Oh the joy of Sunday radio 4 listening. There’s Desert Island Discs, some whacky quiz-type show, and then, the very wonderful Food Programme. I’ve listened to this show for years and it retains my interest because the subjects covered are so varied and extremely current.
This weeks show was on the notion of calorie counting – arrgghhhhhh! It was so wonderful to hear some well-qualified experts in the field of nutrition and dietary science making it unequivocally clear that calorie counting as a guide to weight loss is a waste of time.
I won’t go in to the scientific details, you can get those by listening again on the iplayer, but the point is well made that all calories are not equal. I have been trying to convince dedicated yo-yo dieters for years that they have to stop being guided by the calorie content of foods. The old adage of ‘energy in, energy out’ as an equation for weight loss is just not true. 100 calories (a measure of energy) from a piece of cake is absolutely not going to have the same effect on the body as 100 calories of carrots or a 100 calorie piece of steak.
What I didn’t know is that Weight Watchers this year dropped their calorie counting system all together in favour of a colour-coded scheme – hallelujah! The whole concept of calorie counting and how many calories are required is seriously flawed. How can a sedentary woman of 5’2″ with very little muscle tone need the same calorific intake as a woman of 5’10” who is fit and active with a lot of muscle – bonkers!
The resounding message from the programme, which I agree with wholeheartedly, was this: there’s no need to worry about calories if you are making your own food from fresh and minimally processed foods; calorie counting drives people to eat the wrong foods, choosing calorie content over nutritional benefit e.g. nuts are super healthy but a high calorie food. Eat real food and you never need think about calories ever again.
If you’re struggling with this concept, think of it like this – our bodies need a fairly constant supply of nutrients to maintain all the very many complex functions in the body. Eating real food that provides the body with these nutrients, your body will use, not store the food you eat. Processed foods, comprising ingredients that our bodies don’t recognise and cannot use i.e. foods that have been messed around with, cannot be used by the body so will be stored instead, as fat.