Most of us ask ourselves (at least once per day), “How much food is the right amount for me?” At one end of the spectrum, there’s calorie counting, and the other end it could be a “free for all.” Like most things, you need to find the right balance between the two for YOU, all within some general guidelines.
Calorie counting is no easy task. The idea behind it goes like this: to lose weight, you must burn more calories than you take in. By keeping track, or “counting” exactly how much you consume, you can monitor yourself to make sure you don’t eat more calories than you burn. However, this is a time-consuming behavior and may be harmful to your mental health if you get overly fixated or feel guilty every time you don’t reach your calorie goal.
Studies show that big meals and large portions often make us underestimate how many calories we’re actually consuming . Being overweight only increases the odds that we underestimate our calories, making weight loss goals even harder to achieve.
Even if calories are successfully counted, many people don’t know the ideal number they should be consuming. The International Food Information Council Foundation reported that although 67% of Americans state they take calories into account when buying food, 90% don’t know how many they really need . Not knowing how many calories your body needs will undermine your calorie counting from the get-go. The FDA bases their percent daily intake values off a 2,000 calorie/day diet . However, you may consume more or less depending on other factors, such as your height or activity level. According to the Food and Nutrition Board, you should get 20-35% of your daily calories from fat, 45-65% from carbohydrates, and 10-35% from protein .
Not consuming calories from the right sources can also sabotage your healthy eating goals. Research conducted by the University of California, Berkeley found that sweets, desserts, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages make up about 25% of the average American’s calorie intake . The same study states that another 5% is from salty snacks or fruit-flavored drinks, and only 10% is from fruits and vegetables. This shows that, even though American’s may be counting calories, they may not be getting the nutrients they need. Calories from alcohol and foods very high in sugar are often referred to as “empty calories.” These calories do not provide any benefits to your body. This is why it’s important to eat nutrient-rich foods, which will give you more “bang for your buck” 
At GenoPalate, we believe balancing your awareness of what and how much you are eating and enjoying the eating experience is the key to lifelong healthy eating habits. Instead of stressing over counting every calorie you consume, GenoPalate proposes we listen to our bodies’ needs through intuitive eating. After all, our bodies are extremely intelligent systems which have evolved over thousands of years to help us operate at our best. When we take the time to listen to when we are hungry and when we are full, our bodies can thrive .
Children are a great example of intuitive eaters. We were born with the instinct to eat only when we feel hungry and stop when we are full. However, we often forget how to follow this instinct as we grow up due to notions we’re told about what and how much we should be eating (i.e. the infamous “clean plate club”).
Think of intuitive eating as a "power tool" that directs our hunger to the right direction. This can help us to establish healthier relationships with food. We may become more conscious of what we’re consuming and help us avoid using food to self-medicate. GenoPalate believes food should solely be used to nourish the body and enjoy the experience.
Choosing a food because it is nourishing and delicious will be more pleasing than choosing it for only its calorie amount. For example, if the food you eat contains more fiber, it will keep you feeling full longer, which can prevent you from reaching for "extra" calories in order to fill yourself up. Nutrient-dense food groups like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can also help you feel full for longer and have the added benefit of helping prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes .
Tips to Start Eating Intuitively
To help you start eating more intuitively, we’ve put together a few pointers for you to think about .
Reject the diet mentality. Create eating habits that work for you and allow you to be healthy in a sustainable way. No more temporary or FAD diets.
Eat slowly. Taking your time while eating allows your body to register that you are full before you overeat.
Make peace with food. Rid yourself of ideas that tell you what you should or shouldn’t be eating.
Honor your hunger. Take notice when you start to feel famished and feed your body accordingly. You’re more likely to overeat if you let yourself get too hungry.
Respect your fullness. When you’re eating, pay attention to when your body’s signals tell you when you’re comfortably full and when you’re still hungry.
Whether you’re eating intuitively or counting calories, it is important to find a sustainable way to nourish your body that keeps you both physically and mentally healthy. To find out which nutrients your body needs more or less of, order a GenoPalate Report today. We’ll analyze your genes to tell you your genetic-based nutrition recommendations and which foods are best for you, according to your unique DNA. Already had your DNA tested through AncestryDNA or 23andMe? Upload your DNA data file to get your GenoPalate Report at a discounted price!
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2. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. “How to Understand and Use the Nutrition Facts Label.” U.S. Food and Drug Administration, FDA, www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-and-materials/how-understand-and-use-nutrition-facts-label#nutrients.
3. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium. “- Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D - NCBI Bookshelf.” National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Jan. 1970, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK56068/table/summarytables.t5/?report=objectonly.
4. Wolpert, Stuart. “Dieting Does Not Work, UCLA Researchers Report.” UCLA, UCLA, 10 May 2019, newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/Dieting-Does-Not-Work-UCLA-Researchers-7832.
5. “Intuitive Eating: What Does This Mean, Anyway?” Jamie Mendell, 18 Sept. 2013, jamiemendell.com/intuitive-eating-what-does-this-mean-anyway/.
6. Jennings, Kerri Ann. “A Quick Guide to Intuitive Eating.” Healthline Newsletter, Healthline, 21 Aug. 2016, www.healthline.com/nutrition/quick-guide-intuitive-eating.