Is counting calories the answer to healthy and natural fat-loss? Nutrition and exercise consultant, Lorraine Cunningham, AKA Nutritious Lolly explains why it’s time to stop counting calories once and for all.
Not all calories are created equal
The big day is almost here, a time for family and friends to get together. It’s also a time to make resolutions about becoming fitter and healthier during the year ahead – to set ourselves challenges and goals we would love to achieve. For many people this means jumping back on the yo-yo diet treadmill again in January and counting calories as their preferred way to lose body fat. There is however, a major flaw with this type of ‘weight-loss’ regime, which centres on the fact that not all calories are created equal. In fact, a healthy diet has much more to do with what foods you get your calories from rather than the number of calories themselves. Here’s a scenario to illustrate this.
In our bid to lose ‘weight’ (the basis of most restrictive diets), we may choose to allocate around 1,500 calories per day to the cause. Let’s say we’ve used up most of our allowance during the day, but it’s now 7pm and we have 165 calories left – what do we choose? Well…to use up 165 calories we could grill 100g of chicken breast. This would give us a healthy dose of protein and keep us fuller for longer. The chicken also contains vitamins B-6 and B-12 which together help to keep the body’s metabolism in tip-top shape and our nervous system functioning.
We could also choose to eat 300g (a substantial portion) of silken tofu – another excellent source of protein along with iron, calcium, manganese, selenium, phosphorous, zinc and vitamin B1. But, we’re craving something sweet, so we decide to forego the previous options in favour of a Mars Bar. However, as the standard bar is 58g we can only eat two thirds of it (saving the rest for tomorrow’s sugar hit).
What nutritional value have we gained by choosing the Mars Bar? Nothing except sugar…oh and saturated fat. Still, we’ve stuck to our calorie allowance, so we’ll lose weight…right? Wrong! Unlike the chicken and tofu which can deliver the nutrients we need to drive our metabolism into fat-burning mode, the Mars Bar contains processed sugar which is highly addictive, and because of this, the odds are high that you’ll have scoffed the remaining third of the bar before your head hits the pillow that night.
Our bodies treat calories in different ways
Are you getting the picture? Basically, your body doesn’t treat all calories in the same way. Good quality calories come from foods that are rich in nutrients. They keep you fuller for longer and your body has to work harder to break down fibre which in turn burns fat, whereas a diet rich in processed foods may contain the same number of calories, but the added sugar and refined grains (also known as simple carbohydrates) aren’t satisfying in the long term which prompts us to eat more. Plus, because our bodies don’t have to work hard to break down the components of the processed food, we end up storing fat rather than burning it.
Stop dieting…change your eating habits gradually instead
So, what’s the answer? The first thing to do is enjoy the festive season with your family and friends and stop worrying about dieting. It’s only once a year so make the most of it. Then, when January comes around make a pact with yourself to give diets the heave-ho and get off the calorie-counting treadmill once and for all. It’s the time to look at a healthy way to kick-start your 2020 by changing your eating habits in small steps which will completely change your relationship with food and get you fit for life. 2020 is the year to make your date with Nutritious Lolly.