Ever felt trapped in the endless cycle of counting calories, questioning if it's the golden ticket to weight loss? What if the secret wasn't just in the numbers, but in understanding them?
Dive into this enlightening episode of "me&my health up" as Anthony Hartcher unravels the intricate tapestry of calorie counting. Discover why it's not just about the calories, but the bigger picture they paint.
From the potential pitfalls of labelling foods as 'good' or 'bad', to the surprising effects of high protein diets on our body's pH balance, Anthony sheds light on aspects often missed in mainstream diet talks.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Listen in to uncover the profound insights that could reshape your entire approach to food and weight management.
About me&my health up & Anthony Hartcher
me&my health up seeks to enhance and enlighten the well-being of others. Host Anthony Hartcher is the CEO of me&my health up which provides holistic health solutions using food as medicine, combined with a holistic, balanced, lifestyle approach. Anthony holds three bachelor's degrees in Complementary Medicine; Nutrition and Dietetic Medicine; and Chemical Engineering.
Any information, advice, opinions or statements within it do not constitute medical, health care or other professional advice, and are provided for general information purposes only. All care is taken in the preparation of the information in this Podcast. [Connected Wellness Pty Ltd] operating under the brand of “me&my health up”..click here for more
Is calorie counting good? Do you count calories? In this episode of me&my health up, I'm going to talk about the good, the bad and the ugly of calorie counting for weight loss. Yes, you've landed on the me&my health up podcast. And I'm Anthony Hartcher, the host, clinical nutritionist and lifestyle medicine specialists. The purpose of this podcast is to enhance and enlighten your well being. And today, I'll be doing that just for you on this topic of calorie counting. Yes, last week, I was doing corporate wellness consultations, and I came across a number of questions that were associated with counting calories, and they asked me what I thought of it. So today, I thought I'd impart that wisdom with you today and share what my thoughts around calorie counting are. And we're going to be discussing this in terms of what's good about it, what's not so good, the bad, and the outright ugly. So let's get into today's episode. So the good thing about counting calories, is it generates awareness, it creates awareness around how much calories you're actually consuming in a given day. So you have that basic understanding, and you can then have a target in terms of what you want to eat around calories for that day. And that could be around a weight loss goal. So what is the recommended amount of calories in terms of running that deficit. So depending on you, your metabolic demands are going to be different. However, generally speaking, it's a 15% reduction off your everyday calories you're consuming. So what you could start doing is baseline your current measurement in terms of what you're doing per day. So find a baseline, what are you currently doing each day, and then reducing that by 15%. So take 15% of that value. So maybe it's doing a diet diary over a number of days, tallying up the calories, and then taking a 15% reduction of what you're currently doing. And it would also be advantageous to lift your calorie expenditure. So do more movements, more activity, and that will create a greater deficit. So that's the good side in terms of it creates awareness, it sets you a target. And when you have a target a goal in terms of I'm going to stick to a 15% reduction of my baseline of calories per day, and you've got something to work towards, you're working towards something every day. And as humans, we like to have something in terms of a direction that we're working towards every day. So that's the really good side. And then you create some discipline around working towards that target each day. So that's very helpful in terms of health, because you have a goal, you're working towards a goal, and you've got a target to measure yourself by so you also have something to check in. And how did I perform? Was I over today or under? You know, and then you got a box to take it? Well, you know, in terms of accomplishment, you feel great at the end of the day that you've actually accomplished something? Yes, I achieve my targeted calories today. Yes, I did my exercise. Great, fantastic. So my health goal, you know, is on track. And so that is probably a better goal to set, then measuring your weight because your weight can fluctuate depending on a number of factors. And so yes, you could be losing fat, but also you could be losing muscle mass, or you might be gaining muscle mass and losing fat and not seeing much difference on the scales. So the scales aren't a great indicator, whether you're on track, they can be a better indicator over time. So checking in one month, and then checking in the same time the following month, and making sure that you're doing something different in order to make a difference on the scale. So therefore they're doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different results, as they say that's the definition of insanity. So what I suggest is you more look at these targets, am I getting my activity? And am I achieving what I set out to achieve at the start of the week around activity? Yes. Am I meeting my calorie intake target? Yes, great. That's progress. And that's better progress than jumping on the scales every day and getting frustrated because one day you're retaining a bit more fluid the other day, you're expending more fluid depending on maybe how stressed you are or how much fluid you actually consumed. And so there's so many variables in terms of you know, indicative weight on the scales is indicative of whether you're making progress or not so much better indicator is measuring you and your actions. So the actions that you set out to achieve and whether you achieved those actions and then what you could do is check in on the scales once a month, as I said the same time the same time of day, provided you've made some changes over that month and then see if you're progressing in that direction. Again, if you're lifting more weights, you might be losing body fat and creating muscle mass and you might not see much is different in the scales. So it might be better to use a tape measure around various areas, your bodies such as your arms, your legs, your waistline, your hip, and get some sort of ideas as to whether, yes, it's getting firmer, it's you know, I am putting on muscle mass because the area's getting firmer, and it's bigger than before. So that might be a target of yours, you might want to increase your lean muscle mass. And that's a good progress measure, I mean, the gold standard in terms of an understanding what your body fat composition is, and how much lean muscle mass you have, and how is your skeletal health is the DEXA scan. Okay, the DEXA scan. So DEXA scan, and you can look that up google it, and you could get a DEXA scan. Again, it's an Xray. So you don't want to get too many DEXA scans either. But it's a much better understanding as to where the fat is in terms of distribution on your body, where you have the lean muscle mass distribution and how your skeletal health is. So that can be a good way to measure your goal. So yes, having a target fantastic. That's the good side of calorie counting, having a goal a target in mind, then generating some discipline around compliance to that goal. And that can create some momentum, some positive momentum, you can see some initial results because you're applying discipline, and you're working towards your goal and taking action. So that's great, it can give you that momentum. So that's what I like about counting calories is that awareness, that goal setting, having an action and clear action each day as to what you're going to consume around food. And sticking with that sticking with the plan. Okay, but there's many other plans you can embark on in terms of weight loss, but today, we're focused on calorie counting the bad side. So what you need to watch out for is this potential licensing effect, the licensing effect is, I've been so good, I've been so good five days, five out of five, you know, Monday to Friday, I've been great. I've been compliant, or Sat day, or I should have some flexibility on set. I shouldn't reward myself for being so good, okay. And then when that they comes in your creep over and you're sort of blow out a bit, and then you're thinking, hey, it's such a bit, you know, that's terrible. I've had a blowout, now you're thinking, Okay, what's it gonna make a difference? If I blow out again on Sunday? Yeah, just blow out again on Sunday. And potentially those two blowout days may undo what you did well, that week, those for those five days. So gotta watch out that licensing effect that it creates that mentality that I've been so good at, but you know, I should reward myself I should have a treat, I should have something and then again, that could then compound into more treats and then thinking, what's the point? You know, I'll get back to it on Monday or Tuesday, Tuesday, we'll get back to this target. And so it can create that licensing effect where you see saw a bit and what I like to recommend to my clients is have some flexibility, like when you have some flexibility, it is more sustainable. However, the results don't come as quick. And it depends on how quickly you want the results. If you need the results quickly, because you have a wedding coming up and a dress to jump into or you know, some special occasion and you want to look your best, then you have like more of that crash course mentality is it going to hit this target, I'm going to make sure I hit it means a lot to me is it look great in that dress or that suit or whatever it may be, or in the costumes when it comes around to spring and summer. So you have that target, you want to lose it and you go on that crash course. And you'll probably maintain that discipline really well up until that point, and then you'll want to let go at that point or thereafter. So it can result in that bit of that seesaw effect. Whereas what I like to recommend to my clients is how about you have some flexibility initially, so that 80/20 principle, so 80% of the time you're great, okay, you're or you're on target and then 20% allows some flexibility such that you might deviate a bit off track, but it's still part of the plan you've actually factored it in and you know that it's going to take a little longer to get to the finish line. However you're happy to do that because you know what you're doing is going to be more sustainable and not result in this massive you know, seesaw sort of effect Yeah, on great one week terrible the next week, get back on it again the following week, or it could be seasons, you might be great one season off at one season, or what we see today is a lot of this month, you know this dry July or if you cut the calories month or gonna go detox this month, and they focus on months and then the next month they're back to what they were doing previously. So I'd much prefer a more sustainable approach and find what works for you. So you know, find that happy medium where you're it could be you know, you're compliant Monday to Friday, you're very strict because you have the discipline around working, you're going into work or you're you know, you have your structure around your work and you can structure your eating and your exercise around your work. So that can be great and then on weekends have some flexibility and again, some people might find it's easy to hit their calorie calorific target or reduce, you know, meet that requirement of less 15% by missing a meal by doing some form of time restrictive feeding by not having breakfast and skipping breakfast, however, then that might be a great thing to do Monday to Friday, but you want them to have some flexibility on the weekend to be social with your friends, imagine going out with your friends and not being able to have brunch with them. Because your time eating window hasn't opened yet. It's still shut, and you're just watching them enjoy their meal, and you're feeling that you're doing without and you're not part of the, you know, the group, the collective group. So it can be quite antisocial in a way. So having that flexibility on the weekends can then allow you that thing that yeah, this is sustainable, because I'm catching up with friends, I'm able to eat when I want to on the weekend. That's when I socialise. And socialization is a great form of health, a great part of health and important part of health. And so it's important that we do socialise, and we do it how we want to, without again, getting too much into excess. It's more the extremes that we push that really create, I guess, problems for the body because the body's wanting to maintain homeostasis. And the further we get away from our midline, the further the the deviation, now the more damage we do, and the harder it is to get back to our midline our center points. So I suggest you create some flexibility around what you're doing when you're counting calories, just so that it can be more sustainable and lasting. Because the last thing you want to do is that little seesaw effect where you're grateful one month, you're very disciplined for one month, you drop five kilos. And I hear this all the time, right with my clients is Yeah, I did this, you know, I was really disciplined. I lost five, I felt great. But now I'm back to where I was, okay. That is see-sawing effect because what they were doing was unsustainable for a longer period than one month or six weeks or two months or three months, it was just too hard to do for a long time. So then they just revert back to what they were doing previously, or some variation of what they were doing previously, because it becomes too hard. But health is not too hard. If we find what works for us and stick with it, be consistent, have that rhythm around what you're doing and consistency. And that's where you'll get good, long lasting, healthy outcomes. So find that rhythm for you. Okay, so I've just spoken about the bad licensing effect. Now I'm going to talk about it can create these labeling around food, you know, counting calories, then we label that food we see that food as highly calorific. And because our goal is oriented around calorie deficit or reducing our calories, we see that food as bad but it's not necessarily bad. So it polarizes the food. It's you know, you're classified as bad because it's highly calorific. Like, I've heard you know, people say, ah, nuts, and that's do contain calories, but they see that it's just calories. And they're thinking, well, it's not, you know, it's bad. It's going to tip me over my calories for the day. But in actual fact, if you look at the nut as a whole, it's fantastic. It's got carbohydrates, it's got protein and good fats plus fiber, right? So and there's vitamins and minerals that come with it as well. So it's not just calories is also had that fiber and good fat components and protein, all of which gives satiety, it gives a sense of satiation, a sense of fullness. So in actual fact, you eat less nuts overall. And so your overall calories may be actually less because if you compare it to like 100 grams, and that's compared to 100 grams of Crisp chips, right? So your chips out of a packet, right? So 100 grams of crisps, chips and 100 grams of nuts. Think about you eat 100 grams of nuts. It's very filling, very filling, okay, yes, more calories than 100 grams of Crisp chips. However, the Crisp chips ain't gonna give you satiation for a much, much period of time thereafter. So you'll be hungry thereafter, because the chips are pretty predominantly carbohydrates. Okay, very little protein, very little fiber. Okay, very little good fats. In actual fact, they've probably got the not so good fats, the healthy fats, the trans fats. So if you look at it, and compare the two, then that's going to give you greater satiation for longer. So therefore, you'll push out when your next eat and then if you have the crisps chips, you'll have them Yes, you've eaten less calories at that point in time, but you'll be eating shortly after. So if you look at the same time window, and and what you've consumed within that time window, you'll actually find the time window with the nap consumption resulted in overall less calories consumed versus the time window where you've had that Crisp b ecause you've had to have something else because you weren't quite satisfied. And those calories were not so great in terms of nutritional nourishment, and you've consumed more calories or you could consume equal calories, but you may you'll see it'll get more nutritional nourishment from the nut consumption. So again, it's not like this labeling of food can get really unhealthy and hence why I've categorised it as the not so good or the bad side of calorie counting because we classify foods good or bad based on their calorific value. And we're not looking at the bigger picture, okay? And this can then result in some nutritional deficiency around eating good fats, because fats are more calorific than carbohydrates and proteins.Advertisement:
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And so when you look at any food that contains large amounts of fat, then their calories are going to be up. However, we're missing the bigger picture in terms of what's contained within those calories. Okay, and hence why you might be a bit deficient on the Omega 3 consumption because of your avoiding the fats, okay, and the Omega 3s are really good for good health. They're great for mental health, they're necessary for mental health, they're necessary for serotonin production, which is the mood stabiliser they're necessary really helpful for balancing your your blood lipids, so your triglycerides and your HDL and LDL. So in terms of getting that better balance have more HDL and less LDL, and providing that protective effect on the heart. Omega 3 are really essential, they're really helpful for blood sugar regulation, and we need them are their essential part of life. And the thing about them is that we cannot manufacture them, we need them from our diet. So when we have this sort of calorific counting point of view and Outlook, we may then exclude good fats, and we may not get enough in that time. And that could result in nutritional deficiencies, which you don't want, because that's going to result in detrimental health outcomes over the long term. So this is what my concern is, is that those foods get categorised as bad. And you'll generally tend to avoid them thereafter, the period that you're doing around counting calories, because you just label them as bad, you create that hard wiring in the brain that when you see that food, it's bad. But in actual fact, it is what it is. And it's only you know, you classified it as it was or as bad because of the calories but you're missing the bigger picture about that food. And this is what I don't like is the labeling that is associated with calorie counting. So ideally, it is good to get an awareness or some level of awareness of the calories you're consuming, but not get to the point where you get very fixated on counting calories, and you start categorising food as good or bad based on the calorific value. Because it's it foods so much more than just calories, we need to look at the whole of the bigger picture of food. And that's when we're going to have better health long term better connection association with food. And that's another point is we can get quite disconnected with food through counting calories, because we see it just as calories as opposed to what it is. It's a food source. Yes, it may have some downside, but it's also got some upside in terms of benefits positive, it may have some downsides might not be perfect in terms of what you're looking for to support your goals. However, it's pretty hard to find anything perfect. There's always it always comes with a balance of good and bad. So it's really important that you get away from categorising food as such, and let go with the labeling and what the better association is for this point in time. Whilst I wanted to create some momentum around my awareness of around how much food or calories I'm consuming, I'm going to eat less of that food group but then I'm going to get that food group back into my diet in a healthy way through and I think a better more sustainable approach is more intuitive eating. Okay, so I'll get into intuitive eating on another episode and talk about that. And so this is going to be part two of this little mini series on counting calories, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. So again, Intuitive Eating is probably more aware or want to guide you towards because that's going to be more sustainable and long lasting so tune into the next episode. I still got a little bit to go on this episode. So hang in there. I wanted to also talk about the lost connection between needs and wants. So when we have this cut off into So not eating that it's bad for me and you start categorising the food as bad, then there's a little desire that is generated that will sort of want that as well, because you're trying to keep yourself away from it, there's something that is then taking you more towards it. And then it requires that willpower to keep away from it. Whereas if you adopt a more intuitive eating approach, then you're having a little love it to get that sort of that little bit of underlying needs satisfied without eating too much of it. And that's for next time, but I just wanted to share that as well. So that's pretty much it in terms of the bad side that I wanted to cover. There's one other point actually it's around the what it can do also is reduced the amount of fat consumed, but also it can encourage the amount of protein consumed, because if you take out the fat fats provides that satiation right, that feeling of fullness, so does protein but protein has less calories. So what generally the population encourage or the influences carried or the or the trends are encouraging is that you consume more protein to give that satiation without the excess calories, like fat has got twice as much calories as protein. So you can get this satiation and your belly feeling full without the additional calories, which is good for that temporary period. But what we need to be mindful of is by having a really high protein diet is that we can also create this pH imbalance. So protein breaks down into acid metabolites. And we can create an acidosis environment in our bodies. So too much acid, our kidneys can only excrete so much acid metabolites in a given day in terms of what it's able to do. And if we consume excessive amount of acid metabolites through high protein consumption, then we can create a load on our kidneys, and so that our kidneys are overwhelmed, they can get quite inefficient because they're overwhelmed. And also we create a buildup of these acid metabolites. And a build up of anything excess of anything in our body creates an imbalance and it's not great, it can then create an inflammatory response, and our body wants to get it out, it becomes anything in excess becomes toxic to our body. So we don't want excessive amounts of acid metabolites. And so going high protein is okay for a short period of time, but not good for long periods of time, because of this pH imbalance, this acid load that we generate in our body and for our bodies to compensate, what it may do is then leach minerals from the bone to balance to buffer the pH in the blood because the body is trying to maintain a very narrow bandwidth of pH like it is with temperature. That's why excessive temperature is or excessive fever, it can be really dangerous to us, it's the same as our blood. If it gets excessive acid or excessive alkaline, then that's dangerous to us. And it wants to maintain that narrow window of pH that's tolerable. And that works well for us in terms of keeping us alive and functioning. So what it will do is leach minerals from the bone to buffer the blood, which you don't want, you don't want your bone being broken down to buffer the blood because you've got a high acidic diet. So that's what we need to be very mindful that we don't want to maintain high excessive high protein diet for long periods of time. Ultimately, people you're probably thinking now or how much protein should I consume? Well, it depends on the individual. It depends on your demands around your resistance training, your weight training, your level of activity, and how much lean muscle mass you're currently got and want to preserve. And so it's so many independent factors that it's hard for me to give you a rule of thumb, I could roughly say one gram per kilogram of body weight is good to maintain lean muscle mass. And again, when you're losing weight, don't really want to lose lean muscle mass, but then if you're going to like 1.5 grams of pure protein per kilogram of bodyweight, then you're pushing into those bounds of Is it too much and your body doesn't need that much amount and then excessive protein, you know, there's just excessive calories at the end of the day, but it does give that satiation so it might help with reducing your overall calorie intake. So yes, it can be helpful but it's not helpful long term if you're consuming excessive amounts of protein. If you want to know specifically what's going to work for you consult a nutritionist something I can certainly help you with so consult an expert to get individual tailored advice. What I'm sharing today is very general in nature. The last bit I wanted to share before we close this episode and next next episodes on intuitive eating, which I can't wait to share in terms of what's a better more sustainable approach to eating and only without eating excessive calories is that more intuitive approach. So the last bit is the ugly so calorie counting for long periods of time can create disordered eating Okay, so disordered eating in a sense that you become very confused you think food is calories and you only see food as calories are not nourishing to the body become quite disconnected with food and we need food. In order to generate energy, we get energy from food, we are able to rebuild and replenish his cells. And we are able to rebuild muscle tissue and able to repair damage done to the body through eating a well balanced diet. So when we see food as just calories, and it becomes like an enemy, and this really disconnected disassociation with food that's really dangerous. We don't want to create this disordered eating mentality around food because of this calorie counting. So that's the real ugly side of calorie counting is the potential of it resulting in an eating disorder. So that's my overview in terms of calorie counting for weight loss, it can work it can be very beneficial short term, okay, short term, a more sustainable approach is finding a diet that works for you and that is ultimately tailored to you and your health goals. Say a professional for that that's what they're here for. That's what I'm here for. So certainly reach out if you want help and support in this area, I just wanted to give you that overall awareness of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly around calorie counting for weight loss. Keep if this if you think this episode is going to benefit anyone you know, please share it with them, please get it out to them so that they become more aware of the implications of when calorie counting for weight loss, it's good that people are more aware more informed of the bigger picture. So then they can make an informed decision and they may seek professional help as opposed to jumping down the path of calorie counting. So thank you for tuning in. I really appreciate your ears and stay tuned in for another insightful episode of me&my health up when I'm talking about Intuitive Eating which I think is a better approach than counting calories but thank you for listening to me&my health up.Podcast Disclaimer:
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