At the heart of every successful weight loss journey lies a fundamental healthy relation with food and the understanding of calories. This week, we unravel the intricate relationship between calorie intake and expenditure, guiding you toward the creation of a balanced and sustainable caloric deficit. By identifying hidden sources of excess calories and mastering portion control strategies, we aim to empower you with the essential tools for making deliberate, calorie-conscious choices that align with your goals.
In April 2021, the regulations came into play in the UK requiring restaurants, cafes and takeaways in England to provide calorie information1. It is important that you have an understanding of calories and the impact on your weight loss journey.
The term "calories" is now being more commonly used, not only on menus but it is also used frequently to support individuals to understand the food they are consuming. There are many different calorie tracking solutions out there, but what exactly are calories, and why do they matter?
In simple terms, calories can be thought of as the units of energy fueling our bodies. They are a measure of how much energy is packed into the food and drinks we consume2. You'll find this energy information neatly listed on the packaging of your favourite snacks and beverages, often labelled as "kcal”.
Understanding calories is like having a secret code to decipher how much "fuel" you're giving your body. It's a vital piece of information, especially if you're keeping an eye on your overall health and well-being. A simple way of thinking about it is as your body's way of budgeting energy. If you consume more calories than your body needs, it might store the excess, potentially leading to weight gain. On the flip side, if you consume fewer calories than your body requires, you may lose weight.
As well as above, when considering calories you could also explore:
1. Understand Portion Sizes:
There is no need to say goodbye to your favourite food. Instead become more mindful of the portion size you’re going to eat. This way you are not depriving yourself of the food or drink you love, but instead being more thoughtful in the amount you are consuming. This is a small step that can make a big difference3.
2. Become Calorie Mindful:
Learn to become a detective in spotting concealed calories in your diet. This could be in everything from your innocent-looking drinks to sugary snacks. Check labels for added sugars and fats to help you to recognise hidden extras, but don’t obsess over them.
3. Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods:
Opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods (e.g. brown carbohydrates instead of white) that provide essential vitamins and minerals without excess calories that keep you feeling satiated for longer. Additionally, fibre-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you feel full for longer periods, aiding in calorie control.
4. Prioritise Protein:
Include lean protein sources in your diet (e.g. chicken, eggs, beans and legumes). Protein helps you feel full and preserves muscle mass during weight loss.
5. Limit Processed Foods:
You can still enjoy your favourite snacks but learn to actually enjoy them by having them in moderation. Processed foods often contain hidden sugars and unhealthy fats.
6. Get Adequate Sleep:
Lack of sleep can disrupt hunger hormones, potentially leading to overeating. Get out week 9 to find out more about sleep and weight maintenance.
7. Stay Consistent:
Consistency is key. Sustainable weight loss comes from making long-term, healthy lifestyle changes that you will learn through this programme, rather than relying on short-term, restrictive diets. As we conclude our exploration into the basic understanding of calories, the importance of a balanced relationship with food becomes clear in your weight loss journey. Remember, it's not about deprivation but about making thoughtful, calorie-conscious decisions. Small steps, like mindful portions and detective-like label checking, can make a remarkable difference. Here's to your empowered, health-conscious future!
Remember, understanding calories is a way to enhance your weight loss journey but it shouldn’t become your only focus. Appreciate the food on your plate for the nutritious benefits it will provide, as well as the tastes, smells, and textures that are on your plate which were absent before.
Activity: Get to Know Your Calories3
Download our Understanding Calories worksheet to learn more about the nutritional information on food packages, and how you can use this information to enhance your weight loss journey!
- Calorie Labelling (Out of Home Sector) (England) Regulations 2021, Available from: https://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/2021/909/made
- NHS, 2024, Calorie Counting, Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/better-health/lose-weight/calorie-counting/
- NHS, 2024, Food labels, Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/eat-well/food-guidelines-and-food-labels/how-to-read-food-labels/
- British Nutrition Foundation, 2021, Get portion wise, Available from https://www.nutrition.org.uk/putting-it-into-practice/balancing-the-diet/get-portion-wise/