10th February 2019
My biggest grievance with counting calories is that they're not all created equal (some of them should be consigned to the gates of hell to be burnt in a fiery pit from which they can never return!) and should be seen as calories from whole natural foods and those from processed “foods” that are mainly made to make a profit at our expense.
There is no such thing as “good” or “bad” whole natural foods. When you eat a balanced and varied diet in accordance with your needs no foods should be off the table, unless you have an allergy or intolerance to something. I’m not saying never to eat processed foods (our food supply chain has become so riddle with them it’s a game of hide and seek with most foods bought off a supermarket shelve) but if your diet contains refined carbohydrates, additives, artificial sweetness and flavourings on a regular basis the likely hood of you resembling a doughnut and struggling to find the drive and energy to move more and seek a life true to yourself will become much greater.
Any who, back to the notion that a calorie isn’t all as it seems…
I once had a client who was adamant that a calorie is a calorie no matter what. True in the sense that a calorie is a measure of energy which when expended can raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree Celsius. But I’m afraid that’s it. How each calorie is processed and used by the body, whether it’s a carb, protein or fat, or indeed if it’s from natural foods or profiteering “foods” will vary massively (I’ll explain shortly).
My former client would frequently use calorie counting to help with her weight loss efforts even when I protested it wasn’t fool proof or sustainable. I wasn’t shocked when she’d struggle, often yo-yoing with her weight, clearly frustrated and stressed by it all. There were often poor food choices (many of them processed), but believing a calorie was a calorie she couldn’t quite see the whole picture of the quality of the food she was putting into her body were hampering her efforts.
Just counting your calories isn’t that simplistic as I eluded to earlier. What is simple and straight forward is the quality of each calorie you put into your body.
The need to eat more nutrient dense foods that come packed with vitamins and minerals is essential for your overall well being. 100 calories from milk chocolate is going to differ from 100 calories of 85% dark chocolate. The response hormonally and how their processed within your body will contrast. Plus all the nutrients that are attached with those calories (the milk chocolate there’s not a lot, the dark chocolate there’s plenty) can further nourish your being.
The far higher sugar content of the milk chocolate bar will induce a bigger and muck quicker insulin response. Insulin is a anabolic hormone (it makes things grow) and being able to control it’s secretion helps maintain your overall hormonal balance and well being. It’s quite clear that diets higher in refined carbohydrates cause a whole host of health problems like obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
To maintain a healthy body and mind (and to also induce sustainable weight loss) you need to be able to control your hormones with adequate calories from a balance of carbs, proteins and fats. Calorie restriction is a tricky art form that needs to be done with the proper knowledge and practical know how. Simply setting a number in terms of calories in and staying within it without any real focus on food quality and balance will lead you down a path of dismay and ill health.
For a vast majority of people their initial action should be to focus on their food quality rather than punching numbers into their phones. But there’s an underlying issue that’s going to make it a challenge: MOST OF US ARE ADDICTED TO SUGAR!
Bugger sugar is very much the crack of the food world. The quick satisfying release of dopamine from processed sugar can be very comforting in times of stress, depression and anxiety. But the kicker is that it’s putting even more stress on your body, destroying individuals immune systems, prematurely ageing many, and it’s likely the reason that people are over weight.
Processed sugars are empty calories and do not belong in the human body! The only reason we find them in the food chain is because they make a handsome return for profiteering food and beverage companies. Their cheap to manufacture and we’ll keep going back for more – an extremely robust business model!
We need to take a smart approach to our sugar addiction, a lot like whining those poor souls off opioids and other other hard drugs – It could be a process which lasts months. If you find yourself having a daily dose of bugger sugar, I implore you to take action NOW! Take it one step at a time, taking each 24 hours as it comes. What you’re looking for here is consistent progress over a period of time – all or nothing approaches rarely work and can often back fire leaving you in a worse position than where you started from.
I tend to find most peoples weaknesses are sugary drinks and snacks (I can see you reaching for that chocolate treat right now…stop it!) usually to combat that afternoon slump. We naturally have a dip in our energy levels in the afternoon, but there are several things you can do to keep those sugar cravings at bay;
- GET TO BED EARLIER – research clearly shows those individuals who sleep less struggle to regulate their calorie intake, on average consuming an extra 300 calories a day. Running off the maths that there’s roughly 3,500 calories in a pound of fat, someone who’s chronically sleep deprived could be gaining a pound of fat every 12 days!
- EAT A SATIATING LUNCH – your lunch should be balanced, consisting of a protein source, some healthy fats, complex carbohydrates and plenty of fibrous veggies and/or fruits. A meal deal of a cheese and ham sandwich, a packet of crisps and diet coke doesn’t cut the mustard!
- GO FOR A WALK – after you’ve eaten and let your food slide down for 10 – 15 minutes, get outside and go for a walk. It only needs to be 10 -15 minutes but it will aid the digestion of your tangy wholemeal quinoa, beetroot and feta wrap whilst energising your body (Yep, moving makes you more energised, so get off your derrière and take a hike sunshine!)
- OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND – this is the big one – don’t buy or try not to have those bugger sugar treats in your environment. Sounds simple right? But that’s not always the reality. You work in an office where people dunk biscuits in their tea and regularly supply everyone with a selection of crispy cream doughnuts that are constantly on view with the devil on your shoulder whittling away at your steadfast discipline to not giving in by saying “just one isn’t going to do any damage. You can feel that pleasure of that sugary sweetness already can’t you? Just imagine that instant satisfaction!”. Very tricky, but if you follow the first three habits it makes resisting temptation a whole lot easier.
Although the overall calorie intake does effect our weight, the quality of those calories is equally if not more important in my opinion, especially for your overall well being. Unless you have health concerns with your weight, those numbers on the scales are just superficial – your beautiful just the way you are.
So here’s what I propose you do; start thinking more about the quality of the calories your putting in your body on a daily basis. Can you fit in a few more nutrient dense foods (veggies would be good start) through out the day to counteract those hunger pains and energy dips?
We’re not looking for perfection here, just what will realistically work in your life. If you like to have a couple of chocolate biscuits with your afternoon tea why not this week reduce that to one. Is having a can of coke your thing? How about switching it up for a soda or low-calorie tonic water with a squeeze of lemon or lime.
These are just small actionable steps that over the long-term can make a significant difference…
Yours in love and health,