Is Your Fear of Calories Weighing You Down? How to Eat Worry-Free

I read an article a while ago from the UK stating that on average, a woman has been through 61 diets by the time she is 45. Does this surprise you? or – more to the point – is this something you can relate to?

Unfortunately I can relate all too well.

By the time I was 14 years old I had already been through countless diets. I was a bit on the chubby side and my mother was very health conscious – so, as we were a product of our society and we did not know any better, we were always trying the latest fad diet together in order to keep our weight in check.

I can’t even count how many I have tried: Optifast shakes, ‘The Soup diet’, the ‘No-Carb’ diet, starvation and many periods of calorie counting.

For years I was a slave to calorie counting. I would count every calorie I put into my mouth–and woe befall me if I went over 1200 calories in a day! I was constantly riding the highs and lows of gaining and losing weight through any means possible.

I took turns in keeping my weight off through hunger, deprivation and self-deprecation.

Is this the way it has to be? Is there another way to be in control of your eating?

The Dangers of Fad-Dieting

Now I look back, there were many things seriously wrong with my previous approach to food.

Firstly, it does not work. Sure, you may lose the pounds initially, but you become a slave to dieting, calorie counting and the scales – when you lose the weight it’s very hard to keep it off. More often than not a few days, weeks, months or years later the weight will creep back on and set you off again on the dieting cycle.

Secondly, it has been proven that the more you have dieted, the more it wreaks havoc with your digestion system, the harder it becomes to digest and break down the food you put into your body, and the harder it becomes to keep the weight off long term.

Not only is it harder to keep the weight off, but more tragically, your health suffers. Depression, poor heart health, gall bladder problems, reduced metabolism and low self-esteem all are problems related to yo-yo dieting. I know of people who are suffering now for all the times they went through Jenny Craig or Slimfast.

I also know what it does to your mental health.  During my time working in the health and fitness industry, I have encountered so many people who are overwhelmingly concerned with whether or not they gain or lose a pound today. I had a woman absolutely break down in front of me because she had gained 500g one morning – and as a consequence she punished herself with eating nothing all day.

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Is this a healthy way to live? Should we be so afraid of what we eat, really?

Let’s be honest and ask ourselves these questions:

  1. As a Christian woman, should what I eat bring me fear, anxiety and stress?
  2. Should my weight (or lack thereof) be more important than my health?
  3. Should I be concerned with every calorie that goes into my mouth?

I am obviously a firm believer in the fact that we should care about what we put into our bodies – but I also am convinced that what we eat should not become an obsession! God does not want that for us.

“And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried […] your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you” (Luke 12:29-31).

Conventional methods of keeping your weight in check would have us believe that we need to constantly be checking every calorie, or dieting whenever we gain a pound – like I was stuck onto for years.

While this may keep our weight in check short-term, this is not healthy for our bodies – or our minds – at all!

Your perfect ‘diet’ (or as I prefer to say, ‘lifestyle’) is the one that makes your body feel amazing. It is the one that can come to the point where it is an effortless part of your everyday life. It is the one that makes your body work properly, gives you energy, prevents illnesses, that frees you from calorie-counting and ensures you never go hungry.

The more I find out about my body, the more I realise the truth of the Psalmist’s praises:

“I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well!” (Psalm 139:14)

So how can you keep a healthy weight and not be hungry anymore?

Some Guidelines to Eating Worry-Free

Eating Naturally–Quality Control

Think quality not quantity. Most of the time now I don’t think about how much I am eating, I don’t count calories and I don’t let myself get very hungry – all I worry about it what I am eating. I simply eat as naturally as possible. When I eat things as natural as they can come, I find that everything else usually takes care of itself.

How do you eat naturally? Well, firstly if you can’t pronounce the words on a label, or don’t really know how it got to be in the state that it is, then it is probably not the best thing to have as a part of your day-to-day eating!

All the foods you could find around a farm or in nature – fruit, vegetables (especially green), meat, milk, eggs, nuts, seeds, and unprocessed grains (preferrably soaked/fermented) – are safe choices.

Processed foods, artificial sweeteners/colors/preservatives and sugar should generally be avoided. Be aware that chemical treating, processing and strictly low-fat diets are fairly new concepts – and with the advance of these things have also come the advance of cancerous diseases and obesity.

Eating foods that are as natural and fresh as possible usually means that your diet sorts itself out. Think nutrition over calories. 

Bringing on the Fat

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Do not be afraid of fats– your body needs them! Recent research has shown that it is in fact not fat which causes heart disease, but the overuse of omega-6 fats which cause inflammation, arthritis, and cancer. This is the reason why fish oil is recommended for arthritis sufferers.

Generally around 2 tsp (some people will need less, some need more) of good fats per meal reduces visceral fat (around your stomach), helps keep you full, and reduces sugar cravings. Examples of good fat are:  coconut oil, extra virgin olive oil, butter, whole milk, cream, animal fat, fish oil, 85%+ dark chocolate, and avocado.

Unfortunately, omega-6 fats are the most prominent and recommended in the modern diet (soybean, canola oil, margarine, seed oils, cereals). If these fats are not counteracted with a higher amount of omega 3 fats, they will cause inflammation of the arteries. If you are eating eggs and nuts, then you are getting sufficient omega 6 and definitely do NOT need to be adding omega 6 canola and seed oils (which are most often rancid) to your cooking!

 

Going Easy on the Sugar

There are a lot of studies recently suggesting that it is the excess of sugar we are consuming that is causing the greatest problems with our health. It is not only the amount of sugar, but the type of sugar that matters in your diet. Having small amounts of sugar from fruit (berries and green apples are best), raw honey, 100% pure maple syrup and other natural sweeteners is a much better idea than many of the refined sugars we are indulging in! Realise however that even natural sugars should be a treat, as God in His wisdom said:

“My son, eat thou honey, because it is good; and the honeycomb, which is sweet to thy taste” (Proverbs 24:13).

but also…

“Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee, lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it” (25:16).

and…

“It is not good to eat much honey…” (25:26).

 

Stevia, xylitol, and erythritol are good sugar substitutes with low insulin responses if you need that sweet kick!

Practicing Quantity Control

I never give people the exact quantities of food to eat, as we are all different and need to listen to our own bodies’ needs. Eating intuitively and practicing mindful eating are great things to learn. Here are some general guidelines:

  1. Eat until you’re full and stop. Overeating is a problem when trying to lose weight. I have found, however, that when I started eating more protein, vegetables, and good healthy fats I became fuller more quickly – you can only eat so much!
  2. Eat often. As a general rule, eat within an hour of getting up and then eat every 2.5-4 hours.

Basically, a good guideline for most people at a regular meal is this: 

  1. 1-2 palm protein
  2. 1 palm carb/grains (fruit, unprocessed grain, or sweet potato)
  3. 2 tsp healthy fats
  4. 2 handfuls vegetables (preferably green)

Eating an amount of protein and healthy fats with each meal will help to curb sugar cravings, keep you fuller for longer, and slow down the rate your body reacts to the carbohydrates. Most people who struggle with overeating do not add enough protein or vegtables into their meals and snacks.

If you feel like snacking (before 3-ish hours), ask yourself:

  1. Am I thirsty?
  2. Am I emotional? How could I better deal with these emotions?
  3. If I am hungry, what is it that I really need? What can I eat that will fill that need? 
  4. How will I feel after I eat this?

Eliminating Intolerances

Not everyone would have to do this, but I certainly find it a good exercise for most people. The most common intolerances are gluten (or grains in general) and dairy. If you are unsure of whether you are intolerant, I recommend going without these both in turn for 2 weeks, taking note of how your energy levels change, and then reintroducing slowly to see how much you can handle. Grains and dairy are good, but usually way overused in our typical Western diets.

General rule: If something makes you feel unwell or tired within the hour after you eat it – avoid it, or eat less!

Eat a Treat {every now and then}

For some people, eating a treat every now and then actually increases their chances of success. Gretchen Rubin (one of my favourite writers and podcasters) has a quiz to find out whether you are one of these people or not here

I personally have a treat once a week. I have to limit it to once a week, or I’d be having it every meal in large amounts! I have little control when I allow what I consider to be sugary “treat foods” into my diet too much. 

The point is: know yourself. If you know you can handle it every now and then – go ahead and treat yourself!

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So, basically:

  1. Choose products that are as natural as possible.
  2. Think nutritional value over calories.
  3. Don’t be afraid to add some healthy fat to your diet. 
  4. Don’t let yourself starve.
  5. Practice mindful eating.
  6. Add protein to every meal and vegetables to at least two meals a day.
  7. Don’t be afraid of having a treat (if it suits your personality)

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Obviously there is more that could be said, but these are some general guidelines. If you have any questions, please contact me!

I have seen and helped many people come to this same realization that food does not have to be complicated or stressful – you do not have to go hungry and you do not have to be ruled by your food!

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7 thoughts on “Is Your Fear of Calories Weighing You Down? How to Eat Worry-Free

  1. This is excellent! The healthier way of eating which you described became more of our way of life when we lived in Tanzania, and I have tried to not return back to the typical American diet. I’ll definitely be sharing this article!

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  2. Visiting from Thriving Thursday! Great points! I think no particular food is off-limits, however, moderation is still the key. Counting calories is not necessary, but it comes down to common sense, for example, a piece of chocolate cake or a piece of watermelon. I do prefer fat products over the fat free and low fat where they’re available and sugar over sugar-free. Give me the real thing! Love your scripture references, too.

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    1. You are right. I never say never eat anything – I just listen to my body and how it feels after eating certain things! I let myself eat whatever I want usually one or two meals a week – I don’t believe in deprivation. Thank you for your comments! 🙂

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