6 reasons to stop counting kilojoules

Whipping out a calculator when you eat can sabotage your efforts to lose weight.

05 July 2017
By Glynis Horning

Counting kilojoules works for some people but puts many off. “Eating is not a mathematical exercise,” says Julie Deane-Williams, Cape Town registered dietitian and director of the Institute for Mindfulness in SA. “We’ve been given an exquisite self-regulatory mechanism by nature called physiological hunger and satiety (fullness). We only need to learn how to join up with our bodies and learn how to listen to this process for our bodies to find their way back to their best potential.”

1. You’ll enjoy meals again

When you stop obsessively weighing and measuring meals, and create them around fresh, whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes and lean protein, tastily prepared with olive or raw nut oils and herbs and spices, you'll feel good about what you are putting in your body, she says. This turns meals into relaxed times to relish.

2. You won’t stress or comfort eat

When you stop counting and start paying attention to the food you eat, savouring its colours, textures, smells and tastes, you become more conscious of your body. This helps you sense when reaching for something unhealthy is linked to stress or habit and not genuine hunger. If stress is the catalyst, take a walk, a hot bath, a nap, or just three deep breaths and a good stretch, says Deane-Williams, or else watch a funny video!

3. You’ll feel more energised

Kilojoules are measures of energy, but are not all equal. Those in processed foods are not as satisfying – they digest rapidly into sugar and raise your insulin level, which prompts cells to quickly take up kilojoules in the blood and store them as fat, Deane-Williams says. This leaves your body craving more and makes you prone to binging. Lean protein, healthy omega-3 fats and high-fibre grains, vegetables and fruit (see 1) keep you feeling full longer than the likes of chips and biscuits, and keep your blood sugar and energy levels more stable. 

4. You’ll shed weight

The complications of calculating kilojoules can encourage you to move from wholesome home cooked meals to prepared packaged ones with the calculations conveniently on the pack. Many packaged foods are low on nutrition and their kilojoules tend to be of the less satisfying kind, so you eat more.

5. You’ll be able to treat yourself – just a bit

As you get better at listening to your body and genuine hunger cues, you’ll be able to plan to enjoy a treat as part of a meal, having just a bite or two of that chocolate mud pie, then stopping or sharing it with others, as you are “no longer in deprivation mode”, says Deane-Williams.

6 You’ll like yourself more

Counting kilojoules to have an idealised body encourages the idea that you’re not good enough. When you love yourself unconditionally, and choose to respect – rather than control – your body, it can help you make healthy food and exercise choices without resorting to calculations, she says. “Choosing to respect and ‘join up’ with your body involves living in your body, not on top of it!”

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