15 Sep 2014
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You Can’t Count on Calories

In the numbers game, not all calories are created equal.

You Can’t Count on Calories

Living with dyslexia, numbers don’t mean much to me because I read them backwards or jumbled up. Therefore, I can’t be a calorie counter.

I figured it out early in life, though. If I ate nothing but fruits and vegetables until dinner time, I could enjoy my grandmother’s homemade linguine with clam sauce, three slices of bread, and not gain an ounce.

So as a teenager I honed in on my natural instincts and tried to steer friends away from horrible weight loss fads during the 1980s and 1990s. At the time the fad was slimming shakes, low in calories yet filled with artificial ingredients. These shakes didn’t work for them. Young girls – and guys -- would lose weight, but quickly gain it back. However, I kept my weight down eating fresh fruits and vegetables and natural breads, sometimes fresh fish too. It was second nature to me once I started reading labels. Yet at this point I was still alone in a calorie counting world.

Counting calories is not an enticing system. Counting calories and measuring food is just too much to think about and eating should be natural and enjoyable, not work!

Plus, counting calories doesn’t make sense anyway. If you added an extra 500 calories of fruit and vegetables to your diet, per day, it would be so positive for your health. Your skin would glow, you’d sleep better, you might be less likely to have aches and pains and the extra fiber would make you lose weight. But add an extra 500 calories of cake or potato chips to your diet -- you’d be in big trouble! You might start gaining weight as soon as the second day of doing this, not to mention it wouldn’t be good for your skin or digestive system, and it could have an impact on your long-term health.

Instead of counting calories, I always chose my food according to nutritional merit: fresh instead of canned or boxed; natural instead of loaded with corn syrup or homogenized oils; hearty and full of vitamins instead of something sugary with no nutritional value. It’s just a simple matter of differentiating between high nutrient and low nutrient foods.

For years, I’ve told people, “All calories are not created equal.” But people still don’t get it.

When you see demonstrators dishing out new product samples at supermarkets, they are quick to gleefully point out the product is “low in calories.” I’m just as quick to jump back with questions about sugar content and how the product is processed.

And when I still worked in an office, I’d eat an entire pineapple during a break. A co-worker would turn her nose up and ask, “You’re going to eat all that?” But no one questioned the man who ate three slices of pizza every day for lunch or the ladies who ordered Mexican or Chinese take-out every day.

I’m not saying that I never consume potato chips or cake. All I’m saying is that they’re treats – not something eaten daily as part of a health regimen.

I wish more people would understand the benefits of eating natural whole foods and that high calorie foods such as avocados are beneficial to your health, not something to be feared.

But maybe now they will understand since a reputable organization such as Weight Watchers recently changed their point system emphasizing the quality of food. Fruits and most vegetables will now have zero points – as it should be.

Contact MaryAnne Christiano at: MaryAnneChristiano@Gmail.com

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