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Nowadays people are becoming more and more aware of the concept of counting calories to either lose weight or to keep a health weight. Whenever I start working with a new client, the first question I’m asked is usually “how many calories do I need to lose weight”.
Well! My response to this is always the same: Do you want lose weight eating everything or do you rather a restrictive diet plan that do not work in the long run. Counting calories is very exhausting and very few people can discipline themselves for a long time based only on calorie deficit calculations.
Many give up in the middle of the road. The good news is that there is a healthier, easier, and much more effective way to lose weight than counting calories. In this article “how many calories do I need to lose weight” I will explain why counting calories to lose weight doesn’t work and the best approach to adopt in the weight loss process.
What Is A Calorie?
The energy content of food is measured in calories. A calorie, in fact, is a unit of energy and heat. This number represents the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of one gram of water by 1°C with atmospheric pressure of 1 ATM (at sea level). One calorie corresponds to 4.18 joules. This figure also reflects the energy content of food. Our body needs this energy to keep bodily functions active.
How calories counting works?
Traditional nutrition teaches us that to lose weight, we must eat fewer calories than our body spend. That’s rule number one and basically, it’s the definition of caloric deficit. The common explanation is that weight gain is directly associated with the difference between calorie intake and expenditure over days. Losing or gaining weight is the result of simple mathematics. If you gain weight, it is because you are ingesting more calories than you spend;
if you keep the weight stable it is because you eat the amount of calories similar to your daily expenditure; and you lose weight because you’re burning more calories than you eat.
Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well, it is not that simple or easy putting this into practice. As I always say Practice is very different from theory”. This is because the health of our body does not go through simple mathematical equations of summing and subtracting. Each organism has a unique metabolism, that is, it burns calories at its own pace.
Who’s never had a skinny friend who eats until they say enough? Or that friend who, spends their whole life on a diet but never reach their ideal weight? The way the body metabolizes nutrients, and the energy depends on several factors, including the type of food consumed, the metabolism of each person (variable with age, sex, weight, genetics, temperature, state of hunger, time of day, stress, etc.) and even the microorganisms that inhabit our intestines.
When food calorie counting is our parameter for choosing what we’re going to eat, we’re ignoring a number of biochemical aspects that are much more important than just the amount of calories, and worst: we’re buying into the wrong idea that all calories are the same and that they’re going to act the same way in our body. Moreover, we can never disregard our biochemical individuality, 2000 calories are never the same in the lives of two different people. Several factors influence our energy expenditure including the following:
Each body has a set point that governs its functioning and influences weight. The hypothalamus, located at the base of the brain, is a very important structure that participates in the regulation of metabolism. When it understands that the body is going through a moment of food deprivation, the hypothalamus acts at body temperature and prevents the weight from falling below this setting point. That’s why you may find that your weight is stabilizing, even if you are on a restrictive diet.
This is also why a lot of people lose a lot of weight quickly by drastically cutting calories from food, and then regain it (the so-called Yo-yo effect), because the metabolism is very slow due to food restriction.
Type of food consumed
Your food choices can also influence your energy expenditure, not just the amount of calories consumed. Did you know that we also expend energy when consuming food? About 10% of our energy expenditure is used to digest and metabolize the nutrients of the food. Therefore, counting calories, despite being a very widespread strategy, does not seem to be the best option.
Many microorganisms live in our gut, and some types can influence the amount of energy of the food absorbed. Thus, changes in our microbiota can influence our weight and contribute to the development of obesity, in addition to other health problems such as diabetes, metabolic syndrome and allergic diseases.
When compared to traditional nutrition, functional nutrition is a slightly different method, as it works with biochemical individuality and the effects of food on the body of each individual, being more comprehensive than just establishing diet plan based on calorie counting. This way of employing nutrition has shown even more positive results on health, by producing improvements in the body as a whole.
In order to find out the best foods for each organism, a functional nutrition adviser analyses the biochemical individuality of each person. This process begins with a complete anamnesis which is done through an interview, where some points such as the client’s main complaint, medical and family history, the functionality of the intestine, whether the nails are weak, mood swing, hair loss, premenstrual tension, cellulite, stress and anxiety are all analysed.
The main goal is not to count the amount of calories that will be consumed, but to ingest quality foods such as antioxidant foods, adequate amounts of macro and micronutrients such as vitamins etc. This balanced diet will promote the proper functioning of the body, as well as ensuring the recovery and maintenance of vital functions.
The differences we find in the organisms is because of the genetic individuality that occurs in each one. For example, there are people allergic to nuts, while others make good use of their nutrients. Some need more zinc to produce enough acid in their stomach, while others will have good results with less. Our body works according to the data and nutrients we offer for it. Nutrients, as well as toxins, neurotransmitters and hormones are the information we put into our body daily.
But be careful, it is very common to confuse the term ‘functional nutrition’ with the use of functional foods. Foods called functional can be fashionable and are misused in a generalized way, that is, consumed by everyone, without the consideration of their history and their acceptance to these foods which, as I have said, varies greatly from one person to another. They are sold as foods that generate health benefits.
However, no food alone has the power to promote some action in our organism. On the other hand, when consumed consciously and guided by a functional nutrition coach, almost all natural foods together can bring us many benefits.
With functional nutrition guidelines we can have a better look at each client and see them as a human being and not as a machine to follow restrictive diets. We can look at a food and not just see its calories, but its full healing potential for the body. It is to understand that although an avocado is more caloric than a cereal bar, it can bring you more benefits and probably so you will have less chances of increasing weight.
In conclusion, everyone should bet on a healthy and balanced diet, but that does not mean that all organisms will respond in the same way and generate the same results for the same foods or combinations.
Many things influence our weight, and some of them are out of our control, such as genetics, the medication we take and the environment in which we live. In addition, as I said, restrictive diets can often lead to decreased metabolism, leading to weight gain due to the increased appetite, which causes the person to think more about food and end up exaggerating.
Now that you’re aware of the implication of counting calories, I do hope the next time you contemplate losing weight for good, you no longer ask yourself how many calories I need to lose weight and consider instead consulting a functional nutrition coach to help you with the weight loss process.
I hope you find this post helpful and if you have any question about “How Many Calories Do I Need To Lose Weight” or want to leave your own personal opinion, leave me a comment below. To book a consultation with a qualified functional nutrition coach click here
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