Should we be counting calories?

Calorie counting and tracking is a great way of learning about calories and macronutrient content of food and is a great starting point for a lifestyle change. It’s not something that we should be aiming to do forever and it is essential to learn healthy habits (eating slowly and mindfully and choosing healthy options) and focus on hunger and satiety cues which can be lost in the modern world of very tasty and calorie dense foods.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have to totally remove our favourite foods or drinks and can more easily include them in moderation within a balanced diet when tracking calories.

However, this doesn’t mean that we have to totally remove our favourite foods or drinks and can more easily include them in moderation within a balanced diet when tracking calories.

Even though these foods may not be as healthy, it is unrealistic to remove them entirely and by keeping them in, in moderation, we are more likely to adhere to the lifestyle change of a healthy diet in the longer term and therefore lose fat and keep it off.

If not counting calories, it can be much easier to think that you have ‘wrecked’ your diet by having a biscuit and thinking, “I’ll start again tomorrow” whereas when tracking you can incorporate these things in occasionally without a problem.

Should we be focused on what we are eating, rather than how many calories we’re eating?

For pure fat loss then calories are always going to be the most important factor but food quality a very close second. There are many documented cases of people losing significant amounts of fat on junk food diets by controlling calories but this is far from the best way of doing it.

To be optimal, calories should be controlled and we should be eating a wide variety of single-ingredient food with plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains and protein with very occasional treats.

Unfortunately, it is possible to gain body fat while eating purely ‘clean’ foods so calories have to be taken account of in some way regardless of food choice.

When talking about body fat, diet is always going to be the biggest factor but it is undeniable that we are so much more sedentary then we were previously. On top of the this, the high stress, busy lifestyles of the modern world alongside the highly marketed calorie dense foods that are so readily available, means that it is all too easy to overeat on calories.

Overall, it is a combination of both and exercise is essential for health but even if exercise isn’t possible for whatever reason, fat loss can be achieved through diet alone.

Dr Emil Hodzovic
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