Dieters who count calories for weight loss may want to rethink their strategy.
There’s little proof that calorie counting helps shed pounds, according to a top epidemiologist and dietician in the UK, who says people should focus on the quality of their food instead.
“[Calorie counting] is complete nonsense,” said Tim Spector, professor at King’s College London, on “The Diary of a CEO with Steven Bartlett” podcast earlier this week.
“There has never been any long-term study showing that calorie counting is an effective way to lose weight and maintain weight loss after the first few weeks,” he continued — despite the fact that the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) lists calorie counting as one way to lose weight.
Strict calorie counting may allow people to lose weight, but it also often “deprives” dieters, said Spector. “Your body’s evolutionary mechanisms will make you hungrier and hungrier every week you go by when you’re depriving yourself of energy.”
The food scientist explained that when some restrict their caloric intake, their body goes into “shutdown mode,” which, counter-productively, slows down the metabolism.
Calorie counting actually doesn’t help with weight loss, according to a dietician.Getty Images
“Inevitably more than 95% of people will go back to their baseline [weight] and many will go above it,” he said. “They rebound back if they’re doing this style of calorie restriction.”
Spector added that the focus on calories on food labeling is a “giant camouflage” do distract consumers from the issue of food quality.
“The food industry wants you to focus on the calorie, the fat content, the sugar so you don’t have to think about the quality of the food,” he clarified. “And it’s something that they can control very easily, keep their profits higher, keep adding stuff to the product that is synthetic, when we know that a lot of stuff that they’re adding are harmful for our gut microbes.”
Instead of obsessing over calorie intake, people should learn how to eat quality whole foods, made from “original ingredients,” following a plant-based diet and eating foods in “pure form” — such as nuts, seeds, fruit and vegetables.
Spector went on to allege that counting calories is “virtually impossible,” since labels on food packages can be inaccurate, and portion sizes in restaurants can vary.
“For people trying to lose weight, I’d recommend eating a diversity of different foods,” he suggested.
The author of “Food For Life: The New Science of Eating Well” also told MailOnline his top three tips to losing weight: avoid ultra-processed foods; partake in time-restricted eating, for example, eating all your meals in a 10-hour window; and eat 30 plants a week.
Ultra-processed foods typically contain a lot of chemical additives, sugar and fat — which have been linked to obesity, cognitive decline and early death. They also seem to make consumers hungrier and cause them to over eat.
“Healthy weight loss doesn’t happen in weeks, it happens in months and years,” Spector said. “Moving away from calories and focusing on a diversity of whole plants and feeding your guts will help people reach their healthiest weight and keep it.”