I have been wanting to quit this obsession with counting calories, and to go to a nutritionist, but there are none in my area that are covered by my insurance. I was wondering if there were any guidelines you could give me that I can use to make myself stop obsessing about the calories, yet at the same time know that I will not balloon up to the size I was at one time. I am at a healthy weight (145 lbs) right now and want to stay that way. I was 160 at my highest and when I lost weight, I cut back on calories and did exercise, so I lost it quick and lost muscle mass. I began to lift and now have plenty of muscle and feel that I am healthy other than my constant worry about calories and making sure I do not eat too much. Can you give me guidelines, such as good things to eat for meals and snacks without the calorie worry? Thanks. I really appreciate this website, I now know I am not the only person in the world with this problem!! – JC
In terms of your lifestyle, you have made some very positive changes. You say you have reached a healthy weight, are mindful of what you eat, and are lifting weights to keep your body strong. Your desire to be free of your obsession over calories is a very positive step!
First, start by redefining what healthy eating is. You have come to think of it as a certain calorie level, but it is so much more than that. Foods contain carbohydrates, proteins and fats, all of which play vital roles in the functioning of our bodies. They also contain vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals, which are essential to good health and disease prevention. Calories are simply a measure of the amount of energy a food provides, and it sounds like that measure has been your total focus.
Turn your attention instead to eating wholesome, healthy foods. This means meals that are rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. Some people aim for a plate (about 9 inch size) that is one half vegetables (including raw), with the other half for their starches and protein source. Fruits and low fat dairy are also included to balance the meal. This is just a general guideline and isn’t always practical, but many use it as a way to eat healthy for a lot of meals, without counting calories.
Read the nutrient content of the labels of new foods only for learning purposes. People with specific medical conditions are the only ones who need to be concerned about making daily calculations.
Stick to your three balanced meals a day, with healthy snacks as needed. Start to trust your ability to listen to your body – feeding it when you feel hungry, but stopping when you are comfortably full. Coupled with a reasonable (not obsessive) exercise routine, your will naturally maintain the healthiest weight for your body type. As you break free of your preoccupation with calories, life will seem so much fuller!