Here's Why Counting Calories Doesn't Cut It

Fake expertise, outdated or incorrect science, false and misleading information…

Whatever you want to call it...

There are certain ‘NUTRITION MYTHS’ I hear all the time.

"It’s all about CALORIES IN Vs. CALORIES OUT".

"If it FITS YOUR MACROS”. 

Big offenders.

 
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While you might stick to these principles and enjoy them, I still encourage you to read the rest of this blog and to understand why as a Clinical Nutritionist I don't agree with these methods at all. 

First of all, I understand that eating whatever you want and balancing this out with enough exercise to kind of 'cancel it out' is an attractive concept.

Even better than this... How about eating a healthy balanced diet within your macronutrient range and exercising.

Surely that’s the best way to do it.

Nutrition made easy…

Right, Precision Nutrition? ;)

 

As a qualified Nutritional Medicine Practitioner

I couldn't agree less. 


You see I’m not interested in a tally system that has you (consciously or not) categorise food as ‘good or bad’.

 

No matter what way you swing it.. When you eat to a macronutrient goal you automatically place foods into can and cannot have categories every day... Very akin to good and bad if you ask me. 

 

Healthy or not, you plan meals and foods in advance that will fit into your Macros.

You feel that sense of deflation when you realise something you really really want doesn’t fit into your daily allowance.

Sometimes you think f*ck it. You eat it all anyway and you feel worse for doing so.

You take pride in “smashing your macros”.

(Trust me I know this all too well, having been there myself). 


As a Clinical Nutritionist, I have come to learn, understand and ultimately advocate that food is so much BIGGER and more important than its macronutrient profile.

 

To explain this further, let's talk about a slightly a different topic...

Food (and typically lifestyle factors combined) can cause obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease and high blood pressure. 

Along with a myriad of other problems e.g. contributing to depression and anxiety, thyroid conditions and hormonal imbalances, suppressed immune function, fatigue etc. 

 

This is slightly depressing, however, the plus side to all of this is that the reverse is also true.

 

Food can also help prevent and eliminate disease.

 

In my clinical setting, I see people who’ve had digestive symptoms and disorders for years. 

People who have diabetes or high cholesterol, people who’re struggling with weight gain, loss or maintenance.

Couples who are struggling to fall pregnant or have had one or multiple miscarriages.

Women with Endometriosis and PCOS.

People who push their bodies to the absolute limit in sports settings.

People with depression and anxiety. 

People who can't sleep or are stressed.

 

Can you imagine if I said to any one of these people:

“It’s all about calories in vs. calories out”.

 

It’s simply not enough, it’s a reductionist statement and principle and would be negligent advice in my setting.

 

Nutritional Medicine requires a thorough understanding of the nutrients required for all of the individual biochemical processes in the body.

Processes such as growth and development, hormone synthesis, energy production, cell and tissue repair, immune function and detoxification.

When you understand how to recognise deficiencies and have studied how to support the body's processes by using therapeutic doses of vital nutrients needed for these processes to function well, through food and supplementation... 

 

You also understand that calories in vs. calories out just doesn’t cut it.   

 

For example, if I am treating a female client who has a hormone imbalance and menstrual irregularities - I’m certainly not going to tell her to count (and likely restrict) her carbohydrate intake.

I am going to thoroughly educate this client on the importance of eating healthy well-balanced meals, with a focus on removing processed food.

This education will include information on how to get the right ‘healthy’ fats and carbohydrates in, magnesium and Vitamin B rich foods. I will likely prescribe supplements and closely monitor progress over a three month period. Further testing may be required.

 

Can you see how weighing and measuring her food is not going to help her?

 

I understand that this principle, of balancing calories in with calories out, is often applied to sports performance and weight loss.

However, even then it doesn’t begin to touch the sides of what we know about nutrition, let alone what we know about nutritional medicine and its role in achieving optimal health.

 

For athletes and individuals who train at a semi-professional (and above) level, knowledge around individual macronutrient requirements and energy expenditure during training and on game/event/race days is important.

 

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However, it shouldn’t be a gyms cooking cutter approach to Nutrition for everyone who walks through their door. 

 

If you go to a gym where it is - it might be time to start considering where their knowledge is coming from and what you’ll really get out of counting calories from a health education and longevity perspective. 

 

The overarching problem with this principle and the “if it fits your macros” style of eating is just that.

It’s another label and often misinformed set of guidelines to follow (usually in the short term). 

 

It fails to educate about healthy eating for life and undermines an individual's ability to learn to make healthy choices for themselves. 

 

It propagates a myth that to be healthy or to lose weight you need to weigh and evaluate your food on a can and can’t have basis.

It reduces food to a numeric value and undermines the beneficial and medicinal properties of food, detracting from the vital role of food in preventing disease.

 

As a Nutritional Medicine Practitioner, I teach healthy eating principles based on an individual's biochemical needs and the medicinal properties of food.

The takeaway message here:

I'm not interested in reducing you or your food to a set of numbers. 

I'm interested in the quality of what you eat and in your health and wellbeing. 

Lexy x