A calorie is not a calorie. Counting calories for weight loss is ineffective. The voices against counting calories are getting louder. But do we have a better system to track and evaluate what we eat? One of the largest and longest running weight loss maintenance trials ever conducted, has found that keeping a food journal can double a person’s weight loss. “The more food records people kept, the more weight they lost,” said lead author Jack Hollis PhD, a researcher at Kaiser Permanente’s Center for Health Research in Portland, Ore.
But how can keeping a food journal help you with your health goals?
Where counting calories is flawed
Counting calories isn’t a magic pill that will make you eat more healthy automatically but it is a tool that can help you to make more healthier choices. Not all calories are the same and that’s where calorie counting is flawed. It doesn’t take in account the quality of the calories you consume. A zero calorie fuzzy drink is the better choice compared to a smoothie with low fat probiotic yoghurt and fresh strawberries if you would only look at the calorie count. Nutritionally the smoothie is the better choice since it is packed with proteins, vitamins and probiotics. That’s where common sense comes into play. As a rule of thumb we can say the more processed your food is the less nutritious it is at the same time. If the ingredient list on the food is to complicated to understand and packed with small lettered ingredients that never seem to end you can assume it is a highly processed food and therefor less nutritious than whole food.
Our bodies require energy to absorb and process the food we eat. This is called “thermic effect of food” (TEF). Our bodies will spend a certain amount of the energy we consume from our food for processing and absorbing this energy. Whole food typically requires much more energy to be absorbed than processed food. Which means that by consuming processed foods we make it easy for our body to convert this kind of energy into fat storage.
When using calorie counting for weight loss we must have this fact in mind. Don’t only watch for the calorie count but also choose less processed foods.
How a food journal will help you get slimmer
Knowing this keeping food journals and counting calories is still a good choice for several reasons:
- It’s the only way you can keep track of your food and quantify what you eat.
There is no other system around that would allow us to keep track of the energy levels and nutritious value of our food. When you want to compare two different foods in the supermarket the only way you can do that is by comparing their nutritional value including calories, proteins, fats and carbs. This is the only system that allows us to convert food we eat in scientific numbers that can be tracked and analyzed.
- You get to know your food
One of the greatest benefits of a food diary is that you eat more mindfully. When keeping track of the food you eat you get to know how much calories and nutrients are in the foods you eat making you more educated and aware about your food choices. Often people simply don’t know what they are eating and how “good” or “bad” that food is for them. Often we have absolutely no idea how many calories we daily consume.
Used as a tracking tool calorie counting can help to reduce weight in a sensible way often by simply reducing or substituting foods that we don’t even know are high calorie.
Maybe you’ll be surprised by how many calories, fat and carbs potato chips has and choose a healthier food instead.
- Food diaries help you get healthier and slimmer.
If you consume much more calories than you burn over a longer amount of time you will gain weight. Never mind the thermic effect of food or your metabolic rate. The speed you will gain weight may vary from person to person but at the end the unused energy you have taken will convert into fat storage.
Keeping a food diary makes you aware of the fact what you are eating and minimizes mindless eating. Every day remember and mark down what and how much you ate- it will remind you regularly at your health and weight loss goals. This way a healthy habit is introduced into your life- the habit of choosing healthy food. By having a food diary you will make it a habit to go for the healthier choices in the supermarket, at restaurants, parties, with friends,…
Keeping a food diary is meant to help you make changes in your diet and keep you on track with your health goals.
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