Blog.

Why we don’t count calories

By Sarah Wilson |



I’m a big proponent of ditching the calorie counter. Hungry to know why? Here, let’s break it down.

Not all calories are created equal.

This is a very common misconception – that a calorie from cheese is the same as a calorie in chocolate. Sure, when they’re on a plate, they’re the same. But once ingested, it’s a very different story.

The calories in fat, protein and carbohydrates have a different biological influence on satiety, metabolic rate, brain activity, blood sugar and the way we store fat.

Here, let us show you a few examples:

  • Fructose is low in calories, but it bypasses appetite hormones causing us to eat more and store fat easier.
  • Protein foods contain fewer calories once digested because it takes a lot of energy to break them down. Plus, some proteins require our immune systems to get involved during digestion, which burns even more calories.
  • Cooked veggies have more calories than raw ones. This is due to the fact that the body uses more energy to digest the hard-to-rupture cell walls of raw food than it does cooked. Also the body expends energy to fight off pathogens that are more prolific in raw food.

Calories in vs. calories out: it’s a big fat myth.

This is the idea that we simply need to burn off more calories (exercise more) to balance out the calories we eat. But our bodies aren’t that simple. In fact, we’re designed to store calories when we exercise.

The fact is, we only burn about 250 calories per half hour of exercise – that’s about the same as a handful of macadamia nuts.

This is because evolution shows us, as hunters and gatherers, are efficient calorie storers. We spent our time hunting, foraging and collecting food and it would be inefficient for us to burn calories quickly.

Nutrients matter more than calories.

You may have heard the saying “count nutrients not calories,” and at IQS we think it’s pretty spot on. It’s possible to be overweight but still starve nutritionally. In fact, obesity is now referred to as a malnutrition disease.

It doesn’t support a healthy relationship with food.

Having a good relationship with your food is really what’s it’s all about for I Quit Sugar. It’s not healthy to analyse every skerrick of food we eat. Counting calories can create a mental obsession and can lead to restrictive food choices.

Humans are not good at NOT doing something…we’re doers. Restrictive eating goes against the grain of what we’re about and causes misery. I’m all about focusing on other messages that steer us to more abundant, positive thinking because this is what creates healthy change.

So if we don’t count calories, what do we do?

We JERF.

  • We opt for nutrient-dense options that our great-grandparents would recognise as food.
  • We go for a wide variety of in-season produce and ingredients.
  • We cook, which really is the key to it all.
  • We cut out processed foods.
  • We focus on regaining our natural appetite and cutting the cravings.
  • We’re about “food freedom.”

Do you count calories? If not, what do you do instead?

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