Still Counting Calories? Here’s Why You Should Stop
Any person that’s ever gone on a diet or indulged in healthy eating has come across the idea that being conscious of how many calories you consume is a pivotal aspect of weight loss. However studies have shown that an apple has the same number of calories as a glass of Coca-Cola. So why can’t you just have both? Well you can, depending on your objectives. Although being mindful of your calorie intake can aid weight-loss, it can severely be detrimental to your health.
What are calories and what makes them different?
A calorie is a unit of energy that is generated from food. Although the calorie quantity in two different types of food can be the same, the source of said calories will determine how the body is affected. 200 calories of jellybeans is not equal to 200 calories of fruit and nuts simply due to how the body accepts it. The fruit and nuts are full of satiating nutrients whilst the jellybeans are full of refined sugars that can affect levels in the body and this will result in you still being hungry an hour later.
Eating fewer calories won’t affect weight loss if the source of said calories is highly processed foods. Moreover, if you are harsh in your restriction of calories, your body goes into starvation mode and your metabolism is altered to adjust to the low number of calories thus it slows down and weight loss is made even harder.
How do calories affect us?
Hunger is our body’s way of asking for energy and nutrients. Nutrients like fibre fills us up more as fibre expands in our stomachs, triggering nerves that tell our brain we’re full. Other nutrients get delivered around the body and the brain is then told we’ve consumed enough food. Consuming foods and fluids that are highly processed makes it harder to figure out when we’re full and this result in overeating as our body has yet to receive the nutrients it was asking for and this in turn leads us to keep on eating resulting in us taking in more energy than needed which is then converted to fat.
It has been suggested that in order to lose weight, you need to limit the number of calories you eat as compared to the ones you burn. Essentially, this means not changing your meals but simply eating smaller portions. Although this has proven to be a working equation, there are individuals who have regained the weight they’ve lost as a result of their metabolism slowing down. Your body adjusts to working with fewer calories once you get on a diet, however, once you leave said diet you pack on the pounds twice as fast because your metabolism has slowed down. Furthermore, portion control continues to be tricky due to the high amounts of sugar, fat and casein in fatty foods.
These ingredients make it harder for individuals to control themselves when it comes to eating their favourite snacks. David Ludwig, who is the professor of Paediatrics at Harvard Medical School and of Nutrition at the School of Public Health as well as specializing in endocrinology and obesity, does not believe that overeating can lead to weight gain. Rather it all comes down to the hormone insulin. Refined carbohydrates, sugars, and processed foods all cause our insulin level to go up, causing lipase to be turned off. This causes more calories to be stored in fat cells as opposed to the blood, leading the brain to think that the body is still hungry.
What about fats?
With a need to showcase healthier products, fats were removed from foods. Unfortunately, manufacturers added sugars to ensure that said foods wouldn’t lose their appeal, thus the intake of processed carbohydrates and sugars rose. However, these processed carbohydrates have the potential to be more dangerous than the fats they replaced.
As scary as it sounds, you need fats. Healthy fats include avocado, olive oil, and nuts. It would be advisable to avoid products that are labelled ‘fat free’ as these have more sugar than necessary.
So what now?
How can you eat fewer calories without actually counting your calorie intake? By adjusting your diet to include the right kinds of food.
Dr. Ludwig suggests we be mindful of the glycaemic index which is a nutritional measuring tool that looks at a foods value to your body. If a piece of food has a low glycaemic index it fills you up quicker. High-glycaemic foods, on the other hand, cause too quickly a rise in insulin levels and this stimulates the overproduction of insulin and fat storage. By choosing to indulge in low-glycaemic foods like whole-wheat bread and fruits, people can lose more weight and remain healthier. Furthermore, a low-glycemic-index diet is better than any low-fat diet as it doesn’t eliminate entire classes of food, thus making it much easier to follow.
While the perfect diet doesn’t exist, it is important to ensure that whatever diet you choose results in a healthy, strong and functional body as well as you being more confident and less self-conscious about food.
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