Do Calories Count?

August 25, 2016
Lyndall McAlpine

I was asked the other day what was the recommended daily calorie consumption for losing weight. It stumped me for a second because I have successfully worked with my clients without ever needing to count calories.

We’ve been told for decades “eat less calories than you burn and you will lose weight”. Believe me, I’ve been there when I was a teenager and all I recall was frustration, deprivation and failure. It is almost amusing that even in this era the media can’t seem to get away from this basic un-holistic theme.

A few reasons why I don’t recommend a strict calorie counting and restriction diet are:

Caveman Thumbs-upA simple evolutionary survival fact developed by our cavemen ancestors. When you go into ‘starvation mode’ your body is programmed to store as much fat as possible for survival. It slows down your metabolism and burns muscle rather than fat, your energy levels drop. When you start eating normally again, because you have slowed down your metabolism, your body will often end up piling on more weight then when you started. In this study of 854 people who were using calorie restriction to lose weight, the research found only 4.6% of them successfully lost weight – and kept it off in the long term.resisting food AdobeStock_113918246_WM

Constant attention on food is not helpful when you are trying to lose weight. A good tip to resisting cravings and constant obsession on food is finding distractions and creating new healthier habits and subconscious signals.

This is a “diet” mentality strategy and does not teach or encourage you to eat healthier and have a healthier lifestyle so that you will naturally keep the lost weight off.

Don’t get me wrong, calories are important (you can’t just eat non stop of any food and not expect to gain weight) and weight loss does in basic theory have to do with the ratio of energy in and energy out. The official magic daily calorie intake for weight loss is approx 1200-1500 for women and 2,000 to 2,200 for men, but these numbers depend highly on how active you are and your energy needs for basic bodily functions for that day.

However there is soooo much more to weight loss than restricting calories.  It’s essential that we take a holistic view on all health issues, weight loss included. I help my clients understand the importance of, and take into consideration:

Crowding out calorie rich, nutrient poor foods for nutrient rich foods –  such as whole foods, whole grains, vegetable etc. This obviously and undoubtedly makes you an overall healthier person, but for weight loss focus your body doesn’t treat all calories the same way. Calories from high quality foods that are rich in nutrients and higher in fibre content. Fibre causes earlier satiety, so you feel satisfied earlier and keep you full for a long time because your body has to work harder to break down the high amount of fibre.

A healthy, nutritious diet also allows our body to work effectively as it was meant to be. It supports a healthy metabolism which among other things triggers the release of hormones that tell the body to burn fat. Processed foods full of sugar and refined carbs on the other hand lack fibre, so you’re more likely to overeat. They also mess with your hormones and prompt your body to store fat. This study found whole food required nearly 50 percent more energy to absorb than equal in calorie highly processed food.

Following a low GI/GL diet –  Not only will refined packaged carbohydrates be likely to leave you far less full than good quality fat and protein, they also spike your blood sugar, consequently causing havoc on your insulin levels. A roller coaster of various hormones (insulin, adrenalin and cortisol) and blood sugar causes carb cravings (not to mention onset of diabetes). A low GI diet and healthy lifestyle also assists in achieving optimum levels of other hormones such as ghrelin (which controls when you feel hungry, how often and for how long) and leptin (which controls when you are feeling full and satisfied) .

Sleep and stress – are very important for successful weight loss. You are more likely to grab that forbidden high processed carb to fire you up and it is almost impossible to get motivated to exercise when you are overtired. Both sleep and stress influence the production/non production of the hormones ghrelin and leptin.

Portion size – so simple! Having an a easy to follow gage to work with makes it less likely to over-eat eg your palm represents one meat/protein serving.

Emotional eating and self beliefs – your subconscious mind is much more powerful than your conscious mind, and what constant self talk you feed your subconscious will determine how you react to daily hurdles and temptations. It’s very valuable to identify what is the emotion that actually leads you to turn to food for comfort, stress relief, or as a reward whether it be mindlessly snacking, overindulging, or binging.

Breaking habits – habits CAN be broken and new habits CAN be formed, it’s just a matter of repetition and having a plan to follow. This is where support is very helpful also.

Rather than counting calories, a food diary is very effective for being accountable and to actually check out your eating pattern. There are plenty of great food apps out there, which once you have entered your usual foods it doesn’t take much time.

These are “some” of the things I focus on with my clients who have struggled to lose weight. Having a support person there to motivate, educate, keep accountable and support works very well and although I am not a bootcamp type of Health Coach, I am there 101%, helping my clients move towards a healthier lifestyle by gradually changing habits, replacing unhealthy choices with yummy alternatives and gaining knowledge and confidence to carry on with their new wonderful energised lifestyle.

If you would like to learn more about how I can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact me on 0439971079 or book in directly for a FREE INITIAL CONSULT

 

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