Not All Calories Are Created Equally – Your Goal Determines Your Needs

Years ago, when I was young and felt immortal, I remember thinking that as long as I kept my calories within the USDA guideline I was being healthy. I am sure someone at some point explained the basic principles of nutrition to me but during my 43 years of experience I have learned that what people learn and what people teach are subjective based on their own level of understanding and each participant’s desired outcome. For example, if my desired outcome is to eat whatever I want and also to lose weight, I might read studies and listen to educators that support my desire to eat pop-tarts as long as I stay in my calorie range (and there are studies out there to support this). From my experience, this mentality may work for some people in the short term but at some point (which I am sure is different for everyone) this method will either stop working or will affect the body in other ways. 
For several years now I have viewed my body as a machine and food as fuel. When I add low quality fuel to my body my engine might still run (maybe not as long as an engine that is better cared for) but the result might be less efficient, slower, more painful, and moodier than when I use optimal fuel. My goal is to use nutrition as a part of my healthcare. If my desired outcome is to have more energy, less pain, less stress all while enjoying the fueling process; I need to pay attention to what I eat.

Each of us is an experiment of one with foundational similarities and variations due to genetics, personal allergies, pain threshold, etc. While we all need the building blocks of amino acids, protein, carbs, and fat, the ratio and sources may be different for each of us. My question to you is what is your goal? If your goal is to be healthy, minimize your risk of developing painful lifelong diseases like Alzheimer’s, Diabetes, Heart Disease, ADHD and all of the co-morbidities associated with those, then learning about how to follow a Low Inflammatory Nutrition plan using whole foods might be exactly what you need. This is my goal and I will try to share with you information that I find and resources I find helpful.

CURRENTLY, I am focusing my self-experimentation on eating whole foods while trying to fit those in macros. If you do not need to lose weight, I do not suggest limiting yourself in this way. Read all about functional nutrition at Being Brigid’s blog (Being Brigid)for great information and recipes to get you started on a healthy diet without counting calories.  

Personally, I have some excess fat I would like to lose in order to move faster on runs and fit better in clothes so I am experimenting with counting macros. What are macros? In a nutshell, these are a number of grams to consume for 3 categories: Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fat. I am in week 3 of this experiment and it has been a challenge. The plan I am following is called Avatar Nutrition. There is a cost of $10/month. You enter in your personal statistics (height, weight, age, body fat %, goal) and the system calculates macros for you. You are responsible for weighing, measuring, and logging your food to ensure you consume within 5% of each macro target per day. Then, each week, you weigh in and report your compliance on-line and the system re-calculates your macros. I was also added to a Facebook group where thousands of other people are tracking their macros using this system with varying goals (lose fat, gain muscle, etc.). What I have found is that if someone wants to eat all packaged and processed food, they will do so within their target ranges and get the results they are looking for. In my opinion, this is not the best approach long term because of the health impacts due to the lack of quality nutrients in their food. From my perspective, I would like to try to optimize my nutrient intake, without spending a lot of time cooking or preparing elaborate meals and see if I can accomplish my goal to lose fat by sticking within certain macro nutrients. I may discover that this is not the best way for my body to accomplish this goal; however, that is what the experiment will tell me and I am happy to share my results and learning with you along the way.

Below is a photo of my breakfast from this morning along with the macro nutrients and calories. Compare that to 1 pop tart (usually 2 in a package – so double that if you eat the whole package). I think you will notice that my breakfast option looks more filling and is more nutritious. I am sure there are objections to this such as: pop tarts cost less, I can eat pop tarts in the car, on the bus, etc., I don’t like eggs… no worries! There are other options of healthy portable food that you can make for a reasonable cost. I just wanted to show you this one comparison.

Other health benefits to eating whole foods and minimizing processed foods are: clearer healthier skin and hair, less mood swings from eliminating processed sugar and other unhealthy ingredients, and better sleep.

If this is something you are interested in learning more about please comment below and I will be happy to write and share more on this topic!



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