increase resting metabolic rate, increases in hormones that help reduce fat, and participating in activity helps to burn calories; these all play a role, so don’t take my writing here as an excuse to not exercise. When it comes down to it, calories play a HUGE part in achieving weight loss. The ironic thing about calories being key to losing weight is that food/nutrition habits may be the hardest habit to change. I have learned this both personally and in working with others.
Food is personal. Food is cultural. Food is comforting. Food can bring back memories of your childhood, friendship, and time with your family. Food is a key component of almost every social gathering ever! Food is constantly being brought into the workplace (And, who wants to be the odd one out eating greens, seasoned chicken, and some rice when everyone else is enjoying their pizza payed for by the company? You’re turning down free food?). We’re busy, and fast food is convenient and relatively inexpensive. Boxed/bagged food on the shelves at the grocery store are relatively inexpensive. Fresh produce and meats are more expensive and take longer to prepare. When looking at these barriers to changing nutrition habits, it’s easy to see why this aspect of shedding body fat is so hard.
So, what is a calorie? When it comes down to it, a calorie is just a unit of energy. Scientifically, a calorie is the amount of energy (heat) needed to raise one mL of water 1° Celsius. In short, calories are fuel…..food is fuel. It’s micronutrients, and macronutrients, are used to help your body function properly. Different macronutrients have different calorie densities. Protein: 4Cal/gram. Carbs(CHO):4Cal/gram. Fats: 9Cal/gram. Alcohol: 7Cal/gram. There you have it! Easy as that, right? Control your calories. Lose weight. NOPE!!!! Referencing my previous paragraph, food is so much more than just fuel, and in my opinion, why even bother to eat food at all if that’s our take on it? Just fuel. We may as well throw everything needed in a blender with some water so we can quickly grind it up and swig it down…..saves time eating at least. Speculating here; but food is hard to change, because we don’t look at it as just fuel, AND THAT’S OKAY! Food should be enjoyed and appreciated! It shouldn’t make you feel guilty, and you shouldn’t be afraid of it.
I think changing our nutrition habits become even harder with the outside influences we encounter on a regular basis. Photos of perfect meals and nutrition are posted on Instagram or Facebook, so we get this idea that we have to eat perfectly in order to achieve weight loss. Then you have the marketing of these health food companies that make you feel worse….here’s some text taken from a company that advertised on my Instagram feed: “Guilt free”. Why should we feel guilty at all when we’re eating food? And then there’s the peer pressure. That’s the most difficult thing to face when trying to change your nutritional habits, for me, anyways. For me it wasn’t necessarily saying no to food, it was saying no to beer. And, wow, the interrogation you can get when you turn down food or drinks…. Yes, I’m still having the occasional drink or two, but the frequencies and quantities are down. And last, but not least, we have “bad” foods.
Why do we have foods that have been labeled as “bad”? Fats are “bad”. Carbs are “bad”. Pizza, cakes, cookies, bacon…..”BAD”!!! Food isn’t inherently bad! Everything in moderation!! I think that when we label foods as being bad, or when we think that we need perfection in our diet to achieve our goals but don’t hit that perfection, we feel guilty when we consume certain foods. I’m not a nutritionist, and I’m not a psychologist, so these are purely my guesses. And, changes DO need to be made in order to achieve our goals, but that doesn’t mean we should cut the fun, excitement, enjoyment out of eating delicious meals.
To lay it out there, my diet yesterday consisted mostly of bread, pizza, and a couple beers for dinner. Do I do this often? No. Do I feel guilty? No. Did it totally ruin my chances of reaching my goals? No, although I can’t do this on a regular basis. Did I enjoy it? Yes! Don’t aim for perfect nutrition. Don’t compare yourself to others when trying to make changes to your diet. Compare yourself to where you were yesterday. Don’t label food as bad, or feel guilty after eating something you enjoy. Make little changes gradually, but still make a place in your meal plan to include enjoying the foods you love. Don’t feel guilty when eating something you love. Don’t not try or give up completely when you don’t achieve perfection. Don’t strive for perfection. None of us are perfect. Strive for better than yesterday. Keep working on your nutrition, but still make room for eating and drinking the things you love. Find what works for you!