Back to Practitioner Blogs

Do I need to count calories to lose weight?

Do I need to count calories to lose weight?

by Ms Josephine J Mollica 12/02/2019

Many believe it’s necessary to count calories to achieve weight loss. They may have decided that they “need to have 500 calories for each meal” or are “trying to stick to 1200 calories each day.” The may also follow an exact daily diet plan.

A healthy, daily diet (with foods from each of the food groups) should include:

  • 5 serves of vegetables
  • About 6 serves of grains
  • About 5 serves of meat, dairy, nuts, legumes
  • 3 serves of fruit
  • A small treat

Choices within each food group are endless. When I explain to clients, that this is the amount of food their body needs, they usually gasp and reply “That’s a lot of food!”. Their approach is to “cut back on calories” in order to lose weight.

But what happens when we use calories to guide us:

  • We want our bodies to adhere to a predefined amount of calories for each meal

  • We expect that an imposed number of calories (which is usually a fraction of what we require), will make us feel full.

For this type of diet plan to work, it requires two underlying assumptions:

  • There are no grades of hunger i.e. we feel equally hungry with every meal and therefore require the same amount of calories every day.

  • This predetermined amount of calories for each meal will always be equally satisfying and filling.

Let’s think for a moment whether these assumptions sound plausible.

First, we are not robots and can't be pre-programmed to be satisfied with a fixed amount of calories day in day out. To eat a predetermined amount of calories would mean over eating when we are less hungry and vice versa.

Second, not all calories are equally filling. There are a number of factors that impact on the amount of food we eat. One jumbo egg and 4 Cruskits contain 100 calories. Which one would keep you feeling fuller for longer? The egg, right? The more a food needs to be chewed, the more likely it is to keep us feeling full for longer.

Compare a large apple with a 250ml Tetra Pak of juice. Both have 100 calories, yet the apple provides a greater feeling of fullness. Our body is ‘blind’ to liquid calories, so the juice is likely to be forgotten in a matter of minutes and leave us wanting to eat more. The texture of a food can also affect the amount we eat. What would be more filling – an average sized cooked potato or a single 20g packet of Multipack Potato Chips? And again, both contain 100 calories. These examples show that we simply can’t rely on calories to regulate our eating.

The amount of calories does not equate to fullness. Our body does not ask for food if it is not hungry. Our body does not ask for food if it is full. We eat according to appetite and we stop according to fullness. Not because of calories.

For more help with ditching calorie counting and enjoying natural eating, contact Eatwiser.

To learn more about wellbeing and our latest tips to keep you healthy and happy follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. And for any outstanding questions, please contact our Customer Care team at info@whitecoat.com.au.