Getting caught up in numbers around food – absorption/digestion, counting calories | Nutrition post


One of the most frequent (or atleast top 10 questions) i get asked online is “how much should i be eating?”, “How many calories does this have?”, “How much of X should I eat to get enough X?”

If i was having a health consultation with you or if i knew about your background, how your diet in whole looked, your lifestyle etc i could give more of a recommendation and personalized answer. But questions like that from a random stranger online… it is impossible (well almost) to answer. Of course there are recommendations such as middle-aged in active women should eat xxx calories while young active men should eat xyx calories. But you could be a middle aged women who is inactive but also has digestive problems and illnesses that mean you need more of a certain nutrient or more calories, which is why you should get personalized and individual help with your nutrition.

Many people get caught up in numbers when it comes to food. So many people are seeing food just as numbers…. either as macros or calories. Or just seeing food as nutrients and not as a whole thing.

Sure, we eat for energy and nutrients and minerals. That is the main reason we need to eat. So that we give our cells, muscles and organs energy to function so we can live life. All the different macronutrients and micronutrients have a function in our body, which is why we need to get them from food and on a daily basis.

The problem with just seeing food as numbers is that 1) it can take enjoyment away from food, 2) it can lead to an unhealthy and obsessive behaviour and 3) you can’t be certain that the food actually has the amount of calories or nutrients as you think.

Image result for counting calories

The amount of energy and nutrients in food varies…. everything from how and where the food was grown, how it was transported, how it was prepared all affect the nutritional value as well. And of course calories aren’t always the same as what the package says. Sure, things like plain chicken or rice or potatoes are rather standard and calories don’t vary so much…. and there is a calorie difference of maybe 5-10 per 100g, so it is no big deal. But what i am trying to say, is that you never really know how much you are eating and you don’t need to either.

Which leads me to the next thing. Digestion and absorption.

You may think you are eating a certain amount whether it is calories or nutrients, but the amount you absorb and digest isn’t always the same.

Example, some people can eat very little iron and still have good iron levels because their body can adapt and absorbed more procentually, compared to someone who has an ok intake of iron but absorbs very little and ends up with anemia.

Or example myself, i can eat alot of fats but my body doesn’t absorb all of the fats (only c.a 50% or less).

So the amount you eat isn’t always the amount you absorb.

People get far too caught up in numbers when it comes to eating, but forget that food is also enjoyment. Of course, it shouldn’t be your only enjoyment in life or become something you abuse or begin to emotionally eat. But it is something social, something that can make you feel happy or a way to bring people together.

Which brings me to my last point…. not every meal has to be nutritionally optimal.  Not every meal has to be perfectly balanced with all the macronutrients. Some meals may be more carb heavy and others may have more fat and less carbs. Or some meals may be low in protein whereas others are filled with protein. The thing that matters is the entirety of your diet. It is about the average of all your meals and not what you eat on occasion that matters.

There are of course ways to optimally boost your nutrition and intake via different combos and combining of food, but it is not something you have to do to have a healthy diet.

My best advice is to just try to eat varied overtime. Focus on filling your plate with different colours and not counting calories. (Different coloured vegetables and fruits give different vitamins and minerals as well as antioxidants!)

Image result for count colours not calories

I understand that some people need to count calories to make sure they are actually eating enough, or if you do need to lose weight. Just try not to get obsessed with them and instead use calories as a guide and not the end all, be all.  Nutrition is more than numbers. And leave the numbers and counting to dietitians and nutritionists so you can instead just have food as enjoyment, energy and nutrition and not as a numbers game.

Post: 10 reasons why calorie counting doesn’t work

Post: Why/How i stopped counting calories

Post: Calorie counters and why they are wrong


I know this post may not be super relevant to many of my readers, but i thought it was important to write about and share anyway. Food isn’t just numbers and the numbers aren’t always accurate anyway,


4 Comments Add yours

  1. Sophie says:

    Great post Izzy, I 100% agree 🙂 With a varied diet we get all the nutrients we need! I think its a fine balance between knowing more about nutrition vs knowing too much.. It’s good to be aware of what food does for your body, but I don’t think we need to know too much about it because that will only make food more complicated than it is. Food is not good or bad, and we all know which foods we can eat on a daily basis and which foods we can eat a few times a week. I personally don’t think we need to know more than that. People get too obsessed nowadays and suddenly thinks that normal, healthy food is bad? Like they say that pasta and rice (examples..) shouldn’t be eaten on a daily basis.. like what?! why? Its good food! Haha it is so weird!! I get it if they say candy and sweets shouldn’t be eaten on a daily basis, but when it comes to just normal food, I don’t agree at all..


    1. Yes, my thoughts exactly. People are getting way too caught up in numbers and nutrition. Or well, the problem is that there are those who have absolutly no nutrition knowledge at all, or very little and then there are those who know far too much or go into details and instead of it being helpful it becomes harmful to know so much. It is good to have an understanding of nutrition so that you can eat balanced, but ifcalories being to scare you or if you can’t see your diet as a whole/entirity and you just focus too much on specific foods or meals then it can become obsessive, and that is the case for some people. Example when people don’t want to eat nuts or avocado because it has too many calories, when infact they are two very healthy foods.
      But like i wrote… it is best to leave the calorie counting to proffessionals, and just know the basics and some nutrition knowledge but maybe not specifics!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.