The base method most of us use when trying to shed pounds or maintain a healthy weight is by counting calories.
“How many calories is that?” is always the first question we ask when we are introduced to a new product.
It’s a fair basis for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but is it good enough?
Understand How Your Body Uses Calories
Like how gas fuels a car, calories are what we need to give us the energy to function. But unlike a car, we are slightly more complicated. A car can be shut off and it doesn’t consume energy. While for us humans, we consume calories every moment of every day.
The amount of energy you need to support your basic functions such as breathing, keeping your heart pumping, and other bodily functions is referred to as your basal metabolic rate (BMR). This takes up the largest proportion of your total daily energy.
The remaining energy you get from food can be used for physical activity. This includes your daily routine - getting out of bed, getting into the shower, preparing your breakfast.
If your day is filled with a lot of physical activity, you will need to consume more calories (more energy) to perform activities throughout the day.
On the other hand, if you consume a lot of extra calories without enough physical activity, you will notice a weight change and physical change as your body stores more energy in the body.
Not All Calories Are The Same
It's hard to visualize, but a lot of us mistake quantity for calories. No doubt, there is a correlation between 10 grams of rice versus 100 grams of rice, then in this case, of course 100 grams of rice has higher calories.
But what does it feel like in you? You may be out eating 1 bag of chips, and a few moments later, you get hungry. You then go on and have some appetizers, lets say some cheese with wine, and you don't feel full. What you don't necessarily realize is that you may have already consumed a total of 1,000 calories and you still feel hungry.
Yes, it is important to count calories, but it should not be the only basis of measurement if you are trying to keep a healthy lifestyle. Calories are a good measure for energy consumption, especially if you are living an active lifestyle as you need to ensure you have enough fuel (or energy) to keep you activated throughout the day. But on the other hand, it is just as important to watch what kind of calories you consume. E.g. It would be so much better to consume 500 calories of vegetables than 500 calories of sugar.
Our body processes different foods in different ways. With 500 calories of sugar, your body will go through a spike and quickly after that, you will feel tired. The same goes for processed food.
If you are currently measuring calories and want to go to the next step of tracking your health, I suggest you start reading labels to find out not just the calories, but the ingredients and the macronutrients that are found in the food you consume. There are sections that show the "Nutritional Information", past the Serving Size and Calories.
Firstly, check if there are incomprehensible ingredients. More often than not, the ones you don't understand are the ones that are not good for you (mostly they are chemicals or preservatives to keep the product intact).
Second, check if the food you are eating has more of the good stuff - more Dietary fiber, Potassium, Calcium, and less saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, or added sugar. Acquainting yourself with reading the labels will make you have a better understanding of what you are putting inside your body.
For a list of healthy food options that are natural and good for you, check out the list of food here.