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  • Writer's pictureDavid Downs

Your Diet Plan Could Fail If You Are Counting Calories

Can You Share Calories Like Your Phone Data?

Certain mobile phone companies allow the sharing of your data package within your family group. For instance, suppose your package will enable you to have 25Gb of data and say, your daughter, who loves to stream videos all day long, also has 25Gb. When her 25Gb is used up, she either has to go without or come to you with your hefty 20Gb remaining.

The mobile phone company has some fantastic magic that means you transfer 15 of your precious gb to your daughter, and she is happy again.

Nurse Gladys and I have been conscious over the past couple of months, reducing some of the lockdown and Christmas weight, particularly the additional weight I had put on. I confess that towards the end of 2020, I was rather too fond of my take-away curries and many bottles of Moretti. The waistline was not very happy when we entered 2021, so we decided to get a bit refocused on getting things back in order as they were a year ago.

With the help of apps such as 'Myfitnesspal', we put ourselves on restricted calories to be in deficit. Of course, we tracked EVERYTHING we had been eating and all the exercise we had been doing. We have enjoyed some pretty excellent meals, too, thanks to BBCGoodFood and AllRecipes, two of my favourite websites to visit.

The truth is, it's very easy for me to be in some form of calorie deficit. I run over 40-miles per week, walk about 20 miles, cycle a few times a week and do a few home-gym workouts. In fairness, Nurse Gladys is always on her feet as per her job and runs about 35-miles per week. So deficit comes pretty easy for her too.

The trouble comes on our rest days, such as today. Yep, Monday brings a well-earnt rest from a weekend of long runs. Suddenly, there are very few calories being burnt up. Do we just eat a couple of lettuce leaves? Do we starve? Nurse Gladys said with a chuckle in her voice that we should be able to share our calories with each other. Today I am way in deficit on account of running 26 miles and hadn't managed to eat enough to balance the books over the weekend.

Wouldn't it be great if we could just do that?

Be Wary When Counting Calories

In total contrast to what I've just been telling you all, I will now say without shame that I do not believe in or agree with calorie counting. It hardly actually works. It's usually some form of malnutrition or dehydration that causes any of the weight loss when it does. It can be just a temporary situation, which will ultimately lead to the see-saw problem, so many 'dieters' suffer through for their entire lives.

Do you reduce carbs? Get rid of fat? Ensure you have enough protein to ensure you aren't in a situation where your body starts using lean muscle mass for fuel? Will your body slow down and send your metabolism to sleep? Do you stop going out for evening meals with friends? Oh, what's going out? Been so long, I've forgotten!

There are so many variables involved in counting your calories that this can put people off, make us miserable, and cause confusion. You should be aware of portion control. Of course, you should understand that eating a ridiculous amount of carbs can ultimately cause bloating, weight gain, and possibly diabetes.

The Sciencey Bit

Another favourite misconception is 'a calorie is a calorie.'

Nope. A litre of fuel is a litre of fuel, yes? OK, put diesel in your petrol car and go for a drive.

Fats are essential; they help nerve cells operate, help absorb protein, and do a wide range of valuable actions. Carbs fuel and give quick energy, but which carbs are better? Protein is vital. It creates muscle that increases metabolism, takes more energy to fuel, and digest, and is made of pretty much protein. Enzymes, hormones, and neuro-transmitters are all proteins.

Hormones can affect your digestion. Carbs increase insulin, which can actually reduce your fat-burning state. The body will readily burn sugars in the blood before converting fats stored in the body.

Another recent idea is that eating loads and loads of fruit and vegetables will fill your stomach with the same calories as a chunk of fish or a splash of oil. This is true for five minutes. The trouble is, fruit and veg will digest quickly and pass through. It will cause the body to release insulin, and blood sugar is quickly dealt with. That will leave you hungry within the next couple of hours, leading you to want to eat again. Protein and fats, although calorically dense, will allow your brain to release hormones saying you are full. They will digest slower and keep your hunger at bay for longer. It's about making good choices and timing rather than quantity.

What to Do Instead

I've now taken you down a scary rabbit hole of nutrition and dieting. There is so much to consider, and not only the science bit, but we must also remember that each of us has a different response to different methods.

You are far more likely to succeed by speaking with a qualified nutritionist. They will better understand the balance of foods, why reduced-fat foods are unhealthy and can even make you put on weight and the timing of meals. Even the right fuelling if you are undertaking any sports training.


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