While it’s important to be conscious of how much we’re eating, where those calories are coming from is arguably more important.
“It’s an old-school approach. Weighing out food is just a miserable existence,” says Pearson. “Things like Bran Flakes and Ryvita simply don’t fill you up and satisfy you in the same way protein does.”
When we don’t get enough protein, and instead base our meals around starchy carbohydrates, it can lead to blood sugar fluctuations. This can result in excessive hunger and cravings for starchy or sweet foods.
“Putting yourself on a blood sugar roller coaster means that by mid-afternoon you will be prowling around the kitchen looking for anything you can get your hands on.”
The calories in, calories out approach oversimplifies how our metabolism works. “I explain to people that we have multiple needs for proteins and fats in the body. Protein is needed for our skin cells, muscle and for our immune system. When it comes to fat, every cell membrane is made of fat.”
Digestible carbohydrates, however, are only used as energy. “It’s much easier to over-consume carbohydrates and have them stored as fat for later use, whereas proteins and fats have multiple structural roles, so will be used for other things than energy supply. Getting your macronutrients right is more important than how much you are eating.”
Pearson says she has clients who drop their calories so low and raise their amount of exercise so high that it triggers so much cortisol in their body it causes them to hang on to excess fat.
“In the past I’ve made people eat more of the right foods and exercise less, by doing gentle and relaxing activities – and they’ve lost weight as a result.”
Eating too much fruit
We think of fruit as being equal to vegetables when aiming for a balanced diet, but Pearson advises clients to eat it with caution. “Some people just shouldn’t eat it at all,” she says. “I might be working with someone with type 2 diabetes, and I will recommend cutting it out altogether because of the amount of sugar it contains.”