But is calorie counting always the way forward for weight loss and staying healthy?

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Many of us tuck into an under the radar biscuit or graze as we’re making the kid’s tea, but it turns out that, as a nation, we’re consistently underestimating how much we’re actually eating, and not by a small margin either. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) today released figures that indicate that men are eating approximately 1000 more calories than they admit to a day, with women exceeding their logged daily intake by around 800 calories.

To break it down, on average men claim to consume 2065 calories a day, but actually put away 3119, while women estimate that they consume 1570, when in reality they’re actually consuming 2393. The results were sourced from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, with data assimilated from 4,500 respondents. To further test the findings, given that if we’re honest many of us probably misreport/ forget what we’ve eaten, researchers monitored a sample of 200 people using a technique that records energy metabolism by way of isotypes in water for 24 hours. The results were then used as a model and applied to the overall results of the survey to create a more accurate overview of the nutritional habits of the nation. As above, it turns out that there’s a notable disparity between what we say we eat, and what we actually eat, with men, young people and overweight participants the most likely to underrate what’s on their plate.

The findings have been published prior to a Public Health England (PHE) calorie counting campaign that will launch in March, encouraging adults to cap breakfasts at 400 calories and keep lunch and dinner to 600 calories. The recommended daily calorie intakes for men (2500 a day) and women (2000) haven’t changed, but the guidance aims to address issues such as calorific snacking between meals and large portion sizes, which are thought to be some of the drivers behind the UK’s current obesity crisis.

While clearer food and drink labelling  and a greater awareness of healthy portion sizes will help to address the issue, there are many naysayers when it comes to prescriptive calorie counting as a means to weight loss and weight maintenance. The likes of Joe Wicks, aka, The Body Coach , advocates a ‘quality over calories’ ethos, believing that three balanced meals a day trumps calorie counting, as totting up calories can lead to a ‘crash-diet’ mindset. Meanwhile dietitian Leanne Ward  recommends taking a more rounded view of your diet, rather than focusing on calories in each and every meal (“one salad won’t make you healthy, one takeaway won’t make you fat”). Chair of the Obesity Forum Tam Fry told  The Telegraph  that the PHE’s new calorie counting campaign is “absolutely ridiculous” as the limits for each meal aren’t realistic in the scope of daily life.

That said, calorie counting worked for Tom Kerridge, who lost over 70kg by way of  the dopamine diet  and upping activity levels- he now promotes lower-calorie cooking and calorie controlled meals in his new BBC show, Lose Weight for Good.  The NHS Choices Weight Loss Plan  also endorses calorie-reduced meals and snacks, enabled by an online calorie checker . The trite ending to this piece would be that old chestnut of ‘moderation’, not taking either calorie counting or indulgence to the extreme, but of course there are many factors implicit in the UK’s obesity epidemic, from sedentary lifestyles to takeaways available at the touch of a button and a 24/7 work culture that induces everything from stress to sleeplessness, all bad news where maintaining a healthy weight and way of life is concerned. Clearly a multi-pronged, long-term solution is required rather than simply crunching the numbers.

The calorie counting 5:2 diet that worked for Dr Michael Mosley

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