02 December 2015

The recommended daily calorie intake for an adult male in the UK is 2,500kcal per day. The recommended calorie intake for an adult woman in the UK is 2,000kcal per day [1]. These numbers have been drilled into us for over a decade. But, what do they actually mean?

Is dieting really as simple as counting from 1 to 2,000? The calorie counting craze may have taken the weight-loss world by storm, but how do these numbers actually relate to real people, living real lifestyles? And is this over-simplified food ‘value’ system an outdated concept we need to forget?

A study published in the British journal, Public Health Nutrition found that labelling the calorie content of food ‘did not substantially affect expectations…or overall energy and fat intake’. The same study found that when presented with calorific information of foods that were healthy and unhealthy, the majority of people chose the unhealthy, higher fat option. A separate study, also concludes we should be focusing more on the nutritional value of different foods, not simply their calorific content. ‘Focusing quantitatively, particularly on the calories available from specific foods, fails to recognize the broader metabolic effects of foods themselves.’[2] 

Digest this
Our bodies have evolved to digest different types of food in different ways, so two separate foods with the same calorie content, will both be processed differently. A banana, for example, will be digested differently to a digestive biscuit of roughly the same calorie count, our bodies will produce different amounts of energy from foods with the same calorific content. Whilst bananas are good for slow-release energy, a digestive biscuit is more likely to provide a spike in energy, but then a period of low energy, or a ‘slump’ soon after.  

Track this
There are a myriad of techy devices out there designed to help you track your health, but it seems the scientific jury is still out on whether these devices are capable of delivering results. However, these devices can play an important part in simply making us more aware of our daily calorie intake, and more widely educate to the amount we’re actually consuming. The thinking behind these devices is that they will encourage us to make more informed choices about the food we consume. The ‘willpower boost’ provided by these devices ultimately depends on the individual users. People who are able to harness the information from these devices will no doubt put that data to good use by making healthy lifestyle decisions. 

Not everything that can be counted counts
Amongst the conflicting studies and calorie information overload, it’s probably best to remember the key to losing weight is pretty simple. A saying often attributed to Albert Einstein goes, ‘not everything that can be counted counts’, so the best thing to do, is to take a healthier approach to eating and move more. This is the simplest, and best way to diet.

While many of us use the I’ll-get-to-it-tomorrow attitude’, there’s no time like the present to get fit and healthy. If you find an app, or a wearable out there that works for you, make the most of the help. Use them as an addition to your diet, not the sole focus. And remember, it takes roughly sixty days to form new habits, so if you cave in and choose a donut over an apple every once in a while, don’t beat yourself up. Variety is, after all, the spice of life, and life should be about more than counting calories.

While a balanced diet and regular exercise can help prevent an unhealthy lifestyle, there's always the uncertainty of what the future holds and nobody is untouchable when it comes to illness, or even death. So while you're taking measures to help protect your lifestyle, our life insurance can also help protect your loved ones financially should the worst happen.

Sources:

1. http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/loseweight/Pages/understanding-calories.aspx

2. https://www.nutritionsociety.org/publications/nutrition-society-journals/public-health-nutrition/press-releases