Calories vs Health

Posted: November 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

So I’ve posted before about how much I hate calorie counting, yet I do it right now as I work on trying to get my macro ratios balanced better (so even though my focus isn’t calorie counting so much, it ends up a part of it.)

As I was cooking dinner today and thinking how annoying calorie counting can be when it comes to things you make where you wouldn’t normally exactly measure quantities but just go based on the amount needed until you get the desired result/consistency, it got me thinking about how counting calories is much easier when you are eating more processed, packaged food.

I use myfitnesspal to track macros because it’s the easiest method I’ve found so far, and I hear people a lot talk about how great the barcode scanner is, and you get more accuracy with it…. that’s cool, but a lot of what I eat doesn’t have barcodes.

And this is one reason I call bullshit on the claim that counting calories encourages people to eat better. Counting calories encourages people to associate “healthy” or “good” with low calorie, nothing more. I saw this as someone who has spent many, many years of my life counting calories. It encourages thinking in terms of calories only.

Going strictly by a view of “lower calories are better” drinking several 2 liter bottles of diet pop a day is just as healthy as drinking water- both are zero calories! And that diet pop is actually better than water with lemon juice, because lemon juice has calories. In reality when it comes to what is actually healthier though, water is a better option than diet pop.

I’ve never been a diet pop drinker and artificial sweeteners trigger migraines for me too, but still back when I was counting calories and just thinking in terms of calories, there was a lot of terribly unhealthy stuff I ate, but as long as within my calorie limit, I didn’t give any thought to whether or not what I was eating was food that was actually nourishing or not. All that mattered was calories.

Which is of course an extension of the obsession with weight as health. Plenty of folks will say a calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and thus if you are eating below the calories you use, whatever you eat you should still lose weight. But even if you do lose weight under that, that does not mean you are eating healthier! There is this ridiculous idea encouraged by our society’s obsession with weight loss that healthy eating simply means eating in a means that either causes weight loss or maintains a low weight. So if all you eat and drink is Mountain Dew and Pixie Sticks, we call that “healthy”, just as long as you maintain a low weight on them. Meanwhile eating a more balanced, nutrient rich diet of fresh foods and limiting processed foods is defined as unhealthy if you aren’t thin (or at least losing weight) eating that way.

And again, the all processed and packaged food diet is the one that is easiest for calorie counting! You have packages you can easily consult for accurate calorie content.

When I complained online about people who enter and share foods on mfp where they have only entered calories and left everything else blank (because obviously calories are the only thing that matter to anyone), several folks commented talking about how they gave up trying to track macros because when tracking things like green beans different sources have vastly different information for how many carbs per gram they have.

Honestly I avoid such concerns by just not overthinking whether or not the info I have for green beans is really accurate or actually only a third the carbs it really was. Technically that makes a huge difference, but I’m just not worrying that much about it. I’m tracking macros right now because it’s helping me get better at eating more protein, and that’s what matters to me.

  1. G says:

    This drove me nuts when I was tracking! It’s a pain to correctly reckon recipes, unless you get out the scale and start measuring (and I refuse to do that, because it’s a one-way ticket to disordered eating land again for me).

  2. […] from person to person. I’ve written a bit before on issues of “what is healthy” (and a bit here). One thing that stands out to me is that for “healthy” homecooked meals on the cheap […]

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