When you start paying close attention to the calories you consume, it’s usually with good intentions. Perhaps it’s an effort to lose weight or maintain a healthier lifestyle. However, this well-meaning practice can spiral into an obsession that may disrupt your relationship with food.
Let’s dive into the nuances of the balancing act of calorie counting, exploring 7 critical aspects that will help guide you through mindful eating without tipping over into unhealthy habits.
Why Excessive Calorie Counting is a Problem
To determine whether or not calorie counting results in an eating disorder, we have to first understand what “excessive” means. By definition, excessive, in this context, means doing something “more than necessary, normal, or desirable.” Aka, the opposite of moderate.
Tracking your calories is actually a time-tested way to lose weight, and many studies back its effectiveness. If you know how much you’re putting in your body, you understand why you are or aren’t losing weight. Calories aren’t the end all be all, but they do give you direction. This is especially true if you’re overweight and you typically stop eating when full or past full.
However, if you count calories excessively, meaning you track your calories to the T for every meal, you could develop an eating disorder. This obsession can cause you to eat less than you intend to, develop a dislike towards meal time, or cause a diet-hopping lifestyle.
How to Track Calories in a Healthy Way
Navigating the world of nutrition can be tricky, but tracking calories doesn’t have to be your adversary. Here’s how you can monitor your intake in a healthy, balanced, and effective way.
1. Opt for a Meal-Kit Delivery Service
If counting calories is starting to feel overwhelming, consider switching to a delivery kit service with calorie-smart recipes. These services take the guesswork out of meal planning and ensure you’ll enjoy a wide array of fresh ingredients that come pre-measured, cutting down prep time.
By doing so, you remove the daily hassle of tracking every calorie yourself, which can help maintain a healthier relationship with food without compromising on nutrition or taste. It’s convenience married with mindfulness – a step towards stress-free healthy eating.
2. Eat Similar Meals Every Week
Eating the same meals day in and day out can be classified as another food disorder called Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder (ARFID). Not only that but eating the same foods can cause nutrient deficiency. However, it’s okay to eat from a similar menu of items every week.
This means that you eat something different at every mealtime for 7 days but repeat this schedule weekly. If you switch it up minimally (aka, adding an extra ingredient), you’ll be able to track calories easier because you already know the amount you’re eating ahead of time.
3. Go on a Plant-Based Diet
Switching to a plant-based diet is one of the best ways to cut calories without needing to track them excessively. Since most plant-based foods are low in calories, you can eat significantly more of them before you get full. This ensures you’re satiated while going through this process.
Of course, it’s still important to keep a food diary when you start, especially if you’re eating the Standard American Diet. You can show this to your doctor to ensure that you’re getting all the nutrients you need. It’s recommended to adopt this lifestyle slowly to ensure it sticks.
4. Have Weekly Cheat Meals
The problem with calorie tracking is that it can get boring and repetitive. Losing weight takes a lot of work, and it’s more than okay to have a cheat day every now and then. However, try not to go overboard. Designate one meal every week to something that isn’t in your diet plan.
If possible, try to make this cheat meal at home at least twice a month. For example, if your cheat meal is pizza, bake a fresh pie in your oven and have a couple of slices. Not only is this healthier, but you’ll know exactly what’s in your food without having to ask the restaurant.
5. Use a Fitbit or Tracking App
Embracing technology can simplify your journey toward balanced health. Devices like a Fitbit or numerous tracking apps count calories and monitor activity levels. They work by creating a log of your daily intake and expenditure without you having to jot down every detail.
This way, you’re aware of your behaviors without becoming obsessive. These tools often encourage positive lifestyle changes through personalized goals and reminders, helping ensure that your relationship with food and exercise stays on a healthy track without derailment.
Your journey with food is deeply personal, and it’s important to navigate it with care. Remember that seeking a healthier lifestyle doesn’t have to mean losing the joy of eating or falling prey to counting every single calorie. Strike a balance and listen to your body, embracing tools, strategies, practices, and services that foster healthy habits without adding on the stress.