CALORIE COUNTING – SHOULD I BE DOING IT? – Jessica Peronne, Dietitian

If the new year has you setting resolutions around healthy eating and losing weight, you may have considered counting calories. At first glance, the idea makes perfect sense – eat less than your body needs and you will drop a few kilos. But in reality, counting calories is much more complicated. Here are 4 reasons why calorie counting may not work for weight loss.

CALORIE COUNTS ARE ONLY ESTIMATES

From calories listed on food packets to calorie counting apps, the numbers you read are at best estimates. Studies on Australian products have shown that food products may have anywhere from 13% less to 61% more than what is stated on the packet! When it comes to apps like MyFitnessPal, information is crowd-sourced from all over the world where food formulations significantly vary. Combined with normal error in weighing and measuring your food, the numbers churned out are likely poor reflections of what you’re truly consuming.

PSYCHOLOGICAL DEPRIVATION CAN TRIGGER OVEREATING

Going on a diet and choosing the “low calorie option” often leaves you feeling psychologically deprived. Simply thinking a food is “low calorie” even if it is not reduces how satisfied we feel and disrupts ghrelin, our appetite hormone responsible for increasing our hunger.  As deprivation builds up, we end up obsessively thinking about food and then overeat. Whether you return back to depriving foods or continue over consuming, this pattern of eating prevents achieving a healthy weight.

In order to not feel overwhelmed with this return to fuller schedules and for some a return to life and work outside home, there are some strategies you can use to help manage life after lockdown. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these aren’t actually so different to those recommended over the past several months.

NUTRIENT QUALITY ISN’T CONSIDERED

With a laser focus on just calories, we start to neglect the nutrients in foods that help with weight loss. For example, protein and fats provide long term satiety and fibre provides “bulk” for fullness whilst also supporting the growth of healthy gut bacteria that regulate our weight and appetite. You may also miss out on key micronutrients like iron which can cause fatigue, poor energy levels and impact your physical activity!

IT CAN MAKE SOCIAL EATING STRESSFUL

Trying to calculate the calories when eating out can become near impossible and may leave you feeling incredibly anxious. As a result, many people begin avoiding social occasions. Apart from missing out on enjoying time with friends and families, this is a slippery slope into an unrealistic and unsustainable method of losing weight long-term. Remember, in order to maintain long-term changes in weight, your approach must be something you can sustain lifelong.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Although calorie counting works for some, it often becomes an ineffective way to achieve and maintain weight loss. Healthy weight loss encompasses much more than the calories you consume – it should also consider the nutrients you eat and the relationship you have with food. The best way to achieve a healthy weight is to choose something you can maintain long-term, and this may look different for each of us as individuals. If you are struggling with your health goals and would like tailored support, book in with our accredited dietitian, Jessica Perone