Should YOU Count Calories?
If you've heard about calorie counting, there's a good chance you have one of two opinions on it:
1) It is the best thing ever and everyone should be doing it,
2) It is restrictive, obsessive and causes eating disorders.
A few years ago, my allegiance was firmly with opinion #2. In my opinion, it was too strict and unliveable for the average person. My feeble attempts to count calories had all fallen short and I don't recall ever making it an entire day doing it before quitting.
Fast-forward to present day, and my opinion has done almost a total one-eighty on the topic.
Calorie counting, as the name suggests, involves weighing and measuring your food and keeping track of, or counting, the calories that you are eating.
Calorie counting has taken a beating, especially in "Christian Fitness" circles. Many people view it as too obsessive, strict and unliveable. They think that in order to be free from diets you need to follow their diet (ironic isn't it?). By "eating the way God intended" you can be healthy. Instead of keeping track of the calories, eat only whole foods. Eat when you're hungry and stop when you're full. This is known as intuitive eating.
Now before you think I'm anti-intuitive eating, know that I'm not. I fully believe that you are free to follow any diet or "non-diet" diet that you choose to. It's not my place to stand as judge of that. But I am here to say that we can't demonize certain diets because they didn't work for us.
Before we go any further, you need this warning: calorie counting is not for everyone and there are no rules as to who should or shouldn't. My former self could not count calories. In those days, I was far too obsessed with food and the perceived restriction was not healthy for me mentally.
Like any diet, calorie counting is a tool. A tool has a specific purpose. Different tools have different purposes. I own a hammer, but I rarely use it. I don't bring it to work, nor do I eat cereal with it - I have other tools to use in those situations. However, if I need to hit a nail into some wood, a hammer is a fine choice. If calorie counting is the right tool for you, use it. If not, don’t.
The Dave Ramsey Diet
A few years ago, Dave Ramsey swept through churches like a forest fire. His promise of financial freedom was a popular message for people weighed down by years of overspending. By putting his principles into practice, many people have been able to achieve financial freedom. Dave Ramsey is big on budgeting. In order to begin to save money, you need to know where it's going.
Now imagine there was someone who was $100,000 in debt. No matter what they tried, they were unable to move the needle on that amount. A friend came along and said, "Oh, don't worry about it. If you just spend intuitively you will be able to manage your money. Just buy what you want to buy, when you want to buy it, and when you don't want to buy something, don't. " You'd probably shake your head and tell them it's terrible advice - because it is. After all, intuitively spending their money is what caused the mess in the first place.
Friend two comes along and says, "I have a solution to your problem: only spend on the essentials. No cell phone, no TV, no anything-fun." While that advice may work, it removes even the smallest bit of pleasure from having money. Sure, your life might be better by cutting out some time wasters, but what if there was a way to enjoy some of the pleasures in life while still working your way out of debt?
When you are budgeting, you are saying you have x-amount of dollars to spend each month. You then divvy it up amongst the essential things and see what you have left over to spend on fun things. This way, you can live, pay off debt and enjoy some of the money you've worked hard to earn.
Think of calorie counting like budgeting your money - you have a certain amount of money (calories) to spend each day. You know you need to pay for certain things like various bills, food (protein, nutrients...) etc. and with your extra, you can spend on what you want (cake, ice cream...). If you overspend, you'll be in debt (gain fat), and if you underspend, you'll create some wiggle room (lose fat).
I think the goal with anyone's eating (or money) should be to get to a point where you can do it intuitively, but to tell someone who has a terrible relationship with food to eat intuitively is a next to impossible task.
Finally, know that the Bible does not say anything for or against counting calories. This means that the act of counting your calories is not automatically sinful. You are free to do it. However, you must be sure that you are also free from doing it. If not being able to count calories perfectly is causing you anxiety and getting in the way of fellowship or other things the Bible commands, you are not free from calorie counting.
Calorie counting can be a great tool to help you steward your body well. It may not be right for everyone, but there is no shame in needing to utilize this tool if it helps you honour God with your body.