Calorie Counting: Friend or Foe?

Many of us have used this old trick of counting calories to help us in some way. I personally disliked using this technique because I’d lose track, I found myself over-thinking about it and it made me feel like I was restricted. I felt like I couldn’t just eat, it was different. So I stopped. It was the best decision for me, personally.

Whether you are trying a food journal (which is a fantastic idea to gain some insight into what you eat!) or you’re simply curious about how many calories you consume; it’s important to remember that some of these techniques can be flawed or may not work for everyone.

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Don’t be harsh with yourself if you forget to write down the snack you had 7 hours ago, it happens to all of us. This is one of the biggest flaws of calorie counting, we’re actually pretty terrible at it.  They’ve done studies to find out how well people do in keeping track of their calories and food intake and the results were shocking; the women from the study were underestimating on average 50%. That is 50% on average.

Another interesting fact? Labels can lie. They can actually have a 20% margin of error.

“The ratio between the amount obtained by laboratory analysis and the amount declared on the product label in the Nutrition Facts panel must be 120% or less, i.e., the label is considered to be out of compliance if the nutrient content of a composite of the product is greater than 20% above the value declared on the label.”  (FDA Guidance for Industry: Nutrition Labeling Manual)

There are other reasons why calorie counting may not be the best option, such as; swapping something ‘low fat’ instead of having the full-fat version (simply because it has fewer calories),  it can make you feel stressed (as this study showed) and it can make you eat more (because it’s on your mind all day!).

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There are also good reasons to like calorie counting! It can give you an insight as to how many calories you’re consuming on a day-to-day basis, which may come as a shock. A lot of us eat way more than we think! It may also help you regulate how much sugar, coffee, etc. you’re consuming (in case you’re trying to consume less of any). It has proven positive results for many and that’s the main reason so many continue trying it.

What do I think is the best solution? I can give you the solution that worked for me!  

I know that I can eat as much as I want of anything I want. There are no restrictions. Butter on toast? Yes, please. Vegan raspberry croissant? Double yes! Coffee? Yes! Sweet potato fries? Triple yes! (There’s even a recipe on the blog!) and I can continue until my hands are tired; my point is – there are no restrictions.

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I learned to eat with awareness. I try (and this takes a bit of time) to enjoy each and every bite I take. I don’t rush it, I really want to enjoy it and savor everything I eat. This made me eat at a slower pace. I used to be told I was the faster eater out there, because I’d always be done eating first. Well, now that’s different.

I take my time, pause between bites, enjoy, savor it and repeat.

What has happened since I began practicing these eating habits? For one, I’m happier! I know that if I want that ice cream I can have it, but what I crave is an acaí bowl. I eat a much bigger variety of food – because remember, there are no restrictions! I have little treats here and there (today I had a few bites of a croissant with honey) and I really enjoy them. I don’t feel guilt or any negative feeling. I just enjoy and move on. It’s simple and it works for me. I can recommend it to anyone who wants to feel free and not restricted when it comes to food.

Food should be enjoyed, so enjoy it!

Much love, Abby

Lemon Shortbread Bars – Guest Post!

Hey guys! My name is Alexandra, and I’m the creator of vegandra.com, a website devoted to delicious vegan recipes and lifestyle tips. Abby was amazing enough to allow me to write this guest post, so I hope you all enjoy 🙂 If you do, please check out my blog, and see what other goodies I’ve shared!

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So, lemons. Kinda hard to use in cooking, because the flavor has the potential to be too overbearing and sour. But, using the zest gives all the flavor of the lemon without the sourness!

The shortbread base here is super simply (just flour, powdered sugar, and coconut oil), but is perfect to let the lemon flavor through to be the star of the show! These bars are simply, light, and refreshing. Give them a try!!

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Serves 8

Ingredients

For the crust

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 2 tbs. coconut oil, melted
  • 1/4 powdered sugar
  • 1 tbs. water

For the filling

  • 1/2 ripe banana, mashed
  • Zest and juice of 2 lemons
  • 1/4 cup + 2 tbs. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tbs. cornstarch
  • 1 tbs. flour

To Prepare

  1. Preheat oven to 350F.
  2. Combine ingredients in a bowl to form a dough.
  3. Press dough into a greased baking pan and bake for 7 minutes.
  4. While base is baking, use a hand mixer to beat together ingredients for the filling.
  5. Pour filling on top of base, and bake for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and set to cool (can be cooled in the refrigerator if you’re really hungry!).
  7. Cut up and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
  8. Enjoy 🙂 

Meditation: Achieving Peace Within Yourself

Why do people meditate? Do people enjoy ‘sitting and doing nothing for an indefinite amount of time’? What benefit does meditating give me? These are all questions we’ve all come across or have had ourselves. They’re all great questions. My goal is to provide you the information so you can make the decision; to meditate or not to meditate – that is the question.

People meditate for different reasons; some to calm their anxiety, some are searching for peace or happiness and some are just plain curious. Whichever reason it is that is motivating you to try it, I’ll tell you this: you won’t regret it. 

I once read that they asked Buddha “How shall we meditate?” Buddha replied, “Whatsoever you do, do it with awareness; this is meditation. Walking, walk attentively, as if walking is everything; eating, eat with awareness, as if eating is everything; rising, rise with awareness; sitting, sit with awareness. All your actions become conscious, your mind does not travel beyond this moment, it remains in the moment, settles in the moment – this is meditation.”

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Becoming a mindful person can be the best thing you do for yourself. Can you imagine life without wondering what you’ll be doing tomorrow, next week, where your next vacation will be or what holiday is coming up? Can you imagine just enjoying what you’re doing right now? Whether you’re on your commute to/from work, reading a book, spending time with your loved ones, at work, at the grocery store… can you imagine just being there? Without thoughts rushing in and out of your mind. Because after all, what does having all those thoughts in your mind do for you? They’re certainly not helpful thoughts if they have nothing to do with what you’re doing right now.

According to Sara Lazar, a neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, due to “evidence that meditation had been associated with decreased stress, decreased depression, anxiety, pain and insomnia, and an increased quality of life” she decided to do brain scans and discover which parts of the brain get activated when people practiced meditation. What she discovered was that the brain actually changed after eight weeks of meditation practice.

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If you’re looking for motivation to start or feel like it will be too difficult; I’ve found a really simple guided meditation video that could help you! Meditation is not supposed to be just sitting in a room staring at the wall for 30 minutes; that sounds awful! A good way to look at it is a training of the mind. You are literally training your mind to enjoy the now, the moment, the present, to be aware and conscious. Just as we train for marathons by walking one kilometer today, two the next week, etc. or how we train ourselves to eat healthier by trying new ingredients, swapping ingredients, or changing a recipe.

As Buddha said, being aware and conscious is meditation. If you don’t feel comfortable sitting cross-legged (like the illustration shows) don’t, if you would prefer to have your hands on your lap, do so… It’s all about being comfortable and enjoying it. A lot of people think that they cannot think of anything during meditation – which can be extremely difficult given that we have such busy lives and we’re used to multi-tasking. This is not true. There are different ways of doing meditation, and doing the one that suits you will be the best one! I’ve read that one way to meditate is by actually thinking of a problem, giving it a shape, color, description (in your mind) and seeing it disappear. Other people simply will focus on the breath; in and out, 1 and two, and that will be enough. There is also no time limit; you may meditate for 10 minutes daily, 2 minutes, 17 minutes, it’s up to you. The point is to do it, which will help us become better at it.

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Just remember, we’re looking for awareness and consciousness, not perfection! And just in case you need a little bit more motivation, here’s a list with more benefits of meditation!

Happy meditating! 🙂