Why Calorie Counting Does Not Work

There’s more to managing weight than just counting calories. The idea of energy in versus energy out is too simplistic. The notion that you need to eat 1200 calories per day to lose weight is ludicrous. Did you know that the average toddler needs 1200 calories per day?

The human body is intricate, and each person faces unique challenges. The way the body processes a calorie from an apple differs significantly from how it processes a calorie from a processed food item like a biscuit. Considering the complexity of the human body and the wide variety of available foods, it’s clear that simply focusing on calories in and out does not ensure weight loss or overall health.

Here are several reasons why counting calories may not be effective: 

  • Our modern food supply differs from that of previous generations (1). The quality of nutrients in fruits and vegetables has decreased, and there are more processed and artificial foods available. Common nutrient deficiencies can affect our body’s processes, and consuming refined carbohydrates can lead to insulin issues, contributing to weight gain.
  • Not all food labels are completely accurate, which is more common than you might think – a 20% discrepancy is accepted on labels (6).
  • Stress can have a significant impact on weight and food processing due to the hormone cortisol (2).
  • There is an increase in estrogen-like compounds in our food supply, as well as the presence of toxins from pesticides, which can affect metabolism (3).
  • Alcohol consumption can impair liver function, leading to poor detoxification and metabolism.
  • Thyroid function can also affect metabolism (4). 
  • Counting calories detracts from intuitive eating, where individuals listen to their bodies and respond to their needs. Your body is not a calculator. Some days, you need more energy than others, due to increased physical activity or changes in your menstrual cycle. Research has shown that excessive dieting and calorie restriction can lead to obsessive thoughts about food (5). 
  • Not all calories are absorbed the same. For example we don’t absorb about 20% of the calories from nuts when consumed due to their fat stored in the nut’s fibrous cell walls, which don’t break down during digestion (7).
  • Prolonged restrictive eating can slow down metabolism and make a person more susceptible to illness.
  • Constant dieting takes away the enjoyment of food, which has social associations and can contribute to happiness.
  • Without addressing the underlying reasons for being overweight, the cycle of weight loss and gain is likely to continue.

To achieve effective fat loss, it’s important to consider the bigger picture, including a person’s physical and emotional well-being and their environment. What works for one person may not work for another.

Focus on health and energy rather than just weight. Intuitive eating takes time to develop, especially for those who have been on constant diets. A good place to start is by avoiding packaged processed foods, and instead opting for whole foods and fresh fruits and vegetables. If consuming animal protein, ensure that the animal has been raised on its natural diet. 

Prioritize eating for health rather than solely focusing on body weight. If you’re unsure where to start, begin by consuming real, whole foods. Reach out for an appointment and get an evidence based program to ensure you form healthy dietary habits that last a lifetime.

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