Stop Counting Calories To Cure Obesity!

By on September 22, 2015

Recently in the press, along with research, it has been proposed that a calorie-focused diet and thinking will not help with weight loss and can cause obesity related diseases.

The Independent wrote an article recently titled “Eat a Mediterranean diet and stop counting calories to combat obesity, say doctors.” Dr Aseem Malhotra, told the BBC: “What’s more responsible is that we tell people to concentrate on eating nutritious foods.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/…/eat-a-mediterranean-diet-and…

And then Lucan C. et al have done some research at Cambridge Uni that concluded overweight individuals should put more emphasis on the sources of calories consumed (i.e. a greater focus on types of foods) rather than focusing on calories. (1) They share the belief that making people count calories imparts thinking that consumed calories, regardless of their sources, are equivalent.

The argument that is being putting forward is that telling people to concentrate on counting calories implies to people that 100 calories of doughnuts is equal to 100 calories of chicken, this is in my opinion is ridiculous and true ignorance. Anyone that is calorie and health conscious will far well know that this is not the case and each food source has a different nutritional break, macronutrients, micronutrients and fibre. This will all have an affect on how it is processed by the body, for example, vitamins/minerals, satiety factor, the thermic effect created by said food etc. Yes a calorie is a calorie, approx 4.2 joules, but not all calories are created equally. So I would hope most people would understand the need to eat mainly nutritious minimally processed foods when controlling or counting calories.

You CANNOT ignore the fact that consuming significantly more calories than you need WILL cause you to gain weight! Weight loss experiments have been carried out just eating twinkles, potatoes and curries. Yes this is not healthy, but they show how important calories are for weight loss or gain. (2-4)

I agree that a Mediterranean-style diet can be healthier than what some people are eating these days, but telling people that calories should not be counted or controlled is misleading. Individuals will think they can just start eating endless amounts of health foods; nuts, olive oil and Mediterranean food without worrying about calories. Of course calorie counting is not for everyone, and someone completely new to health and fitness just needs to make small healthy changes to their current routine to control calories, but in order to reach your fat loss goals, calories need to be controlled one way or another, this has been shown in research carried out by Baker R. (5) In this research, not only did those who consistently monitored their food intake lose more weight than those who only infrequently monitored their intake. They also lost more more weight during weeks of their worst tracking compared to those who infrequently monitored! More simply put, a person who closely monitors their food intake will still lose weight during bad tracking weeks compared to a person who barely monitors their food intake at all. Someone who barely monitors could actually gain weight during these bad weeks. “These results support the notions that self monitoring, and perhaps “obsessive-compulsive self-regulation,” are necessary for successful weight control.” (5)

Can’t You Just Eat Mindfully?

Yes of course, but results are not going to the best they could be! People find it hard to stay consistent just eating mindfully and remembering all the food/ drinks they consumed. And what do you do once you hit a fat loss plateau?

Counting or controlling calories and macronutrients is a great method to track and monitor your diet along with assessing your progress. (6) So understand that fat loss or weight gains comes down to calories in vs calories out first and foremost, before food quality.

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References –
  1. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayAbstract? fromPage=online&aid=9428230&fileId=S1368980014002559
  2. http://www.cnn.com/2010/HEALTH/11/08/twinkie.diet.professor/
  3. http://www.20potatoesaday.com/20_potatoes_a_day_006.htm
  4. http://www.dailystar.co.uk/diet-fitness/413815/Curry-diet-man-loses-10- stone
  5. http://parc.ophea.net/sites/parc.ophea.net/files/Self-Monitoring %20Article.pdf
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3268700/

 

Scott Edmed

About Scott Edmed

I am currently serving the Royal Air Force as a pilot with a huge passion for nutrition and training, having competed in physique competitions and playing rugby and cricket for the RAF.