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Stop counting calories

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Written by Neha Chandna - Dietician, Nutrition Educator, Exercise Counselor with an M.Sc. in Dietetics and Food Service Management from SVT. She has worked with corporates such as HDFC and Standard Chartered as well as BPOs and MNCs on the Right ways of eating and living!

We live in a world where looks (read size 0) is more appreciated than being curvy. People get obsessed with their goals of becoming thin and follow crash diets. They forget that they need to eat healthy to help their body perform at its fullest. A lot of contribution towards this attitude comes from the media, society, friends and family. There is so much wrong information that fall prey to, the most common one being that 'you need to count every calorie that goes in'. This has turned people into a walking talking calculator, measuring every little piece of food. People have forgotten the function of calories for the human body, which is to provide energy!

The calorie-counting process was initiated to assist people to keep a track of how much food they need to eat as per their age, height, and weight, i.e. the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA). In general, it just helps you understand your body requirement. It wasn't meant for people to become conscious about every calorie consumed. But what people have started doing now is punishing themselves for every extra calorie they intake. This does not make the weight loss process a pleasant experience.

All it does it adds to your stress levels, which makes you panic to the extent that you consider it a sin if you have gone beyond the limit and starve yourself or over-workout to make up for it. This causes loss of muscle mass, crashes your metabolism and makes the weight loss process even more difficult. Ultimately, you land up losing trust in the entire concept of weight loss, conclude that it won't work for you and get back to your old binging routine. In short, the whole calorie counting process makes you give up on your fitness goals faster as it is something you cannot keep up with forever.

The calorie counting process also causes confusion in the choices people make. For example, if a banana has 100 kcal and a small packet of chips has 80 kcal, a calorie conscious person will more likely choose chips over the banana to avoid the 20 extra calories. But bananas contain potassium, calcium, vitamins, etc. whereas chips only have fat and carbs which affects weight and health. This is extremely harmful as it puts you in a habit of opting only for unhealthy foods.

You cannot carry cups, spoons, vessels to measure the calories in the food wherever you go. But you can keep yourself fit by making healthier food choices like fruits and dried fruits over chocolates, roasted nuts over fried foods, whole grains like brown rice, oats, ragi, jowar, etc. All you need to do is understand and listen to your body and give it the nourishment it needs. Eat in small portions and keep junk to the minimum. If you land up eating unhealthy foods, just go for a good run or workout and you'll be back on track. Stop punishing your body and start enjoying food.
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