Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Many Calories Do I Need?

How Many Calories Do I Need?

Most clients will at one point ask me this question. In fact, most people - whether I am at the grocery store or the coffee shop - ask me that question as soon as they find out I am a registered dietitian. If only that question were as simple to answer as it is to ask.
What makes the answer so complicated? The truth is that there is no one number that I can guarantee your body will need every single day. The reason is that there are many things that affect how much energy you need to take in over a 24hr period. Here is a short list:
- Number of hours of sleep
- Presence or absence of illness, such as a fever
- Presence or absence of menstrual cycle
- How much time spent outside in what type of environment
- Physical activity: time, intensity, type and wearing what type of clothing in what type of environment
- Level of stress and how well you deal with it
Each of these variables affect what your body needs on a given day not just to survive, but to help you do what you want to do, such as work, exercise, or spend quality time with friends and family. Remember that food is fuel and - just like a car - without fuel your body can't go where it needs.
So perhaps the question shouldn't be "how many calories do I need", but "how can I fuel my body to do what I want to do"? The answer to that question is mindful eating. Your body does a very good job of telling you exactly when it needs more energy and in what portion...but you have to listen and respond. When you eat intuitively (eat when you are hungry; stop when you are full), you are honoring and respecting your body. In addition, mindful eating is significantly less stressful than trying to worry about counting every bite that goes into your mouth because - as I keep saying - you don't know how much you should eat anyhow! Only your body determines that - not your mind! So the next time you are tempted to start counting calories, I challenge you to stop and instead ask, "how hungry am I?" Then let your body tell you how much is enough.

Katie Davis, MS, RD, CSSD, LDN offers both individual and group nutrition counseling at The Awakening Center. For more info call 773-929-6262.   

1 comment:

  1. Katie - great article!! When I hear "weight loss experts" say that its a simple mathematical equation calories in / calories out, I want to laugh! Our bodies are so much more complex than that! I also read that the weight we read on the scale is effected by humidity, barometric pressure, temperature etc - all conditions that have nothing to do with our bodies! I believe that intuitive eating/mindful eating/listening to our bodies is the only way to feed ourselves. Thanks, Katie!