*Calories Aren’t The Enemy* — How I Established A Healthy Relationship With Food

There was a time early on in my fitness journey [which also coincides with my first semester of college] that I was unhealthily obsessed with calories. I have a fairly small build, so some silly//unreliable website that determines calorie intake solely on height and weight told me I could only eat 1,100 calories a day — ++ I believed it.

First of all, 1,100 calories is not a lot — at all — + I was eating less than that. The best [*worst*] part: I thought that was me being *healthy*. Second, I still can’t believe I thought my height + weight were the only determinants of my daily caloric intake. However, three years + [finally] a balanced, calorie-rich diet later, I continue to see women [especially college students] falling back on the age old *less is more*approach when it comes to eating.

NEWSFLASH: *REAL* food has calories. *HEALTHY* food has calories. Foods that are high in vitamins + nutrients ++ all the good stuff your body needs have calories. Calories are not the enemy. The real enemy is fad diets, false information, *low calorie* food options that really only boast one thing: low calories.

To be clear, I’m not talking about a handful of carrots, blueberries or apples [which are low calorie and high nutrients]. I’m talking about zero calorie soda, foods that are portrayed as having *negative* calories ++ diet brands that boast low calorie foods without mentioning they also have very little nutritional value [think: Special K].

While eating less than 1,100 calories was a torture I would not wish upon my worst enemy [talk about being hangry], it can be just as difficult to discern how many calories a day you should be eating, as well as *what kind* of calories are best for #reCHAARGing a body that supports a busy + active lifestyle. I wish I could give everyone a magic number, but the simple truth is that everyone’s caloric intake is different. It depends on your height and weight, activity levels, metabolism, genetics, muscle mass + a slew of other things. In fact, the amount of calories your body needs changes day-to-day.

While I can only speak for myself, I can say that I only began to see changes in my body — my energy levels, muscle changes, mental awareness, even the texture of my skin and hair — when I *stopped* counting calories. Along with calorie counting, I also eliminated processed, sugary, manufactured + misleading trendy foods from my diet. I replaced them with *real* foods that are nutrient rich. I said goodbye to my favorite low calorie soda [a.k.a an artificially sweetened demon drink] + replaced it with H2O, which I now drink all day, err day. Instead of a handful of potato chips, I’ll grab a handful of almonds. Instead of buying highly processed [+ low nutrient] diet//energy bars, I’ll whip up something like these delicious peanut butter coconut energy bars for a snack that is natural, packed with nutrients + gives me the boost I need to make it to dinner time. Instead of a microwavable diet meal from the freezer section, I’ll cook up some salmon or chicken with brown rice + a hearty sweet potato for dinner.

Are you seeing the trend here? All of these foods have *calories*. You know what happened when I started eating more calories than that dreaded 1,100? I became healthier — because real food with real calories delivers real, lasting, sustainable + healthy results. I tortured myself thinking the only way to live a healthy lifestyle was to eat a low-calorie diet. But I was far from healthy + even further from happy. It didn’t happen overnight, but through education + determination I learned which *real* foods give me the most energy + nutrients I need to make it through the day feeling satisfied, healthy, ++ happy. I’d tell you how many calories I eat a day, but I’m really not sure. ++ to be frank, I don’t want to know. Freeing myself from calorie counting was the biggest + most rewarding step I’ve taken on my fitness journey + I challenge you to do the same.

++Briana [@brianam_inchaarg], VirtCHAARG // Orlando

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