Why Counting Calories Doesn't Work

  • Why Counting Calories Doesn't Work

    BY Catherine Sissons | ON Thursday, 18 January 2018
  • Over my 10 years teaching people about nutrition, it is so interesting how many people still believe that if they cut their calories they will lose weight.  

    Losing weight is a biproduct of eating well and nourishing your body correctly for your age, height, weight, gender and lifestyle.  Cutting calories can cause weight loss, however, it is not often sustainable.  It is time to switch your thinking about eating and eat foods that will help nourish your mechanics as well as help your organs perform better.

    Your digestive system is a complex structure that covers a huge surface area within your body.  It not only process calories in and calories out like a bank account with money, it uses your food to nourish the system and provides tools to ensure your metabolism operates effectively.  The major organ that manages your metabolism is your liver.

    Your liver controls over 400 jobs within your body, including body fat metabolism, processing sugars in and out of your blood, keeping your immune system strong during stressful times as well as ensuring you access energy from your food. 

    We need to look after the liver because when it becomes exhausted, it doesn't perform as well.  This is when lifestyle factors can start to compromise your health and this includes caffeine, alcohol and stress.  When you fuel yourself with the right fuel for your lifestyle, your body can operate more effectively and efficiently.

    Understanding how the liver works and how it is influenced by your diet and lifestyle can help you improve your health without changing your lifestyle.  As you can see in the image below, the liver is the second largest organ in your body after your skin. 


    The folllowing are all the roles the liver plays in your body.  Finding out how to nourish your body so your liver performs optimally is of utmost importance if you are wanting learn how to sustain a healthy body. 


    - Makes amino acids

    - Removes ammonia from the blood

    - Makes the structure for repairing cells

    - Makes clotting factors in the blood

    - Detoxifies alcohol, drugs, poisons

    - Stores most vitamins and mineral  

    - Controls sugars in your blood

    - Makes Bile to break down fats

    - Makes energy for exercise (glycogen)

    - Converts excess sugar into fats

    - Packages fats for distribution

    - Breaks down body fat for energy

    - Dismantles red blood cells & recaptures iron for recycling


    To truly understand whether a food is 'good' for you or 'redundant' - ask yourself - how many vitamins and minerals will I get for the amount of food I am eating? Each of the processes above require a mixture of certain vitamins and minerals for your liver to operate properly.  When you count calories, you can miss out on opportunities to nourish the body.  Some foods can be high in calories yet very nourishing.  Examples of these include almonds, walnuts, quinoa, salmon and cheese (as well as many more).  If you are watching your calories, you could be missing out on vital vitamins and minerals that your body needs for balancing your metabolism and health.

    When you then add in lifestyle factors that can exhaust particular vitamins and minerals, you will find you could have higher requirements than you are currently getting.


    There is a myth that drinking more water will help you hydrate and boost your energy.  Although drinking water at the right time throughout the day is helpful in topping up your body fluids, it is more effiecient to gain energy through the water content in your food.

    Drinking water alone is not enough because it depends on where you are sourcing your water from as well as if you are flitering it or not.  The minerals naturally found in water can help it be absorbed into your body because your body is like a salty bag of water.


    In order to get water in and out of your cells, you need a balance of sodium and potassium.  How this works is if you imagine two junctions like a state border or the NZ Cook Strait - in order to get over the Strait or past the border, you need to get clearance.  

    Getting water in and out of your cells is just the same.  You need to balance the sodium and potassium on each side of your cells in order to gain fluid balance each side. When you have too much sodium in your diet or have a lifestyle that causes more water loss, your body fluids can be out of balance.  This can cause symptoms such as high or low blood pressure, fatigue, dehydration, headaches and poor sleep. 

    Calcium is another mineral that is vital for the body to function normally. There is a lot of misinformation about dairy being bad and to cut out dairy to lose weight and be healthier, however, dairy is a great source of calcium.  It is the portion and the frequency at which you consume it that can cause the issues.

    Of course if you have been tested and diagnosed with dairy/lactose intolerance, we would not recommend that it be a the best source of calcium for you and there are plenty of other dairy free options to gain calcium.  When calcium is out of balance, it can result in lazy nerve conduction, muscle fatigue and weak bones. 


    B Vitamins & Folic Acid

    Major vitamin for energy metabolism in the liver.  Ensures fats are metabolized, skin and injuries are repaired and red blood cells are structured properly.

    Rich Food Sources: Potatoes, bananas, legumes and whole grains.  Flour and sugar contain little to no B Vitamins

    Vitamin C

    Collagen synthesis, enzyme production and antioxidant for fighting toxins and helps to absorb iron.

    Rich Food Sources: Kiwifruit, broccoli, strawberries and oranges


    Muscle contraction, nervous system and strong bones. 

    Rich Food Sources: Dairy, cheese, almonds, parsley 


    Transports oxygen around the body 

    Rich Food Sources: Spinach, red meat, almonds, pumpkin seeds, soy, lentils


    Antioxidant and prevents cell damage

    Rich Food Sources: Mushroom, fish, egg, meat 


    Required for enzyme production, growth and healing 

    Rich Food Sources: Lamb, beef, egg yolk, almond, oysters


    Fluid balance and healthy nerves/muscles 

    Rich Food Sources: Coconut water, mushroom, pumpkin, banana, potato 

    Keep your liver flushed and in optimal condition by ensuring you get a variety of foods each day


    Strong bones and nervous system

    Rich Food Sources: Almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach      


    • Choose fruit and vegetables that have three different colours at each mealtime to ensure you are getting antioxidants and all your energy yielding nutrients. 

    • Have a variety of fruit and vegetables throughout each day to ensure you get all your vitamins, minerals at the same time as water content and fibre.


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