The calcount Team
What causes a Hot Flash after Eating

What causes a Hot Flush after Eating?

One of our members asked us what causes a hot flush, or flash, after eating? The question came through our contact form, where we invite readers to send in any topics they’d like to see us research. So, we spent a few hours to learn the causes of hot flushes that are not menopause, here is a summary of what we found:

What is a Hot Flush?

Hypothalamus causes hot flashes

For those who have not experienced one, it can be hard to explain. Basically, it feels the way it is named: a rush of hotness that crashes through the body like a wave of boiling water. It is a sudden uncomfortable sensation of body heat, usually resulting in quick sweats and accompanied by heart palpitations and flushed skin. Hot Flashes are usually caused by hormonal changes in both women and men which affect the brain part (hypothalamus) which controls body temperature. Body temperature rises, blood vessels quickly dilate, and stress responses are stimulated.

Not Menopause, not Andropause

Hot flushes are usually associated with menopause or andropause when hormonal changes in ageing people trigger the hypothalamus to misbehave. However, the hot flashes we are writing about today are caused by neither menopause nor andropause.

Here’s an extract from the question we received:

“… my face, neck, chest and upper arms are suddenly hot and sweat pops out uncontrollably. It does not happen every time I eat but it only happens after I eat and it does not seem to be related to what I eat because sometimes its dairy meat or salad or bread. I am a bit concerned it might be hot flushes but I am still young and definitely not near menopause and besides being a bit overweight I am generally very healthy. Is there a particular food I should be concerned about?”

Now before we go any further, remember that the calcount team is not in any way shape or form medically qualified to offer health advice. We’re just sharing the results of our personal research so please consult your doctor before you take any action because of this post.

5 Triggers can Cause a Hot Flash after Eating

Unfortunately, the exact cause of a hot flush experienced after eating is unknown. The problem is that the phenomenon is hard to study because experiments and measurements would need to be made at exactly the moment of the hot flush in a controlled environment. This is difficult to do for an individual, let alone a controlled scientifically determined cohort. At this stage, the best we can do is narrow causes down to 6 triggers which have been somewhat determined:

Gustatory Sweating

Gustatory sweating, also known as Frey’s Syndrome is a distressing condition caused by nerve damage which affects people who have a malfunctioning parotid gland. The parotid gland is supposed to produce saliva when the nervous system signals that food is about to be chewed. However, for people suffering from Gustatory Sweating, the nerve signals go to sweat glands instead, so that sweat is produced rather than saliva. For some people, this sudden sweating is distressing and feels like a hot flush. Even thinking about food can trigger sudden sweats on the face, neck, and head.

The cause of Gustatory Sweating is usually nerve damage, which in turn is usually caused by diabetes mellitus, facial injuries (for example, through surgery), tumour growth, or a viral infection like shingles.

Unfortunately, nothing can be done to repair this nerve damage at this stage of medical advancement. The best that doctors can do is inject a type of Botox to stop the sweat glands from working temporarily.

Food Allergy and Intolerance

Whilst it is not yet well understood, there is evidence that food allergies and intolerances can cause hot flushes for some people.  The hypothesis is that the body releases a stress hormone (cortisol) when undergoing an allergic reaction. This creates a hormonal imbalance which, similarly to menopause and andropause, interferes with the hypothalamus to cause a hot flash. The frustrating aspect of this hot flush trigger is that it is difficult to pinpoint because it does not happen every time the allergen is eaten. Even if the sufferer knows what they are allergic to, their internal hormonal balance influences whether a hot flush will occur.

Common avoidable food ingredients which are known to set off hot flushes in some people are: caffeine, sulphites, monosodium glutamate, and alcohol.

Hypoglycaemia

We mentioned earlier on in this article that diabetes can cause nerve damage which leads to Gustatory Sweating, but the disease has another aspect which can trigger hot flashes. Sometimes, after eating a sugary meal, the body releases a large amount of insulin into the blood. Insulin is a hormone which works to regulate the amount of sugar (glucose) in the bloodstream. The insulin spike causes low blood sugar, which in turn pushes the stress hormone button, which leads to a hot flush. This low blood sugar condition is known as hypoglycemia and is most associated with diabetes.

As you might expect, treatments to control diabetes can alleviate hot flushes after eating.

Vasodilating Foods

Some foods contain chemicals which cause blood vessels to open wide to allow blood to flow through quickly. This opening of blood vessels is known as vasodilation and chemicals which cause vasodilation are called vasodilators. When blood rushes through widened blood vessels near the skin, flushing occurs. The vasodilators can also stimulate temperature sensory cells in the skin, causing a sensation of heat. This hot flushing sensation can then trigger stress hormones and a full-blown hot flash might occur.

Normally, vasodilating foods are a good choice because they help circulation, but if they are triggering hot flushes you might want to reduce them from your diet. Common vasodilator containing foods are chilli peppers, capsicums, alcohol, chocolate, and garlic. You can read our in-depth article on garlic here.

Hot Food and Drink

Hot Food causes Hot Flush

Unfortunately, some people are overly sensitive to food temperature. A hot mug of tea might be just what you feel like having after coming in from a cold day outdoors, but it could trigger a hot flush. In the same way that vasodilating chemicals widen blood vessels, so does heat from any source. Hot weather, a hot bath, the sauna, or a bowl of steaming noodle soup, all cause vasodilation. As we wrote in the previous paragraph, vasodilation can start a hormonal chain reaction which results in the dreaded hot flash.

This cause of hot flushes after eating is the easiest to avoid; simply let your food and drink cool to a manageable temperature before you eat.

Conclusion – What Causes a Hot Flush after Eating

There are at least 5 possible causes of a hot flush after eating, most related to how the hypothalamus controls body temperature. Whilst there is not much that can be done about Gustatory Sweating, the other causes like Food Allergies, Hypoglycemia, and Vasodilating Foods can be addressed somewhat effectively. Remember that hormonal balance is key to the proper function of the hypothalamus, so try to reduce stress and avoid foods which irritate.

Special Announcement

We are proud to announce that our blog has just made the cut to be included in Feedspot’s Top Ten Australian Nutrition Blogs and Websites!

The calcount Team
reduce rice starch

3 Ways to Cut Rice Starch Calories

Rice starch is densely packed with calories, and it is not possible to remove the starch without destroying rice completely. Luckily though, there are ways to reduce the food energy you get from eating rice. Read on to discover 3 methods you can use to cut starch calories from rice.

Starch in Rice

The calories in rice primarily come from starch, which is one of the three major types of carbohydrates (the other two being sugar and fibre). By weight, starch makes up about 60% of uncooked rice and approximately 30% of cooked rice. When rice is cooked, each grain absorbs water so that the amount of starch is “diluted” by volume.

From a dietary perspective, starch comes in two forms: the first type is easily digested, and the second is the resistant type which cannot be digested by humans. The easily digested type of starch quickly finds its way into the bloodstream whilst the resistant type moves deep into the gut where it nourishes the “good” bacteria found there. Rice contains both digestible and resistant starch.

It is good to remove the digestible starch from rice, if you would like to eat less-fattening rice.

Cut Starch out

Carbohydrates, in the form of starch, are usually the main source of excess calories in unhealthy diets. Simply put, starch is carbs and carbs must be reduced if your aim is to sustain a calorie deficit to lose weight. Without further ado, here are the 3 methods to cut the calories you absorb from rice starch:

Method 1: Dilute your Rice

The best way to reduce the calories from rice is to eat fewer of them in the first place! You can do this by either reducing your rice portion size, or by mixing low-calorie “fillers” into your rice.

The problem with simply eating less is that you will feel less sated, both physically and mentally. The stretch receptors in your stomach will not signal to your brain that enough food has been eaten, so you will remain hungry even if you have had enough.

Trick your Stomach

The best way to trick your stomach whilst adding healthy foods to your diet is to increase your vegetable intake to compensate for the reduced rice portion. Chop up a bunch of carrots, or leafy vegetables like red cabbage or kale, cook as preferred, then mix and shake the lot into cooked rice. The vegetables and air from the mixing process will add lots of volume to the rice, so that you can eat the same “amount” whilst reducing the volume of rice.

Remember to use low-calorie vegetables or meat to dilute your rice. Crumbled cauliflower will work much better than grated potato!

Dilute rice with vegetables
Dilute your Rice with Vegetables

Method 2: Make the Rice Starch Indigestible

Food scientists have long known that the process of cooking changes the chemistry of food in many varied ways. The way you cook and prepare rice has a big impact on the amount of digestible starch it will contain when you eat it. Prepared a specific way, it is possible to cut the amount of easily digested starch by up to 50% for some rice types. Here’s how:

Add Coconut Oil

Add two teaspoons of coconut oil to every cup of raw rice you cook. The oil must be added to the rice from the start of the actual cooking process, so that they cook together. Some of the oil will bind with some of the starch in the rice, changing its chemical content. After the rice is cooked, it must be cooled down completely to room temperature or below. During the cooling process, the starch/oil combination undergoes chemical changes to form an amylose lipid complex, otherwise known as resistant starch (the indigestible type).

There is still lots of digestible starch in the rice, and of course there are added calories from the coconut oil, but weight-for-weight, rice cooked in this way has significantly fewer digestible calories than regular boiled/steamed rice.

Re-heating the cooled rice will not reverse the process, so you don’t have to eat it cold to access the calorie savings.

As an aside, this process works for other types of starch-containing foods as well, but care should be taken with the amount of oil added, as oil calories can easily swamp the starch-change benefits.



Method 3: Get rid of Loose Starch

A third way to reduce the calories you get from eating rice starch is also related to reducing the amount of digestible starch. When you add water to uncooked rice, the water becomes cloudy with tiny white particles which are washed off the outer surface of each grain. These tiny bits of rice flour have an extremely high starch content and they are easily digestible.

How do we know that this rice powder is more fattening than rice grains? Because over many years, in human cultures which have cultivated and eaten rice for generations, it is common knowledge that sickly people with poor digestion can be sustained with it. A common home remedy for upset stomachs and feverish children is to give them cooled rice water which sustains their energy levels through the illness.

If we know that rice has both resistant and digestible starch, and that the loose powder that comes off rice is easier to digest than rice grains, then perhaps the powder has a higher proportion of digestible starch than the grains. Alternatively, it is simply easier to digest because it is in a “pre-chewed” powder form. In any case, it cannot hurt to get rid of it before you eat the rice!

Rinse Rice thoroughly

To get rid of loose rice starch, simply rinse it well before cooking, so that the water poured off it runs clear instead of cloudy. If you have enough time, try par-boiling your rice, then rinse and cool, then cook to completion.

Combine all for Low Calorie Rice Starch

To make low-calorie rice and get the maximum effect of reducing digestible rice starch use all three methods in combination. First, rinse the rice until the runoff water is clear. Then, boil the rice in water for three minutes. Take the rice off the heat and rinse well in cold water, until the runoff is clear again. Mix in two teaspoons of coconut oil for every cup of uncooked rice, then return the rice to low heat until steamed through. When cooked, allow the rice to cool completely. Before serving, reheat and mix in a portion of chopped, cooked low-calorie vegetables.

The calcount Team
lose weight with 1500 calories

Lose Weight with a 1500 Calorie Diet

When asked to recommend a “guaranteed” weight loss plan, our reply is that everyone will probably lose weight with a 1500 calorie diet. You will likely lose at least 2 kilograms for the first month you stick to a 1500 calorie diet. The thermodynamic logic of a 1500 calorie diet is straightforward. What’s more, we know from repeated studies that it is generally a healthy target for most people to aim for.

Basic Weight Loss Equation

As we discuss in other articles, weight loss is unfathomably complicated, but also blindingly simple. If you eat more calories than you use through normal body function and extra physical activity, you will gain weight. If you use more calories than you eat, you will lose weight

Fat has about 7600 calories per kilogram, so you will lose approximately 500 grams of fat for every 3800 calories you burn. 3800 calories burned over the course of a week is about 540 calories per day (3800 divided by 7 days). Following this simple logic, you would need to reduce daily calories by 500 to lose about 500 grams per week.

Of course, all other things are not equal because cellular metabolism does not happen in a vacuum. There are a thousand influencing factors related to body composition, metabolism, and hormonal balance. The human body is not a spreadsheet so we cannot use a simple formula to plot an easy graph to accurately predict actual weight loss. However, we know with certainty, there will be weight loss when there is more energy taken out than put in.

In fact we know, from hundreds of studies, that people usually lose about 500 grams in body weight for each week that they reduce their average daily food intake by 500 calories.

We eat more than 1500 Calories per day

It is hard to know exactly how many calories are being absorbed and used by our bodies daily. Luckily, there are convenient methods anyone can use to make good estimates. If your weight is stable, then the energy you are putting in is balancing the energy being taken out. Thus, you can estimate how many calories you eat by measuring the energy going in and out of your body.

In the lab, scientists use sophisticated measurement devices and controlled environmental conditions on closely monitored test subjects to measure calorie intake and expenditure. This level of analysis is far beyond what the everyday person needs.

Instead, you can measure incoming calories by using a tool like our calcount Calorie Tracker to keep a food diary which adds up the total calories in the food you eat. Those food calorie counts are based on average calories in similar foods as measured in the lab by food scientists.

You can measure outgoing calories by applying a credible total daily expenditure formula to your personal body metrics like weight, gender, age, and height. Our calcount Calorie Calculator does exactly that.  

Alternatively, you can get an estimate of your calorie consumption by reviewing the findings of large-scale scientific studies. According the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the average daily food consumption in developed countries is between 3200 and 3800 calories (this includes food waste). Our own FSANZ reports that the average Australian eats 2079 calories (8700kJ) per day, based on surveys.

Looking at our own data, the calcount team concludes that we collectively eat a median of 2650 calories per day.



Want to Lose Weight? Use a 1500 Calorie Diet

So why do we often recommend the 1500 calorie daily target? Because we need to consider a few key factors when picking a good general calorie target for a weight-loss diet:

Effective for weight-loss

Perhaps most importantly, we want the calorie target to be at a level where noticeable weight is lost in a reasonably short time. Since we know that most of us are eating more than 2000 calories per day, and that a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day causes effective weight loss, then a target of 1500 calories becomes a compelling proposition (2000 minus 500). In theory, you will probably lose at least 2 kilograms for the first month you stick to a 1500 calorie diet. In practice, you will lose more or less than this, depending on your personal circumstances.

If by chance you are already eating 1500 calories or less per day and still want to lose weight, please see a doctor for medical advice.

Safe for most people

Given the enormous number of personal attributes and health conditions you may have, no general advice or information could replace the professional guidance of your own doctor. However, based on available published research, 1500 calories per day is an accepted healthy target for most people. Consider that a typical so-called “starvation-diet” or VLCD (Very Low-Calorie Diet) has a daily target of about 800 calories. According to many sources, the average healthy person normally eats 2000 calories. In some extreme cases, doctors actually recommend VLCDs. The mid-point between the VLCD and a 2000 calorie diet is 1400 calories, so 1500 calories cannot too low of a target. At 1500 calories, provided your diet includes all the recommended micro-nutrients, you will be fine.

Achievable with effort

Make no mistake, for people accustomed to eating north of 2800 calories per day, a 1500 calorie diet is hard, very hard. However, there are some tried and tested methods to make it easier to cope with. Some people can achieve a necessary reduction in calories by simply downsizing their portions by swapping regular plates and bowls for smaller ones. Others find that changing their food mix from carb-heavy to protein-heavy does the job. Yet others take up the challenge by trying whichever diet trend happens to be popular now. Suffice to say that the 1500 calorie diet comes in many different forms, some of which are suited to just about everybody.

Single Target

Ideally, with specific meal plans, regular check-ins, calculated exercise, and tailored mental coaching anyone can home in on a desired body weight goal. Unfortunately, the type of intense professional attention that highly specific nutrition and exercise programs require usually put them out of reach for normal people. Instead, the average person needs an easy-to-grasp concept to motivate practical action.

A 1500 calorie diet is a single fixed point target which a person can focus on for the duration of their mission to lose weight. Stay on it for weight loss, then come off it when the desired weight goal is reached. Switch macro-nutrients and portion sizes and meal timing around randomly to prevent boredom and to stimulate beneficial hormonal cycles. Rinse and repeat until lifestyle habits change to the point where weight stabilises at a healthy level.

How about 1600 calories?

Yes, you will lose weight on a 1600 calorie diet. You will also lose weight on a 1400 calorie diet. Hence, 1500 calories is a good daily calorie target, because it is between the “hard” and “less effective” calorie counts. In practice, if you aim for 1500 daily calories, you will eat between 1650 and 1450 calories per day. Done consistently, this will be enough of a deficit to let you see real progress over a few weeks. At a 1600 calorie target, the average daily deficit will be smaller, but still effective enough to see real progress.

Of course, this assumes that you are currently in the habit of eating more than 2000 calories per day. You can get a more exact understanding of what an individual target looks like by using the calcount Calorie Tracker.

Conclusion

You will lose weight on a 1500 calorie diet if you stick to it for at least 3 weeks. This is because you will be creating a calorie deficit of about 500 calories per day. If you burn 500 calories per day, you will lose about 500 grams of body weight per week. Provided that you are generally healthy and eat a balanced diet, the 1500 daily calorie target is safe and effective.

The calcount Team
How many calories should I Eat by Age

Eat this many Calories a Day by Age

Use this handy calcount Calories by Age tool to calculate how many calories a day you should eat, depending on your current age. Age matters when it comes to the rate of calorie burn, because our metabolism slows as we grow older (and wiser).




When we say, “eat this many calories”, we do so on the assumption that you want to maintain your current weight. To lose weight, eat fewer calories. To gain weight, eat more calories.

Many factors determine how many calories a person needs to eat each day, such as the person’s current weight, exercise level, gender and of course, age. Of these main factors, age is the one that will change, no matter what else happens to the person.

Ageing bodies Slow Down

Age is an important factor when it comes to calorie burn, for the simple reason that it affects the speed at which your body uses the calories you eat. This rate of energy use can be thought of as the “metabolism”. More specifically, the key change with age is a reduction in the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Even though the body is constantly repairing itself, things just do not get fixed “good-as-new”. There is a gradual build-up of cellular detritus and harmful substances at the smallest scales which negatively affect essential functions. Things like telomeres get shorter. Processes just fall apart in the end. This gradual and general degradation leads to a measurable decline in the speed at which the body extracts energy from food.

For a more detailed explanation of the metabolism and the other factors which affect it, read our Calorie Counter page.

Lifestyle Changes

In addition to the slowing BMR, advancing age is often associated with a general slowdown in activity levels as lifestyles change. It is not unreasonable to assume that a 21-year-old is likely to have a more energetic day-plan than a 56-year-old! Reduced activity means that less energy is needed throughout the day, leading to a feedback loop which facilitates a reduction in muscle-mass and metabolism.

If you are “getting-on” in years, you can break the loop, defy the trend, and prolong your faster metabolism rate by exercising regularly. If possible, do activities that make your muscles work hard.

Increased muscle mass is the surest way to keep your BMR humming as you age. Exercising will not stop you from ageing, but it will keep you healthier for longer!

Calories a Day by Age Table

To get a credible answer for the question “How many calories a day should I eat by age?”, we can apply average heights and healthy weights to generally accepted Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) equations. Thus, this tool will work very well for people who are of average height, healthy weight, and do not do any exercise other than normal day-to-day activities. If you do more exercise than a sedentary person, you can use this table to estimate your required calories by age:

AgeMen, Moderate
Exercise
Men, High Level ExerciseWomen, Moderate
Exercise
Women, High Level Exercise
19-252,8003,0002,2002,400
26-302,6003,0002,0002,400
31-352,6003,0002,0002,200
36-452,6002,8002,0002,200
46-502,4002,8002,0002,200
51-552,4002,8001,8002,200
56-602,4002,6001,8002,200
61-652,4002,6001,8002,000
66-752,2002,6001,8002,000
76 and up2,2002,4001,8002,000

This is a simple tool, primarily designed to shed some light on what effect aging has on daily calorie intake requirements. If you want a more detailed calculator which factors in your exact height and weight as well as your age and gender, head on over to the calcount Calorie Calculator. To dig even deeper and find out what your recommended macronutrient intake is (and much more), explore our Calorie Tracker.

The calcount Team
pile of biscuits

Swap Carbs: Top 4 Ways

Read our top 4 ways to swap carbs for other nutrients! Carbs are the sugars, starches and fibres found in plant and dairy products. They are one of the three macro-nutrients your body uses to power up (the other two being fats and proteins). Studies have found that our typical Australian diet can contain relatively more carbs than we need, so it may be a good idea for us to re-balance our macro-nutrient intake towards proteins and fats rather than remaining carb heavy.

Swap Carbs, start today

You might have heard about the “keto-diet” or “paleo-diet” or “Atkins-diet”? They are all based on the idea that we lose more excess weight and feel healthier when we go low carb. If you want to mix things up and cut carbs, here is our list of the top 4 ways you can start today:

Sweetened Drinks

swap carbs cola
Skip cola, choose water

Don’t forget that sugar is a carbohydrate! When it comes to cutting carbs, a quick and effective action is to drop the sweetened drinks. Bottled soft drinks, sugared coffees and tea, fruit juices: all of them are swimming with carbs.

A typical can of fizzy drink contains about 38 grams of pure carbohydrates in the form of sugar, so get that fridge-friendly box of cola out of sight.

Instead, opt for water or unsweetened coffee and tea.

Starchy Snacks

swap carbs chips
Eat a strip of beef jerky instead

Swap starchy snacks like biscuits, chips, toast, muesli bars and instant noodles for high-protein snacks like beef jerky, boiled eggs, canned salmon and Greek yoghurt.

High-protein snacks tend to take the edge off hunger much more effectively than high-carb snacks, so people tend to eat less of them.

Breakfast Cereal

swap carbs cereal
Swap for bacon and eggs

It is in the name: “cereal”. Cereals are grains, and grains are the primary source of carbohydrates in our diets.

Half a cup of muesli will typically contain about 35 grams of carbs, so ditch your breakfast cereal and opt for eggs and bacon instead.

If eggs and bacon turn your stomach in the morning, try yoghurt instead.

Condiments

swap carbs condiments
Replace with olive oil and vinegar

Condiments and sauces are often overlooked as potent sources of carbohydrates.

Tomato sauce, gravy, BBQ sauce, salad dressing and chip dips are common daily additions to our carb load. These condiments are often highly flavoured with concentrated sugars, so beware.

Instead, try using simple vinegar and/or virgin olive oil as a flavourful dip and dressing.

Hopefully, this post did not come across as being anti-carb. Whilst there are clear benefits to balancing your diet away from them, they should not be cut out completely from a healthy diet. Being able to swap carbs for other macro-nutrients is an important skill when calorie counting.

Want to try olive oil as a condiment? Have a look at this one with truffle!

The calcount Team
Christmas Food

Christmas Calories Survival Guide

This is a Christmas Calories Survival Guide for Australian Calorie Counters!

Christmas in Australia almost always includes tradition, family, friends, food, drink and binge eating. It is a tough season for the calorie-conscious, so we made this short guide to surviving each aspect of Christmas without packing on the kilos:

Tradition

Christmas traditions date back into the mists of time. Most are innocuous, but the ones to watch out for are:

Road Trips

Hours of sitting cramped in the car can lead to boredom and discomfort. For many of us, when we are bored and uncomfortable, we eat.

If you are going to take a long road trip, you are going to eat and drink something in the car. Therefore, surviving the trip without seriously attacking your daily calorie target is going to involve the fine art of substitution:

  • Swap out the lollies for carrot sticks or sugar-free chewing gum
  • Drink water instead of sugary fizzies
  • Avoid service station food like pies and doughnuts. Instead, pack your own snacks from home
  • Choose fresh fruit over dried! Remember that a small dried fig has the same calories as a big fresh fig

Parties

The best way to avoid calorie overload with party foods and drink is to think about your entire day’s intake, rather than obsessing over that extra mini sausage-roll.

If you know that you will be partying it up in the evening, try to eat low-calorie, fibre and protein-rich foods like bran for breakfast and chicken breast for lunch. Thus, you will enjoy the party food more knowing that you have been “storing up” a calorie deficit all day.

Midnight Mass

This tip goes for all late night and early morning activities: remember to include whatever you eat and drink in your daily calorie tally. In other words, everything you eat and drink counts towards your daily count.

It is easy to forget the extra meals you eat outside of the usual breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack routine, so keep track!

Family and Friends

If your immediate and extended family are all supportive and encouraging you to hold strong in your efforts to control your calories, then you can skip this section. However, if there are people in your life who enjoy putting plates of mince pies by your elbow, you may need to try:

Friendly Hints

One of the best ways to get family and friends on board with your efforts to stay on track is to drop both subtle and not-so-subtle hints before you get together. Sometimes, a well-timed Facebook post about what you aim to achieve health-wise might be all that’s needed to stop a friend from laying out sour cream and chives dip along with the chips when you come over to visit.

BYO Christmas Calories

If you have the sort of family and friends who wouldn’t be taken aback if you bring your own salad-dressing to share, why not bring your own snacks and drinks along when you go over to theirs? That way, you can enjoy their company whilst to stick to your plan.

Straight Talk

Just straight up tell people that you are watching your Christmas Calories over the festive season, so please stop offering the toasted almonds!

You might even discover that they are themselves worried about the social stigma of being weight-conscious, thus opening a new way for your relationship to deepen.

Christmas Calories: Food and Drink

Let’s face it, one of the best things about Christmas is the food. You are going to eat more than you usually do. Your stomach is going to feel full for days on end.

Since that is going to happen, try to make it happen with a good choice of food.

Be aware that there is a huge calorie difference between a belly full of caramel pecan pie and a belly full of roast beef.

Ultimately, the solution to surviving with your calorie target intact is to CHOOSE WISELY . If you do, you can come out on the other side of this season in relatively good shape.

A special note on seafood: seafood in general is a great choice for the season, but with one huge caveat. Try not to crumb, batter or sauce your ingredients. This is because, for example, the difference between steamed prawns and crumbed fried prawns is over 100 calories per 100g!

Whilst you could always hop onto Calorie Counter Australia to do some detailed checks, read this quick reference list of common Christmas food and drinks to get a sense of what you are up against (all values per 100g):

MAINS

Christmas Ham: 207 calories

Roast Beef: 172 calories

Lamb Roast: 205 calories

Roast Chicken with Stuffing and Gravy: 220 calories

Stuffed Potato: 119 calories

DESSERTS

Fruit Mince Pies: 416 calories

Christmas Pudding: 314 calories

Chocolate Mud Cake: 508 calories

Plum Pudding: 279 calories

Pavlova: 292 calories

DRINKS

Eggnog: 193 calories

Brandy: 214 calories

Sweet Sherry: 137 calories

Lemon, Lime and Bitters: 49 calories

SNACKS

Sausage roll: 255 calories

Ginger Nut Biscuits: 431 calories

Party Quiche: 257 calories

Double Cream Brie: 403 calories

Remember that traditional Christmas foods are almost always calorie-dense, so try to save them for specific feast days rather than spreading them throughout the festive season.

Christmas foods are luxuries to be long-anticipated and savoured slowly!

PS: Steaming seafood this season? Take a look at this cool pot!

The calcount Team
calcount healthier meals

Healthier Meals – 5 tips

Making better food choices is a daily challenge. It is not easy to plan and execute a perfectly healthy meal every time. Luckily, there are ways to change the way you make and eat your food so that you make healthier meals.

Here are five things you can do to make healthier meals:

  1. Drink a glass of orange juice when you eat vegetables like spinach, lettuce and broccoli. The high concentration of Vitamin C in the orange juice will help your body to extract more of the iron found in these types of vegetables. The principle works with all leafy greens and other foods high in vitamin C.
  2. Add peanut butter to your pancake mix. Most pancake mixes (especially the supermarket-bought pre-mixed ones) are very low in protein and fibre. A spoonful of peanut butter will help to balance this deficiency whilst adding to the flavour.
  3. Cook your vegetables. There seems to be a trend by some misguided people to believe that raw vegetables are in some way better for you than cooked ones. Of course, vegetables should not be cooked to a point where they lose colour and all texture, but there is no doubt that cooked veggies are much better for you. Cooking breaks down the tough cell walls so that the nutrients within can be released into the meal and your body. Uncooked vegetables will release fewer nutrients on their way through your system.
  4. Combine oily fish with dairy. Oily fish such as sardines, salmon, tuna and mackerel have high quantities of Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps the body to ingest the calcium found in dairy products like milk, cheese and yoghurt. If a glass of milk with your sardine sandwich does not strike your fancy, try adding a yoghurt dressing to salmon fillets.
  5. Do not order the fries. When buying a burger from the fast-food place or ordering a chicken parmigiana/steak at your local pub the default side-dish choice is chips. Try to opt for the salad or vegetables instead. There is a time and place for fries, but when combined with other high-calorie, high-sodium foods in a meal which probably includes sugary or alcoholic drinks, they can tip your meal into the unhealthy range. Feel better about the meal experience by replacing them with veg.

Every meal that you eat represents a choice. Feel good about your choices by consciously choosing healthier options. Compare different ingredients by searching them in our https://www.caloriecounter.com.au/ This will help both your health and well-being. Healthier meals for a healthier you!

The calcount Team

Your Watch can be Used Against You

When you buy a smart phone, smart watch or wearable fitness tracker (like Fitbit), you are probably not thinking about what impact it might have on your insurance premiums.

Tracking your Lifestyle

But, if you think about it, devices like these are used to track important health metrics like your heart rate, the amount of exercise you do and how much you sleep. Some even allow user inputs to record the amount and variety of food consumed, the type of exercise being performed, and “goal versus actual” scenarios.

This is exactly the type of data that Health and Life Insurance companies use to calculate how risky you are to their bottom-line. Statistically, people who exercise well, sleep well and enjoy healthy heart-rate ranges are less likely to require health insurers to pay up. People who regularly set goals which are later not achieved can be statistically profiled by actuaries for longevity.

Its in the Contract

Ordinarily, insurers cannot get their hands on this sort of personal information but that might be about to change. According to some recent reports, insurance companies are starting to include data-gathering clauses in their contracts. The data is your personal health-tracking information harvested from your wearable devices.

According to a recent article published by The Telegraph, information collected from these devices is already being used by some insurers to calculate variable insurance premiums.  Four obvious concerns are:

  1. Only the healthiest customers will be offered lower premiums
  2. Customers who do not wear devices (or opt to turn the tracking function off) will be effectively penalised because the default higher premiums will apply
  3. Those customers with erratic or “non-average” sleep and exercise patterns will be negatively profiled
  4. Data privacy: when insurance application records were a few pages of paper filed in an office cabinet, the risk of data theft and abuse was very limited. However, with this sort of electronic data harvesting, the risks posed by hackers and errors increase exponentially.

At this point, you might think that this might just be a fringe idea being mulled over by a few insurers. This is certainly not the case, since it appears that multiple insurers have filed patents relating to something called Predictive Insurance Modelling (PIM). PIM is an innovative way to use data to predict the likelihood of health problems for insurance purposes. The data in question cannot all be arriving from publicly available sources or the questionnaires you get when your insurance salesman rushes you through when your policy starts!

Not Just your Phone and Watch

The data gathering and analysis is not just being used for Life and Health Insurance. According to the Telegraph article, there is a recent case where a car insurer notified a customer that he was driving after business hours too often. They knew this because they were gathering vehicle usage data from tracking systems in his car. The man had to explain that he worked night shifts, so the car was primarily being used for business as defined in the policy.

Here’s a Carrot! (Just Ignore the Stick for now)

So how do insurers entice customers to agree to have their personal lifestyle data harvested for these purposes, if the data can later be used by the insurers to wield the premiums stick? They use a carrot of course! “Show us your healthy lifestyle data and we will give you lower premiums!” is the message.

An example of this tactic can be seen with a certain large insurer in the USA, which gives customers the option to wear a fitness tracker, then rewards those with apparently “good” lifestyles. The reward appears to be an additional/higher cover threshold for those customers who have comparatively healthier lifestyles (of course, they presumably also have less likelihood to need higher cover thresholds). Note that the reward disappears if their lifestyles change.

Coming to Australia too?

We do not know if this type of data-gathering will become a trend in Australia, but be on the lookout. We are all for tracking and measuring health and lifestyle data, if it is used for the sole benefit of the individual being tracked. However, we are completely opposed to the idea of personal lifestyle data being used to the detriment of the individual being tracked.

The calcount Team

How to Change Your Bad Habit

 

In the last post, we described how hard it is to change a bad habit. We made the point that if it is particularly difficult for you to change habits, the reason is probably because your character is too strong.

Character is “who you are” and who you are is made up of a combination of genetic predispositions and conscious and subconscious choices based on personal experience and expectation.

People with strong characters find it hard to change because something deep inside them knows that change is not always a good thing. Sometimes, a refusal or an apparent inability to change is seen as being weak-willed or stubborn.

“Why is she so fat? She should stop eating those greasy pies all the time! Can’t help herself…”

“Can’t he get out of bed earlier? Why does he always have to leave everything to the last minute?”

“I keep telling her to come with me when I go running, but she is so stubborn! Always making excuses…”

Our last post explained that it is possible for people like the ones described above to use their “stubbornness”, “laziness” and “low willpower” like a judo master using an opponent’s own strength against him. After all, a person who stubbornly takes her morning run every day, come rain or shine, is hardly ever called “stubborn” for doing so. No, she is resolutely fit.

A person who is always too lazy and ambivalent to find and sample all of the different restaurants in town is never called “lazy”. That person is normal, prudent and sensible.

Nobody says that the man who just has to eat a green salad when everyone else is tucking into pasta is a helpless food fiend. That guy has strong will-power.

If you think about it, there is very little difference between the person who stubbornly keeps a good habit and the person who stubbornly keeps a bad habit. One nurtures a good habit, the other nurtures a bad habit but they are both nurturing a habit.

If it is hard for you to change a bad habit, it will be hard for you to change a good habit once you establish it. This is how you can establish it:

Choose one

Start at the beginning by zeroing in on one bad habit that needs changing. Don’t make a list of all of your bad habits then choose one. Just choose one.

It might not be your worst habit, it might not be the hardest one to break, and it might not even be all that bad. Then again, it might be the worst, most resilient sucker you have.

For whatever reason you want to give yourself, just pick one.

The process of choosing one and making a decision to break it is half the war. Making the choice is a major battle, which you win by default. You’re already off to a winning start!

For the purposes of this post, to illustrate the process, let’s propose that the habit you want to break is Snacking Between Meals. It is a common bad habit and the cause of many an overweight body.

Name your enemy

Next, you need to define the habit and give it a special name. When you make the effort of actually thinking about the habit and giving it a name in your head, you will be better able to break it. That is because a special compartment opens up in your brain (figuratively speaking) to remember the name. It is easier to think of something and all that it involves when you can name it and visualise it as an object or personality or life-form. It becomes “realer” as a problem to be solved.

Naming the habit: Let’s name the Snacking Between Meals habit the “S.B.M.” habit. Call it SBM. We are going to break SBM.

The name you choose does not have to be an acronym, but it should be distinctive enough that you would need to explain it to somebody who wanted to know what you’re on about.

Defining SBM: let’s decide that SBM means eating or drinking anything that is not water or tea or coffee (low sugar/cream) when it is not breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea, or dinner time.

Okay, now that we have named and defined the bad habit to be broken, we can move on to the nitty-gritty.

 

Recognise the need when it arises.

We act (perform our habits) when a need to act arises. We wake up when we need to wake up. Eat when we need to eat. Play when we need to play.

Think about the last time you performed the bad habit and try to remember why you did it. With SBM, perhaps it was yesterday about an hour after dinner when you were settled in a comfortable chair watching your favourite show. It was warm and cosy, the show was excellent, the house was peaceful and everything was great until you got out of your chair to help yourself to a glass of chocolate milk and Nutella sandwich. SBM strikes again!

What was the need in that case? Perhaps it was the need to

  • Feel a sense of completeness (as in you wanted the satisfaction of a full belly in addition to the satisfaction of enjoying your entertainment and creature comforts)
  • Or maybe you were hungry
  • Or someone else was having a snack and you wanted to accompany your fellow,
  • Or maybe you felt the need to stick to a normal, comfortable routine.

Whatever the need, try to pin it down and look out for it. Why? Because when it arises you need to be ready to battle. SBM is coming at you, guns blazing, shrieking an ear-splitting war-cry.

But don’t worry, you are going to be ready and armed.

 

Act on the need quickly and forcefully.

By substituting your habitual action with an alternative action which satisfies the need. Do not just try to ignore the need and soldier on without doing anything. That’s called willpower and for reasons already explained that won’t work for you. You are probably too strong for willpower.

Thinking about the SBM example, let’s think of actions which work to deliver you from the need:

  • Get that full-belly sensation by drinking a mug of tea
  • Feeling hungry? Drink something warm and engage your brain in solving a puzzle, preferably one with bright colours and moving parts. Something like a mobile phone game works really well. The hunger sensation will subside without you having to fixate on it. If you feel hungry, do not try to Will your way out of not reaching for the cookie jar! Act on the sensation by giving your stomach sensors something to do (drinking a warm low-calorie drink) and diverting your brain to something else (an engaging puzzle, movie, book, game, conversation).
  • Want to accompany someone else who is snacking? By all means accompany them, but don’t join in them in eating. Use the time that you would ordinarily use in chewing to think up and introduce new topics of conversation. That way, you will enrich your relationship with the person by opening new avenues to share ideas and insights.
  • Feeling a need to stick to a normal, comfortable routine? Meet this need by removing the ability to keep that “normal” routine. In our example, this would mean not buying Nutella, or chocolate milk. Instead, buy some interesting teas or coffees and make those instead. Make that the new “normal” and the need to stick to a comfortable routine will be met.

Make sure that the need has been met before you move onto the next thing. Crowd the old habit out by suffocating it before it takes its first breath. Don’t leave a crack of time open for the old habit to squeeze back in. Don’t give it a chance. Don’t even fight the battle. Willpower won’t help you day in and day out!

Get rewarded immediately.

If you feel like a deserving winner each time you beat the old, bad habit you will want to keep beating it. If you feel like an underserving loser each time you practise the new, good habit you will soon find a reason not to keep feeling that way.

If you go to bed feeling miserable because you did not SBM, it will be very hard to beat SBM tomorrow. If you go to bed feeling great because you did beat SBM, your chances of victory tomorrow are very good.

Satisfying the need might seem like a reward in itself, but remember that we want to crush the bad habit, not just evade it. By receiving a reward for winning the battle, we feel good for more than one reason at the exact time of our victory. This double-whammy is just good for you and will help to prepare you for the next onslaught.

The best reward might be a literal or mental pat on the back, given to yourself by yourself. Think of yourself as a victor, and you will reinforce the positive cycle. You will become better and better at winning the battles and hence the war.

If mental rewards are not your thing, why not try one of these 101 Ways to Reward Yourself? Or just make the rewards up as you go!

It’s a game

If all of this talk about “battles” and “wars” seems a bit over the top, just think about the process as a game. A game that can be re-started any time, is fun to play, and will help you even if you do not win all the time.

The calcount Team

You are Probably Too Strong to change your Bad Habit

 

We see something wrong with the way things are, so we think of ways to fix it.

Sometimes the “something wrong” is a headache or a shiver. Things like that can be fixed with a once-off solution like a pill or a doona.

Sometimes the “something wrong” is an unhealthy body weight or constant tiredness or low self-esteem. Things like that cannot usually be fixed with a once-off solution like a brisk walk or a good night’s rest or a pep-talk, so we start thinking about changing habits.

Habits are your life, because habits take up all of your time. Your sleep habits, your waking up habits, your cleaning habits, your eating habits, your traveling habits, your working habits, your family habits and all of your other lifestyle habits.

Habits are the way we do things and the way we live, because we are alive for many days and none of us can (or wants to) do things differently every day. In fact doing things differently is so unusual for us that we make special words to describe times when we don’t follow our habits – words like “holiday” and “adventure” and “party”.

Doing things differently is so unpleasant for us that we make special happy words to describe times when we don’t need to do things differently – words like “comfort” and “relax” and “familiar”.

Habits work on our health and wellbeing slowly and steadily. The first day of getting into the habit of eating a large bowl of vanilla ice-cream when you Netflix and Chill is not the day that makes you overweight. The 500th day of your habit is also not the day that makes you overweight. It is the habit that makes you overweight and the only way to stop it from making you overweight is to replace that (bad) habit with a different (better/good) habit.

Changing your habit is the same as changing your life, because life is what happens when you action your habits.

Changing your life is hard, as it should be. If it were easy to change your life, perhaps every new thought you had would send you off into a new life direction. Setting course toward an objective would become an impossibility because you would never know whether or not you would change your mind about the target just after you decide to take action. It is not good to change your life all the time, so nature makes it really uncomfortable and stressful.

That is the real reason why it is so hard to keep things like New Year’s resolutions. Without diving into the concept, theory, biological basis, and behaviourist evidence (something for another post), we can agree that it is really hard to use willpower to overcome the innate desire to keep the familiar and reject the new.

You are not weak because you were not able to break a bad habit. You probably kept the bad habit because you are too strong.

Willpower works really well for short-burst activities, but not so well for drawn-out, long-term commitments.

Willpower is made for battles, not wars.

Calorie Counter Australia likes to keep things short and to the point so here is the point of this post: habits are hard to break and in some ways the stronger-willed you are, the harder it is to change. If you have been unable to change a bad habit to this point, it is probably not because you lacked the willpower to do it. You are part of a chain of generations of people who have passed down genes that make you a survivor (winner) in this world. Your ancestors won because they did not flip-flop their lives whenever a new idea popped into their heads. You are just honouring their legacy by being resistant to change.

Does that mean that you should never change your habits? Of course not, that does not even make sense. Change is the only constant and everyone changes their habits at some point, sometimes because they are compelled to and sometimes because they choose to.

So, the question is: What is The Best Way to Change a Bad Habit?

We are going to go deep into this question in our next post, but we won’t leave you hanging. Here is a three-point summary of the Best Way to Change a Bad Habit:

  1. Recognise the need when it arises. We act (perform our habits) when a need to act arises. Wake up when you need to wake up. Eat when you need to eat. Play when you need to play. Note that we did not say “Recognise the want”. That’s because the difference between “want” and “need” is just a question of degree. When does a “want” become a “need”? How long is a piece of string?
  2. Act on the need quickly and forcefully, using the new habit rather than the old. Make sure that the need has been met before you move onto the next thing. Crowd the old habit out by suffocating it before it takes its first breath. Don’t leave a crack of time open for the old habit to squeeze back in. Don’t give it a chance. Don’t even fight the battle. Willpower won’t help you day in and day out!
  3. Get rewarded immediately. If you feel like a deserving winner each time you beat the old, bad habit you will want to keep beating it. If you feel like an underserving loser each time you practise the new, good habit you will soon find a reason not to keep feeling that way. Try swapping Friday night pizza for Friday night garden salad and see how long that lasts!

In our next post, we will go into why these three points work and how to make them work.

Until then, recognise that habits are hard to change and that in some ways you are a stronger person than most if it is harder for you to change your habits. Know also that you can use your strength and resilience to your advantage when it comes to replacing bad habits with better ones.