WARNING: What I am about to say is radical and contradictory to cultural norms!!
Calories are not bad for you. Food is not bad for you.
I know. Mind blown, right?
I am not a dietitian or nutritionist or a health coach or a doctor. I am a woman who is in treatment for a 13-year+ battle with anorexia. I am working closely with a (phenomenal) dietitian and a therapist who specialize in eating disorders; I am becoming awakened to faulty beliefs about food.
Our nation has done a pretty good job of scaring people to death (literally) of eating. The media touts the obesity epidemic and plasters 100,001 ways to lose weight, not gain weight, watch weight, manage weight, control weight, maximize weight, minimize weight. We’re instructed to avoid carbs of all types, bread, grain, sugar, fats and many protein sources like legumes and dark meats. We’re successfully whittling down our diets to 100-calorie packs and organic greens. We’re constantly in each other’s foods with judgement and warning, “Are you going to eat that? It causes cancer.” “That’s bad for you.”
As a result, I dare say, it isn’t an obesity epidemic our nation is dealing with. We’re dealing with a disordered eating epidemic. Obesity is just easier to see. Anorexia, bulimia, and orthorexia are much easier to hide, accept as “normal,” and completely misunderstood.
Food is not bad for anybody. There aren’t even certain foods that are bad for the body. It’s habits that are unhealthy. Eating too much or too little of any kind of food isn’t good for the body. Too much ice cream is just as harmful as too much broccoli. Too much soda can be just as hard on the body as too much kale or blueberries or flax. Ice cream in itself is not “bad”; soda is not “bad”; carbs are not “bad”; beans are not “bad”; the “badness” of food is not the food’s fault–it’s the habits by which you consume or not consume the food according to what your body needs that deserve the scrutiny.
The human body operates on calories. It will use anything you feed it… to give you energy, to help you think, to help you digest, to help you build muscle, to help you feel happy, to help you function. Your body is really good at telling you what it needs if you know how to listen. Ever eat too much candy? You get a belly ache. Eating too much cheese lately? You get constipated. Ever avoid carbs before a workout? You get dizzy and tired half way through. The body is kind in notifying you, “Hey, yo! I need some fruit. I need water. I need fat. I need protein.” And when you oblige the body, it rewards you.
Similarly, if your body can’t handle a certain food, it will also tell you. I have celiac disease which means my body cannot utilize gluten–the protein found in wheat, barely and rye–and it lets me know with resounding borborygmus, rashes, nausea, and extreme fatigue. This doesn’t mean gluten is evil. Nor are grains evil! It just means my body can’t read gluten properly. Some people know they can’t eat peanuts because the body says, “Hey yo! I can’t breathe when you eat these things!” This doesn’t mean peanuts are bad, but rather their body can’t read peanuts properly.
Your body is always working for you–trying to protect you. Even in disorder, the body will seek to adjust to a “normal” function within the disorder, always striving to keep you alive. But we don’t just want to eat to stay alive. We’re built to thrive, my friends! If we don’t feed the body calories and trust our body to work with the nutrition it asks for, we fall ill. We injure our metabolisms, which our body depends upon for a multitude of internal processes; we mess with our brains, which is a powerful but fragile organ; and we deplete our capacity to thrive, thus reverting to survival mode.
Trust me. I am living proof.
Take a look a this box of ordinary light bulbs. The measure of light is calculated in lumens–the higher the lumens, the greater the light produced and usable for our needs. Think of calories the same way. The measure of energy in food is calculated in calories. The greater the calories, the greater the energy produced and usable for our body’s needs. Why would you ever want to deny your body energy–life, light!
Just as we adjust our lights based on what we’re trying to do; so it is with our calories. When we work out, we need more energy, more calories; when we’re hibernating in those cold winter months, we don’t need as many. Regardless, we always need a balanced mixture of carbs, proteins, fat, and sugar because all these elements work together to produce full life. You omit or restrict one, well, the lights dim. Restrict the calories long enough, the lights will go out completely.
Don’t be afraid of calories. Ignore the media headlines and listen to what your own body is asking for. It won’t let you down.