Weight loss: Why calorie counting won’t help you lose weight but counting chemicals will

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High fat, high sugar foods are known to be incredibly calorific and are often substituted by “healthier”, low-calorie alternatives for weight loss diets. While calorie-free sweeteners and low-fat foods might sound like the better option, scientists have found that the added chemicals could be having quite the opposite effect on your weight and overall health. Express.co.uk spoke to the weight loss experts to find out why these chemicals are so concerning, and exactly what you can do to lose weight the right way.

Why are chemicals so crucial to weight loss?

We all know we need to eat less sugar and focus on healthy, whole foods, but why is it still so hard to lose weight even while following a healthy diet?

Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, David Weiner, training and nutrition specialist at Freeletics said: “Chemicals are really important if you’re trying to lose weight, as a lot of the time they are hidden unknowingly within the foods we consume daily.

“While a lot of chemicals can be completely harmless and play an important role in food preservation, there are some things to consider if you are trying to lose weight.”

There are chemicals in our everyday foods which are called obesogens, and these are what will cause certain people to not lose any weight.

David explained: “I call these ‘chemical calories’ rather than your normal food calories, as they are more entwined in your weight loss journey than you think.

“Furthermore, the most detrimental chemicals you can find are the artificial colours and sweeteners which are scarily most common in children’s foods.”

Not only will these chemicals have a concerning effect on your body’s fat stores, but they often have no nutritional value whatsoever, rendering them completely useless for your overall health.

The negative impact of these artificial additives goes beyond weight loss too, with plenty of research to show a clear link between additives, preservatives and artificial ingredients with an increased risk of cancer, allergies and gut disease.

Where will you find common additives?

While high-calorie foods are considered bad for obvious reasons, few people understand why certain chemicals can often be even worse.

Registered dietician and fitness expert for JustCBD, Nataly Komova said: “Most of us focus on calories we consume and forget that chemicals or additives can also jeopardise weight loss goals.”

Common chemicals such as emulsifiers, antibiotics, hormones, and inorganic phosphates can all impact our ability to lose weight, but why are they used?


  • Chemicals used in processed foods to enhance texture and prevent separation
  • Known to trigger bacterial imbalance, setting the stage for metabolic syndrome which increases the risk of obesity

Antibiotics and Hormones

  • Used to treat livestock and are largely consumed through meat products
  • Antibiotics lower the levels of T-cells, encouraging obesity
  • Steroid hormones used in dairy farming are also believed to increase the risk of obesity

Inorganic Phosphates

  • Common additives in processed foods
  • Eating inorganic phosphate-infused foods increases phosphate levels in the body, triggering weight gain

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How to lose weight without counting calories

While a calorie deficit is perhaps the most universal formula for weight loss, there are a number of simple fixes and tricks which are scientifically proven to aid fat-loss and help you shed extra pounds.

Weight loss doctor Sally Norton told Express.co.uk: “The traditional message that we should be counting calories to lose weight is starting to run out of favour – it’s far too simplistic.

“Yes, there’s no doubt that eating less would help many of us to shed those extra pounds but cutting calories and still eating chemically-laden, nutrient-poor food will play havoc with our body’s natural processes.”

Avoid artificial sweeteners

David explained: “If you’re looking to lose weight or just want to be conscious of what you’re putting in your body, artificial sweeteners and additives are what you should look out for.”

Always check the packaging

While many of us will fall victim to clever marketing at some point in our weight-loss journey, a simple read over the ingredients is the easiest way to understand what you’re putting in your body.

Heavily packaged foods, or foods labelled as low fat are often laden with unhealthy additives, and chances are, if you can’t pronounce the ingredient, it’s no good for you!

David added: “The main ones to look out for are artificial food colouring and dyes, BHT, BHA, saccharin, aspartame, and monosodium glutamate.

“If a food is labelled ‘preservative-free’ – go for it.”

Identify “ultra-processed” foods you might be missing

While many of us consider processed foods as fast snacks like crisps and biscuits, it turns out that there are plenty of “healthy” items you are probably wrong about.

David Wiener said: “Controversially, a lot of vegan and vegetarian food you find in supermarkets are highly processed.

“Most of these products will contain a lot of soy proteins, which are made up of estrogenic compounds which help form fat cells.”

Often packed with artificial ingredients and preservatives, David added that you could actually end up eating more than you bargained for due to the effect of these processed compounds which can increase your appetite.

While vegan and vegetarian options are encouraged, you should always check the sodium content before buying and be sure to avoid products with 400g or more of sodium.

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