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Why we need to end our nations obsession with calorie counting.

I like millions of others heard the BBC news story this morning on the latest Loughborough University research on why ‘labelling food with “exercise calories” is a good way to tackle the obesity crisis in this country. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-50711652

For me it was like lighting the touch paper on why our nation’s obsession with calorie counting is fundamentally flawed.  Yes, we have an obesity crisis, yes, it is costing people’s lives, the NHS billions and yes, we need to do something different to help people lead healthier and happier lives. 

But really shaming people into being active, demonising food and reducing it to a unit that doesn’t tell the whole story is just plain wrong! Not all calories are made equal and surely it is better to encourage people to understand the relative nutrition value of food so they can make healthier more sustainable eating choices. Shaming people never works, and we thought we all knew that by now!

I like 50% of the population have 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 we can all understand the concept of energy in and energy out but if you delve below the surface it is far more complex and this research in my view takes us backwards rather than forwards on a debate our nation so badly needs to have. 

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. How is it that a 9-year-old girl can look in a mirror and think they are fat when they are normal weight. That can’t be right, and all this research does is play into the calorie cult that is fundamentally flawed.   

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 https://herspirit.co.uk/ 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 over 500 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.  

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 you’r 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 is a change in the narrative around health and well-being and end the obsession with calorie counting as the only way to solve the problem.