Food or Calories? Which to Focus On?

You’ve decided it is time to get in shape and get healthier.   You embark on a diet and a workout plan.   You start eating “healthy” and you launch into a rigorous exercise regimen.  You stick with it for a while until you just get tired of it. You get hungry. You feel deprived.  You get tired of worrying about how many calories you are eating and what you are burning off doing all that exercise.  You throw in the towel because this “getting healthy” stuff is just not for you.  Have you ever experienced this?

Healthy.  Healthy Food. Eating Healthy.  Those words get used a lot.  Have you ever stopped to consider what it truly means?  What is Healthy food? What is eating Healthy?  What is Healthy?

HEALTH is the state of complete physical, mental & social well-being; not merely the absence of disease or infirmity

Using that definition then “healthy food” must be food that supports a state of complete physical, mental & social well-being.  Right?  What about the concept of “good food” vs. “bad food”?   Now we may be getting closer to what folks mean when they say healthy food vs. unhealthy food. They must be talking about “good” vs. “bad” food.  Gotcha!  Where are those lists? There must be a standardized list – right?   Here’s the thing:  Get 10 people together and ask them that question; I’m betting you will get lots of different answers. I don’t like to categorize food as good or bad.  Why give food that power? The Power is Yours.

What I do like to do is to talk about choices – better choices relative to nutrition, satiety and health promotion.  To me, “healthy food” is food that promotes health. Body, Mind & Spirit. Healthy food is nutrient dense, it satisfies and it supports your vibrant lifestyle and keeps your body fit and strong.  I’m betting few folks will argue against the powerhouse nutrition of leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables.  They are filled with phytonutrients, vitamins & minerals that support vibrant health. However, let’s beREAL– eating nothing but leafy greens and cauliflower doesn’t exactly make our spirits soar.  Chocolate cheesecake pretty much makes my spirits soar.

Keeping on with keeping it REAL – a steady diet of bacon cheeseburgers and chocolate cheesecake isn’t likely to keep my overall health soaring.   It is a balance of choices.  We need to tweak our choices depending on what goals we are tackling with our health and that includes our body weight.   The intensity of the tweaks may vary, but we must have an overall way of eating that works for us, that supports our health and it needs to be something that we can sustain for the rest of our lives.   We can white knuckle through most anything for a short period of time, but keeping up with a plan that is overly rigid, doesn’t support the very important spirit part of our health and it is going to fail us in the end.   There is indeed room in a healthy diet for a bacon cheeseburger (and chocolate) if that is what you love.

What is a person to do when they want to make changes to their eating to improve their health and their body?  Start with educating yourself so that better choices can be made; get some guidance and support.   In general, my advice and my approach is to first focus on the food.  That means food quality and better choices.  Calories can and do come later – at least an overall awareness of them as they relate to your energy expenditure.

Typically, folks who set out to count calories are counting calories without changing up the actual food.  How many doughnuts can I eat and still come within “x” calories per day isn’t really the best way to go about it.  You can quickly reach your calorie limit and still behungry Hungry leads to fail.  

Focus on crowding in some better choices – food with higher nutrient density which is typically lower in calories and is more filling and satisfying.   The balancing act is to crowd IN those foods while gradually crowding OUT some of the foods that haven’t been serving you well.  Small consistent steps that lead to big lifestyle changes.

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