Six Reasons I Hate Calorie Counting and Don’t Do It

shutterstock_81459505 (Small)When I changed my diet to eating whole, plant-based foods, I said goodbye to calorie counting forever. By eating 60-80% raw, 95% whole, plant-based foods, I don’t need to count calories. I don’t think it’s a complete waste, my years of obsession with calories when I was young. Because it’s helpful to know what the foods are, that are very high in food energy but low in nutrition.

In all fairness, I’ll say that to get obesity under control, you could do WORSE than counting and restricting calories, for a period of time. It’s certainly better than doing nothing.

However, counting calories as a long-term approach to health doesn’t work. Here’s why:

  1. It’s unsustainable. Nobody does it long-term. Because it’s boring, tedious, and restrictive. It also leads to an unhealthy way of looking at food, creating fear through measurement.
  1. It has a tendency to cause you to eat packaged foods, which are almost always processed. Those are the foods that have calories marked on them. It’s a head game, though. They’re packaging small portions, or using fake foods to lower calories or fat. In fact, this can be self-defeating. Because the lowest calorie, highest-nutrition foods don’t come in packages at all.
  1. You can’t nail down how many calories you actually need, and software predictions of how many you need are inaccurate. Some days it’s many hundreds of calories higher than other days, depending on how many hours you were awake, or how much physical activity you did. I believe assigning a rigid number to any given day leads calorie-counters to feel shame, which affects their natural enjoyment for food and some their decision-making freedom.

What if your calorie-counting software says you can have only 1600 calories, so you TRY for that number. But unbeknownst to your software, you actually had a high caloric-needs day and THAT’S why you were so hungry and thus you “screwed up” and ate “too much?”

  1. Calorie counts on charts are inaccurate. A variety of factors affect how many calories are in any given piece of food, and there’s much you don’t know about the supply chain and the ingredients. You don’t know how much your chicken breast weighs. And if you’re actually WEIGHING it, well, my Reason #1 applies, above.

(Sometimes we have to ask ourselves if the insanities of the modern age just breed more insanities. Can you imagine cavemen counting calories? The whole outrage is simply an outgrowth of the processed food diet. If we eliminate processed food, we don’t have to invent silly counting programs.)

  1. “A calorie is a calorie is a calorie” is a lie! The Oxford-Cornell China Project is the biggest nutrition study in history. Studying 6,500 people in 65 counties of China, the researchers learned that plant eaters can eat 200 calories a day more than meat eaters, and stay thin!

high fiber foodsIt turns out, the body doesn’t even absorb all of the calories in foods high in fiber. That’s your greens, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. (The ones I’ve been teaching you to eat more of!) If your friend ate 500 calories less than you, but it was Skittles and a white-bread ham sandwich, but you actually ate more calories in that meal, but it was whole, raw, plant foods, you’re still the winner. Not only in your overall health, aging, and energy—but very possibly in weight maintenance as well!

  1. Counting calories creates a bunny trail, potentially keeping you ironically further from good health. People do programs like Weight Watchers, where junk food is totally endorsed, and all food is equal, but is just assigned points. I’d rather have you focus on eliminating or minimizing refined sugars, and not eating foods containing neurotoxins, and absolutely minimizing refined salt in the diet. All of these have a dramatic, documented effect on weight.

My conclusion? Profit industries won’t support this way of thinking:

But I’d rather maximize nutrient dense foods. Greens, vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. I’d rather avoiding processed and animal foods. This matters far more than counting calories.

Automate one meal

images-23Here’s a success secret of people who have lost 30 lbs., on average, and kept it off, according to  a study published in the medical journal Obesity:

They find healthy foods they like and stick to them. They “automate” one meal daily so that it’s not a struggle.

That’s what the green smoothie habit does for you. Every day, you KNOW what one meal will be: a quart of green smoothie (and any other healthy foods, if you need more calories, as I do, playing sports).

images-25Then you know you’ve covered a lot of nutritional bases and eaten LOTS of the lowest calorie, highest micro-nutrient foods available to you.

You’ve ramped your supply of enzymes, allowing your body’s resources to go to energy production and detox. You’ve given your body fiber to sweep the bloodstream of debris and toxins. You’ve amped your nutrition in hundreds of ways. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.

Seven reasons not to drink soda, part 2 of 2

Here are seven kicks in the pants, to help you quit the soda habit:

1. SODA BRAIN! Brominated vegetable oil, or BVO, is added to soft drinks. It’s an industrial chemical used in plastics as a flame retardant. (It’s also in sports drinks.) It is known to cause nerve disorders and memory loss. It builds up in body fat and causes behavioral and mood problems, infertility, and heart problems.

2. FAT ON THE INSIDE! Researchers in Denmark found that those who drink soda have fat stores around their liver, other organs, and skeletal muscles, which leads to diabetes. Soda drinkers in the study also had much higher triglyceride blood fats and cholesterol than non-soda drinkers.

3. HORMONE UPSET! Aluminum cans are coated with BPA, which interferes with hormones and causes obesity, diabetes, cancer, and infertility. Neither Pepsi nor Coke has been willing to switch to BPA-free, while everyone else in America is doing so.

4. FRANKENFOOD! Lots of soda ingredients are corn-derived, and nearly 90 percent of the corn grown in the U.S. is now genetically modified. The U.S. government isn’t particularly interested in testing this horrible social experiment, but we know that genetically modified crops are linked to rapid aging, infertility, and gastrointestinal tract damage. Not that those ingredients really resemble corn by the time you drink them….but you get none of the fiber and other nutritional benefits of corn (which are limited anyway) and all of the downside of the GMO “frankenfood.”

5. CARAMEL CANCER! Two chemicals with reeeealllly long names are known to cause cancer in animals, and they make the lovely brown color in colas. Center for Science in the Public Interest tried unsuccessfully last year to get the FDA to ban them. The chemicals are just cosmetic, but of course Coke and Pepsi aren’t gonna back down. (Look how big the experiment went over when Pepsi tried to make a clear cola called Crystal Pepsi in 1992. All they care about is what sells.)

6. DIET AIN’T ANY BETTER! Even diet soda makes you fat. A study in Texas found that those who drink diet soda gained 70 percent in waist circumference in 10 years, compared with people who don’t drink soda. Those who drank more than two per day? They had a 500 percent waist expansion! The culprit is the neurotoxin aspartame. It actually raises your blood glucose levels, even though it contains chemicals rather than sugar.

7. GET OLD FASTER! Phosphates in cola extend their shelf life and improve taste. But they rob your bones and blood of desperately needed minerals. That leads to kidney problems, osteoporosis, heart disease, and rapid aging. It stops children and teens from building bone mass, in the critical period they are developmentally meant to do so. (After 30, we generally lose bone mass.) Soda manufacturers have increased phosphate levels higher and higher—but a medical journal article two years ago showed that lab rats with elevated phosphates died much earlier than normal.

TEXAS, PART 5 of 7: Video of WENDY and JANET in AUSTIN

As Kristin says, our Texas trip was “pure abundance.” She and I always talk about relationships that are “all good things,” versus relationships or activities or thoughts that are scarcity-oriented or damaging rather than nurturing. We met lots of Texans who are gravitating towards a lifestyle of abundance, even while the culture around them sinks further into “scarcity places” of obesity, illness, and loss.

(Do we not become obese from a long period of scarcity thinking? For instance, “If I don’t eat this now, I don’t know when I’ll get it again.” Or, “I’m so tired, this is the only pleasure in my day.”)

A group of moms packed into a car for the drive into Austin and enthusiastically told me their stories after class. Two of them, in this video, are busy, with 4 and 6 children, respectively. They pretty and young—but Janet overcame some absolutely debilitating health problems. Both of these moms confess to doing my entire 12 Steps program.

What a rush, to know that 10 children are the beneficiaries of the effort of these two women. I’m so proud of young moms who take the time to become educated, and then opt out of “what everybody else is doing.” Listen to their story here (I somehow heard Wendy’s friends calling her Whitney, so Kristin was tasked with covering that up in this video–sorry I’m a moron, Wendy!):

420 lbs., scared, stressed, humiliated. Help!

Just received this letter from Mark. Mark, lots of people will be praying for you to make lifestyle changes like K’Lynne’s, with spectacular results! Such a great idea to just start eating whole foods instead—I have known so many people who can no longer absorb nutrition after those surgeries that hack and rearrange your digestive system, as you put it. Put lots of green stuff in your blender–the stuff that isn’t green has lots of sugar in it. The green foods slow down sugars to your blood stream. Maximize them, challenge yourself, and starting eating giant salads too! You can do it! I bet some of my readers will have some wise words for you. Much love, and stay in touch!

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:

I just ordered your 12 step program!

My wife and I are slowly adding green to our now multiple daily smoothies.

We want to learn more, so we are taking the first step by buying the program.

The main reason I am writing is to say thanks! Thank you for your dedication to this cause. Thank you for opening my eyes.

I work in an extremely stressful environment. I am a network escalations manager, which means I help customers when their network is down, costing them sometime thousands of dollars an hour, and we have hit roadblocks in the process of getting the data flowing again.

About a month ago, I was on my way to work and thought I was having a heart attack. I was scared, and felt awful. I stopped at a urgent care center and my BP was 140/100. I got a trip in an ambulance to the hospital.

My left arm had gone numb and my left hand was cold and blue. I spent the weekend in the hospital undergoing many tests. I weighed 420 lbs. and was too heavy to have the normal test.  The nurse looked at me with disgust and said, “I’m not going to risk breaking my equipment. He’s too heavy to do this.” My wife was really upset and we both just wanted to cry.

The great news is I didn’t have a heart attack! I checked out of the hospital, and spent the next few days thinking and visited my family doctor. She had previously recommended stomach surgery. It seemed the only way to save my life.

I had tried diets and hate the taste of most vegetables. I am a southern redneck kind of guy. I love my fried foods, especially fried chicken, lots of meat, lots of fried food. “If it ain’t fried, I ain’t eatin it” was my mindset. But I felt I had no choice. I signed up for the initial consultation to learn about the various forms of the surgery. The Lap band, the Y thing, the sleeve…. so many choices, so many risks…what do I do?

I learned about Gerson online, but it was too radical for me. But the principles made sense. I was browsing the web and somehow stumbled into your site. I watched a couple videos, loved the way you tell things like they are. You’re a real person! You mention Costco, and how to save a few dollars here and there. You think like a real person, because you are one. Thanks!

So I have been drinking smoothies, not always green smoothies, but we are working our way well into them. I’ve learned so much from your videos. I’ve learned a lot in the past month. I’m still over 400 pounds, but just barely. I can almost weigh myself on the scales at the center we just joined. We are taking yoga classes. We are trying to get over and swim or exercise a few times a week. I have at this point gone vegetarian. Heading more and more towards whole food vegan.

So far in the past couple weeks my energy has gotten a major boost! I am feeling better every day.

Thanks to you, and a few other people who believe in a whole food lifestyle I have decided to not get the weight surgery and tough it out. Do it the healthier way. Besides, had I decided to get the surgery, I would have to go on a liquid diet for a few weeks anyway, and I would have had my stomach stapled and part of it removed with the sleeve, or my digestive tract hacked up and rearranged. I had no interest in the lap band. I just don’t like the idea of some foreign object strapped around my stomach.

So again, thank you so very much. I will keep you posted of my progress if you would like. I hope, that as people are able to see the progress I am making that more people will ask how I did it. The first place I will send them is greensmoothiegirl.com. My wife and I have already sent a few people your way already. Watch for folks from Charlotte, NC!

–Mark and Rosa Allen

The rest of the story with Rich the Pharmacist. Part 1 of 2.

So here’s the rest of the story with Rich, my first high-school boyfriend. I told you how I ran into him on the plane on his way to pharmacists’ immunization training, and he helped us out in Seattle.

I told him, as we reminisced, that before I straightened out my lifestyle, I was 26 and weighed 206 lbs. I was walking in the mall trying to induce labor 2 days after my due date. I saw him and cheerfully said, “Hey Rich!” He looked at me, like, “No comprendo!” and walked right on by. He literally hadn’t recognized me. I was mortified.

Guiltily, he said, “Well, I relate to that. I saw you getting out on the curb, outside. I didn’t even want to approach you because I am ashamed about how I look.”

With 70% of America overweight, I often get the sense that the vast majority of us feel trapped inside someone else. We barely recognize ourselves. Can’t believe this happened to us. Just a five-pound weight gain annually is obesity, in a decade. That’s gaining just ounces a month.

And it seems almost sudden that, in mid-life, we’re ashamed and shocked that we got this way and we wonder how it happened and where’s the way out.

Rich texted me after we were both home in Utah. This is part of it:

“If I do this I want to do it full on, full tilt, full bore, hardcore, never look back, no holds barred, past the point of no return. If I am going to approach it like that, I figure I need the very best tools.”

(He then asks me to hook him up with a BlendTec.)

About the lecture in Seattle, he said:

You gave me hope. I’ve listened to so many doctors, psychologists, “professional” pharmacists, counselors with all their psycho-babble and I can tell they are just saying what they’ve been told to say. You and I talked about people who claim to be experts on nutrition but who look like the ‘before’ poster for a weight-loss program.

“Because of the way I know you, I was already open to your message. I watched you very closely, as you talked to a long line of people after the lecture about their very personal problems and hopes and challenges. To make sure you’re the same Robyn with whom we hid our affection for each other when we were young. And, you are. Just more secure and wiser. Your smile never turned and your enthusiasm never changed.

“Because I am apple shaped rather than pear shaped, people are surprised to know that I carry all my weight in my upper body. So I can still bench press 225 a few times, but I have to wear a C-pap at night with supplemental oxygen so I don’t stop breathing and suffocate. My lungs have more weight pressing on them than they can handle. If I could become one of your miracles, I could kick the C-pap habit. That would be worth so much more than money could buy. I guess I don’t have to tell you that. Look at me, preaching to the choir.”

A few days ago, a GSG reader pushed back on this blog, not just once but more–against my stating that YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO EAT HOT DOGS.

I always appreciate pushback, because it keeps an honest conversation going. But I’ll tell you what I think of that tomorrow.