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How to stop counting calories and listen to your body Print

Why tracking points, calories or macros may not be ideal 

 

A heavier woman with long blonde hair wearing a peach tank top writes in a blue food journalIn just about every weight loss diet, there is a form of counting. Whether it is counting points, calories and/or macros, counting will reduce your ability to listen to your body. The why behind counting is appealing – it can help with accountability and understanding of what we are consuming – but once we start counting, we forget about listening. Our body will tell us what to focus on, or when we have had too littleenough of or too much of a number.  

 

Some individuals are much more oriented towards numbers and see numbers as a way of understanding their body. Unfortunately, the body is not black and white and will not fit into a perfect equation. There are many factors that contribute to what the body needs in a day. These factors include immune function, digestive function, genetics, exercise, metabolic rates, stress, sleep, day to day activities (such as walking, stairs, cleaning, changing clothes) and reproductive function. Without a perfectly controlled laboratory setting, the calculations that are used to determine goal numbers will have errors. These numbers are estimates and are not as credible as what your body tells you.  

 

The Growing Concern with Calorie Counting in Schools

 

It has come to my attention in the last few months that more and more health programs in schools are including calorie counting assignments for their students. The feedback I have received from clients and colleagues and friends whom I have had discussions with regarding the topic has been that these assignments lead to shame about one’s diet and harmful attention being placed on body size.  

 

I have had multiple individuals tell me how an assignment they did in school was the start of a long struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food and their body. The feedback I have received is unanimous: schools need to stop counting calories because the focus on calorie counting at a young age is contributing to growing numbers of eating disorders and mental health struggles as they relate to food and health.  

 

I understand that the intention behind these assignments may be simply to educate about food and nutrition, but I encourage educators to look at using alternate ways to teach these lessons rather than having students counting calories. I want to emphasize that nutrition and understanding how to feed the body is about so much more than calories.  

 

Two young kids weighing foods on a scale in a classroom

 

What to Track When You Stop Counting Calories

 

Going back to the initial purpose of counting and tracking, the core goal is accountability and awareness. The biggest concern many individuals have is they want to have accountability to help with motivation. There are ways to keep motivated without having to track a single number! 

 

Track your hunger with your food

 

  • I suggest that if you are still interested in keeping a food journal, ditch the tracking apps and go back to pen and paper.  
  • Tracking food without the numbers but with how you are feeling throughout the day is a great tool that can be used for reflection and awareness.  
  • Track your hunger and fullness, energy, digestive symptoms and feelings towards food; these will help with getting back to listening to your body in a more intuitive manner.  

 

Use what we at Health Stand Nutrition call the “Timing Technique”:

 

  • Provide yourself with a basic timing plan that can give you a guide and reminder to direct awareness to hunger and what the body may be saying.  
  • I suggest writing this out and have it somewhere that is visible to you throughout the day.  
  • A general guide is to aim to eat every 3-5 hours to maintain energy and metabolic function. Here is an example:  
    • 8:00am Breakfast  
    • 12:00pm Lunch  
    • 3:30pm Afternoon snack  
    • 6:00pm Supper  
    • 9:00pm Before Bed snack  
  • Give yourself permission to listen to the body and eat when it is physically hungry and to also wait. Try to not go longer than 5 hours without food as this can lead to low blood sugar that can cause cravings, fatigue and poor focus.  

 

a whte analog clock on a blue background showing breakfast lunch and dinner times

 

It’s OK to delete those tracking apps, stop counting calories and find freedom in listening to your body again! It is a powerful tool all on its own that rarely gets the credit it deserves. 

 

If you need assistance with establishing a healthier relationship with food and learning to eat more intuitively, our experienced Dietitian team can help.    Contact us for private one on one nutrition counseling assistance. 

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Success stories

"I am a psychologist in private practice and it is very important to me that my clients have the best care with other health care professionals. For that reason Health Stand Nutrition is my only source for exceptional Dietitians. Andrea and her team provide highly knowledgeable, compassionate, and real world support to my clients who require assistance with food lifestyle. I trust my clients to them and you would be in excellent hands making them part of your health care team."
Adele Fox, Psychologist
“This is the first time I feel satisfied; my cravings have diminished dramatically and I have a whole new relationship with food. I am eating guilt-free for the first time in my life. My energy has also dramatically increased and I feel great!
Rhonda Jenkins, Nutrition Counseling Client
“The Dieticians at Health Stand Nutrition help you to take action on the science behind eating well by making it practical, understandable, and fun. Their office is cozy and not at all clinical or intimidating. I felt like I was sitting down with a really smart, caring friend who wanted to help me make the best choices for my lifestyle and food preferences. They really are the best in the business.”
Marty Avery, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I have come to think of the program as a one stop shopping excursion for everything one needs to know about creating a joyous relationship with food and our bodies. In a single word, the course has gifted me with freedom from the punishing rigidity of disordered eating, old stories that never were true, and body dysmorphia that did nothing but make me lose sight of a body that has done everything I've asked, despite my careless dismissal of her needs. Now when I look in the mirror I find myself shifting from harsh criticism to gentle gratitude.”
Lynn Haley, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“I spent 3 hours when first diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. I learned more from my Dietitian about food in those 3 hours than I had learned in all the years of my life. I also love the newsletter, there is always something to learn.”
Peter Whitehead, Nutrition Counseling Client
“I didn’t realize how strong my “diet mentality” was, and all the rules I had in my head about food. I was in a cycle of reward/punish/binge/cringe. I booked with your business very reluctantly, on the repeated advice of my doctor, to get my slowly rising cholesterol levels in check. I thought I knew everything about food, and my behaviour with food, but I was definitely re-schooled. My weight is creeping down, I feel good about my diet, exercise, body image, and lifestyle.”
Amy Floyd, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Thanks Andrea for an amazing presentation, I have heard all positive remarks from attendees and the evaluations show the same sentiment. It is really gratifying when a speaker does their “homework” and weaves in our profession’s day to day challenges within their content, you did an awesome job of this! You truly took the “die” out of Dietician! Your information on healthy eating and simplifying how we can work towards this as we are all so busy really hit the mark. Andrea connects very well with her audience; she is energetic, funny, and very approachable.”
Carole Ann LaGrange, Transfusion Medicine Safety Officer

Event Planner for Laboratory Diagnostic Imaging Annual Event

I am a family physician who sees patients with a myriad of eating concerns – from wanting to know how to plan healthy meals for active families, to weight loss, to eating disorders, and so on. I cannot recommend the Health Stand team highly enough. I have worked with (and been to!) other Dieticians in the past and too often find that they just ask for food logs and make suggestions that are easily obtained online or in books. The Dieticians at Health Stand offer much more than just telling clients what they “should be eating.” In contrast, the team really does more of a counselling practice, and they work hard to help their clients learn more about why their eating habits may be off track and not optimal for them, as well as helping people to effect change at a deep level that, most importantly, is sustainable for lifetime health.”
Dr. Deb Putnam, Family Physician

Nutrition Counseling Client & Referring Physician

“I am a busy mom, with kids in high level sports, working full-time downtown, and running our home acreage outside the City. I now have the knowledge and tools I need to plan for and manage the chaos of meal planning.”
Gillian Gray, Pursuit of Healthiness Online Course Participant
“As a construction company, we select speakers who can relate to our industry and its employees. Andrea’s message was delivered with humor and empathy. She makes people feel as though they can make changes without leaving behind every favorite food. Andrea focused her presentation on healthy eating as a way to keep energy high throughout the day. This message and the way it was delivered resonated with our predominantly male, blue collar culture. I would highly recommend Andrea as a speaker for groups such as ours. She will get your message across without alienating anyone in your audience – which is a huge hurdle when trying to introduce a wellness program in the workplace!”
Stephanie Wood, HR and Safety Manager

Fisher Construction Group, Burlington, WA

I found my Dietitian warm, funny, and skilled at teaching nutrition concepts without the overwhelm. The general approach of each session was to mix science with emotion, which was exceedingly effective in helping me shift my perspective on food from one of anxiety to one of joy and curiosity.”
Erin Kronstedt, Nutrition Counseling Client
“Excellent presentation! What a refreshing change to have a speaker inspire rather than “lecture” about nutrition. Your captivating stories, tips and overall approach to healthy eating uplifts and puts people at ease. It was great to hear we don’t need to strive to be perfect eaters, and that small changes really can make a difference in how we feel and in our health. Thanks to Andrea, we have solutions to our everyday nutrition challenges that can actually work in real life!”
Tina Tamagi, Human Resources

ARC Resources Ltd.

“Had I not joined this course I would have struggled with no focus, low energy, and mindless eating. Excellent teaching and motivation. This is not just a course, it is a nutrition club with mentorship, support, and connections with other people with similar situations.”
Lorri Lawrence, Pursuit of Healthiness online course participant

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