Why I stopped calorie counting


Content warning: Mentions of eating disorders.

The voice in my head sneered, Still too high, you’re a failure, as I yanked on the fat of my stomach. I was in my bathroom, trying to calm myself down and stop the moisture overpowering my eyes. My mom had bought a different type of yogurt that week at the store because it was on sale, but it was 30 calories more than the usual brand. An unpeeled apple is 90 calories, six almonds are 42, one cup of cooked broccoli is 35, two eggs are 180… Total calorie intake: 650. My mind was scrambling to recalculate: Well, if I take out the almonds and exercise for an extra 20 minutes tonight, I can still make my calorie goal, I rationalized.

***

Last week, while scrolling through my Instagram Explore page to avoid homework, I came upon a video that showed how to make something called “nature’s cereal.” I was curious and so I did more research. Originally created by Tik Toker Sherwayne Mears, nature’s cereal consists of coconut water poured over a mix of blackberries, blueberries, raspberries and pomegranate seeds. This trend blew up when singer Lizzo shared a video on Tik Tok trying it for the first time.

Now, I love an unexpectedly delicious food combination (trying ketchup on mac and cheese was truly a life-changing experience). And if Mears and Lizzo love nature’s cereal, who am I to judge? But the underlying issue with the nature’s cereal trend is that it can be misinterpreted, especially by impressionable youth, to demonize regular cereal with milk for being unhealthy while inadvertently idolizing nature’s cereal for being lower in calories. If we are continuously bombarded with content proclaiming that cereal is making you fat or that switching from full-fat milk to skim milk will aid weight loss, we start to subconsciously label certain foods as “bad.” Gradually, we might start to avoid them or feel that we have to “earn” these foods through exercise. Even if we were able to enjoy these foods blissfully in moderation before, we might now feel guilty for eating them or that we need to substitute “bad” ingredients in a recipe like butter or sugar for “good” alternatives like avocados or apple sauce. 

Take, for example, the Instagram handle for the account on which I first saw the dish: @eatthisnotthat — a page is filled with posts that encourage you to suppress your cravings for unhealthy food with “clean alternatives” to cut calories. Nature’s cereal is full of antioxidants, vitamin C and other essential nutrients, but we should take it for what it is: fruit in water. We must avoid putting certain foods and meals on pedestals. To function, our bodies require many different nutrients that come from a balanced diet made up of a variety of foods, including ones that make us happy. 





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