Calories…Again??? Le Sigh


dinner plate with nutrition information for mindful eatingI wrote a post last week on We Are the Real Deal (WATRD) in which I decried the fact that calorie limits are a big part of the new school lunch/breakfast regulations.  Of course, people are concerned about childhood obesity and are trying to come up with ways to help kids.

Unfortunately, the focus on kids’ weight in the first place is problematic.  There’s a growing body of research that shows kids who are targeted for their weight feel shamed, even if the targeting is done under the auspices of offering help.  It’s part of the big problem of weight stigma, which has reverberating effects throughout our lives.

There’s also the fact that smaller kids could use some of the same help when it comes to eating better.  Focusing on what and how we eat, instead of the size we are, offers the benefits of improved health to all our kids.

And as I said in the WATRD post, calorie limits leave no room for individuality, which is key when it comes to eating.  Beyond the fact that for many people a focus on calories often creates feelings of both physical and psychological deprivation — which inevitably leads to overeatingthe amount of food any of us need to feel satisfied is dependent on so many variables that setting a limit for an individual meal is often just an invitation to dissatisfaction. 

Which is really what calorie counting in general invites. And why I am writing about it on a blog for women who are tired of dieting.

I’ve written plenty already on why I think calorie counting can create problems, and certainly is problematic for the vast majority of women who come to Green Mountain at Fox Run seeking a healthy weight loss program.

I do acknowledge that it seems to work for some people, at least initially.  But our experience is that it doesn’t work for most long term, evidenced by the growing struggles with eating and weight in this country, even though calorie counting has been at the core of most weight loss approaches since the 1960s.

So I come to the point of today’s post:  So if it doesn’t work long term for most of us, why do so many of us keep turning to it when we feel frustrated, desperate, just have to do something to take charge of our eating?  

Is it because that’s what we continue to be told by the authorities to whom we turn for advice? Certainly, public health initiatives are one of the most prominent authorities due to the fact that they guide the thinking of so many health professionals and media coverage of the topic.

Or is it that we just don’t know what else to do?  Which could be the same thing, I guess.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans issued a couple of years ago had one or two sentences in it about mindful eating, aka intuitive eating.  That’s encouraging.  But it’s time now to get a few more sentences into the public discourse.

It’s also important to note that mindful or intuitive eating is a goal that may take a few steps along the way to get to.  So getting the information and support needed to maneuver those steps is important.  Which brings me back to public health initiatives.

The good news is the revolution has started.  But it needs more voices.  Will you speak up against weight stigma and approaches to weight management that don’t consider the individual?  What kind of help do you need to do that?

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About the Author

Marsha Hudnall, MS, RDN, CD

If you’re looking for an embodiment of dedication disguised as obsession, look no further. Marsha is a registered dietitian who has spent the last four decades working to help women give up dieting rules and understand how to truly take care of themselves. Her mission in life is to help women learn to enjoy eating and living well, without worries about their weight. She encourages women to embrace their love of food, which you might call being a foodie. If so, it’s appropriate because being a foodie means you pay attention when you eat. That’s a recipe made in heaven for eating well. Marsha is the President and Co-Owner of Green Mountain at Fox Run.

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