Calorie counting was never the answer


A calorie is a calorie is a calorie. Yes and no… or the important ‘real life’ difference between theory and practice. The traditional idea is: calorie in, calorie out. Or simply: eat less and exercise more.


While it’s easy to assume that this approach is age-old common sense, you may be surprised to discover that it’s actually a concept based upon Isaac Newton’s theory of energy balance. This theory states that energy can’t be destroyed, instead it only transforms.

The problem with using this concept to inform the human diet, is that it overlooks an important factor that’s part of Newton’s theory… that this is only always true within an isolated system; a scientifically controlled environment that is completely void of matter and external forces. This is the place where 1kg of feathers falls at an equal speed to 1kg of gold. 

In the real world? Not so much. Within our earthly atmosphere, things such as air and wind have a significant effect on the outcome. The same goes for our body. Our metabolism is like the air through which the feathers float… human biology is NOT an isolated system. 

If we applied Newton’s theory in its literal sense to the food we choose to eat, what we’d be claiming is that 1,000 calories of broccoli is the same as 1,000 calories of ice cream.

In a Excel sheet, this is true. In your body it is not. Even applying common sense tells us that this common mantra of energy in–energy out cannot really be right. 

If you consumed only 100 calories more per day than what you burnt off, this would mean over 20 years you’d be completely out of shape.

This isn’t how it works.

Eating less by counting calories and moving more is not the best answer. While it can be an effective approach to short-term weight loss, in the long-run it isn’t. It’s not the calories but the composition of our food that is really important.

Where we get our calories from makes a huge difference. Broccoli activates processes in our body in a very different way to ice cream. The changes in our metabolic rate, fat storage and hunger depend on the qualityof our diet, not the number of calories.

Everything we eat effects our hormones, neurotransmitters and inflammatory cytokines. These sound complex, but simply put, they are responsible for driving change in our brain function and metabolism – in every bite.

It’s the quality and nutritional level of our food that determines whether this change is positive or negative.


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When we think calories above nutritional value, we run the risk of becoming nutritionally undernourished. This has nothing to do with weight. If our diet is consistently void of the full range of nutrients our body needs, we can activate biological survival mechanisms that defend against starvation. 

Meaning? Our metabolism slows down and our hunger increases. This can cause us to eat more and store greater fat than we really need. 

Calorie counting is a short-term fix 

Calorie counting as an approach to health will always be a transitional process, not a long-term solution. Often when we calorie count, weight loss is the goal instead of long-term health; a mentality that can promote the idea that getting to our ideal weight will bring us to the finish line… health, happiness and a life of abundance, without limitation.

It can nurture the restrictive belief that ‘once I lose Xkg, I can then do Y or Z…’ 

As a Health and Wellness coach, I know the power of feeling good within our body. But extensive experience with my own health journey and those of the people I meet, tells me that diet and exercise is never the full picture.

Being ‘thin’, on its own,  is rarely a joyful goal.

The simple mathematical equation of calorie counting, can never heal or transform the very real, emotional and complex connection with have with our food and body.

This connection is a relationship, so we have to treat it as such.


Let’s nurture a relationship with food that’s founded on nourishment not lack

When we consider what our body needs to be nutritionally nourished, we totally reframe our mindset.

The food we eat becomes a loving process of giving our body what it needs. It allows us to enter into a conversation of self-care, not one of calculations and restrictions centred on the question, “How many calories am I allowed?”

For the clients I work with, this is truly transformational.

Focusing on the nutritional level of food, feels extremely expansive. It’s all about bringing in, not leaving out. It allows us to rebalance our often high-sugar, processed diets so our bodies can start to talk to us, and tell us what we need… not through the lens of addiction or cravings, but in a way that truly serves us. This paves the way to ‘intuitive eating’, an approach I teach and follow myself.

Reaching our own ideal weight and health ambitions become natural by-products, not obsessive ‘end-goals’. This relationship-centred approach allows us to honor our individual body and draw upon the other aspects that deeply effect our health and happiness, such as our lifestyle, work and relationships with others. 

It stops us from postponing joy to after an achievement, and truly works to build positive connections to our food and body that are empowering not self-depreciating.

This is where the magic happens, a state of being where health, happiness and deep fulfillment become a natural part of our lives. 

If you are feeling called to to access individualised support and advice about your health and nutrition, I offer a 90-minute consultation. Please click here for further information.

Heidi HauerComment