Fitness columnist Emmet Rushe looks at the different between eating for health and eating for weight loss, and why it all comes down to calories.

I hear it all the time in consultations. You may have even said it yourself at one stage or another.  It is one of the most confusing things for most people who try and be ‘good’ and still cannot lose weight and it usually goes like this;

‘I don’t understand, I eat healthy all the time, but I can’t lose weight’

If you ask a hundred different people what ‘healthy eating’ is, you will more than likely get a hundred different answers.

Some people think that eating healthy means cutting out certain foods.
Others think that it is about cutting out a food group (carbs, fats).
For others, it is about eating a ‘balanced’ diet.
For some, it is about eating ‘gluten free’, or ‘dairy free’ or any of the in trend ‘health’ kicks that are going around at the moment.

The problem with ‘healthy’ eating when your goal is weight loss is this;
People don’t know the difference between eating for health and eating for weight loss.

Energy balance in the body is the relationship between ‘energy in’ (food and calories through food and drink) and ‘energy out’ (calories used for daily energy requirements).
This relationship dictates whether weight is lost, gained or remains the same.

Whether you are eating healthy or not, if you are in a positive energy balance, (you are taking more calories in than you are expending through physical activity), you will gain weight.

If your calorie intake matches your calorie expenditure, (you are in a neutral energy balance), your weight will remain the same.

It is only when you get into a negative energy balance, where you are expending more calories than you are taking in, that weight loss will occur.

Good nutrition should achieve health, but it should also provide nutrient density, control energy balance and be outcome-based.

The outcome is the main point that most miss when they start to eat ‘healthy’.

They want to lose weight, so they start, what they think, is a healthy eating plan.

They initially get some weight loss, and then it stalls.  They continue with the healthy eating plan, even though it isn’t doing what they wanted it to do when they started it: to help them to lose weight.

With any nutrition plan, whether it be ‘healthy eating’, ‘clean eating’ ‘low carb’, ‘paleo’, or any of the thousands of other diets that are out there, the rules remain the same;

If you take in more calories than you expend, YOU WILL NOT LOSE WEIGHT,  it is impossible.

The ‘Laws of Thermodynamics’ do not change, no matter what the plan is.

The type of foods that you choose during your healthy eating plan is usually the problem.

For most, they will class foods like salads as the healthy option, but some of these salads can come in higher in calories than even a big mac meal.

A typical restaurant made Crispy Chicken Caesar Salad will all the dressings, can come in at a whopping 700 calories.

The issue here is usually the dressings and sides that they tend to use.

Your choice of breakfast can also set back your weight loss goals.

There are ‘healthy’ snacks at the tills in most shops as an alternative to a chocolate bar.

They are usually quite small packets and you would be forgiven for thinking that they were indeed ‘healthy’.

The ones I found today were only 70g weight each, not a large amount by any means,  but on closer inspection, per 100g they came in at a whopping 525 calories and 323 calories.

The nut mix had 525 calories, 37g of fat and 30g of carbs per 100g, while the dried fruit had 323 calories and 70g of carbs, of which 70g was sugar.

If you were at a till and these were beside a chocolate bar, you’d probably pick these, thinking you were choosing the ‘better’ option.
Unfortunately, for weight loss, you’d be wrong.

Always check the nutritional information before you buy, you could be surprised by what you find

An average female, looking to lose weight, who had a Caesar salad for lunch and one of these ‘healthy’ snacks would have used up a substantial amount of her daily calories, and this isn’t allowing for breakfast, dinner or any other snacks or drinks.

Your weight loss goals will always be determined by your calorie intake.

It doesn’t matter how healthy you think you are eating, if your goal is weight loss and you are not losing weight, you need to reevaluate your goals.