Before we get into it let’s start with the basics; we’ve all heard the “women should eat 2,000 kcal and men 2,500 kcal per day” – these are guidelines supported by the NHS and I’ve had them chanted at me many a time – see here. Also, let’s take the definition of what a calorie is; quite simply, the units of energy in our food.
I didn’t have the misfortune of counting calories at all until a friend recommended the app – MyFitnessPal. I found the app really enlightening and more than calories, it unearthed the true content of foods I was consuming on a regular basis. Although, I feel like I have a duty to insert here that I don’t believe in “counting” but we should certainly be aware.
So back to the “guidelines”, are you aware that these are based on an average of age, height, lifestyle activity, natural metabolism and sex across the whole country? When taking these five variables into account these averages are pretty much meaningless on a personal level. There is also a fundamental point we mustn’t overlook, what is your starting point – what you are looking to do with your weight? I.e. If you are overweight you should exercise more dominantly and only drop 100-200kcal per day off the recommended level for your variables.
I was shocked when I decided to correctly calculate out what I should be eating per day – 28 years old, female, 5ft 3″, 7.5st, exercising 1-3 times a week and NOT looking to lose weight was JUST 1,600 kcal! (This doesn’t take into consideration your natural metabolism as this is very personal, so you’ll have to get in tune with your own body here!) In crude terms that means I’d been eating in the region of 400 kcal per day EXCESS (the statistician in me loves annual figures – a whopping 142,000 kcal per year which equates to an extra 89 days worth of calories; an extra 25% of the year!)
If you want to calculate your recommended daily consumption levels, I find the below calculator particularly good and will give you your BMR (Base Metabolic Rate) then you can add exercise on top – Calorie Calculator.
Anyway I digress slightly with my stats but it’s quite easy to show very simplistically how easy it is for weight to get out of control! So let’s go back to what a calorie is – a unit of energy, should we be bothered by calories or are they simply the easiest food concept for us to “get”?
Calories measure the main staples of our food intake – carbohydrates, protein and fats (per single gram respectively contain 4kcal, 4kcal and 8kcal). They DO NOT measure vitamins, minerals and water – also massively important, so all in all “calories” aren’t a great measurement of your diet!
As I said before I believe counting is bad and can breed unhealthy eating habits of starvation, binging on bad foods and many more! My conclusion:
1. Do not consume vastly low quantities of “calories” to lose weight, the body actually burns energy/calories quicker if it has sufficient fuel. You don’t want your body going into starvation mode as it’ll hang onto every blasted calorie – argh!
2. Everything in moderation is a good thing; but be aware of what you are putting in your mouth – read the labels of “low-fat” packets, these tend to be packed with the worst stuff and often make us think “Ooh I’ll have two then!”
3. Replace artificial with natural (try swaps like butter for avocado, sugar for agave syrup or crisps for kale crisps)
4. Be aware but don’t count the calories and look at your diet as a whole picture of nutrients complementing each other to make YOU work perfectly Generally we underestimate our portion sizes when calorie counting as it makes us feel better, so let’s scrap this self-denial!
5. Think of calories as bundles of energy not bad stuff to avoid!
6. Listen to your body and smile!
So this is what works for me and I hope you found it informative. I’d love to hear what works for you and your comments below. I’ll be following up with more on some topics touched on in this blog soon – Boo💚