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.