Tag Archives: calorie counting

The Calorie Myth

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It’s long been drummed into us that ‘dieting’ is the way to lose weight. By ‘dieting’ I mean restricting calories and or food groups. So it’s no wonder that Britain’s dieting industry is worth an estimated £2billion.

I speak to so many women, friends included, that are struggling to lose weight and whenever they set out to finally make it happen they embark on some sort of fad or restrictive regime, like some kind of weight loss shake for breakfast and lunch and then a ‘normal’ dinner for example. I wonder how these women get through the day!

But I used to be just like that.

Throughout my 20’s (from 19 to 27) I did all the fad diets that were available to me. In fact I spent 8 years being constantly hungry! I don’t think a day went by when I didn’t hear my stomach growl in dissatisfaction from being so empty. I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t losing weight. Similar to how the women I speak to today are feeling.

The trouble is it’s worse once you get into your 30’s and beyond. What MIGHT have worked in your 20’s will likely never work again past 30, and that’s mainly due to hormonal changes in the female body and also the years spent yo-yo dieting having damaged your metabolism and almost grinded it to a halt.

A lot of people see food simply as calories, and they believe that to lose weight we need to reduce/restrict calories and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

Some people WILL lose ‘weight’ if they restrict calories for a few weeks, BUT the ‘weight’ lost is mostly made up of water and muscle tissue – NOT body fat. Then once you start to eat ‘normally’ again you re-gain that weight plus some extra fat that probably wasn’t even there in the first place!

Why? Because your body thinks you were in a state of famine whilst you were restricting food and now that you are eating more food again it slows your metabolism and stores the now incoming food as body fat for when you next restrict food (think insulation for your precious bones).

We have what’s called a ‘set point’ weight, which is the weight at which your body likes to be at and keep you at. Calories restriction, which works against your metabolism, will eventually cause your body’s set point to rise and then it becomes difficult to lose weight on a deprivational diet, and once food is inevitably increased the weight comes back again, and so on, until you are left pulling your hair out years later wondering what went so wrong!

The answer? Don’t restrict your body of the food/energy it needs everyday in order to support metabolism and to function properly! Instead eat the right types of and combinations of foods that will keep your blood sugar levels balanced, support hormonal balance, gut health and metabolism.

Here is an example using myself. When I was trying to lose weight for the 3rd or 4th time in my later 20’s I restricted my calorie intake to no more than 1,200 calories per day. I was cranky, exhausted, hungry, and miserable every single day. When I had initially done this same regime earlier on in my 20’s it had worked for me and within a month I was looking and feeling slimmer (I now know that was water and muscle weight lost not body fat.) I then read about ‘BMR’, this is our Basal Metabolic Rate which basically means the amount of calories our body needs each day just to rest, or just to be able to ‘keep the lights on’ – it doesn’t include the energy needed to go out to work, walk around, think, make decisions, or do exercise. My own BMR at that time was about 1,480 calories.

So, if I needed an absolute minimum of 1,480 calories per day and I was having a maximum of 1,200 a day then is it any wonder I was feeling so awful; hungry, miserable, overcome with cravings and going on inevitable binges a couple times a week?! I was far from ‘at rest’ every day. I was walking to and from work, doing a 9 hour day in the office where I had to think all day long and make decisions, I was going to the gym after work and walking home again.

The point I am making here is that if my BMR was around 1,480 calories I should have been having about another 300-500 per day (depending on activity levels) to be able to support my metabolism and keep it ticking over nicely.

The result? Loss of water and muscle tissue and gain of body fat.

And that’s when I turned things around, and then took things a step further by studying and training to become a nutritional therapist and health coach so I could change my career and help other women just like me!

I used to be so fixated with the calorie number of foods that I became obsessed with that rather than the type of food the calories were coming from. This is an extremely unhealthy obsession as you’re not interested in the nutrition the food will provide for you but simply the number of calories it provides (we can eat plenty of fat-storing carbs all day and still be within our 1200 calorie allowance).

We need to look at food in terms of how our body will break it down – will it be used for energy, will it provide vitamins and minerals needed to optimise our health, or will it be stored as fat? THAT’S what matters. 

Let’s say someone’s BMR number is around 1400-1500 calories (the amount of calories they need at complete rest only) and they’re eating 2,500 calories per day, plus not exercising or moving much at all, then yes they are likely eating too many calories and will be gaining some weight. So they would need to be in some sort of calorie deficit to be able to start losing fat, but that deficit should likely be around 1800 calories per day NOT the common 1200 we are lead to believe is necessary for weight loss. Plus the source of those calories is all-important. Then once they reach their goal body size they can slowly start to increase calories slightly to a maintenance amount to maintain that ideal weight.

Calorie counting is outdated and it’s an ignorant way to view weight loss. It focuses on quantity and not quality of food, and this is absurd, seeing as certain foods cause the release of our fat storing hormones and others do not – regardless of calories.

calorie-countingDepriving our bodies of calories only leads to an eventual slowed metabolism which causes us to gain the weight back and then some, over and over, unless you get the right advice and finally change the way you eat for good.

Our bodies do not work like a maths equation. There is a LOT of other stuff going on within our bodies that must be taken into account when trying to lose weight.

The dieting industry views food simply as calories, and to lose weight we need to reduce our daily calories (to an alarmingly low number usually anything fro 800-1200 a day) and the weight will drop off. If only it were that simple, and if it were, would Britain’s diet industry be worth an estimated £2billion??

There is calorie counting, which looks only at the number of calories a food provides in relation to the restrictive number of calories allowed in one day, and there is what I call ‘smart eating’ which provides the body with the right amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as other nutrients, needed for optimum health – which in turn leads to ideal weight.

Counting calories fights against your body’s ‘set point’ weight whereas ‘smart eating’ lowers your set point weight. 

The quality of our calories is what matters for LONG TERM FAT loss. Improving the QUALITY not reducing the QUANTITY of our food results in reducing inflammation within the body (critical for fat loss), re-sensitizing our cells, and re-regulting our hormones and therefore lowering our set point (that ideal weight your body will want to keep you at).

Yo-yo dieting is something I want to see the back off for everyone. Losing weight shouldn’t be something that happens multiple times a year. Someone said to be the other day that “calorie counting works for me whenever I need to lose weight”, but this person is totally missing the point. If it really did work then they wouldn’t repeatedly need to lose weight. I am all about fat loss that is sustainable, and done in a healthy way that doesn’t damage your health and metabolism long term. If someone is overweight they should first try to identify the root cause(s) of their weight gain, address that, and embark on a way of eating that supports blood sugar balance, hormones, and gut health, and then metabolism and ideal weight is also supported. This is called sustainable FAT loss, no longer calling for yo-yo dieting throughout the year as the weight fluctuates due to calorie restriction and hormonal imbalances (insulin and cortisol) that leads to fat storage over and over again. Once the body’s systems and metabolism are supported through PERMANENT diet and lifestyle changes your ideal weight is maintained.

If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose excess weight then calorie restriction might work but for the short term ONLY and studies show that up to 70% of the non water weight lost from restricting calories comes from muscle. Calories counting slows down metabolism and takes away our muscle tissue – no thank you.  

Eating less and exercise more does not cause long term FAT loss. 

Eating in a way that provides your body with real, whole-food meals that nourish your body and do not cause blood sugar spikes (let’s call this ‘smart eating’) leverages the quality of your calories, which in turn takes care of the quantity of your calories (without the counting!).

Calorie counting doesn’t take a LOT of things into account that are KEY for weight/fat loss, ESPEICALLY for women, such as:

  • Insulin’s activity
  • Cortisol’s activity
  • Estrogen and progesterone levels
  • Grehlin and leptin’s activity – 2 other important hormones for fat storage/fat burning
  • Stress levels
  • Sleep quality
  • Adrenal health
  • Digestive health
  • Macronutrient ratios per meals/snacks (protein fat and carbs)
  • Activity levels and type of training
  • Food quality, nutrition provided by the food, and alcohol intake

Counting calories is not the way to go, what a woman really needs for sustainable weight loss isn’t calorie counting; it’s a diet that:

  • Addresses hormonal and metabolic problems (very likely for most women over the age of 35), thus making sure food is used for energy rather than being stored as fat.
  • Does not make you hungry, stressed, or miserable.
  • Encourages a holistic view of health, rather than nudging you towards unhealthy food choices just because they’re low in one “bad” category (e.g. carbs, fat, calories, etc.).
  • You can see yourself following for the long term.

For example, if you’re calorie counting but still consuming a diet that’s high in carbs not only will your weight loss be less efficient than it would on a low carb diet, but you will also find yourself going hungry. This is due to the decreased effect on satiety that is brought about by the consumption of carbohydrates (when compared to protein or fat).

Calories aren’t created equally. Your body will recognize and treat them differently. Your body doesn’t just digest calories…it digests the minerals, proteins, fats and vitamins in what you’re eating. And if you’re eating a 350 calorie diet dinner v’s a 600 calorie dinner of grilled chicken, sautéed veg, avocado, and brown rice…the second option is the better one for weight loss and management.

It’s exactly why you can eat a big plate of chips and a tub of ice cream with little trouble but can’t so easily eat a decent sized steak – because carbohydrates lead to a spike in blood sugar that makes the body want more of the same, whereas protein (steak) is satiating and stabalises blood sugar, keeping you fuller for longer.

In my opinion, it’s far better to reduce the amount of carbohydrate foods you eat at each meal and snack and focus on getting protein with every meal and snack and some healthy fats plus plenty of vegetables including dark green leafy ones and starchy ones like sweet potato, squash and beetroot for your carb sources over things like pasta, wraps, bread, big white potatoes and white rice, without too much concern for calories. If that doesn’t result in weight loss then you try taking another look at the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating e.g. are you having carb based snacks like lots of high sugar fruits, rice cakes, crisps or toast, rather than protein based snacks like nuts and seeds, boiled eggs, nut butter, plain full fat yogurt and berries? Then also look at your sleep, alcohol intake, stress levels, activity levels and type of exercise (too much cardio and not enough resistance/weights), thyroid health, and gut health. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

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So, switch the ratio on your plate, for example I love a curry as much as the next person but I am more than happy to swap half a plate of rice for more of the meat and plenty of vegetables and a handful of rice instead. Also pass on the naan bread for example, its just not necessary. The average British person would have the rice, the naan and the potato that’s mixed into their main or side dish, now that’s a LOT of unnecessary carbohydrate and the same goes for meals cooked at home, question the amount of carbs you’re having at meal times and as snacks. That is likely to be your downfall, NOT calories. I’m in no way telling anyone to cut out carbs or follow a super low-carb plan, that isn’t helpful either. I’m simply saying to focus more on the protein, healthy fats, vegetables and lower more nutritious fruit like berries. Then for your starchier carbs opt for root vegetables mainly and some whole grains like oats, buckwheat, quinoa (not actually a grain) and brown or wild rice. Start your day with the protein-rich breakfast such as eggs with bacon or smoked salmon, or a protein and ‘good’ fats smoothie with berries, which is really satisfying and keeps me going all the way through to lunch.

Understanding the effect of different nutrients (protein, carbs and fats and the smaller nutrients within them) on your body is the key, NOT calories.

In a nutshell, the more educated you are on what happens to the food you eat, the more likely you are to eat right. Forget about calories and instead be educated on what happens to the food you eat within your body, stored as fat or burned off. Counting calories does not take this into account and in my opinion anyone that tells someone to just cut calories and exercise more to lose weight needs to do their own research before dishing out advice.

The takeaway point here is that restricting calories is just dangerous, silly and unnecessary. Ideal weight is a natural side effect of being healthy, and this includes having a healthy functioning gut, balanced hormones, quality sleep, and a handle on stress. When we increase the quality of our food and exercise, we can heal our hormones, “unclog” our systems, lower our set points, and get our bodies to burn fat instead of storing it.

It’s the creation of new habits and making changes to your eating style and lifestyle that has the biggest impact and results in long-lasting success.

Before I go here are some quotes from some of the academic research into the effect of calorie restriction on the body in relation to weight.

“The researchers note that animals respond to food shortages by storing energy and gaining weight. Their model demonstrates that when food is in short supply – much like during a phase of dieting – an efficient animal will gain excess weight between periods of food shortage. Surprisingly,” says Prof. Higginson, “our model predicts that the average weight gain for dieters will actually be greater than those who never diet. This happens because non-dieters learn that the food supply is reliable so there is less need for the insurance of fat stores”.

“The best thing for weight loss is to take it steady. Our work suggests that eating only slightly less than you should, all the time, and doing physical exercise is much more likely to help you reach a healthy weight than going on low-calorie diets.” Prof. Andrew Higginson, University of Exeter

 

P.S. Book a Fat Loss Strategy Call with me today and let’s talk through your key struggles when it comes to your weight and health, and I can get you moving forward in the right direction, we’ll have 40 minutes together and its free. Click here to book your call slot in!

My Everyday Approach to Eating

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I often get asked by friends and clients, what my eating philosophies are and so I thought I’d write about it! You can read more about my own health and body weight story here, where I explain that I wasn’t always into nutrition and knew nothing about it until a certain point in my life.

 

I always like my clients to know that I am the last person to judge them on what may less ideal eating and lifestyle habits, I started from somewhere and slowly swapped my bad habits for good ones, ones that worked with my body, health and mind, not against.

 

Here are my approaches and why:

 

Home Cooked and Prepped

I love to cook and prepare my meals and snacks at home as much as possible and I make this a priority. I seldom leave the house without a lunchbox of food in my bag and mini Tupperware boxes of nuts and seeds, hummus and carrots, or a couple of boiled eggs. I love to eat out occasionally and if I’m in a major rush and haven’t managed to prepare the night before then I’ll head to somewhere like Pret for one of their super bowls (read my review of the Pret menu here).

 

Sugar is minimal

There are so many benefits of a low refined sugar lifestyle and energy, skin health and weight control are top of my list! I was addicted to sugar in my late teens and early 20’s. At uni from aged 18 I lived on chocolate bars, biscuits, Mr Kipling cherry bakewells, sugary drinks, white bread and pasta! I gained 3 stone, had a live-in headache, horrible digestive issues, and depression. This carried through until I was 24 when I finally decided that my symptoms might be linked to my diet. Reducing and then finally quitting sugar was the best thing I have ever done. Hello masses of energy, no more headaches, and 3 stone in weight lost with minimal effort other than quitting sugar! Sugar is corrosive and irritates our gut lining, plays havoc with our skin and energy levels leading to fatigue and headaches, and it’s a killer when it comes to fat gain, especially around the middle! Read my post here for tips to help you quit and my ultimate sugar alternatives guide here.

 

Love healthy fats

Fat is our friend and sugar is not! The things we’ve all been brainwashed into believing about fat from food should (and do) refer to sugar instead. I’ve said and practiced this approach for years and I am sure its one of the reasons my hair and nails grow at a speed I struggle to keep up with! Read my blog here about the benefits of healthy fats and where you can find them in the diet.

 

Powered up with Protein

Protein is essential for health and for balanced blood sugar levels, brain function, and body composition. I include a good quality protein source with every meal and snack, this is something I’ve been doing for a long time and has become an automatic habit now. Things like nuts, seeds, nut butter, boiled egg, beans and pulses, fish, chicken, turkey, beef, and protein powder (Pulsin and Sunwarrior are my favourites).

 

All the colours

Everyday I eat a rainbow of deep and brightly coloured vegetables and berries. The richer the colour the more nutrients and antioxidants they contain. Think squashes, sweet potato, courgette, broccoli, spinach, chard, kale, red cabbage, beetroot, tomatoes, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries etc.
Eat a rainbow

 

Majority Gluten Free

Gluten makes me feel lethargic and sluggish. I’ve tried and tested it many times over the years and always. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity aren’t just stomach bloating and pain; it can be things like headaches, muscle pain, and fatigue as well. If you don’t experience any negative symptoms when you eat gluten, I still recommend that you don’t rely to heavily on it as your carbohydrate source and you alternate your grains – using things like brown rice pasta or buckwheat pasta, which are naturally gluten free, brown rice, quinoa, and buckwheat flour. Too much gluten can be corrosive to the lining of our gut.

 

Dairy Free

I’ve always included dairy in my diet and I swear by Yeo Valley organic full fat plain yogurt for a snack. But over the last couple of years I’ve noticed that dairy makes me very bloated. I first noticed it when I switched from using whey (comes from cow’s milk) protein to pea protein and my daily morning bloat totally stopped. I tried using whey again one day and looked 6 months pregnant within an hour. I then noticed the same was true for my yogurt. So now I cute dairy out and feel much better for it. I stopped drinking cow’s milk many years ago anyway. I have the occasional bit of cheese but I feel it when I do which always serves as a reminder of why I don’t eat dairy. If you’re not intolerant to dairy, I’d just recommend keeping it occasional and opting for organic, rather than relying on milk, cheese and yogurt everyday. In the western world we eat far too much dairy and we’re the only mammals that eats the milk of another mammal, and cow’s milk contains a lot of growth hormones. Sheep and goats milk can be easier to digest for a lot of people so vary your types of cheeses.

 

Consistency not perfection

It’s not about being perfect 100% of the time. We have to allow for times when we want to indulge, like birthday meals out, holidays and weddings etc., and also for times when we are not in control of what we can eat. Too many of us are striving for perfection and if we cant get it we can feel like giving up altogether. But NO this isn’t how it should be! I am consistent not prefect. This means that about 80% (but usually 90%) of the time I stick to whole real foods, no refined sugar, and alcohol, and 10-20% of the time I relax and enjoy what I might consider to be a treat like some homemade chocolate brownies or energy balls (made with whole ingredients and natural sugars). I don’t eat processed foods or refined sugar, but I do enjoy sharing the occasional bag of balsamic vinegar flavor Kettle Chips!

 

Alcohol is occasional

I lot of clients ask me about this! I’ve never loved alcohol and only really ever drank it to get drunk! I went through my late teens and 20’s drinking socially but never really enjoyed the taste of alcohol (unless it came in the form of sugary cocktails). I never understood the fascination with wine; red or white. When I do have the occasional drink these days it’s a long refreshing glass of vodka with soda water and fresh lime. Into my 30’s I still enjoyed feeling tipsy on a night out, but then I realized it only left me feeling horrible the next day and didn’t serve me positively in any way, quite the opposite. Now I might use a glass of bubbly to toast to something, have one sip and then it pass it to someone else. I realized I was drinking alcohol to please others, to be polite when out at dinner with a friend who wanted to share a bottle of wine or prosecco, I felt obliged. Now I feel a sense of liberation when I simply say no thank you, and no explanation is needed! If you enjoy alcohol then I recommend keeping it minimal, and seeing it as an indulgence rather than the norm. Perhaps some of the drinks you have are just habit rather than because you actually want to? Or maybe YOU feel obliged sometimes like I did? Stick to good quality dry red wine (as it comes with some health benefits in moderation!) or clear spirits like vodka or gin, with soda water and fresh lime.

Book a free Weight Loss Strategy call with me and we can talk about your biggest challenges when it comes to your diet and lifestyle, and I can help you move forward in a better direction. Click here to book your slot!

Trying to lose weight? Change your approach with these nourishing principles

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Every Body is Different – Calories v’s Nutrients

The world of weight loss can be a confusing and overwhelming place; with so many different diets all claiming to be the new best approach. The problem is that every body is different and the biological needs of one person wont be the same as the another, and that needs to be taken into account when embarking on any weight loss plan. Many people can got through their adult life following diet after diet and getting no where, or losing some weight but then gaining it back again when they return to ‘normal’ eating, because lets face it, most of these ‘diets’ are difficult (and no fun!) to follow long term. When it comes to diets and calorie restriction many people could be wreaking havoc on their thyroid and adrenal gland health. We need to provide the body with the right environment for it to start burning fat.

Here are 3 principles that I hope will change your approach to weight loss.

1) Switch the focus to nourishment rather than calories

Focus on food that nourishes your body, giving it what it needs to thrive, burn fat and balance your energy and mood. Huge improvements in health and wellbeing can be seen from switching the focus over to nourishment from real whole foods, containing good fats, quality protein, and plenty of vegetables, and good quality carbohydrates, rather than counting calories. This shift will leave you feeling more satisfied, and help you to think more clearly and be more productive, because our brain needs to be nourished. You will probably end up eating more calories than you would think you should or ever have before, but once you see the old stubborn fat coming off and you start to feel great, and your cravings diminish, you will see that calorie counting wasn’t the key after all. For some people, restricting calories does indeed lead to weight loss, but this isn’t usually true fat loss, more water and muscle, and the loss is almost always unsustainable unless and not to mention unhealthy, the weight usually piles back on with a vengeance. Calorie restriction usually signals to our body that we are in some state of famine or distress and our bodies are very cleverly designed to deal with this.

Let me explain more – If we are highly stressed, or we are simply just under eating, the body goes into fat preservation mode. It does this to protect you and help you, only when we are desperately trying to lose weight/body fat we don’t really appreciate this, and unknowingly we are causing this to happen. It’s usually at this point that we blame ourselves and conclude that we’re not working hard enough i.e. we’re not restricting calories enough and exercising hard enough – we either give up or we start pounding the pavements more often and for longer, and eating less. This just makes the situation a whole lot worse, not to mention how bad it feels! The key is to provide the body with the right nutrition for it to feel safe and not perceive famine or stress, which just knocks hormones out of balance and triggering your body to hold onto your fat stores.

2) Understand how your body reacts to different foods, irrespective of their calorie content

For example, when you eat a bowl of Crunchy Nut Corn Flakes or a can of Fanta, the body absorbs the sugars quickly which raises the level of sugar in our blood stream to above its ideal level (which is about 1 tsp at any one time). This calls upon the hormone insulin to move the excess sugar out of the blood stream. Insulin looks to our body’s cells when moving the sugar, and it heads mostly our fat cells around our middle, insulin has an important job to do but it is a fat storing hormone. This scenario will increases inflammation in the body, raises triglycerides (fat in your blood), and blocks the appetite controlling hormone leptin. Leptin is a hormone that tells the brain when we are satisfied i.e. that we’ve eaten enough food. If the brain can’t receive this message then the body will most likely continue to feel hungry and we will continue to eat. So, can you see how calories have no relevance here? If this scenario of high sugar food choices is then repeated many times throughout the day, it will lead to weight gain (and stubborn midriff fat stores) and most likely lead to disease, seeing as inflammation, and fat in the blood will continue to rise, and leptin will continue to be blocked.

3) Make a shift away from the wrong carbs, but understand why

Carbs come in all shapes and sizes. The important thing to know is which carbs to avoid and which ones to include. The majority of people today are eating a low fat and carb heavy diet, and whilst they think they might be doing the right thing (according to mainstream media), they’re not. The government ‘Eatwell Plate’ is extremely out of date and incorrect, with its suggestion to keep fats low and have a third of our plate made up of bread, pasta, rice, potatoes, or other starchy food. This will only increase the scenario mentioned in point 1 above (fat storage!). The BANT wellness plate is much more up to date and supported by up to date research, you have a look at this here. It suggests that a quarter of our plate should be made up of whole grains and root vegetables, a quarter should be leafy green vegetables, a quarter of other veg, and a quarter of it protein making fish, poultry and eggs your principal sources of protein. Most people who eat a diet low in fat and high in carbohydrates (as per the government Eatwell plate) may feel like they’re never really full or satisfied long after eating, this is probably because leptin is having trouble getting through to the brain (see above). Instead of bread, white rice, white potatoes and pasta use whole grains like rye, quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, and oats, use root veg like sweet potato and beetroot, plenty of vegetables with lots of dark green leafy stuff, and use low sugar fruits like berries, apples and pears. These types of carbohydrate foods do not spike blood sugar levels in the way that starchy and refined carbs do, plus they offer a whole heap of vitamins and minerals that we so desperately need on a daily basis. Snack on nuts and seeds, hummus, avocado, cottage cheese, rather than carb heavy snacks like bread, cakes, biscuits and muffins etc.

If we stop focusing on calories and we focus on eating whole, real foods that nourish the body we are much more likely to be and feel healthy and keep our weight under control. The body has an in-built system that controls our appetite but by eating refined foods high in sugar, and keep fats low, we are messing with this system. Some foods that are highest in fat and calories are the most nourishing of foods that work WITH our system not against it, supporting our metabolism, rather than slowing it. These foods are much more likely to promote weight loss and decrease our risk of heart disease and diabetes, such as avocados, which is a fantastic example.

So, if you have trouble with weight around the middle then take a look at your approach to your diet, are you counting calories rather than nourishment? Is your diet high in sugar and carbs and low in fats? Is it high in hidden sugars coming from refined carbs like wraps or white bread, sauces in jars or packets, regular cereals we see advertised on TV? Check labels to look for the ‘of which sugars’ content and know that 1 teaspoon of sugar equates to about 4.4g of sugar, so if the label tells you there is 16g of sugar in the portion of that food you’ll eat then that’s a out 4 teaspoons in one go, that’s only going to spike your blood sugar and call upon insulin. ‘Low fat’ usually means high sugar/high insulin spike, so be aware! Keeping insulin at bay, and supporting the body’s natural hormonal system is a whole lot more effective than any calorie counting.

I hope you found this useful and it helps to steer you in the right direction :-)

Counting Calories, a Flawed Weight Loss Concept

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So many of us use restrictive diets and calorie counting in a bid to lose weight. The trouble is this concept is seriously flawed, and I really don’t like it. For years we’ve been brainwashed with warped ideas as to how best to lose weight, leaving us all confused and overwhelmed by all the information and claims. Many of us believe that it’s simply a matter of calories in versus calories out, oh, and willpower.

Calories are not equal. A diet Coke can mean the same in terms of calories on a calorie counting diet, but the nutrition result (and burden on the liver) is very different, not to mention the effect on our fat stores.

When we simply count calories we are not usually counting nutrition and ensuring we’re giving our body the nutrients it needs to run efficiently. The idea that “a calorie is a calorie” is false because your body does not metabolise (break down and use) all calories in the same way. The 3 macronutrients, protein, fat and carbohydrates are all processed very differently in the body. Fat is essential for our bodies to function, and it is also the macronutrient highest in calories (9 calories per g compared to 4 calories per g for the other 2 macronutrients). Fat supports our metabolism and actually helps us to burn fat (lose weight) but it’s the first of the macronutrients to be reduced or cut out of the diet when counting calories.

For this reason diets that focus on counting calories are usually high in carbohydrates and low in fat. If it were all about calories, then yes fat would need to eliminated from the diet, but it isn’t about counting calories! Our bodies metabolism isn’t about calculating numbers, our bodies are much more complex than that and we need to support our underlying biochemistry and the way our bodies work instead of trying to oversimplify them and assume they will work better if we are restrictive.

The powerful influence of big food companies and advertising

Big food companies, for example those who manufacture sugar-laden foods and drinks, want us to believe it’s all about calories and that their low calorie products are the best choice in order to keep calories down and lose weight. But this just isn’t how our bodies work.

Your body knows the difference between 300 calories of refined sugar and the 300 calories from an avocado and they are both metabolised very differently. One will quickly raise your blood sugar level leading to insulin production and probably fat storage whilst the other will provide many nutrients and essential healthy fats that support your metabolism to burn fat.

Counting calories leaves us feeling deprived, dissatisfied and hungry. Any time you are hungry, your metabolism is already slowing down in attempt to conserve energy until you properly fuel it again. When you starve it, your body works against you and in turn you feel tired, irritable, with reduced concentration. This is our built-in survival mechanism that slows our body down to cope with the energy from food that it isn’t getting. Not only do we feel rubbish, we also don’t lose the weight, which is usually the only reason we are restricting food and calories in the first place. So not only is it a flawed concept, its madness! Calorie counting harms our metabolism and sets us up for yo-yo weight loss and gain for many years.

How our metabolism is working is what matters when it comes to losing fat and metabolism isn’t about calories. For our metabolism to be working well we need to get our hormones that regulate our appetite and metabolism into balance. I’m talking about the hormone insulin, which is also known as the “fat-storing” hormone (although it does have an important job to do). Any time sugar is detected in your blood stream, your pancreas secretes insulin to take the sugar to your cells where it’s used as energy, but any excess sugar is stored in the fat cells, as fat.

The problem is mass-media and big money food companies want to keep this message under wraps because they will lose out, did you know that if we removed all the products in the supermarket that contain sugar, including hidden sugar, there would be about 20% of produce left on the shelves?! Incredible, we need to take control of our food choices and not allow these big companies to dictate it. When high-fat foods were blamed for making us overweight all those years ago, manufacturers fell over each other to make and sell low-fat products. But they had to add sugar to most of our food to make them taste good, as without the fat they weren’t very palatable.

So, the take home message here is that carbohydrates are what cause the insulin response in our body, whereas fat does not cause any at all. So carbs make us fat, NOT fat.

One trick for you though is, when you eat carbohydrate foods with fat or protein, the release of sugar into the blood stream in much slower and so insulin is left with less sugar to be stored as fat. Fat contains more calories than carbs (9 cals per g), so in the calorie counting world this approach wouldn’t work. I hope now you can see why calorie counting is the wrong approach. Obviously we don’t want to be taking in thousands of calories per day way above our energy needs, but I’m speaking generally. Low calorie, low fat, high carbohydrate diets may keep your calories down, but it doesn’t support weight (fat) loss or health.

So what can you do?

So, carbohydrates and other sugar foods cause a rise of sugar in the blood, so it makes sense to keep sugar and refined carbs (the white and processed stuff) and protein, healthy fats and nutrient-dense carbs (veggies, whole grains, some low sugar fruit) high. Getting your carbohydrates from natural forms with unprocessed sugar, like vegetables and low sugar fruits means the fibre contained in them slows down the assimilation of the sugar into the blood stream, so they don’t spike your blood sugars in the same damaging way that a slice of bread or pasta will.

Not only will eating this way help you lose fat, but it will help you to feel great with balanced energy levels and less cravings. Feed your body the right (still very tasty if not moreso!) fuel and cravings will soon disappear, leaving you in control.

You may overload on calories in one day but still be undernourished and this is because all calories are in no way equal. For example lets say you worked out that you need to eat no more that 1,200 calories each day to lose a certain amount of weight, but you weren’t too clued up on the sorts of foods you should be eating, just as long as you took in under 1,200 then its ok. In this scenario you could eat carbs and sugar based food pretty much at every meal and stay within your calorie allowance. Another person may decide they will take in 2,200 calories a day and eat foods rich in good quality protein, healthy fats and nutrient dense carbs from vegetables and whole grains. This person will be ensuring they eat little sugar or refined carbs if any. Guess who loses weight and keeps it off…..AND feels great in the process? The person consuming 2,200 calories daily. So, please know that calories are not the whole story, if any of it! To a degree calories can help, for example, to track and ensure you don’t go over ridiculous amount daily e.g. 3,000 calories, but other than that counting calories is pretty much pointless and gets you no where, apart from miserable and frustrated! Fuel is the most important thing, not calories. We don’t have a Bunsen burner in our stomachs that burns our food once it’s taken in, food is broken down into particles which the body uses in different ways to provide us with energy and nutrients.

We are all different with our own unique biochemistry, and whilst this approach benefits most people its still important to take that into account. If you would like advice on the right types of foods you should be eating or an individualised eating plan then contact me today to get you on the road to fat burning! :-)

Fad Diets & Weight Loss

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Restrictive diets that are low in calories and low in fat don’t work long term and they can become an unhealthy obsession. Any eating plan, which severely limits food intake, will have short-term weight loss results, but this isn’t fat loss, it’s actually muscle and water loss. We need muscle in order to burn fat so by losing muscle mass on a restrictive diet we can’t burn fat properly and we slow our metabolism down. When you give your body less calories your metabolic rate starts to slow down to adjust to the small amount of energy it is being given, this is a survival mechanism that dates back to our caveman days when we were genuinely starving and genuinely needed a slower metabolism in order to survive.

Many people believe that these low calorie, low fat diets work because they do see results quickly, but as I said these results can’t be maintained and the results are false because true weight loss is to lose fat, not water or muscle.

Your weight on the scales is just a number!

So many of us are fixated by what we weigh on a set of scales or what our BMI is, but this is a false measurement, because weight and BMI can increase with more resistance exercise, as we increase our muscle mass and decrease our fat mass. And this is what really matters – a higher muscle mass to fat mass, that’s the true measure of success, and its known as our body composition. This cannot be measured on a (regular) set of scales, and that’s why we need to ditch the scales and stop obsessing over how much we weigh! Other best measures are how your clothes fit, and your waist to hip ratio. Eating a natural whole food diet with good amounts of lean protein, essential fats, and plenty of vegetables, with minimal refined carbohydrates and sugar is the best way to lose fat, keep it off and stay healthy.

If you have any questions or would like to know more about the nutritional therapy packages I offer to help you lose fat and feel great then drop me a line at francesca@flnutrition.co.uk today, I’d love to hear from you :-)

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