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Are Calories In VS Calories Out All That Matter For Weight Loss?

Do the sources of calories matter or not?

At the moment it feels like everybody is talking about energy balance or calories in vs calories out when it comes to fat loss.

And this is true - as much as some people hate to hear or try and dress it up in different ways, your weight will depend on the total amount of calories you consume regardless of where you are getting those calories from, so the foods/drinks are making up your total energy or calorie intake. This is because to lose weight, you must be in a calorie deficit...

However! Your ability to actually sustain a calorie deficit, how you feel doing it and your overall health and well-being definitely depends on the types of food and beverages you are putting into your body and where you are getting your calories from.

There are many reasons this is the case, but I would say the most prominent reason for this has to do with nutrient composition. Diets higher in fibre and protein for longer will keep you feeling fuller for longer, therefore making it easier for you to eat fewer overall calories. For example, 500 calories made up of McDonald’s is very different to 500 calories made up of whole foods. Not just in meal size/volume, but in terms of nutrient status and how those foods will impact your eating habits over the course of the day.

So, if you’re wanting to lose or gain weight while nailing the total amount of energy is first and foremost for this to happen - you simply can’t ignore what foods are making up your energy intake and ensure optimal health and well-being.

Now if you are reading like this thinking yep, this makes sense, but I've done the whole 'calorie counting' thing before and this hasn't worked for me on a practical level, or has impacted my relationship with food... I want to reassure you that just because we have to take overall calorie intake into account, it doesn't mean that our only option for weight loss is ‘calorie counting’. Think about it like this…

  • Goal: Weight loss or fat loss

  • Principle/method of action: calorie deficit

  • Tools/Facilitators: calorie counting, healthier eating, smaller portions, less snacking, fasting, more movement, higher protein intake, more vegetables and so on

For some tracking and calorie awareness is helpful, for others it’s not! And that’s ok. It is just one of the tools we can use to help us. There are many other ‘tools’ we can use! It’s just about finding the right approach for you and working out how to implement it on a day-to-day basis. But I do think in a sea of conflicting nutrition information it is good to strip away the confusion and keep people conscious of the actual principles we need in place for weight loss to occur. How you go about choosing to eat to meet those principles is up to you.


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