Counting Nutrients Instead of Calories

Not all calories are created equal.
Not all calories are created equal.

The most common reason many people change their eating habits is because they want to lose weight. They often want to know weight loss ‘secrets’. Of course there is the usual, such as eat more veggies and don’t drink your calories. The one concerning trend I see among the calorie conscious is the goal to lose weight as opposed to eat healthy. While it appears the two go hand in hand, this is not necessarily the case. You can be healthy and lose weight, but you can count calories and make yourself sick at the same time. My suggestion is to stop counting calories and to eat more fat.

What!?! Bear with me. It was just a few weeks ago that Ontario announced it will be the first province to require calories to be listed on the menu. Most people consider calorie counting synonymous with healthy eating. While in some ways it is a start and I suppose a better approach than none at all, there are some serious flaws about calorie counting as a health plan. I have never been a calorie counter. Maybe it’s my total and complete aversion to numbers and inability to work with them that turns me off of the idea. But I am not the only one. The most obvious problem with counting calories is that at some point you might end up feeling like you have to deprive yourself because you have maxed out. You are left with two choices: deprivation or guilt. Two guaranteed ways to eventual failure as far as a ‘diet’ goes.

The other factor that is far more disturbing about calorie counting is that it is no longer about the nutritional value of what food you are putting in your body. In fact, calorie counting discounts additives, chemicals, preservatives and general nutritional value completely. For example, there’s the infamous aspartame laced diet soda as an alternative to the higher calorie and sugar content of a regular soda. If you’re going to cave—do it right. Drink the sugar over a chemical. Aspartame is a known neurotoxin causing everything from migraines to multiple sclerosis like symptoms. In fact, aspartame deteriorates the myelin sheath (as does MSG).

The myelin sheath is the covering or protective layer around your neurons. It is necessary for the nervous system to function properly. Imagine the covering on an electrical cord—it’s never a good thing when that starts to deteriorate. This is in fact what happens in a person with multiple sclerosis. Of course MS cannot be tied to one thing. There are many factors that can cause or trigger or aggravate MS. Everything from vitamin D deficiency to an increased consumption of sugar since the 20th century. However it is interesting to note that MS is 2 to 3 times more common in women than men and women coincidentally are also more likely to consume ‘diet’ products laced with harmful, good tasting chemicals in exchange for low calories. Unfortunately, MS is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the side effects of eating low calorie processed food. I get a migraine anytime I go near anything that has aspartame or MSG. Mental health issues, PMS, cancer, Parkinson’s, hormonal imbalances and even heart disease are just a few of the other side effects.

Of course no one is denying that as North Americans we eat far too much. But if we eat the right stuff, we don’t need to be so obsessed with how much we are eating and instead focus on how well we are eating. It was pointed out on a CBC radio station call (about the law requiring menus to have the amount of calories per meal) that a coke has fewer calories than many smoothies, but which one is healthier?

If you’re still not sold on avoiding low-calorie foods consider this. Low calorie, processed foods are loaded with chemicals that not only cause all kinds of short term and long term health problems, but they will also keep you from losing weight. Up to a point you will lose weight, but your liver, thyroid and adrenals will become so burdened with dealing with the chemicals you are feeding yourself every day that this in turns slows down your metabolism as well as makes you feel exhausted, moody and unwell. Furthermore, some people simply cannot lose weight or continue to lose weight after a certain point because their body needs to hang onto the fat to dilute the chemicals.
Hanging onto fat is the body’s natural (and very intelligent) defense mechanism to prevent those toxic chemicals from affecting your vital organs and glands. Of course those chemicals will still be found in your organs and glands, but the fat dilutes the chemicals to not become so concentrated to vital organs. Essentially, low-calorie foods will not only make you sick, but slows down your metabolism and encourages your body to hang onto fat. The final blow is that anything toxic (the chemicals in processed food is toxic!) will make you age. Regular consumption of processed low-calorie and often high carbohydrate foods causes premature aging of the skin. This only makes sense after all. When you put low doses of poison in your body it is going to affect your health and your health includes your appearance.

Unfortunately, chemicals are not the only thing that you need to be concerned about with processed foods. It only makes sense that the less clean and natural you eat and the more processed food you eat, the less minerals and vitamins your body is getting. Without those nutrients your body has a harder time detoxing any toxins or chemicals it is encountering. This creates a slugglish liver, digestive, immune and lymph system which in turn affects the thyroid as well as all the other organs and glands. Thus your body has a harder time burning the fat you so desperately want to get rid of. If you feed your body nutritious food, then it works better. It will burn fat faster, your skin will be clearer and more elastic and you will be more energetic, which means you will be more motivated to eat healthy, to go to the gym or to hit the yoga mat. Eating nutritious isn’t just about avoiding chemicals. It is about getting those oh-so essential vitamins and minerals into your body so you can enjoy optimum health.

If you’re not convinced neither was I. I struggled with acne for years as did my dad and my brothers. How could it be anything but genetic? When it didn’t go away even in my late twenties this confirmed my belief further. Then when I started eating healthy on a consistent basis my skin became clearer than it had ever been in my entire life. I spent years covering up my teenage and adult acne with chemically based foundations. Now I practically never wear foundations and I don’t need to. A sign of a stressed liver and adrenals are dim colored eyes and bags under the eyes. Now the bags have disappeared and my eyes look brighter.

The bottom line is that if you want to feel great and look great then eat real food. More in the next post about fat and why it’s good for you and how if you want to lose fat you have to eat fat!

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