Just a little ‘calories’ rant…

I’m frustrated by the number of times I hear people given an X number of calories diet. There’s a particular number (which I won’t mention but a lot of you probably already know) that everyone seems to get put on when they are on a diet. So tell me, how can one set calorie amount be appropriate for everyone? It’s not.

Prescribing set calories, no matter what the amount is, also takes away the ability for the individual to recognise their own hunger and fullness signals, and to notice their natural day-to-day variances in the amount of food they need.

Limiting calories may also lead to limited nutrients, either through a simple decrease in the amount of food eaten, or a preference for manufactured low calorie but low nutrient foods (no fat, no sugar yoghurt I’m looking at you!).

It’s harder to exercise at a good intensity when you’re not fuelling your body. It’s hard for your body to build muscle mass when it doesn’t have the energy required. It’s hard for your brain to function when it doesn’t have an adequate supply of glucose.

It’s also not maintainable. Counting calories is a lot of work. It’s not enjoyable. It’s not sustainable. It doesn’t take the individual’s mental, emotional, and social health into account. And it can lead to a lot of guilt when someone goes over their calorie ‘allowance.’

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Whilst the idea of calories in versus calories out sounds good in theory and make work for weight loss initially, as most of you would already know, 95% of dieters re-gain the weight they lost, plus more. It’s not just about getting someone to lose weight by reducing calories. If it was, then every person who’s been on a calorie restricted diet would have lost weight and kept it off. There are so many other factors that come into play, achieving and maintaining a healthy and happy body weight for the individual is a part of that, but that may differ to the ‘socially accepted’ body weight.

If you do choose to calorie count, don’t set the limit based on this ‘magical’ weight loss number. For those who are feeling really confused about how many calories their body needs over a day/week, speak to a body and food positive dietitian, they can help you develop a great understanding of your body’s needs without partaking in calorie counting.

*For some clinical or athletic populations, greater awareness of caloric intake may be needed and this can be done with the support of a dietitian.

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5 thoughts on “Just a little ‘calories’ rant…

  1. Amy says:

    Great article/rant! I’m curious, what’s your opninion on “serving sizes”? In terms of not counting calories? I think that’s where my calorie counting woes really come into play. If I don’t count the calories, how do I know if I’m having the right serving size? It might be waaaay too much. You know, all that “portion distortion” stuff…

    • jodieahp says:

      Hey Amy,

      Great question! I think it’s good to have some awareness about what an appropriate serving size is but ultimately using your own bodies hunger and fullness signals, including satiety, is what I would encourage. After all, the serving size that is right for me is different to the serving size that is right for my husband and that would be different to the serving size that is right for you and so on.

      When considering people with a background of disordered eating or eating disorders, guidelines around serving sizes may be helpful or unhelpful. They can be helpful in guiding people to eat the appropriate portions when they’ve previously been eating too little or too much, and may also not be responsive to their body’s hunger/fullness signals. However I would very highly recommend these serving sizes are determined by a dietitian as they can work with you individually to set a serving size that will suit your needs and recovery.

      On the flip side, serving sizes can be used in a similar way to calorie counting which does not honour what your body truly needs day to day and is very much an ED behaviour.

      Finally, be aware that serving sizes listed on the back of the product box are often manipulated to meet marketing requirements, so can be fairly useless.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you’ve got any other questions 🙂

      • Amy says:

        Thanks! It does yes, unfortunately I would use serving sizes just as I would calories, so it’s best for me to steer clear of both tbh. Pity that means a heck of a lot of anxiety, eh?!

      • jodieahp says:

        Yep. Anxiety isn’t pleasant but in this case it’s likely a good thing as anxiety means you are challenging behaviours which are unhelpful for you.

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