Are all calories equal?
The growing popularity of the extreme “IIFYM” method of eating has created the idea that eating is as simple as hitting calorie and macronutrient targets, regardless of the quality of the food.
In my opinion, an idea and approach that has multiple benefits and positives for certain people in certain circumstances, has unfortunately been abused and its credibility as a dieting strategy significantly undermined.
We all know at this stage that when it comes to body composition, calories matter.
Yet the extremes of IIFYM has created this notion that as long as you meet a set caloric intake, it’s perfectly fine to have a diet that is full of high sugar foods such as doughnuts, cereals and Haribo providing you hit the minimal protein, carb and fat goals.
What then goes hand in hand with doing this is people stop consuming nutrient dense foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit as they have “used up” their macros and calories on higher sugar food types, such as the ones stated above.
Does this matter?
In short, yes.
I mean of course you can lose weight eating the above foods and most likely stay in decent shape, but there is much more to consider here. Are all calories the same for one thing? In my opinion… no.
Your health. Take 200kcal of doughnuts and 200kcal of vegetables. Both are the same level of calorie intake to meet your targets but they will have a completely different effect on how you feel, look and perform.
Calories matter, but NUTRIENT QUALITY also matters.
Having high sugar foods will not have a positive impact at a cellular level or a digestive level and you are only as good as the nutrients you can absorb and use. Yes you have stay under your calorie goals but you are also on your way to becoming a self-inflicted diabetic. Most adults don’t get enough nutrients as it is and eat less fruit and veg than their kids most of the time, adding the abuse of MyFitnessPal to binge on foods with terrible nutrient quality is not the best approach.
Then comes all the other questions and considerations. What about your energy levels? Your digestion and bloating? Your sleep quality? Your blood glucose levels? Your satiety and fullness levels when dieting? Your mood?
These are all impacted by the quality of your nutrition.
Yes calories are what matters but all calories are not the same and they do not offer the same benefit. The actual “IIFYM” or “If It Fits Your Macros” approach was designed so that people could eat out with friends or have something “indulgent”, if needed, whilst staying on plan and AFTER they have hit all their protein and nutrient targets. AFTER they have eaten vegetables, fruit and other nutrient dense foods. It was designed to create a sustainable positive relationship with food that goes hand in hand with eating for health. The approach is about eating in a manner that prioritises health combined with the ability to fit in something “nicer” from time to time when needed. This can apply to social events or doing things with the people closest to you which doesn’t happen on a daily basis. This is how you eat like an adult who wants to be healthy but also has an adult social life and positive relationship with food.
So what are the take aways from this article?
Start eating for a purpose. Eat for health and enjoyment. Eat using logic, using discipline when needed and eat to achieve your goals. Be in control of food, don’t let it control you.
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