If you’re a woman then the chances are very high that you have, or think you may have to rely on counting calories to lose weight.
Do yourself a favour and STOP counting calories. There is no need to add extra stress to your life by continuing with this outdated way of losing weight. It’s a monumental waste of effort and opportunity.
Counting calories started with the simple premise that if you eat fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight. Eating less and exercising more fails to recognise that the human body is a lot more complicated than the calorie version of a bank account. It really is more like a multi-fuel chemistry set.
We all need a certain amount of energy to move and to survive. We get this energy from food, or from the energy stored in our blood, liver, muscles and fat cells.
However, many people have trouble accessing their stored fat so it’s important to look at ensuring hormonal balance by what you are eating in protein, fat and carbohydrate to ensure that your body gets access to the energy stored in your body fat as an energy source and not to continue to store fat.
Calorie Intake and Calorie Expenditure
Back to calories. Simply counting them is not as accurate as most people think. Relying on counting calorie intake is an unreliable way to determine what happens in your body. There are many influences that have little to do with a simple maths equation.
When we burn calories, we commonly think about exercise but what most people don’t realise is that a one hour walk or jog uses only 100-200 calories. Your resting metabolic rate is the biggest calorie-burner – in a 24-hour period burning around 10+ times that of the walk or jog.
These 14 factors question the effectiveness for calorie counting:
- The calories in many packaged foods are an estimate and can be inaccurate. The true calorie count could be 10% – 50% different to what’s stated on the label, in a calorie database, or on your fitness tracker. You may notice that our eating plans have almost no packaged foods (no labels) except for helpful protein snacks?
- How your body absorbs your food differs. The calories in some foods are almost completely absorbed, while in other foods a significant proportion passes through the body. Your gut bacteria can affect the absorption rate of calories, and your macronutrient intake, age, and health status also play a role.
- How you prepare, cook, chop or blend your food can make a difference to the calories your body absorbs.
- Your hormones control hunger, satiety and appetite. We aim to give you appetite control by a clever combination of foods.
- Your food choices are also influenced by availability and palatability, the energy density and nutrition density of the food, and your sleep quality, education, culture, and socioeconomic status. Did you know that foods that have a combination of carbs, fat and chemical flavourings drive appetite? Once you start on some snack foods it’s hard to stop.
- Psychological factors such as stress, mindset, perceived control, self-esteem, and sleep quality are all important factors influencing your calorie intake.
- Specific genes. Some people are designed to burn more calories than others. Epigenetics, or how your genes express themselves, also plays a role. Don’t expect life to be fair!
- Sleep deprivation. Even just one night of poor sleep reduces the number of calories you’ll burn and drives appetite in the morning.
- Brown fat. Those with more brown fat burn more calories. Brown fat contains more mitochondria (the power generators that convert nutrients to fuel) than white fat, and is switched on when you get cold and when you exercise.
- BMR. Your Basal Metabolic Rate, or the energy burned at rest, depends on the combination of body size, hormonal status, dieting history, genetic factors, health status, sleep quality, age and retained lean body mass (muscles). Optimising protein and doing regular resistance training are the two things that can help preserve and optimise your lean body mass and your metabolism.
- Exercise. It’s not the same for everyone, and depends on exercise ability, intensity, duration, frequency, type, environment, hormonal status, sleep quality. Although walking is good for you, resistance training has special value. If you use some electronic exercise machine (bike or treadmill) any calories display is a rough estimate that you can’t rely on.
- Non-exercise activity. This is influenced by your health status, energy status, stress levels, hormonal status, occupation, leisure activities, and genetic factors. Living in a home with stairs, or having a dog that you have to walk can make a difference.
- Digestion. The thermic effect of food, or the calories expended simply metabolising food, is influenced by your food’s macronutrient make-up and by food processing. You’re better off eating your calories than drinking your calories.
- Under- or over-eating. When you under-eat, your metabolism slows and you burn fewer calories. When you over-eat, your metabolism increases and you burn more calories.
So, it’s complicated!
Overweight and obesity are complex issues, and in turn they require a solution that acknowledges, and develops strategies for dealing with, the complexities.
If you’re counting calories, STOP! It rarely leads to success.
Our dietitian has factored calories into our eating plan so that you don’t need to count them. We’ll guide you through developing an eating and exercise plan that suits your tastes, lifestyle, exercise preferences, cultural influences and, most importantly, your body’s responses.
Eating real food, moving, and never being hungry sounds a lot more appealing than counting calories, and it’s more effective, too.