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Here’s Why Counting Calories Really Isn’t Necessary For Weight Loss

As a registered dietitian, the thought of anyone counting calories, aka the energy you get from what you eat and drink, causes me to sigh audibly. Counting calories is a time-consuming, soul-sucking practice that’s actually a lesson in futility, as far as I’m concerned.Yet people continue to do it. They pull out their calorie-tracking apps […]

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As a registered dietitian, the thought of anyone counting calories, aka the energy you get from what you eat and drink, causes me to sigh audibly. Counting calories is a time-consuming, soul-sucking practice that’s actually a lesson in futility, as far as I’m concerned.Yet people continue to do it. They pull out their calorie-tracking apps and plug in whatever foods they’ve eaten, feeling guilty when they go over their “recommended” calorie amounts, then running to the gym to try to undo it all. And I can’t blame them: The idea that monitoring all your calories is key for weight loss is a popular one.While I do think there’s value in recording the foods you’ve eaten to understand what you’re consuming and offer accountability, and while I do think it’s important to know relative calories (e.g., cake: high, broccoli: low), it’s a colossal waste of time to drill it down to every single calorie that passes your lips.Of course, calories do count, since they’re what you consume when all is said and done. But counting calories can be a real drag at best, and a dangerous practice at worst. Not only does it get you focusing on numbers instead of enjoying the food you’re eating, it can be a slippery slope from paying attention to calorie counts to obsessing over them. For anyone with a history of disordered eating, counting calories might be something to avoid. If you have or are in recovery from an eating disorder, it’s best to talk to your doctor before changing your eating habits or tracking your food. Plus, weight loss is about so much more than calories. It encompasses exercise, how you sleep, how stressed you are, and health issues that you may not be able to control, like hormonal changes. That’s why, if losing weight is your goal, it’s important to acknowledge how individual a process it is and figure out how to do it in a way that’s healthy for you. And no matter your goals, spending vast amounts of energy and time poring over calories might not get you very far. Here’s why.1. You likely have no idea how many calories you actually need.In order to accurately count calories for weight loss, you’d need to know your basal metabolic rate, or how many calories your body burns each day simply to stay alive and keep all your systems running. And unless you’ve done indirect calorimetry, which I can almost guarantee you haven’t—it involves lying with a mask on, hooked up to a very expensive piece of machinery for a prolonged period of time to measure your oxygen intake and carbon dioxide expulsion—you really are playing with arbitrary numbers. Although it’s the “gold standard” of figuring out how many calories you use per day, like anything else, indirect calorimetry can have flaws.Yes, you can approximate the number of calories you use in a day via equations and apps, but that’s all you get: an approximation. If even the “gold standard” machine can be wrong, then why let some app or equation determine how much you should be eating?2. You don’t know how many calories your body is absorbing from food.Let’s say that by some miracle, you know exactly how many calories you need to eat per day for weight loss. That’s great, but you’re not out of the woods, thanks to the question of absorption.We used to think that since 3,500 calories equal a pound, every time you eat 3,500 extra calories beyond what your body needs, you end up gaining that weight. Now we know better: Not all calories are equal like we thought.Everything from how your food is processed to how much fiber it contains determines how many calories you’re absorbing from it. Even the bacteria in your gut may play a part in how you digest food and how many calories you derive from it.For example, you’ll absorb more calories from cooked meat versus raw, and peanut butter versus whole peanuts. Due to size differences, one sweet potato varies in calories from another before you even take it off the shelf at the store. Calories absorbed is a complex business that’s light years beyond any calorie-counting app on the market.3. Calorie counts on packages aren’t necessarily accurate.But wait! Even if you know how many calories you need and how many you’re absorbing, you’re not done! In fact, the Food and Drug Administration allows up to 20 percent margin of error in the numbers on those nutrition labels you likely rely on to count many of your calories. Meaning, that 250-calorie snack you’re eating might actually have 200 calories—or 300.4. Counting calories can encourage you to ignore your hunger cues.Focusing entirely on calories, instead of the quality of the food you’re eating and how you actually feel before chowing down (hungry, bored, stressed, etc.), can wreak havoc on those precious hunger cues you’re born with. Whether you’re eating just because you “have calories left,” even though you’re not truly hungry, or you’re not eating because you’ve “gone over” your calorie allotment for the day, but you’re actually still hungry, you’re doing the same thing: ignoring what your body is trying to tell you.Trust your body, because it knows what it needs a lot more than some random number or tracker.5. Calorie counting adds to the misconception you can “work off” the food you eat.One of the things that angers me most about calorie-counting apps is the impression they give that you can exercise yourself “back into the green.” Going over your “calorie allowance” again and again because you think you can burn off the transgressions? Nope. Your body doesn’t burn off food calorie-for-calorie like that.A 2014 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine emphasized that “it is where the calories come from that is crucial” in determining whether your body is tempted to store them as fat, use them for energy, or apply them to some other mechanism, the study authors explain.Plus, if you do routinely overindulge then try to work it off in the gym, you’ll be exercising for a very long time, depending on the size of the junky meals you’ve eaten. This, in turn, may cause you to become hungrier…and eat more. Vicious cycle? Definitely.The good news is that when you only overeat from time to time, your body can handle those extra calories without making you gain weight. It’s when you overeat on a more frequent basis that you can get into weight-gain territory.Instead of counting every calorie you eat (or you THINK you’re eating…and absorbing), if you’re hoping to lose weight, try this instead.Opt mostly for fresh, whole foods when you’re grocery shopping, and think of it as eating food, not calories. Try as hard as you can to look at your diet as a whole instead of the sum of its parts. That means focusing on healthy items like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean protein, and it also means eating mindfully—slowing down, eating until you’re satisfied, and giving deprivation a pass. If you eat a balanced diet most of the time, your body will most likely respond by finding its balance—no calorie counting required.Keep in touch with me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. For diet reviews, blog posts, and recipes, check out Abby Langer Nutrition.You may also like: How To Make Healthy High-Protein Avocado Boats

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Tabitha Brown and Other Black Personalities Focus On Joy Despite Crisis

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Happiness is an essential aspect of survival. For many Black influencers, promoting positivity among fans and followers, mainly during crises, is a must—that so-called reminder that there is still light at the end of the darkest tunnel.

Amid the ill effects of the present COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing debates regarding equality and racism, numerous Black celebrities and creators are offering the community a chance to laugh, reconnect, and heal. Tabitha Brown delights her audience with cooking expertise; Kerry Washington showcases yoga as a calming and reflective activity, and Rickey Thompson entrances followers with his dancing moves.

Brown and Her Cooking

The vegan actress provides both her Instagram and TikTok fans with motivational clips. She combines her southern cooking with inspirational narratives. She guides her millions of followers as she demonstrates how to cook a variety of dishes as she simultaneously calms her audience with her trademark expressions, including “’cause that’s our business” and “like so, like that.”

After her 2-year battle with chronic fatigue and pain, the actress turned to the web, posting motivational videos for fans. “I want to help people,” Brown shares in a recent interview. “I think my content has a responsibility to bring light every day, whether it’s in laughter, whether it’s in inspiration, whether it’s through food,” she adds.

Thompson and His Dancing Moves

Like Brown, Thompson has millions of followers on social media. He dazzles his fans with various dance clips coupled with relatable rants regarding relevant issues. His videos are bursts of color and gaiety, encouraging everyone to believe that things will soon be okay.

He shares that, after the terrible losses that he and his family encountered, he realized that he could use his voice to influence others. Nowadays, he provides his fans with comic relief through dancing, walking, and self-expression. “As a Black person, our whole journey is trying to keep all our emotions within because we’re supposed to be strong, we’re supposed to be these tough people,” Thompson explains. “But we’re also human… What’s important is letting other people know you’re not in this alone,” he continues.

Staying Positive amid Problems

Despite the current difficulties encountered by various Black and colored communities in the country, it is highly important to remain calm and steady. Laughter helps relieve the accumulated stress and pain brought on by the pandemic and increased racism, while motivational talks provide positive guidance on how to make the best of the situation.

Numerous Black influencers and personalities offer various stress relief options online, encouraging others in the community to hold on to each other, although virtually, as we all await the eventual cure to this present pandemic. “So that even if it’s for one minute, it’s an escape for whatever they have going on in life. They can laugh a little bit or cry if they need to, but they just feel like they have somebody at that moment,” Brown asserts.

Indeed, we may all be grappling with various issues at the moment, but hope must spring eternal as survival can only be possible for those who remain steadfast, strong, and happy.

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How To Determine A Food-Friendly Wine

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The language of wine can be romantic, mystifying, or nonsensical — sometimes all at once. Experts share their experience and research for some wines and winery in answering the question: “What makes a wine food-friendly?”. Some people are dependent on wine names and might seem self-evident, but frequently, they get deceived. 

“Food-friendly” is a common description that should seem obvious, but what does it mean?

Most people would say that wine is meant to be consumed with food. However, we usually drink wines as cocktails, or on their own, without thinking about what we eat to match the wine mood. Sometimes, people also enjoy them as trophies, for the experience of tasting a rare, expensive wine. In these contexts, food doesn’t matter. Wine is the highlight.

The concept of a “food wine” became a derogatory — a wine that didn’t taste good on its own and needed food as a counterbalance for its flaws. That’s not what we mean today by describing a wine as “food-friendly.”

  • Every good wine will be friendly with at least some food. A positively food-friendly wine plays nicely with a broad category of foods, from sweet to savory to spicy, from meat to fish to veggies.

“I’ve had A-plus perfect pairings, where every note in the wine and dish sync and amplify each other, but those are rare experiences, and I don’t think they are the point most of the time,” says Matt Stamp, a master sommelier who used to try to orchestrate such pairings at the French Laundry in Yountville, in Napa Valley.

  • Along with Rosé, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and Barbera are wines noted for their acidity and versatility with food. This can result in surprising pairings. Beef braised in Riesling is a traditional German dish, and pinot noir makes an exciting partner to sushi, roast chicken, pork, or grilled salmon. 
  • When in doubt at home or in a restaurant, look for these types of wines for challenging food pairings or find some bubbles, the second characteristic that defines food-friendly wines. Bubbles go with everything. The sparkling wine’s enthusiasm effectively cleanses your mouth and prepares you for the next bite of food or a sip of wine. Sparkling wines also manage to be refreshingly acidic. We do ourselves an offense by relegating champagne and other bubblies drinks, such as Italian prosecco or Spanish cava.

“Champagne can be had throughout a meal, even with the right steak,” says Nadine Brown, former sommelier at Charlie Palmer Steak in D.C. “Fried chicken and potato chips with grower champagne is hot right now,” Brown says, pointing to the ultimate combo of extravagant wine and poor vittles.

I usually don’t agree with the “drink the wine you like with the food you like” school of view because it can be lazy. But if you pay attention to the wines you drink and the foods you pair them with, you’ll develop your group of wine styles to draw on when wondering, “What on earth should I drink with this?”

And as Brown advises, “Stay curious.” You might find something unique and surprising.

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Turn Your Extra Rice Into Something More

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Rice is best paired with any of the viands you can think of, whether it’s vegetables or meat. It goes so well with anything. Without rice, sometimes, we feel unsatisfied; thus, we still feel hungry. However, you can turn rice into something you want it to be! Fried rice, for example, yet, it is not the basic ones; you can add something into it to make it more delicious and mouth-watering.

Depending on your position, leftover takeout rice can be the bane of your existence or a blessing. For most of us, it’s the latter. Extras such as these are the foundation for a superb reinvented supper, namely fried rice.

Fried rice is an excellent weeknight feed, whether you want to extemporize with what’s already in your kitchen or have a specific project. Here are some recipes from our archives, which are great as written and easy enough to achieve. They’re so great; you might find yourself ending up ordering more rice just to make them. 

Fried rice with broccoli and mustard greens

A vegetable-loaded version uses a sharp technique that has you cook the ingredients in steps, which is especially helpful if you don’t have a wok or large skillet.

Better than takeout fried rice

Sometimes, there are similarities between what you might get if you ordered fried rice, but we prefer the freshness and crunch of homemade. The ginger and red pepper flakes are making it sound, too.

Sesame fried rice with spring vegetables and egg

Brown rice binds more nourishment into the stir-fry, and fried eggs mean you can mix in a runny yolk for an extra-luxurious texture.

Garlic fried rice (Chahan)

This is for garlic lovers; celebrate because you’ll fry a few cloves for this recipe. It calls for short-grain Japanese rice, so here’s an ideal recipe for making a cut in any sushi rice you may get. 

Vegetable fried rice

This recipe helps you with extra brown rice. Other than that, it will also get you to reinvent those broccoli stems instead of throwing them away or doing the same recipe over and over again. 

Quick ham-fried rice with lavender

This is clearly off the hidden path, but the floral flavor plays well with the pork, ginger, and raisins. 

Spicy basil tofu fried rice

A stir-fry for one that recommends making a baked marinated tofu for extra flavor and thick texture. You can also swap in plain extra-firm tofu. 

African soul fried rice.

Food writer and culinary historian Michael Twitty is the source of this vivid dish that includes traditional or indigenous ingredients to West and Central Africa. 

Those are just some of the recipes you may use for converting your plain rice into something more tasty. Avoid food waste, get what you can consume. If we can’t avoid leftover foods, let’s not leave it. Let’s transform it.

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