Boris, obesity and why we need to end our nations obsession with calorie counting

Her Spirit Co-Founder Holly Woodford shares her story of calorie counting and why she thinks restrictive diets are not the answer.

After decades of in-action Boris’s brush with Covid-19 has finally brought the nation’s physical and nutritional health to the top of the agenda. The launch of the Governments new Obesity Strategy has come with a renewed zeal and I hope this will herald a new dawn of a nation that is fitter, stronger and healthier.  

Covid-19 has served as a stark reminder to all of us (individuals and Government) how fragile the health of the nation is. No one would argue the size of the problem nor the need to take action.   But are we taking the right action? Or are we creating a mental health meltdown for millions who are already dieting without success.

I am all for helping to reduce the motivation to buy unhealthy food, but I am just not convinced that prescribing on mass a 12-week calorie restricted diet plan will work.  Nor do I think that shaming and scaring people into action will solve the problem.  Shame just leads to depression, anxiety and self-destructive behaviour and I thought we knew that by now!

I like 50% of the population had been on a constant calorie reduction diet for more than 30 years. I was exercising 5 times per week (mainly running & HIIT sessions) and could never understand why I wasn’t losing weight, or my body shape wasn’t changing.  Of course, on a very simplistic level I understood the concept of energy in and energy out, but I never fully understood the nutritional value of food, what a healthy plate looked like and the impact of poor sleep and hydration on my overall physical and mental health.

Most people know they could be healthier, but they are confused about how to do it. Changing behaviours isn’t easy and it won’t happen in 12- weeks.  We need to stop setting unachievable goals and approach this more holistically and without demonising food.

The diet industry over many decades has built a cult following rooted in calorie counting, low fat, low carb, quick fixes. As a society we are fixated on the latest fads and food trends and viewing the world through the Instagram lens. I am concerned that aspects of this strategy will play into the calorie cult that is fundamentally flawed.

Research shows that only 1/10 women lose 5% of their body weight and keep it off using this type of approach.  So many women I have spoken to have already lost hope that they will ever be able to achieve a healthy weight.

After 30 years I finally learnt some basic truths about nutrition. It isn’t actually as complex as we have all been led to believe and this is one of a major reasons, I started Her Spirit with my Co-Founder Mel Berry. Mel helped me understood the nutritional value of the food I was eating, and it made it easy for me to make changes. My low fat, calorie obsessed approach to every meal led me to over index on sugar throughout the day, leaving me feeling low in energy and frankly miserable.   

Mel and I started Her Sprit to help other women understand how to eat nutritionally well and enjoy being active and not see it as a punishment.   We have spoken to thousands of women and we are even more convinced there is a different way. It has taken me 12 months and my taste buds have changed, I no longer crave the foods that were nutritionally poor for me (no will power required) and I feel like I have my freedom back. 

At Her Spirit we do it differently. We don’t count calories and we don’t subject women to cattle market weigh-ins.  We empower women to take control of their own Mind, Body and Fuel.

Her Spirit is low cost, it’s non-judgmental and our community of women motivate and support each other to take small daily changes how they eat, exercise and feel inside and out.

I no longer need to read every food label and obsess about every meal and exercise manically to find the balance that never quite seems to come.    I have simply learnt to love food again and not see it as mortal enemy. I now have confidence in my body and what it needs…….and if your wondering yes I have lost over a stone in weight during this time and it isn’t creeping back on.

There isn’t a magic pill that will reverse the obesity epidemic.  It will take decades to unlearn some of the flawed science and calorie reduction products peddled every day that has helped led us to this point.   What we so desperately need to change the narrative around health and well-being and end the obsession with calorie counting as the only way to solve the problem.

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