Are you struggling to lose weight even though you are working out 60 minutes daily and consuming ‘diet food’? Even with intermittent fasting, juice cleanses, and extreme workout regimens, weight loss can be a tall order for many.
According to the 2019 National Health Survey, adult obesity in the UAE stood at 27.8 per cent.
However, nutritionists, dieticians, and fitness trainers in the UAE said those who count their calories would have the highest success rate for weight loss, as compared to those who don’t.
On Saturday, the Dubai Municipality launched a ‘Known your Calories’ initiative, which aims to help consumers lead a healthier life and enhance the community’s awareness about the importance of calorie count and calculating it because of a healthy diet.
What are the benefits of counting calories?
Khaleej Times reached out to a cross-section of experts who said that the method of counting calories is the most effective way to lose weight and stay healthy.
Janani Satchithanantham, a senior dietitian with Aster Hospital, Al Qusais, said, “It helps develop a healthier relationship with food. As we eat in harmony with our hunger signals, counting calories helps in making better food choices.”
She said: “Calorie count helps you to differentiate between calorie-dense foods and nutrient-dense foods and also helps you eat smaller portions.”
Moreover, counting calories is free, Janani said. “It’s free to count calories. The government has come up with a praiseworthy initiative to create this awareness among the community. All you need is a mobile application (app) to know your nutrition labels, and you need to count everything that goes in,” she added.
What is your ideal calorie intake?
“Your ideal calorie intake depends on a number of factors such as activity level, age, weight, body type, and macronutrient percentages. Calculate your recommended calorie intake. Once you see how much you can actually consume, you will begin to reassess what goes in and how you can cut down on those extra calories,” said Janani.
Juliot Vinolia, a clinical dietitian and consultant nutritionist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai, said, “Excess calorie intake from high carbohydrate food lead to high blood glucose levels, cholesterol and even heart disease. On counting calories, one can prevent diabetes, hyperlipidaemia, fatty liver and cardiovascular disease.”
She added: “Following the Dubai Municipality’s advocacy to restaurants and fast-food centres to mention the calorie content of their food items in the menu, it has helped the public to have portion control and eat wisely especially over the weekends.”
Juliot said, “It has created a lot of awareness among people on hidden calories of even small portions of processed foods versus healthy less processed food.”
Role of exercise in calorie deficit diets
Nicky Donnelly, a Dubai-based personal trainer and the owner of NickFit, said, “You can train five times a day, but if you’re eating more than the required calories, you will not see any benefits because your energy balance is off. Your body is consuming more than what it requires.”
He added: “You don’t need to exercise if you are in a calorie deficit. It’s obviously better for you, but people need to get away for thinking exercise is the reason they lose weight or fat.
“Though it is recommended that the appropriate calories for men and women are about 2,500 and 2,000, respectively, it varies from person to person,” he added.
A basic online basal metabolic rate (BMR) calculator will help people identify how much calories you need per day, said Nick.
One of Nick’s clients has successfully lost 96 kilograms (kg) in three years because of a calorie deficit diet.
“The exercise depends on the goals too, like I would pick strength training because it helps with a lot of things … osteoporosis, arthritis and also the more muscle we have the more calories we burn per day. Also, increase your protein intake, your body will burn more calories,” he added.
Exercises that complement with calorie-deficit diets
1-Pick something you enjoy such as weights, boxing, walking, swimming.
2-Workouts need not be for 60 minutes. Make it work around your schedule.
3-Workout with a friend or personal trainer
4- Set short and long-term goals. Lift a certain weight on squats, or run 5 kilometres (km) within a stipulated time.
How to count calories?
>First, calculate your ideal healthy body weight
>Estimate your calorie requirements for your ideal healthy body weight
>Divide the total calorie into four parts. Three parts for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The fourth part takes into consideration your mid-morning and evening snack
>There are several apps that help keep a record of our food intake and track calories per meal. My FitnessPal is a case in point
>Stick to your calorie limit by portion control
>Always read nutritional labelling of food products and be cautious on the calorific load of per servings and limit your serving size
>Avoid taking most of your per day calorie intake in one meal, as it will only lead to excess blood glucose and cholesterol levels and slow your metabolism. It may lead to weight gain, fogginess of mind and low-energy levels towards the later part of the day.
Source: Juliot Vinolia, clinical dietitian and consultant nutritionist at Medeor Hospital, Dubai