Counting calories – Does it work?
There are so many different opinions out there whether counting calories for weight loss is effective or not. Some believe in the concept of calories in versus calories out, where the concept says that you will probably lose weight if you eat less calories than what you burn. However, there are others that think it is an out of date method and does not work, and weight loss is much more than just counting the calories. So, let’s find out the pros and cons of calories counting.
According to Petre, A. and Link, R (2021) calories are used to describe the energy your body gets from foods, or expends on numerous activities. Our bodies need calories (energy) to function. Our bodies will use part of the calories we consume to help with metabolic processes such as digestion, breathing, sleeping etc. The excess calories consumed will be stored as energy in the form of glycogen or fat to be used in the future. It is likely that if we consume more calories than what our bodies need or burn, we will end up gaining weight, as the excess calories will be stored mainly as fat.
Caloric counting can bring consciousness to what you eat and how much you eat of each food, helping to understand potions sizes and the different density of foods and that some foods will make you feel more satiated for longer.
Counting the calories you consume can also help point out bad habits and what changes you could make to your eating pattern that would help you overcame barriers and achieve your weight loss goals. Putting your body under a caloric deficit could help you to lose some of that undesired fat if this is a goal, as your body could use its own fat to produce energy.
Counting calories and restricting them seems to be a very efficient method, eating less calories than what your body needs for a prolonged period of time could mean that you would also being consuming less nutrients and may be missing important vitamins and minerals that are extremely important for your body to function properly.
Another downside for calorie counting in some studies, is the fact that counting calories can contribute to the development of eating disorders or unhealthy dietary and lifestyle habits.
Counting and restricting calories is also associated with a higher hunger level and less nutritious choices. Because you may be hungry most of the time due the calorie restriction, you could end up making poor food choices and reach out for sugary and high processed foods (Steve Grant Health).
This method is not appropriate to everyone and may not fit into everyone’s routine and busy lives. Counting calories and tracking everything that you eat could become very exhausting and is not a very efficient method to continue doing. You would be paying more attention to the calories of the food than to what you eat as a whole. Using tracking apps to count calories can also be greatly underestimated, as there is a large amount of varience in the databases and the true calories of foods.
You may lose some weight when paying attention to the calories when you want to lose some weight, but it isn’t a sustainable method and it doesn’t make you focus on what’s important: The quality of the diet. One digestive biscuit (14g) has about 71kcals and not much nutrients in eat, it is high processed and there is sugar in. If you compare the calories in 100g of digestive biscuits with 100g of strawberries, the ratio is 483kcals to 32kclas, and in the strawberries you have plenty of nutrients including vitamin C, fibre, magnesium and antioxidants, which you certainly can’t not find in digestive biscuits.
For weight loss, it is not only about the calories, it is also about the food you eat and the quality. Eating healthier foods and balanced meals will not only help you to lose some weight, but will also nourish your body, making you feel better as well as supporting your health in the long term.
By Danielle Colombari, Dietetic student, revised by Reema Patel, Dietitian
Petre, A. and Link, R (2021) – Does Calorie Counting Work? A Critical Look (healthline.com)
Steve Grant Health – The pros and cons of tracking calories for weight loss (stevegranthealth.com)