Calorie Counting vs Intuitive Eating


Everyday we are exposed to the topic of diets in some form, be it the latest copy of Hello, a feature in Daybreak or a girlie conversation at work (couldn’t help myself).  The result is that we find ourselves drowning in a sea of contradiction with huge billboards endorsing low fat milk (endorsed by sports personalities) and other health experts telling us that in fact, whole milk is better for you.

True we live in an information age but your original search term if misinformed will lead you down a blind alley.  So this is your search term:

Calorie counting versus intuitive eating

There, get searching or alternatively read the rest of this post.

So calorie counting was the original method of leading a healthy lifestyle.  It remains the old school method adopted by bodybuilders and performance specialists.  Tried and tested and seems to work for most people.  The simplest way to work it out…well there isn’t but let’s give it a go:

I weigh 150 lbs (yes pounds) therefore my minimum calorie requirement to stay alive is that times 10 so 1500 calories.  I then add my daily activity; I am moderately active so I need to add 50% to this figure.

1500 + 750 = 2250

So daily I need 2250 calories.  Thus, if I need to ‘lose weight’ I need to create an energy surplus and restrict my consumption to something like 2000.  Thereafter, I look for a food database like that on ‘MyFitnessPal’ and start creating my meal plan.

In reality this method I believe only works if you guarantee your surplus by keeping your calories down to 1500.  It’s important to remember that based on this method a calorie is a calorie no matter where it comes from whether it comes from a slice of lettuce or a chocolate bar.  President of B2C Fitness Brent Brookbush MS says in his book Fitness or Fiction:

No matter what you eat, if energy input is more than energy output you will gain weight.  Heck you could gain weight eating lettuce (Fitness or Fiction, The Truth about Diet and Exercise, p.5)

So that’s the calorie counting method.

As for intuitive eating then this a totally different kettle of fish and forms the basis of many of the new diets we hear about today.  It takes into account the type of calories we consume as not all calories are created equal.  To put this into perspective, a banana contains 100 calories as does 5 brazil nuts.  On the other hand a ‘weight watchers’ chocolate digestive biscuit contains just 40 calories.  So, logically speaking which of these foods is the healthiest? Precisely!

Intuitive eating doesn’t just focus on calorie quality but with also dealing with our psychological approach to food, responding to hunger signals, dealing with them and making the right food choices.  Scott Sonnon said it perfectly in a recent facebook post:

‘If you feel satisfied, but not full, a little hungry, but not ravenous, most of the day, then you’ve probably found the right balance of macronutrients (lean proteins, complex carbs and good fats.)’

In essence I am putting any diet that isn’t inherently calorie controlled under the intuitive eating label and these include extreme methods like Atkins where an entire food group is eliminated as well as some more attractive approaches like Paleo, the Harcombe Diet, the Hay Diet and GI.

So, and stay with me, it is my longest post to date, before beginning any ‘diet’ we ask ourselves which approach to nutrition is this?  Calorie counting or intuitive eating?  Remember, with the latter there isn’t technically any counting just food selection and vague portion control, hence you do not look at labels.  If however you are counting then whether it is cheesecake or tuna it doesn’t matter as long as you stay beneath your target intake.

In addition may I also recommend a better post on this subject and I also advise you to read the accompanying comments as they show people’s real life experiences with nutrition.

As for my view then I am now believing in calorie counting again as the best initial step towards developing an awareness of what goes into our system.  On this basis I have created a 1500 calorie/day diet plan geared towards weight loss, although most of the products are only available in UK stores.  Click the link to download it now.

Curbing our diet habits, part 2: 3 courses to failure

Unless we’re on benefits (no offence, I was there once) we probably hate daytime TV. However we may have enjoyed the the cooking programmes. And for us UK folk the king of all these shows is ‘Come Dine with me’. Yes we all love the way that guy mocks everyone with merciless effect. Cooking programmes and fine dining is all about 3 course meals; like I mentioned in a previous blog it is our habits making us fat and unhealthy not necessarily our diet itself. By combining so many different foods and foodgroups we delay the process of digestion. This is why we feel lethargic after a big meal, not because ‘carbs are heavy’ it is because we combined so much in one sitting. I believe you should be able to indulge in a cheescake or apple crumble two or three times a week but don’t eat it straight after your meal. Give it an hour or two make a cup of tea and then enjoy your cheesecake over a rubbish DVD.

By the way, you probably realised I am quite permissive with my nutritional advice. However, if your were paying me money to keep you fit that wouldn’t be the case.

Anyway, the idea of food combining, or more to the point avoiding it, is a concept promoted by Dr Hay. The plan is great and adhering to it is a good way to avoid feeling tired and sleepy after a meal. Here is a link to it and let me know if it works for you:

So be careful when it comes to combining food. The Hay guide is a good way of knowing how you should and shouldn’t combine foods.

Keep active


Curbing our diet habits, part 1: Tea and toast for breakfast equals no breakfast!


As fitness enthusiasts we know the importance of diet in achieving our fitness goals.  Many fitness pros will go as far as saying that 60% of the effort to reach any fitness goal involves rectifying our diet and then adhering to it.  I have come to realise that it is not our diet making us overweight and unhealthy but our habits.  These include the following:

1. Tea and toast for breakfast

2. The three-course meal

3. Finishing off the whole packet

Focussing on the first point it comes down to our hectic nine-to-five lifestyles, not leaving any time for breakfast and leaving the home after a quick sip of tea whilst munching on a bit of toast.  Worst stil,l leaving without anything and rushing off to starbucks waiting in that mile-long queue. Why oh why? Breakfast is the king of all meals, your chance to refuel after a six to seven hour fast.  A time when you need to stabilse your blood sugar levels and control high cortisol levels in the body.  Please tell me what kind of nutrition are you receiving from a couple of slices of bread, even if it is wholemeal?

So let’s start fixing up the breakfast.  Some of you may have started having porridge for breakfast; why not? Practically everyone sees it as a healthy breakfast option.  Porridge may be better than your frosties or coco pops but ultimately it is a carbohydrate so will still raise blood sugar levels.  Check this article out which exposes the myth behind breakfast cereals.

So the best breakfast is one that is protein rich.  Forget tea and toast, make time for egg and toast.  I wouldn’t care what type of bread you had if any, just start with the eggs.  Your long-term health deserves it.  The benefits of a protein-rich breakfast outweigh the harm of 30 minutes less sleep.  You could even boil the eggs the night before.

Finally, if you work out in the morning great! But that isn’t an excuse to skip breakfast.  Yeah you did well to train whilst everyone is asleep but you need to fuel up at least 40 minutes before with a source of protein.

I next attack the concept of the three-course meal.

Keep active