Do you count calories? Don't! Why all the emphasis on calories when all calories are not created equal? As I say this, I believe you must know about calories and how they affect your eating, weight, and health.
For example you can eat a small ounce of chocolate for approximately 150 calories, or you can choose to eat one large apple for about 120 calories. The calories you ingest from the apple include nutrients that enhance your health and encourage weight management, yet the 150 calories from one small ounce of chocolate is mostly sugar leading to weight gain. Most people eat one apple at a time, but how often do you stop at one ounce of chocolate? Usually when eating something as sugar-laden as chocolate, the sugar causes cravings for more sugar and more calories.
The calories you need to manage your weight and enjoy good health will depend on your age, gender, muscle mass, and activity level. It is a balancing act and changes as you age. I think you always need a sound knowledge of calories, but if you eat calories with little or no nutrients you are not fueling your body efficiently. Counting calories only and not understanding what each calorie offers, may not be the most effective way to eat to manage body weight.
A calorie is a unit of energy and is vital to maintain your body's metabolic rate. Eating too few calories for a period of time causes your metabolism to slow and can lead to ill-health and weight gain; eating too many calories will also cause weight gain and leads to obesity and ailments such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. So how do you decide what to eat based solely on calorie count, when calories are not created equal?
Consider calories as you do dollars.
Let's say you're shopping for a new purse or briefcase, and you have one in mind that you really want. Is price an issue? Most likely when you like an item, you immediately look at the price and then decide if it meets your requirements. There is a decision process. Sometimes this process is automatic, other times... maybe not. The item needs to meet certain standards, price being one of them. The amount of dollars you are willing to spend and what you want for those dollars are essential to your decision. If the price is more than you are willing to pay, you walk away. If the item does not meet your requirements in your price range, you may also walk away. The dollar, and the value for that dollar, is always the deciding factor.
I have been known to look at a purse in a shop priced at $100 and think, I only like it $70 worth. I walked away. It was not worth the $100 to me. On the other hand, sometimes I've found one for much less than I expected to spend. Although it did not meet my requirements, I purchased it only because the dollar amount was appealing. Since it did not meet my requirements, it was wasted dollars!
I'm suggesting that you think the same way about the calories you are willing to "buy." Put a dollar sign in front of a calorie count as you look at the nutrition label on products you eat. The calorie count and serving size are stated clearly. The calorie count is only for the serving size, as a dollar amount is only for one item. If the calorie amount is 100 calories for ½ cup serving, think $100 for ½ cup serving. Is it worth it, or is it wasted? Will it leave you wanting more? Does it meet your requirements? Is it more than you're willing to pay, for what you get?
Since you were a small child you have been taught to care for your dollars. You were most likely taught by your parents and most definitely taught about economics in school. You are more in tune to these decisions. Sometimes they are automatic, and sometimes they are deliberate and thought out.
Let's return to the one ounce of chocolate or one apple example -- $150 for one small ounce of chocolate, or $120 for one large apple, the choice is yours. Different days, circumstances, or desires may influence your decision. Just put a $ in front of a calorie count and see if you make a more informed decision. You may find at times you don't like a food item $150 worth, you only like it $70 worth, and choose to walk away.