Calories and why we should stop counting them

For years now, losing weight has been all about calories in verses calories out.  Every weight management programme, fitness campaign and TV ad will have you count calories for weight loss and healthy living.  It has become almost accepted that calories form our daily diet, and that men must eat no more than 2500 of them and women 2000 kcal.

“A calorie is a unit of energy. In nutrition and everyday language, calories refer to energy consumption through eating and drinking, and energy usage through physical activity. For example, an apple may have 80 calories, while a 1 mile walk might use up about 100 calories.”

However, the problem with calorie counting is that it does not decipher between good food and bad food.  Calories, after all make up all food, no matter what it is.

So for instance, if counting calories to maintain a healthy weight was purely about how many you consume and how many you burn off, a typical days intake for a woman could look like this –

BREAKFAST

1 Slice of white toast and butter – 370Kcal

LUNCH

Chicken, cheese and mayo sandwich on white bread – 536Kcal

DINNER

Battered Fish and Chips (hold the salad) – 850Kcal

SUPPER

Low fat diet yoghurt – 90Kcal

TOTAL CALORIES CONSMED – 1846Kcal

So on paper, you could be fooled into believing that you are under 2000Kcal per day so are well within the recommended daily levels for a good weight.

However, I can assure you now that a diet like this will neither help you keep a good weight or do anything at all for your long term health.

Why is this not good?

When the diet industry invented calorie counting just under 100 years ago, they forgot the fundamental aspects of eating well.  Focusing on numbers alone means you are able to eat the wrong types of foods for many years, struggle with your weight and your health and wonder why on earth you can never keep your weight down, despite keeping a calculator at hand when ever you put something in your mouth.

Worse still, if by some miracle counting calories does keep the top button of your pants in check, eating a diet consisting only of number focused products will eventually lead to many internal health problems including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and alzheimer’s, to name the main ones.  And, lets not forget the internal visceral fat that surrounds the organs.  This type of fat is more dangerous that having a spare tyre or three.

Low fat diet products replace ‘fat’ with sugar, which actually is worse than fat.  Low calorie, low fat advertised products actually do more harm in the body than the manufacturers will have you believe.  You can eat pretty much anything you like when counting calories as long as you keep below 2000/2500Kcal.

What’s even worse is that healthy foods that the body needs including nuts, coconut oil and wholegrain products are usually higher in these so called calories, so many dieters will avoid food items that the body needs to function properly and this in turn will create hunger, leading to eating more unhealthy ‘numbers’ simply because they are ‘lower’ down the scale.

Let’s get real.  Counting calories will NOT help you lose weight for 2 reasons.

1 – All food contains calories, and so technically you can eat a plate of fried chips at every meal time (serving of 117g @ 365Kcal) and come way under your 2000/2500Kcal target per day (1095kcal).  Throw in a couple of cans of cola and a bar of chocolate and you still only hit 1862Kcal.  However, I think we all know that this type of diet is not healthy, yet the diet experts will have you believe that its all in the calories, so what’s the problem?

2 – If counting numbers is all you do (and let’s face it, most people on a diet will be) and you are seeking out the low fat, low calorie products sitting on supermarket shelves, you  will be hungry.  Permanently.  Low fat, low calorie ‘diet’ food’s are usually packed with sugar and other ingredients that you probably won’t understand.

So what is the best way to keep on track?

Forget all about counting calories in your food and opt instead for the following new rules:

1 – Ditch diet foods.  No more shop bought packaged, quick fix, quick snack options.  These products are wrong and the diet industry is lying to you.

2 – Eat fresh.  Fresh fruit, vegetables, whole nuts, seeds and whole foods WILL help you lose weight and your body will start to feel healthy, your skin will glow and you will have lots of energy to enjoy your day.  Stay away from processed foods in cans, boxes and packets.  These are false promises made by an industry that thrives on your money.

3 – Treat yourself.  It’s ok to have a treat.  Enjoy it, don’t feel guilty about it and don’t kick yourself and starve the following day.  If you want a chocolate bar, have one. If you want a big mac, enjoy it.  BUT – and here’s the new rule exception, DO NOT EAT THIS TYPE OF FOOD EVERY DAY.  Once a week is enough, and you will enjoy the break more.  Eventually your body will no longer even crave those old foods anyway, which is even better.

4 – Stop eating when you are full.  This may sound obvious, but a reason many people fail to maintain a good weight is because they eat way more than their body needs.  The gut will not register fullness for around 10 minutes after the first bite, so eat slower and enjoy every mouthful.  This will help with digestion too and help your body properly absorb the food being eaten.

5 – Keep a food diary.  Being reminded of what you are eating will shock most people, as most of us eat without noticing.  When you notice yourself slipping off target, you can bring your mindset back to eating a healthy, balanced diet again.

AND – most importantly, don’t keep beating yourself up all the time about your diet, or failed attempts of dieting.  Stress, worry and anxiety are the biggest reasons that so many people are overweight in the first place.  Slow down, enjoy the food you are eating and feel good for who you are.  Remember, you are unique and you are amazing.  If you are working towards your healthy weight goals, the odd treat will keep you motivated and tomorrow is a fresh new day for you to eat your five a day.

Good luck guys!!!

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