Why Counting Calories/Macros is Worthless

Why Counting Calories/Macros is Worthless

One of my least favorite trends right now / ever is counting calories and macros. It’s right up there with juice cleanses and detox latte potions (but that’s another article currently in the works). These things are very trendy right now on blogs and by those self-proclaimed ‘wellness experts’ and ‘wholistic healers/nutritionists’ on Insta, and while some people devote themselves to such regimes religiously, I am going to share with you why I think for most people it does more harm than good.

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Now. I’m not here to tell you it’s wrong to care about the food you eat. But if you’re hyper-focused on numbers, you may be missing the point of what it means to be actually be healthy.

Below are just a few of the reasons I advise against counting calories, carbs, or macros. I hope you enjoy and feel free to leave thoughts in the comments.

Disclaimer: Dietitian-guided meal planning and food tracking may be appropriate for those in the early stages of recovering from eating disorders or disordered eating until proper self-feeding is reestablished.

1. You don’t really know exactly how much you need, and a lot of different sources will give you different answers.

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While it’s true formulas exist to guide health professionals to estimate how much of certain macronutrients or calories a person needs for various life stages and health conditions, unless there is a case of enteral feeding, these are approximate values.

It’s highly unlikely that the calculations you compute at home or find on the internet are precise enough to match your exact needs. Moreover, you probably have varying levels of activity and sleep every day, which these formulas will not reflect.

If you don’t believe me, try googling “calorie calculator.” Type your info into a few different ones on the internet. See what happens. When I did it, I got a different value from every single website, proving a lack of validity for these values.

2. Not every item of food you eat has the exact same caloric content every time.

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Think about when you eat out. Let’s say, for example, I get a you pick two at panera. A go-to order for me is the garden veggie soup with pesto, a salad with avocado added, and a side of bread. Sometimes my soup has like, a bucket of oily pesto on it. Sometimes there’s barely any. Same with the amount of avocado, nuts, and tomatoes in the salad. It’s slight different every single time.

The bread that comes with it is sometimes a tiny nub, while other times I get a big round end piece. On lucky days I beg two pieces. You get the idea…all this to say that unless you eat nothing but perfect former and processed packaged foods (which I hope you don’t think is s way to get healthy), knowing the exact caloric and macro values of your food is nearly impossible, and studies have shown most people are pretty terrible at accurately tracking food and caloric intake.

What about a muffin your sister made? Or a latte at your local coffee shop? Even the USDA database has food values that don’t always reflect the actual food you eat (ie, they list 60 calories per slice of bread…the bread I eat has 80 calories per slide according to the label).

Are you going to neglect these foods because you don’t know how precisely they fit into your eating pattern?

Don’t! Free yourself! For the work involved, there is little to no benefit to tracking your calories or macros. If anything, it invites obsessing and micromanaging which can do more harm than good (see below).

3. It causes stress, and stress really mess with your physical and mental health.

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Keeping track of calories, carbs, etc requires a decent amount of attention and brain space on a daily basis. Perhaps you have plans to go out to dinner later but are worrying all day about the meal not fitting into your shiny perfect numerical nutrition boxes. Or maybe your coworker spontaneously suggests happy hour drinks or a classmate offers to share some birthday cupcakes in class. Cue stress, panic, anxiety, and loss of control taking over.

Eating the same amounts every day isn’t healthy, nor realistic. Life has ebbs and flows and is meant to be enjoyed spontaneously at times. Subjecting yourself to deprivation or hyper rigidity will likely cause you stress and anxiety, both of which can impact your hunger hormones and mess not only with your hunger and fullness cues, but also with your sleep schedule and mental health, cultivating a path away from optimal functioning, instead of one towards it.

Moreover, think of all the brain space you must devote to tracking your intake. Now imagine what else you could fill that brain space with: creative thoughts, fulfilling activities, or more time to spend with family and friends or spent cooking yummy nourishing meals. Sound better than counting carbs? I thought so.

4. It doesn’t take into account how hungry you are.

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I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: your body is not a calculator, so it shouldn’t be treated as such. Unless you sleep, move, think and breathe the exact same amount every single day, you shouldn’t eat as if you do.

One of my biggest issues with calorie and macro counting is that it teaches you to disengage with your inherent hunger and fullness cues. Once you lose touch with them, it can be quite difficult to remember how to self-regulate.

Some days you’re just extra hungry for no reason. That is okay. And other days you may not feel as hungry as usual. That’s also normal. But you should eat according to what your body wants and needs given the situation. This means listening to hunger and fullness rather than a chart full of numbers.

5. It sucks the fun out of eating and eating out.

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Per the reasons mentioned above, calorie and macro counting suck joy out of life. Don’t do this to yourself. Food and eating are meant to be pleasurable. They’re intended to be shared, joyful experiences, or at the very least, fulfilling nourishment to cary out the rest of your life’s passions without being distracted by hunger or stressed by food charts.

This evening, for example, I overheard two well-intentioned females picking items off a menu based on what would fit their macro plans based on what else they had eaten that day. It made me so sad. You are meant to enjoy the food you consume, not micromanage it.

Imagine instead if these girls ordered what they had wanted instead of what they did order, and satisfied the craving their body had, nourished mind body and spirit, and moved on with life. What struck me the most was that the concern was not on the healthfulness of the varied food options, but rather, a game of numbers and macros. I almost wanted to butt-in from my table and tell them that their original order was actually highly nutrient-dense and would likely keep them satisfied for hours. But I held back…

Well there you have it: the reasons I advise against counting calories and macros.

If you are looking to improve your health, my best advice is always the same and relatively simple: fill up on plant-based foods (fruits, veg, beans, nuts, seeds, etc). Moderate the rest. Eat what you want when you want it, and stop when you’re satisfied. Listen to your body. They’re smarter than we give them credit for. And don’t forget to prioritize sleep an stress reduction, both of which may be compromised by rigid dieting.

Cheers to a happy, healthy 2018, free from self-inflicted diet stress.

11 Food and Health-Related New Year’s Resolutions That Are Way Better Than Losing Weight

11 Food and Health-Related New Year’s Resolutions That Are Way Better Than Losing Weight

It’s that time of year again: the time when everyone starts chattering about how this is going to be the year they finally lose weight. Diet talk starts flooding your ears and diet and fitness ads pop up all over the TV and social media. It’s unescapable.

But here’s a wild thought: if this stuff worked, and if these crazy cleanses and diets and fitness regimines were sustainable, then why does everyone pursue them year and year again? Oh, that’s right, because these are marketing gimmicks and money-makers from companies who have your wallet, not your health, in mind.

I’m not saying it’s wrong to want to live a healthy lifestyle. All I’m saying is that the diet industry has sort of distorted what it means to be healthy. And there are way more important and interesting things to pursue in life than talking about losing weight and doing juice cleanses all the time. Like, I don’t, perhaps realizing how privileged we are to be able to even not worry about where our next meal is coming from.

So here are 11 food and health-related resolution ideas if you want to make a resolution and are out of ideas since literally the only one you usually hear about is weight-loss related. Or don’t make one. That’s cool too. Eliminating extraneous and unnecessary self-placed pressure is totally something I can get behind.

Anyways, happy New Year! Hope you have a fun, tasty, and festive holiday.

1. Don’t diet

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They don’t work. They lead you to be miserable, sad and empty inside.

They also cause a great deal of stress, which leads to the stress hormone cortisol elevating in your body. Elevated cortisol is not only detrimental to overall health, but can actually make it harder to lose weight (which honestly, you probably don’t need to do anyway).

If you had a friend that made you sad, miserable, stressed, and left you feeling empty inside, would you continue to pursue a relationship with that person? Likely not. You’d probably distance yourself from them.

So you should do the same with diets. Kick that sh*t to the curb. Free yourself.

2. Let Go of Food Norms

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In the past few years, I’ve gone from being self-conscious, rigid, and weird about food norms to not giving a flipping fuck.

What do I mean exactly? Well, for example, for reasons that escape all present logic, I used to feel really weird eating lunch before noon. Like, the thought of enjoying a salad at 11am gave me anxiety. All of my friends in New York ate lunch at like, 2 or 3, so I perceived that as the normal or cool thing to do. If I ate lunch early, it’d make me different and weird and maybe cause me to miss out on eating with friends later.

This odd rigidity lasted after college, even when I would work from home. How silly is it that if I was hungry-for-a-meal at 10:30am, that I’d eat a small snack and let my stomach rumble for 90 minutes, starting at the clock and counting down the minutes until 12;00pm hit, rush to the kitchen, and rage on food.

In retrospect, it makes no sense to do this. At all. Obviously with various work and school schedules, I don’t always get to eat when I’m hungry, or eat what I feel like eating at the time. That’s okay. That’s life.

But I’ve let go of rules and regulations. Since I eat breakfast between 5-6, being hungry for lunch at 11 is totally acceptable.  I don’t judge myself for it. I eat my food, satisfy my hunger, and free up brain space to focus on other things.

There’s no right or wrong time to eat or correct meal to eat certain foods at.

So eat salad and sushi for breakfast (I have). Have lunch at 10:00am. Eat ice cream before bed when everyone else is talking about their new weight-loss plan. Do you. Live your best life.

3. Disassociate numbers and health

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Including calories, macros, and weight. Your body is not a calculator.

4. Unfollow anyone on Instagram promoting a cleanse or detox

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You can follow them again later, but free yourself from daily posts about ‘chic’ fast-tracks to health. Spoiler alert: there is no magic pill to good health. Juice cleanses are an example of a way company’s have found to make tons of money profiting off the vulnerability of those who simple want to be healthier or thinner and don’t know where to begin.

Juice cleanses don’t work. There is literally no scientific data to support them. Literally none of my nutrition professors at Columbia nor NYU ever said a single favorable thing about them.

Drinking juice is unsustainable and highly unsatisfying. Want to be healthier? Eat more plant-based foods, move when it feels good, and

5. Realize that food on Instagram isn’t real life

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I feel like the internet has set up this dream world where food always looks perfect and luscious and bountiful and full of health and wonder and it sometimes leads us to set oddly high or distorted expectations of what eating is.

The truth is, food doesn’t always have to look glamorous or even taste amazing all the time. Truly. It’s fuel. Sometimes you eat things that are boring and eh or maybe things you don’t like. That’s life. And sometimes there’s more to eating than picture perfect or gourmet meals. Sometimes it’s about the social element. Sometimes it’s going with the flow.

Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t really cook or style food or eat very boring food all of the time. In fact, I eat very boring food most of the time, I just don’t post all those meals and snacks to the internet.

There’s a lot more to life than food (which I know, is ironic to say on a food blog). But it’s true. Food is what gives you energy to do all the other things in life. So go ahead and eat boring food and make sh*t happen.

6. Waste less food

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Food waste is one of our nation’s tragic and hidden scandals.

40 million Americans are food insecure, meaning they don’t have enough to eat. Yet 40% of the food produced in this country goes in the trash, and often to landfills (which is also sad, since most food scraps are compostable).

Food waste wastes not only food itself, but also energy, water, and resources required to grow, package and transport it.

Even if you don’t giving a flying crap about the planet, there’s a selfish reason to care: wasting food wastes a ton of money, meaning there should be an incentive for everyone to stop buying or ordering more than we’ll realistically use, storing food more wisely (make friends with your freezers fam, seriously), and being more crafty with leftovers.

7. Take a few seconds a day to appreciate the fact that you have food

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Per reasons mentioned above. We live in a world of excess. Many of us walk around where food is everywhere, and in great abundance. Meanwhile, 40 million Americans don’t get enough to eat every year.

If you’re not food insecure, appreciate it. Truly. I firmly believe you can’t function at your maximum capacity when you are hungry.

8. Stop trying to ‘control your hormones’ with extreme diets and exercise habits

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Lately, ‘mastering your hormones’ seems to be the fastest, easiest, and trendiest way to attract followers on social media.

It really makes me sad to see people with tons of power and influence promoting extreme regimes and unscientific potions to large audiences.

The truth is, nutrition is super complicated, as is the endocrine system. And an Instagramer with a shiny feed who appears to be a queen of ‘natural’ lifestyle knows nothing about your health or what your body needs.

While I have a background in nutrition, I am not your healthcare professional, nor are any of the references listed above. If you have a concern about your hormones and/or have lost your period, consider seeing a healthcare provider about it.

Many people suffer from hormonal imbalances and amenorrhea from under-eating, over-exercising, not sleeping enough, or being too stressed out. Robyn from the Real-Life RD writes some good stuff on this topic if you want to know more from someone who is actually educated  in the stuff unlike so many self-proclaimed ‘wellness and lifestyle experts’ out there who maybe read one trendy pop-nutrition book or two.

But seriously, free yourself from believing that potion-and-mushroom-filled lattes and eliminating grains is how to fix

10. Prioritize sleep and stress reduction

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For so many years, sleep and engaging in activities that lower my cortisol were the first things to go when I was busy or overwhelmed. But lately I’ve come to realize how crucial sleep + stress management are to physical and mental health.

11. Enjoy your food more

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Life is too short. Eat dat ice cream.

Vegan Halo Top Review

Vegan Halo Top Review

Once upon a time I was asked to write about Vegan Halo Top’s release for Spoon University. Although I have a history of disliking Halo Top’s marketing for a variety of reasons, my curiosity was instantly peaked. I had to know what the hype was about.

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So for those who, like me, find themselves curious about the new non-dairy Halo Top flavors but are a bit hesitant to spend $5-8 on a pint of heavily-marketed frozen dessert, I thought I’d share my review to help you decide if it’s worthy of your time.

What Is Vegan Halo Top?

Halo Top has built a brand on a highly-effective marketing campaign of being the ultimate ‘guilt-free’ ice cream. It was one of the first well-received ‘low-calorie’ ice creams on the market (sorry Arctic Zero..), and has embedded itself into pop food culture alongside avocado toast and matcha lattes.

Halo Top advertises the calorie count of the entire pint right smack dab front and center of the packaging, and flaunts a high-protein content.

Non-dairy Halo Top is a coconut-milk based version of the original (280-360 calories per pint), with similar calorie counts and slightly lower protein contents (12 grams per pint versus 20 grams per pint).

Vegan Halo Top currently comes in 7 flavors: Caramel Macchiato, Chocolate, Chocolate Covered Banana, Peanut Butter Cup, Oatmeal Cookie, Sea Salt Caramel, and Cinnamon Roll.

The base appears to be a mix of coconut cream and water, and the dessert also contains prebiotic fiber (a thickener), organic cane sugar, erythritol (a calorie-free sugar alcohol), rice protein, pea protein, carob gum and guar gum (for thickness, I presume), stevia, and other ingredients that vary by flavor.

My Previous Distaste Of the Brand, Explained:

I have history of expressing irritation at the Halo Top marketing strategy. I don’t like the thought of demonizing or glorifying any foods, let alone my beloved ice cream. I don’t think we should feel guilty for eating regular ice cream, and I don’t think it’s wise, even if a food happens to be low-calorie, to disengage from internal hunger and fullness cues and give yourself permission to eat a whole pint.

Because the reality is, you should always give yourself permission to eat whatever sounds good to you in whatever amount satisfies your tastebuds and your tummy, whether it be a large salad as a snack, a piece of pie for breakfast, or a large scoop of your favorite ice cream whenever a craving hits.

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And you should also give yourself permission to stop if you’re full or things start not tasting so good. I can eat sweet potatoes until next Thursday and not tire of them, but often when I’m eating very rich foods, like ice cream or doughnuts, my taste buds will get over them and my stomach will tell me to stop. And I think it’s best I listen to my body.

This is what I’ve disliked for so long about Halo Top’s marketing: it presents itself as the angel among a devil-like group of foods, when really ‘real’ ice cream is just that: real ice cream. Delicious, rich, and satisfying.

Anyways…

Despite all of this, I still wanted to give Halo Top a try. I had always been curious: Okay, just how good can this stuff be? What could it possibly even taste like?

I had to know.

I pitched the idea of a review to my editors at Spoon, who approved the idea,* I went out into the world that very next weekend, only to find some pints of vegan Halo Top scattered among the original versions at my local Whole Foods. I picked up a single pint, put it in my cart, and went on my way.

*the review never ended up happening because apparently another Spoon writer reached out to HT to do a review and was sent a bunch of samples, but i decided to do my own on my blog

General First Impression

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Let me preface this by saying I love ice cream. Ice cream is probably my favorite dessert, and holds a special sentimental place in my heart as it’s a dessert I cherish many fond memories over enjoying with my dad growing up.

When it comes to ice cream preference, I go two ways: either I want rich, thick, dense hard-packed ice cream, loaded with texture (nuts, chocolate, cookies, candy, etc) or an airy soft serve that begins to melt the second it makes contact with the tongue.

So when I peeled back the golden foil from my Halo Top, I was pretty ready to be disappointment. After all, how could they manage such a low calorie count without making something completely fake-tasting, icy, or overly-artificially-flavored? It seemed like a near mathematical impossibility to me.

Throughout my trial and error with Halo Top, however, I settled upon something: it’s not ice cream. It will never be ice cream. It’s something else. It’s flavored fluff. And it’s delicious. Read on for details…

Texture:

 

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Right off the bat it was obvious that the texture of Halo Top is far different from that of a full-fat ice cream. This frozen dessert (I’m still not calling it ice cream) was almost fluffy when pulled from the carton with a spoon. I can best compare the mouthfeel of vegan Halo Top to that of marshmallow fluff or barely-thawed frozen Cool Whip. It’s aerated, light, and melts in the mouth.

The texture allows the flavor hits your palate in layers; first you just taste sticky cold and a hint of sweet. As it quickly melts on your tongue, you’re hit with a flood of de-fattened peanut butter, or cinnamon, it whatever flavor it is you happen to be eating. It’s almost soft-serve like, but with a quicker dissemination on the tongue.

Sweetness:

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Halo Top is a sweet treat but not overly so. I was quite worried the stuff would reek of nauseating over-artificial sweetness or leave your mouth feeling glowy as artificial sugar alcohols so often do.

The actual level of sweetness, however, is decently balanced. It’s certainly sweet, but not so sweet it’s inedible (as I find the non-dairy flavors of Ben & Jerry’s to be…sorry Ben & Jerry I so badly wanted to like you…).

As you swallow, you get a subtle lingering taste of artificial sugar alcohols, just slightly drying yet peaking your palate for more. The artificial taste is oddly not off-putting, but rather comforting and reminiscent of something semi-artificial you ate at sleepovers during childhood.

Chunks:

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As a texture junky, particularly when it comes to ice cream, this was the element of Halo Top I found most disappointing.

To me, when you a flavor has the word cookie in the title, I anticipate there will be chunks of cookie in the tub. This is not really the case with Halo Top. At first I was upset, but realized perhaps I misunderstood their concept. Maybe, after all, it was cookie-flavored-fluff, not ice-cream-filled-with-cookies. More on this is the flavor-by-flavor review below.

Slight misbranding aside, once I accepted this was not what Halo Top brought to the table, I was able to go back to enjoying it, reasoning I had the power (albeit less convenient) to add my own cookie pieces, chocolate chunks, candies, and whole nuts, especially since I am not concerned with keeping the calorie count of my desserts low as I’m not trying to lose weight or micromanage my body size.

By the Flavor:

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Since their launch, I’ve tried 4 flavors of non-dairy Halo Top. Below you can find my take on each I’ve had so far. I’d like to try more, but haven’t been able to find several of them. I’m also hoping they develop some of their other flavors (like cake batter or candy pieces) into non-dairy versions.

Oatmeal Cookie

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This was my first Halo Top experience, and my first dance with disappoint. Allow me to explain: I love oatmela cookies. the chewiness and moistness and soft crumb are what I dream of in a cookie, and I envisioned how wonderfully chunks of such a thing would taste dropped into ice cream.

To my sadness, there were no chunks in this flavor. Not a one. Rather, there were seemingly random oats floating within the fluff; oats which were dry and distracting rather than plush, scrumptious and experience-enhancing cookie chunks I had envisioned. Sigh.

The cloud-like texture and light sweet cinnamon flavor, however, brought my Spoon back into the point, digging for chunks, then cycling from anger, denial (no, there HAS to be chunks in here), to eventual acceptance of Halo Top as it was.

This flavor was just okay. It tasted nice on top of a German chocolate cake I made. I used it in place of whipped topping and for that, it served it’s purpose. Probably wouldn’t buy this flavor again.

Peanut Butter Cup

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Peanut Butter Cup was the second flavor I tried; I was hoping for redemption after my original cookie-less-Oatmeal Cookie letdown. Peanut Butter Cup had promises of two things I adore: peanut butter and chocolate. It certainly had to be good, right?

When I opened my second tub, I feel as if my expectations were more realistic. While I had a glimmer of hope that perhaps there were, in fact, real pieces of crushed candy in the frozen fluff, I knew there was a decent chance that would not be the case.

It was not the case. After emitting a sigh over the matter, I dug in with my spoon, ready to explore exactly what this had to offer instead.

It was at this point that I came to terms with the fact that Halo Top is not the texture-ridden, chocolate-and-nut-candy-packed ice cream I typically enjoy. It’s different. It’s fluff. That said, it’s weirdly enjoyable flavored fluff with miscellaneous swirly streaks and mysterious flecks of goo, and the occasional chunk if you picked up the right variety.

And that’s okay. It was halfway deep through the Peanut Butter Cup exploration that I mentally classified Halo Top as a separate food. It’s not ice cream, that was for certain. It’s not really even froyo or soft serve. It’s frozen flavored fluff. And oddly, I dig it.

Now. I’m not entirely sure what the base flavor was trying to taste like in this pint. There was a clearly defined peanut butter swirl which tasted like someone thinned out the insides of a Reece’s cup and rolled it into a thin strip that they decided would taste great in frozen fluff. But the fluff, itself, was confusing to me. Was it chocolate flavored? Was it peanut butter flavored? Was it somewhere in the middle?

I never reached a conclusion. I did, however, draw 3 conclusions during the consumption of Peanut Butter Cup: 1) I really liked the hard sweet peanut butter frozen-frosting-like swirl, 2)The flavored fluff in this pint is meh, and 3) I would maybe buy this flavor again and 4) This tastes way better with actual chopped up peanut butter cups added to it (obviously).

Chocolate Covered Banana

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I was wary about this one. While I an bonkers for bananas, I vehemently oppose artificial banana-flavored things.

Originally, I wasn’t even going to try it, but when Halo Top went on sale for $2.88 per pint at my local grocery store, this was the only vegan flavor I find in the bin besides Caramel Machiato. I went with Chocolate Covered Banana because for a fleeting moment I forgot it was likely banana-flavored and envisioned chocolate-dipped banana pieces in ice cream (back to my rookie-Halo Top-misunderstanding-ways) and I tend to dislike coffee ice-cream.

The verdict: it does have that artificial banana taste, reminiscent of banana-flavored Laffy Taffy. If you’re into that kind of thing, this flavor is for you. If you’re like me and a banana purist, I’d pick another flavor.

One clear strength of this point was the chocolate fudge swirl. This swirl Halo Top did not skimp upon, at least in my pint. There was ample chocolate fudge, albeit it syrupy, throughout the fluff.

I ended up hating the artificial flavor less than I normally do, perhaps as means to justify the money spent, adding chocolate chips and coconut whipped cream to temper the strong fake banana flavor.

This variety I wouldn’t buy again. Texture still on point, but not a flavor my tastebuds care for.

Cinnamon Roll

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This is by far my favorite of the four flavors I have tried. Unlike oatmeal cookie and peanut butter cups, Cinnamon Roll actually contains little chunks of….something. No, it’s not quite cinnamon roll pieces; rather, tiny balls of chewy cinnamon sweetness with a doughy texture float throughout the pint alongside a cinnamon sugary swirl.

It’s just enough textural contrast to keep you committed. I don’t need to add anything to this flavor (though it does taste good with crushed vanilla Joe Joe’s/Oreo’s). The base flavor itself, a sweet vanilla cinnamon, is superior in taste to Oatmeal Cookie, Peanut Butter Cups, and Chocolate Covered Banana in terms of palatability. Of the flavors, it also has the least ‘fake’ aftertaste.

I would buy this one again and again. Fluffy, cloudy, dreamy cinnamon sweet goodness. Excellent topper for pie or ice cream or on top of an iced coffee (yes, I went there).

Overall Thoughts:

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I went into this experiment curious but cautious, with my guard up high. I desperately wanted to write off Halo Top as a literal and figurative nasty marketing scam, but I emerge with a nuanced understanding of the obsession, and would like to make a public profession: I am a fan.

I want to try them all, especially the salted caramel if I ever come across it. I am even going so far to say I have stalked their flavors site and am hoping and praying they veganize other flavors, especially vanilla bean, lemon cake, birthday cake, pistachio, chocolate almond crunch, candy bar, and particularly pancakes and waffles.

And here I stand, a changed woman, humbled by Halo Top. I shouldn’t have judged you by your cover. And while I still dislike your anti-intuitive eating, diet-culture-contributing marketing style, I want to eat all the fluff I can get my sticky little paws on. Spoons up.

10 Phrases to Remove from Your Food/Exercise Vocabulary

10 Phrases to Remove from Your Food/Exercise Vocabulary

Greetings! Just have some things on my mind I wanted to share over here on this blog thing.

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This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a while, but after traveling and listening to the way some friends talk about food/eating/working out, and the way the Real Housewives of Orange County (side note:why is it this group that does it the most? Real Housewives of NY seem to eat normally…) talk about food/eating/working out, and the way some of my fitness-hyped friends/gyms talk about food/eating/working out, I’m at my breaking point. Time to write!

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I wanted to discuss a few things that I continually hear that are NOT HEALTHY behaviors. Sadly, society has made them ‘normal,’ so I can’t classify them as NOT HEALTHY NORMAL behaviors. Maybe some day.

Anyways, society has warped people’s ideas of what it means to be healthy. Even in the nutrition world, I see people I know take it too far. Nutritionists I follow on Instagram post their daily workouts and show all their pristinely healthy foods.

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I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with regular exercise or black bean brownies, but like, it’s okay (actually, healthy) to have a bit of flexibility in your diet. Eating too healthy  and working out rigorously all the time isn’t healthy; in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

It can cause stress, anxiety, food-fear, guilt, and tumultuous relationships with food that can spiral into an eating disorder, or cause people to flirt with disordered eating thoughts and behaviors for years.

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Admittedly, this is a lesson I learned with time. We all make mistakes, grow, and learn. So here are phrases I have banned from my vocabulary, or, at the very least, phrases or thoughts that I recognize as unhealthy if they creep up in my brain or in conversation. I encourage you to read them and assess your relationship with food:

1. ‘I’m banning sugar/fruit/carbs from my diet.’

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Are you? That sounds difficult, sad, and downright impractical. Glucose is your body’s preferred source of energy, and it needs it!

I have no idea who decided bread and pasta are like, the worst thing ever, OR who decided that that the only ‘acceptable,’ sources of carbohydrates are quinoa and sweet potatoes, but it’s time to recognize that carbs are an important part of a healthy diet, as are sources of fat and protein.

So important, in fact, that it’s recommended you eat a majority of your calories from carbohydrates. So embrace that bread baby! And the fruit. All the fruit. And unfollow anyone on Instagram who tells you fruit is bad for you. They are bad for your mental health.

2. ‘I feel so guilty if I eat ____.’

Yummy Vegan Oatmeal Apple Cinnamon Rolls - Kbaked

Eating should never make you feel guilty. You are a freaking living organism for crying out loud. Do you feel guilty drinking water if you’re thirsty? No, you probably don’t.

So why on earth would you feel guilty giving your body fuel when you are hungry? Eating when you are hungry is the same as drinking when you are thirsty. Give. Your. Body. What. It. Needs.

And if you have guilt or anxiety around certain foods, perhaps you need to assess your relationship with eating. Food is just food. If you want an apple, eat an apple. If you want a cupcake, have a cupcake. Your body will break it down, digest it, and give you energy. So eat food. Enjoy it. And move on with life.

3. ‘No food after XX:00pm.’

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Hey just another reminder that your body is a living organism, not a clock or a machine. You should eat when you are hungry. Period. Want lunch at 10:00am? Eat it. Want it at 2:00pm? Also cool.

Clocks don’t always match up with your hunger cycle, and every day is different. Instead of judging when you want to eat, or setting up windows when you can, start listening to your hunger/fullness cues instead of eating on a schedule.

4. ‘I didn’t work out today, so I can’t eat any __________ or go out to dinner/dessert.’

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That sounds like a rigid, unhealthy relationship with food and movement. If you’re moving your body with the sole intention to burn calories, OR you feel you do not ‘deserve’ certain foods if you haven’t worked out enough, you may have an unhealthy relationship with exercise.

Here’s a fun fact: you burn calories all the time. When you’re sleeping, when you’re digesting food, when you go to the bathroom, even when you think – all of those things burn calories.

The human brain consumes roughly 420 calories per day, so you should be eating enough to fuel your brain, organs, and body enough to live through each day with ample energy and mental clarity.

Exercise should make you feel good; it should make you feel stronger. It isn’t a box you have to check off your list every day in order to eat appropriate amounts of food.

I don’t want to look back on my life and regret missing fun dinners or desserts out because I didn’t work out enough that day.

5. ‘Never miss a workout! #Noexcuses! #MotivationMonday.’

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No excuses? What if you’re sick, tired, sore, or having a really stressful day where adding exercise to your routine will greatly increases your stress level? Those sound like darn good excuses to me…

Exercise should enhance you, not stress you out. And you should be able to ride with the ebs and flows of life and skip exercise when you aren’t feeling it or it isn’t convenient and not feel guilty or anxious about it.

Overexercising can increase stress hormones like cortisol, and cause all sorts of nasty impacts on your body/health. Making overexercise unhealthy.

If you think it’s more important to burn calories every day than to maintain your health, you should seriously check your relationship with food/eating.

6.  ‘I was so bad last night….I ate  _____.’

Vegan Almond Cherry Cake Mary Berry GBBO Inspired

If you are labeling eating behavior as ‘good,’ and ‘bad,’ you may be flirting with (or have a full blown) disordered relationship with food.

People ask me all the time “Is X food or Y food better?” To which, I always respond, “Foods are very complex and everyone is different and in need of different things, so that’s a very complicated question.”

Try not to view foods as ‘good,’ and ‘bad.’ Sure, there are foods that have more fiber or protein or vitamin whatever than other foods, but just because a food is high in sugar or lacking trace minerals doesn’t make it ‘bad.’

Sometimes you gotta eat for your mental health or to enjoy social experiences. For example, if you choose not to eat cake on your friend’s birthday even though you want to eat it, simply because you think it’s ‘unhealthy,’ you are doing yourself more harm than good. And sometimes you just need a damn cookie after a long day because you are craving it.

Same goes with travel. Tasting new foods while traveling should enhance your travel experience, not cause anxiety. EMBRACE IT.

7. ‘I feel insane if I don’t workout every day.’

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Do you? Because that is a little insane, and sounds a bit like exercise addiction, especially if missing exercise causes you to have anxiety. See numbers 4 and 5.

8. ‘I’m at my calorie limit for the day, so I can’t have any.’

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If you count calories or track macros, I urge you to stop.

Can I ask you a question? Is your body a calculator? No. No it is not. So why are your treating it like a math equation. Every single day is different, so your needs are different each and every day to reflect that.

Some days you may be crazy hungry and need 5 meals and 4 snacks. Other days you may have less of an appetite. Both are totally normal. So why would you try to achieve a specific number each day, you’re actively disengaging from your hunger/fullness cues and REALLY messing with your body’s ability to naturally maintain homeostasis and body weight.

Do yourself a giant favor, and skip the counting. You’ll feel free, and more in tune to what your body wants, and what it actually needs.

9. ‘Earn/Sculpt Your Body.’

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This is something I often hear at gyms or boutique fitness studios. Even at a boutique fitness studio I really love and have a membership to, I see/hear this all the time and it bothers me.

Here’s why: I just don’t think you should feel like you have to treat your body like it’s a goddamn piece of clay for some art show or something. Your body breathes. It digests food. Your brain thinks. It helps you learn, create, share information, and interact with others. It also helps you be able to exercise, and do all other amazing tasks you may need to do throughout the day.

Your body is FREAKIN’ AMAZING. So instead of viewing it as something to manipulate, how about showing it some gosh darn well-deserved appreciation?!

10. ‘I’m on a cleanse/doing a non-toxic lifestyle thing.’

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Lol…I have no idea what people mean by ‘cleansing’ or ‘detoxifying foods.’ These are sexy phrases that have no scientific backing/evidence. No food has shown significant evidence to cleanse or detoxify you…your liver and kidney remove any real toxins so you can consider yourself all good on that front.

All of these cleanses and detoxifying powders and pills and potions and are simply a way for unregulated supplement companies and the ‘health influencer’ Instagram stars who promote them to make money off vulnerable people who are innocently looking to improve their health. Which is pretty shitty and irresponsible of them, if you ask me.

Same with ‘giving your digestive system a break.’ Hey guess what, you still digest things like juice. And your digestive system is designed to digest food on the regular. Like I said in #9, your body is FREAKIN’ AMAZING.

Would you put your pet on a cleanse? No, you probably wouldn’t. Because you’d think to yourself “No, that’s not normal. My dog is supposed to eat every day and would be grumpy if they didn’t.” Well then. Same goes to YOU!

So skip that cleanse, and buy some delicious groceries and EAT. Because eating is satisfying, delicious and fun.

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I challenge you to recognize when these phrases come up in conversation, on TV, on a magazine cover, on an Instagram ‘health influencer,’ star’s stories, or on the wall at a fitness boutique and ignore them. You have the power to do so and it is oh so very freeing.

This takes time and practice to do so be patient and forgiving with yourself. But your brain and body will thank you!

Thoughts on Exercise, Calories, and Intuitive Eating

Thoughts on Exercise, Calories, and Intuitive Eating

Kbaked.com formerly focused on recipes, but I’m hoping to change that moving forward and get a lil more real. Today I wanted to share some reflections I’ve had recently and give a general life update. Are you buckled in? Brevity isn’t my strong suit, and I have no editorial team on this blog to tell me I’m talking too much, so I feel like this is going to be a long one…Soba Noodle Salad Edamame Vegan

First, let’s back up a few months. Or more like 8 months. Let’s go back to August of 2016. After completing my master’s degree in nutrition at Columbia University, I traded two job offers and a life in the city I knew and loved for what I thought was an opportunity of a lifetime.

I wish not to go into detail in the interest of being respectful and aware that my experience was highly personal, but what I’ll say is that I quickly realized I had traded a lot of what I’d worked so hard for, for what felt like a series of never-ending empty promises, disappointment, and most importantly, for something I realized my heart wasn’t in.

When I left what I was leaving, I left something certain that made me miserable to move home at age 26 without a job or a solidified future, feeling like a complete loser.

Delicious Vegan Samoas with Date Caramel

I’d be lying if I were to say the past few months have been easy; they have not been. But something good has come out of them: during the past few months of unemployment/feeling frustrated and angry at the world, I actually finally feel in tune with my body, maybe for the first time since childhood.

After a lot of emotional stress and constantly feeling like I had totally ruined my life/was a giant failure/that I’d generally fucked up big time, I slowly but surely somehow decided I needed to stop holding myself hostage.  I started really getting into self-care, and not even intentionally.

This is going to sound cheesy, and I hate to sound like one of those cliche fitness-saved-me people, but I really think getting into barre helped kick me in the right direction.

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After weeks of debating if I should or not, I tried a class at my local The Barre Code. I loved it. The atmosphere was so positive, and the whole class was about challenging yourself, taking time for yourself, and getting stronger, physically and mentally.

I almost immediately signed up for a month unlimited deal, and started going regularly.

This was the first workout I’ve genuinely adored and looked forward to since my competitive dance days in high school. The more I went, the more I wanted to go back.

All the instructors were kind, and the strength focused movement was really great for working out lingering aggression.

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A funny thing happened when I started going to barre regularly: I also started eating more based on hunger/fullness cues, and less according to clocks/schedules/what and when I normally eat. I also started letting myself sleep – like actually rest and sleep – for a full 7-8 hours a night, for the first time in years.

In grad school, even though I was studying nutrition, I look back and realize I was really unhealthy. Between the rigor of school and research, working two jobs, and my anxiety, I was averaging 5-6 hours of sleep on a good night, and I was constantly so wound up that I actually induced terrible migraines and muscle spasms in my shoulders, neck, and back, all of which lead me to countless doctors appointments, physical therapy, and therapy therapy.

When it came to eating last year, I’d like to say I was healthy – and generally speaking, my diet probably looked healthy to an outsider. But I look back and realize how planned everything was. I was on a tight budget and would grocery shop once a week, buying basically the exact same shit every time, perfectly calculated to get me through the week ahead.baker_katherine_chocolate_chip_single_serve_vegan_dip

There’s nothing inherently wrong with this; I hate food waste and think it’s good to plan ahead so you don’t end up with lots of spoiled food, BUT the way I was eating was very structured, based on routine, and didn’t really allow for too much flexibility. My eating routine became a habit: just another thing I had to get out of the way to move on and focus on other things, not really checking in with what I wanted and needed as much as I probably should have.

Occasional dinners and desserts out aside, I ate mostly the same things almost every day, at almost the same times, for a year.  Didn’t matter if I wasn’t as hungry one day, or if I was famished another. I somehow became a highly routine eater, probably as a result of my insane schedule and tight budget, and also probably because I was too exhausted to take care of myself.

Over the last few months, however, I started eating more based on intuition, and less based on what the clock said. And I stopped pre-planning my meals. Granted, this is much easier now that I live a 2 minute drive from an amazing grocery store with good prices and my schedule is currently WAY more flexible, but still, it’s been a really awakening experience.Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.37.38 PM

Somedays I eat lunch at 11am. Somedays it’s at 2:30pm. And sometimes lunch is a giant plate of snack foods like veggies, dips, avocado, and crackers, other times it’s nut-butter slathered waffles and fruit, and sometimes it’s lunch that actually looks like a ‘lunch’ like salad or sandwich. Some days I eat a lot more than other days. I’ve learned my body has ebbs and flows with when it’s hungry and that’s okay.

I’ve also finally gotten a handle on stress eating. Stress eating is something that has been an issue for me in the past. I am generally a healthy eater, but could get out of control around sweets when I was overtired or stressed. I used to inhale entire pints of ice cream or packages of cookies in a single night and feel like total garbage after. Sometimes it wasn’t even because I was craving sweets. I think, honestly, I was craving the rush.

Now I can have some ice cream or a cookie or a chocolate bar and not feel crazy. Some days I want a lot of sweets so I eat a lot of sweets, and other days I can eat half a cookie and be done with it (minus chocolate, chocolate is an everyday food to me). But it’s so nice to not feel like food is a coping mechanism.Screen Shot 2017-04-17 at 11.38.01 PM

So my food habits have shaped up, not necessarily in terms of nutrition, but in terms of intuition, which is something I believe I have lacked since probably high school, and something I believe is overlooked in terms of importance when it comes to food. I just feel so much more sane now.

And sleep: SLEEP. Sleep is the best. I can’t say enough how much sleep has helped me mend my overall frame of mind on a daily basis. I just feel so much better when I get enough, and would 10/10 recommend you prioritize you do the same. I’m going to post more about this in the future.

As mentioned above, much of the positive shifting in my life in terms of being more in tune with my body was unintentional; I was actually awakened to just how much progress I’ve made with I attended a free Orange Theory Fitness class last week.peach

I’m going to preface this by saying I have nothing against OTF, but it simply wasn’t a positive experience for me. Besides having an instructor who wasn’t my style, shall we say, I didn’t like how the entire workout and OTF concept is so heavily focused on numbers: how many minutes you spend at your max heart rate and how many calories you burn seem to be what’s prioritized in an OTF class.

I didn’t want to wear a heart-rate monitor, because personally I don’t think it’s healthy to focus on how many calories you burn while exercising (any anyways, those monitors are notoriously inaccurate). When I asked if I could NOT wear the heart rate band, I was told that that was “the point,” of the workout.

And it made me reflect: at barre, I don’t focus on calories or numbers or my max heart rate. I focus on releasing stress, turning the anxious part of my brain off (temporarily), and getting stronger, not smaller.Vegan Miso Hummus

These two very different exercise experiences and my recent shift towards self-care have reminded me of the following things:

  1. Your body is not a calculator. You’re not meant to live your life crunching numbers (calories, macros, etc). This is stressful and puts you out of tune with your body.
  2. Your body is not a machine. You cannot run around ignoring it’s needs forever. You are a living organism. Just like your dog needs sleep, water, and plenty of healthy food, so do you.
  3. Exercise can be wonderful: it can make you feel stronger physically and mentally, relive stress, and improve your mood and confidence,
  4. Exercise can also be not so wonderful: it can make you feel inadequate, weak, and anxious about if you burned enough calories or fat.
  5. You have the right to choose your exercise. I suggest going with #3 instead of #4.
  6. Eat what you crave when you are hungry. Stop when you are full. This may or may not happen at the same time every day, and may or may not involve the same foods two days in a row.
  7. Sleep is the best thing ever.
  8. Sleep is the best thing ever, except for maybe dogs.

That’s all for me today on this long rambling post. Hope y’all have a restful, delicious, happy, wonderful, productive day.

More food for thought: Thinking Out Loud – Running with Spoons