It’s time to bury the world’s most misleading measure. For nearly a century, we’ve seen dieters try and fail using to lose weight by obsessively counting calories. Over these years, many If you would like to dive deeper into nutrition check out our fads have come and gone with this same idea of counting to cut lbs. While it may work as a short term fix, even research has now come to show that successful, long-term often eludes a simple “calories in/calories out” formula. The problem, of course, is that this formula is grossly oversimplified; food is not simply calories but information. This information is used to influence multiple biological pathways. Calorie for calorie, different foods influence the pathways in different ways which in the long term also controls our weight. This blog post aims to introduce just 6 things that are more important than counting calories. Nutrition & Health Coaching Course.
6 things that are more important than counting calories
Calorie counting doesn’t take into account the quality of the food you are eating. In fact, many turn to artificially-made low-calorie foods like snack bars, ready meals, artificial sugar-sweetened beverages, etc for their daily intake. Eating this way not only takes away from nurturing your for health (i.e. let food be thy medicine) but it’s also being shown as not as effective for . Why? Connect the dots with points 2 and 5 below.
Even research is showing this – one study published in JAMA found that “people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains and highly processed foods while instead eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods and not worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes, lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.”
Key takeaway: Bear in that when calorie counting first came out, we didn’t have much of the food you would find in supermarkets today. But over the years, just like the aisle, low calorie and low fat has boomed. To help your journey, instead of choosing foods solely based on their caloric value, think about high-quality foods that are minimally processed i.e. the gold rule: if your grandmother would recognise it, go for it!
The food we eat consists of macro and . consist of protein, carbs and fats while the consist of vitamins, minerals and microminerals. If you think about macros as your building blocks, the are the project managers and workers who put these in their respective place.
Key takeaway: are responsible for linking the connections and ensuring the various areas in your get the missing pieces they need to make , repair, build new and so on. Because of this, they play a key role in keeping your happy from your immune system to your health.
A single night of bad sleep is enough to raise your resistance, increase your cravings and drop your expenditure (i.e. calories out). Our system too follows a circadian rhythm, performing key tasks during sleep. Late nights with late night snacks can affect certain signals; ghrelin (spiking appetite) and leptin (promoting fat storage).
Lack of adequate sleep is also catabolic, meaning it can have a big impact on gain/retention. mass helps you not only look good (toned) but also affects your metabolism (more = higher metabolism). There’s a lot more to talk about in this point but as a final note, a lack of sleep is an additional stressor. Check out the next point for more on that.
For tips on sleep, we have a post here.
Key Takeaway: if you’re trying to or fat, sleep is essential
The is programmed for survival, not . This directly feeds into our expenditure in a number of ways. One significant factor that can throw everything off – .
manifests in many different ways and most of us are exposed to many on a daily basis. Calorie cutting falls into this group.
Your can handle calorie cutting for short periods when it can look to fat stores for . But when calories are reduced a significant amount for a prolonged period of time, your will start to adjust accordingly, reducing the amount of being exerted. Chronic can actually cause the preservation of fat ‘just in case’.
Key takeaway: for successful and health in general, it should be a primary focus to manage every single day. Start with the ones you can control and remove. There’s no simple answer with as everyone responds differently. If you’ve been cutting calories for some time and feel that your progress has come to halt there’s a couple of options to try. Raising calories is a good first call, making sure that the ones you do consume are from nutrient-rich sources. If you’re training, increasing the number of rest days is another point of call. Remember that this process is dynamic, so what works for a while may not keep working. And don’t forget sleep!
Gut & Digestive Health
The health of your tract is paramount to health but also to weight loss. Research is only beginning to uncover the power of the that reside in the , forming our flora. Proper and of food is essential to weight and fat loss. As already mentioned, our is a complex system of moving parts that cannot function properly without the right . If your is deficient, it’s not going to perform.
Consider how often you suffer from symptoms of indigestion – bloating, reflux, gas, inconsistent bowel movements etc. If your is low in and high in processed foods, it could be the cause. What specifically causes imbalance in these foods? High processed/refined omega 6 fats, artificial , sweeteners, transfats etc.
“Altogether, your is a huge chemical factory that helps to food, produce vitamins, regulate hormones, excrete toxins, produce healing compounds and keep your healthy” (source)
There are trillions of in your , and they collectively contain at least 100 times as many genes as you do. The links between chronic illness and an imbalanced keeps growing every day. in the play a number of different roles:
- they ferment fibre to produce short-chain fatty acids which are then used for .
- Short-chain fatty acids also help with the of certain
- They synthesize vitamin B and K for our to absorb
- They control the integrity of our lining
- They help support the immune system, 80% of which resides in the .
Key takeaway: whole unprocessed foods, primarily fibre rich vegetables, add plenty of omega 3 fats and fermented foods. This, of course, is broad advice but a good starting point nonetheless. If you want to go more in depth, you might look at an elimination .
Chewing falls into the food hygiene category i.e. not what you but how you . Chewing is a key part of the process for a couple of reasons:
- Chewing is part of the cycle. First, chewing mechanically breaks down food into smaller parts making the rest of the process easier.
- Second, it helps more saliva to coat the food, which contains specific enzymes to
- By mechanically breaking down the food, you’re able to absorb more nutrients and from each bite.
Some simple tips to get you in the habit of chewing better:
- Chew slowly and steadily
- Chew until your mouthful of food is liquefied or lost all of its texture
- Finish chewing and swallowing completely before taking another bite of food
- Avoid fluids full stop or keep to a small sip
These points above serve as the first set of 7 points to consider. There’s actually a lot more – exercise, food label inaccuracy, , your current metabolism, , vs etc. We’ll cover that in a future blog.
As a summary, in an ideal scenario, all that complexity is handled “under the hood”. In nature, animals don’t calorie count or think about what to or how to move. For hundreds of thousands of years, we didn’t either. We’d just , move, sleep and somehow all the dots would connect. Modern food production, constant food availability and our 21st-century comfortable lifestyle (with plenty of sitting) means that we’ve lost track of this innate ability to follow our ’s natural rhythms. So what do I do?
So there you have it, 6 things that are more important than counting calories. Stay tuned as we continue the conversation in the next post. At the end of the day, you have to be in an overall deficit for the scale to move. But the calorie in/out equation has multiple factors to it that you can play with that doesn’t include counting calories. To break down the equation a bit more.
On the calories in side we have food and liquids.
On the calories out, we have BMR, exercise-activity, NEAT and TEF.
We’ll dig into this in later posts. Hopefully, the above has helped get you started!
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