Traditional dieting has always centred on counting calories and ensuring that there is a deficit between the energy you take in and the energy you expend. It is true that in order to lose weight is essential that the calories burned are more than the ones consumed. Healthy and long lasting results are best achieved by combining a calorie controlled diet with exercise.
Forget about eliminating food groups and reduce calories dramatically. That approach can’t be sustained and can lead to weakness, dizziness, trouble sleeping, weak immune system and binge eating problems.
For a lot of people, loosing weight is about calories alone and seeing food as nourishment is often forgotten. A chocolate bar might provide the same 250 calories than a portion of chicken breast and vegetables, but both foods do completely different things to our bodies.
Do you experience any of the following?
- constant hunger despite all the snacks and meals you had throughout the day?
- sugar cravings
- indigestion and bloating
- mood swings
- low sex drive
- lack of energy
Have you ever thought that you might be nutritionally starved? This means your body is starved of nutrients, which is essentially what we need in order to function optimally. Poor food choices, including refined sugar, take aways, candy, excess alcohol and so on can lead to nutritional deficiencies.
The issue with focusing on numbers only (calories in versus calories out) is that it’s too narrow in how it views food. Nutrients are broken down in the body in different ways, so it’s not enough to just count the calorie content of food; you have to look at the nutritional value as well. The body expends the most energy when breaking down protein. It takes around 20-30% of the calorie content to be digested. Carbohydrates come next at 5-10%, then fat at 0-3%. Applying this to a real world example, it’s therefore better to eat 100kcal of chicken breast (high in protein) than it would be to eat a 100kcal bag of crisps (high in fat). The end calorie yield is higher for the fatty option, even though the foods both contain the same amount of energy. Not to mention that a diet high in protein will keep you fuller for longer minimising sugar cravings and providing sustained energy throughout the day.
So what does this mean for you? Well, don’t panic. You don’t need a mathematical equation to work out what to eat for lunch! A good rule of thumb is to plan a well balanced meal that includes protein, complex carbs, vegetables and some healthy fats.
If you’re trying to lose weight then you still need to plan out a calorie deficit, but there’s no need to go hungry. Think about the nutritional value of food and keep your portion under control as too much healthy food can also add those calories up!
If you struggle with your protein intake, consider supplementing your diet with a good quality protein shake. Not only these are great on the go, but you can also create delicious and nutritious smoothies adding your favourite fruit and vegetables for a well balanced meal.
Planning your calorie intake with the goal of losing weight therefore requires much more thought than simply adding up numbers. You need to consider the nutritional value of what you’re eating and the effect that this will have on your body. By doing this you’ll not only manage your calorie intake more efficiently, but you’ll ensure that you’re eating a satisfying meal which won’t leave you longing for the biscuit tin or staving off hunger pangs. Remember, losing weight doesn’t mean you have to lose your mind! Good, nutritionally dense food and, of course, regular exercise are all you need to achieve the body you desire.