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Do this, not that: tips for living good, feeling better

Many of us attribute weight loss and gain to the amount of calories we ingest per day, but calories are not the biggest component in our struggles with our weight. Don’t be ashamed the next time you want to have a snack and it has a slightly higher amount of calories; having a high amount of calories could compensate for a lower level in something else much less healthy (like sodium). (Flickr)

I’m sure we’ve heard it countless times before; the secret to losing weight and getting fit is to count your calories. This is true for most cases, except when counting calories becomes an obsession. Research held by five nutrition experts from Harvard University state that when you stress over each little thing you ingest because its calorie count is “too high,” that’s when problems will arise. Obsessing over calorie count can become unhealthy because it will more likely than not cause you to skip eating some meals all together, resulting in a serious loss of major nutrients our bodies need.

I can’t say with all honesty that there hasn’t been at least one day in my life where I passed on going out to eat with friends or passed on eating something all together (especially a food that I love) because its calorie count was too high for me. I also can’t say that I am not notorious for coming off as a calorie snob whenever I do decide to go out to eat, since I’m always the only person at the table who asks the server if I could take a look at the additional nutritional menu and determine what to eat from there.

On the flip side of it all, I can’t say I don’t do those things anymore, but I can say that I do those things within a much greater range of reason.

I’m all for searching for better, alternative approaches to healthy living. Instead of completely branding calories as the enemy, here’s what could be of more use for you:

Create a mental checklist.

Starting to eat healthy doesn’t solely revolve around the number of calories in the food you eat or the total amount of calories you ingest per day. What matters is the nutrients that are actually in the foods you eat (besides, there are greater evils in food aside from calories, such as saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium that should be monitored closely!). Our bodies are very receptive and respond to what we put into it and if we don’t give our bodies enough of what it needs (vitamins, protein, carbohydrates, etc.), then we will undergo cravings and reach for the closest thing in sight without any hesitation.

It is important to monitor what we eat and learn to read the nutrition facts and labels carefully. It will take a while for this habit to stick, but when you eat, make sure each meal (or snack) you have contains plenty of protein found in lean meat, beans and dairy products, healthy carbs in fruit, vegetables and whole grains and healthy fats (yes, I said fats!) in nuts, avocados and fish.

It’s also extremely important to take note of the fact that what might work for someone else might not work for you. Each person’s nutritional mental checklist will differ from the next person’s and could provide good alternatives to adjust your own.

Once the calorie counting obsession dies down and your mental checklists pick up, you’ll be one step closer to healthier living.