Picture this: you walk into a new restaurant, excited to try their renowned pasta dish. You scan the menu only to find the calories listed next to each dish. Now, what was supposed to be an exciting experience has become a stressful one where you second-guess your decisions. Even though you really want the pasta, you order a salad because it’s the “healthier” choice.
If you have ever felt conflicted and overwhelmed when presented with nutrition information like calories, know that you are not alone in this feeling! Keep reading to find out 4 reasons why this can actually be harmful when it comes to healthy eating.
4 Reasons Why Calories Can Be Harmful
- It diverts your attention away from eating what pleases you. Eating is supposed to bring us comfort and joy, along with nutrients and energy. We have taste buds for a reason! However, when the focus is taken away from the enjoyment of food and placed fully on the amount of calories you are consuming, it can become an overwhelming and daunting feeling.
- It prevents intuitive eating. For those new to intuitive eating, it is described by its creators as a “self-care eating framework” to help repair your relationship with food and feel more in tune with your body. Counting calories can have the opposite effect as it allows external factors to influence your decisions around food more than your internal cues.
- It gives a false impression that certain foods are “unhealthy” because of the number of calories. Calories can be misleading. There are many high calorie foods that are very nutrient dense. Society has led us to believe that higher calories equate with “unhealthy” food. But let’s first define what calories even mean: calories refer to the amount of energy that a particular food provides your body. We all need energy, so why are calories vilified? While your health status is influenced by food and exercise, it is also connected to your mental and emotional wellbeing surrounding food. So let’s focus less on the calories, and more on the eating experience.
- It can be triggering for those with disordered eating habits or eating disorders. For those of us who have a rocky relationship with food, either in the past or present, it can be triggering when we are presented with caloric information and it can affect our ability to repair our relationship with food. By stepping away from nutrition information, we can place a greater focus on the enjoyment of food and creating a satisfying experience.
What You Can Do Instead
Letting go of nutrition information can be challenging, but it can make a huge difference when it comes to building a healthier relationship with food and making decisions that make you feel good internally!
Shift your focus and start to let go of external factors like nutrition information. Learn to tune into your body and eat intuitively (read up on intuitive eating here).
Seek advice if you need it: transitions can be difficult, so don’t hesitate to seek help from a professional familiar with intuitive eating. If you live in residence, you can chat with our residence dietitian or you can talk to a dietitian for free by calling 8-1-1.