Counting Calories is Counting Madness

Cultural Eating Disorders

rena sassi

10/10/20184 min read

One of my clients has an eating disorder and though she frequents an eating support group, she is still struggling with counting calories and sugars. This has become such an issue for her that she often tries to adjust my food recommendations even if the food is meant to be medicinal. For example, I recommended to my client that she drinks huge quantities of apple juice as per a recent learning from my teacher in Traditional Malay Spiritual Healing that increased daily consumption of apple juice can dissolve gall stones within a few months. This health advice was then corroborated by a friend who practices Traditional Chinese Medicine and by an old homeopathic book I just happened to be reading. Well, this recommendation for her gall bladder also ended up being a journey of healing in mental health for my client as well, as she began to worry about the large amounts of sugar in the apple juice.

Now, many of us have gotten into the habit of counting our foods and in particular, counting the calories and sugars in our food because of an incomplete and one sided belief by certain dieting programs, mostly that started in the 80's, that only calories are the sole an absolute measurement of health and energy production in any kind of food, whether it be processed foods or natural whole foods and that all sugars are created equal and carry equal caloric and metabolic value. This belief not only reduced whole foods to a set of calculable units of unvaried and equal menacing units of energy or fat but it also sparked an anxiety in people to count their foods. So in a way our whole society has an eating disorder.

When my client sent me a panicked email about her apple juice having way too many sugars than she is allowed to have, she asked me for some dieting advice and this is what I wrote.

I actually have a very different philosophy on sugar and diets in general. I don't believe all sugars are created equal and that though refined and processed sugars can wreak havoc on the body (and mind), sugars from whole foods like fruit and vegetables are actually good for you. Sugars in whole foods do not come in isolation, they come with a host of co-nutrients and co-factors that our bodies have evolved to understand and process. Sugars in fruit are delivered and digested differently. Check out this article on healthline on how sugars from fruits are metabolized in our livers. The article may also help you with understanding why I also recommended that you drink the juice with presence and awareness.

I understand you have an eating support program and I do not want to steer you away from anything that's helping you but I'm not sure it's healthy for your mental state or your body to be counting calories. I find it is better to pay attention to the quality of the food rather than numbers and the best way to do that is to follow a traditional diet, ideally the diet of your own ancestors if you have knowledge of that. Your body though perhaps imbalanced at the moment has thousands of years of information handed down to you from your ancestors on how to process, consume and benefit from whole natural foods. My general rule of thumb is to eat like your grandmother's grandmother ate. Our ancestors did not count sugars and potassium and calories. :) They ate what nature provided for them and what they were able to process through the technology they had.

I would much rather you drink the apple juice with no concern for the sugars and instead to try your best to keep an awareness and an intention that the apple juice is healing you. Your intention or awareness in the way your body will process the food will in fact determine how your body will process it. So if you count calories and equate all sugars to having the same value, your body will also process the food with a similar understanding. One thing my homeopathy teacher used to say to us was that whatever we eat we should enjoy it and not feel guilty or worried about it. When we associate negative understandings to food, our body will also process the food negatively.

That said, if you really want numbers I would say roughly follow the RDA values for sugar and potassium [she's also meant to increase her Potassium in-take as per a recent HTMA suggested]. And by roughly I mean just kind of know averages or approximations of numbers per foods your consuming. For example, just keep the awareness that nettles tea and adrenal cocktails can give you the most in potassium and less in sugars. So you can increase your intake of the tea and add more potassium per cocktail. The same can be done for sugars, know that the apple juice is really a medicine more than a food right now and that you will soon stop drinking it. So you can allow yourself to add more potassium to your cocktails to help reduce your intake of sugars because your having apple juice as a medicine, for now. But keep reminding yourself that the apple juice is medicine, try your best not to think of sugars in numbers but in quality. There is something about those apples, with its sugars and all, that will help to heal your gall bladder. Thank the apples for that and trust them. It's important we align our minds and hearts with our bodies.

I hope that this is helpful to you as well and that you are able to reap the wonderful benefits and blessings from whole natural foods through an ancestral and traditional diet.