Oghomwen (Owen) Jones
The term ‘calories’ is ubiquitous in the health and fitness industry and indeed in the world at large. They are a measure of the energy in food, depicted by the number of KCals or Calories present in a portion of food/drink and popularised, by Wilbur Atwater, in the 1800s. The terms KCals and Calories are used interchangeably.
Their use as a gauge is deeply entrenched into food systems all over the world, and it is now impossible to find food labels without figures indicating the number of calories present in a container or specified portion.
For more than a century, many have depended on these numbers as the be all and end all in weight loss and/or management. However, many calorie-focused diets fail and are therefore generally misleading. These failures can happen even when these eating plans are combined with a strict exercise regime. According to Peter Wilson in ‘The Economist sister magazine -The intelligence podcast’, May 10, 2019, calorie figures on labels are usually wrong. So also are the numbers recorded by exercise machines.
I have learnt to be more concerned about the quality of what I eat. I favour nutrient dense foods, which are real, healthy, wholesome, and filling. I am super cautious with processed sugars. I discuss these sugars extensively in chapter 5 of my book ‘Moderation Is Key’.
Thankfully, healthy eating is not only about calorie counting, but also about how the foods that we eat, interact in our bodies. More important than keeping tabs on these figures is being aware that processed sugar is very different from protein, from fat and other carbohydrates. We will do ourselves a lot of good keeping a watchful eye on processed sugars, which is found in many foods, even in those that we would not expect. For example in many savoury sauces.
Many low fat/low calorie processed foods count on the introduction of sugar and salt to help improve the taste lost by reducing fat. Good examples of these foods are low fat yoghurt and ice cream. These are often sweetened with artificial sweeteners or other sugars. These foods are therefore unlikely because of the added sugar to aid weight loss to the extent one would expect, despite being low in fat. This proves further what is now universally known, that fat is less of a demon for weight loss and maintenance than are processed sugars.
The most effective food plan for weight loss and maintenance is one that includes mainly real foods, like fresh vegetables, healthy lean meats, fresh fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds and minimises processed foods. This combination of foods is more essential for weight loss and it’s maintenance, than a calorie count.
Indeed, I have found that keeping tabs on calories, are not important, when you are eating healthily. I do not count calories. Healthy foods are filling, satisfying, and often not high in calories. They make it easy to keep a healthful watch on foods consumed.
I personally think that calorie counting can detract from the pleasure of eating, by turning meals into a tedious exercise of tallying and food weighing. It is possible to enjoy our food and be healthy too. Let’s learn to do that.
Our good God has blessed us with a wide variety of healthy foods. He wants us to enjoy these foods and not be bugged down with calorie counting.
Ecclesiastes 9:7 GNT
Go ahead—eat your food and be happy; drink your wine and be cheerful. It’s all right with God.
The foods referred to in this scripture, are the foods God has blessed us with. They are healthy, when consumed in moderation.
Remember that the key to healthy living is moderately consuming predominantly nutrient dense foods, and exercising too. As mentioned earlier these foods are not typically calorie rich. I write about calories and much more in my book ‘Moderation Is Key’.