Calories (oh bloody hell)

So do calories count?

My own feeling, after years of research, and experimentation on myself, is that they have a role to play, but not the decisive one – I’ve found Glycemic Load/Index to be far more important.  What I’ve put into my body has turned out to be a much better determiner of whether or not I lose weight than how much.

When my Mum died in 2003 my research turned me to a low carb diet.  A nutritionist friend was horrified (this was when Low Fat was still the Gold Standard of nutrition) and said it was incredibly dangerous;  she also insisted that the only reason I was losing weight on low carb was because in cutting out carbs I was cutting out a whole food group, and therefore alot of calories (remember that rather stupid argument?).  So we called up a calorie counter and entered into it what I ate in a normal day – it totalled 2,300 calories, and yet I was losing 2 or 3lbs every week.  My nutritionist friend was irritated, bewildered and had no answer.

As an experiment a few months ago, I ate 1,600 meticulously counted calories a day of low glycemic foods (with starch in the form of pulses, sweet potato and buckwheat playing a big role) and walked for at least an hour every day, which brought my net calories in total to about 1,350.  I did this religiously for 3 weeks.  I didn’t lose a single pound.

I was recently reading James Duigan’s Blueprint for Health – I rather like him because, despite the exclusive gym which only the elite can afford, I think he is sincere and sensible – what’s more, seeing as he is the man who Hugh Grant credits with making him ‘look dazzling in his panties’ I’m going to listen to him.  I’ll quote what he has to say in Blueprint for Health in response to the question ‘Do calories count?’ His answer – ‘No.’  That’s pretty unequivocal.  He then goes onto explain why not, and he makes a good argument.

I did lose alot of weight fast on a very low calorie diet last year, but I’ve regained it all. Take a look at this photo of Michael Fassbender in the film ‘Hunger’, for which he lost almost 3 stone to play Bobby Sands –


Yes, that really is Michael Fassbender.  In an interview with the Telegraph, he revealed how he lost the weight –

Fassbender underwent medical checks throughout, and after meeting with a nutritionist, he settled on a diet of berries, nuts and sardines, eating 900 calories a day for the first five weeks until his weight levelled, forcing him to cut down still further. He skipped, did yoga, and walked four and a half miles a day.

However  –

When the film wrapped, the first thing that Fassbender ate was sushi. ‘I was stuffed,’ he recalls. ‘And I was freezing, because my body wasn’t used to handling food. That was really interesting. And then the weight went on really quickly. In maybe two weeks, I was only about three kilos less than what I’d normally be.’

He regained two and a half stone in two weeks!!!

If you deprive your body too much, it will adjust its functioning and when it comes into contact with food it will lay that fat down quicker than you can say ‘900 calories’.

I’ve also noticed that when I cut down on calories, I eliminate foods which I know to be healthy because there are lower calorie options:  for instance, salmon and mackerel slip off the menu.  Beef bourguignon becomes a distant memory.  I stop adding avocado to a salad.  And even as I’m doing it, instinct tells me it’s not right.

So the take home on calories – on balance, I think it’s a bad idea to count them;  so I’m not going to use them as a measure of my diet.

And yes, I am going to call it a diet!

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