Should your calorie count?

January is here and for many that means detox, weight-loss and ditching the cake, alcohol and chocolate for a bit. You allow yourself to be lured into the arms of the gym membership salesperson where you sign your life away (well for the next 12 months). You are then allowed to enter the gym after a hugely stressful day to have an equally stressful workout dodging around the gym floor, changing room and even someone’s sweaty crotch in a yoga class.

What about your diet? Year after year we are plagued with diet books and television programmes all telling us that we can lose all the Christmas weight in 3 days and barely mentioning health at all. What also seems to be creeping it’s ugly head back in is the calorie count. In the last week I have seen about 3 programmes on TV all counting calories. But why do people inherently believe calorie counting is the way forward. Let’s take a look below.

Calorie counting is probably one of the longest standing philosophies in diet and weight-loss history.  Simply put, weight loss occurs when you expend more calories than you consume so therefore the logic is to count calories. Or is it?…

The calorie tables you see on the back of packaged food were invented more than 100 years ago by a chemist called Wilbur Olin Atwater. Samples of food were burned and the amount of energy from heat produced was measured. From this it was found that:

The problem with this? Well firstly they were created over 100 years ago and also they don’t take into account the way food is made up and processing techniques. Moreover research indicates the actual calorie content of foods in supermarkets and restaurants isn’t exactly what you will digest. Take almonds for example; the label says a handful will incur 170 calories but you are more likely going to get 130 calories.

The second issue is that it is the quality of food and not the quantity that matters. Food is more than energy and calories. The protein, carbohydrate and fat ratio with vitamins and minerals all contribute to giving the body what it needs to blossom.

Put simply, a can of cola contains only 139 calories but also contains 7 teaspoons of sugar, colour (caramel E150d), phosphoric acid, natural flavourings (including caffeine). Compared to the calorie equivalent in two eggs you get vitamin A, B, D, riboflavin B12 and choline, selenium, lutein & zeaxanthin. For those that drink Diet Cola; without having to go into the details of the ingredients, all I need to put to you is whether you think it is right that you can consume 2000 cans of diet cola a day and still be in your calorie allowance? Sounds a bit gross really doesn’t it?


Fat also has received a battering when it comes to the calorie count because it has twice as many calories than carbohydrate or protein. From this people opt for industrial man-made vegetable oils to keep their fat down but it’s not working because the obesity epidemic is out of control (perhaps connected??). Click here to read a previous post on why fat is important.

The key to successful weight loss is to balance the food you eat. Calorie counting can actually drive you a little crazy and you can become quite unsociable. Opt for less refined produce with more fibrous above ground vegetables. As a rough guide a simple plate can be made up of one iphone sized protein portion, the same carbohydrate and half your plate in above ground vegetables. Try to eat a rainbow in order to get an array of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

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Wishing you New Year filled with health and happiness.


The Naked Nutritionist



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