Why you should and shouldn’t count calories Part 2

A while ago I wrote part 1 of this article where I explained how it might be a good idea to count calories and keeping a food journal. If you missed that one you can click here

But having said all that,
All calories aren’t equal. It’s not as simple as calories in and calories out. Yes, we’ve all heard about people who’ve lost weight by eating nothing but McDonalds, but at what (health) cost? Managing calories are important but what you eat is also important.

So if calories don’t matter all that much, why did I write part 1 in the first place?
Well, because there are a lot of people who have no idea what they put in their bodies each day. How many calories are actually in the foods they consume. As I will explain in this post, it might not always matter all that much, at least not when it comes to whole foods but it’s a starting point to begin making smarter and healthier choices.

Calories aren’t everything.
Where are your calories coming from? Are you getting enough fruit and veg? Enough fibre and protein?

Basically, calorie balance (calories in = calories out), or a calorie deficit if you’re trying to loose weight, is not always as simple as it sounds.
When it comes to health and for most people, weight loss, I’d say calorie counting is about 60% of the whole picture.

Even if you think you are keeping a good balance, there’s another problem:
The calorie content presented on a food is not precise, it’s only an average. The true calorie and nutrition content can vary up to 50% (!) depending on the food.

Also, our body doesn’t absorb all the calories we consume, this varies depending on the type of food we eat and how it is prepared and cooked.

Lastly, everyone absorbs nutrients and calories individually. We are all different and so are our guts and our gut bacteria, which are the important parts of nutrient absorption.

So even if you DO keep an accurate food diary, chances are the actual calorie intake can vary quite significantly.

So, why am I bringing this all up if I’m just going to contradict myself?

Well, I think that keeping a food journal for a while is a good idea to get a good picture of what you eat. Having to look up the calorie and nutrition content of every food and measure your food accurately is time consuming yes, but maybe just start with writing down roughly what goes in to your mouth every day. After a meal, just write down what you actually ate. Then when you have a spare moment, you can check online for that food and when you get used to this a bit more you can get more precise with measurements and weights. This is just to get an idea of what you’re actually eating. Then you can start adjusting. Not getting enough veg? Have a look and see where you can probably fit another portion in tomorrow.

Like I said earlier, it might stop you from overdo it. When you know how many calories are in chocolate, it will probably prevent you from eating a whole 200g bar by yourself. Well, most days anyway 😉
What I don’t think is a good idea is to religiously count every calorie that goes in your body- for all the reasons I mentioned above. The same actually goes for the amount of calories we think we use up while exercising. That’s not an exact science either, and most people overestimate how many calories they are using by quite a lot.

So my conclusion is to not rely on calorie counting, but rather use it to estimate your intake keep you on track.
Any questions or thoughts on this? I’d love to hear from you!


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