Is running good for weight loss? This might sound like a bit of a daft question. Common wisdom tells us running burns loads of calories which, as long as you’re using up more than you’re consuming, you’ll lose weight. Right?

What if common wisdom is wrong?

I’ve spoken to many runners over the years who have lost loads of weight after starting to run; equally though, I have spoken to many who have struggled to lose any weight at all, despite pounding the pavements.

So what are they doing wrong?

The calories in, calories out model is nice and simple, perhaps too simple to be true, given the complexity and chemical reactions that take place in the human body. As nutrition and fitness expert JJ Virgin writes in her book: The Virgin Diet: “our bodies aren’t calculators, but chemistry labs”. She’s reflecting the important role that hormones, the body’s powerful chemical messengers, play in our bodies.

So with that background and the view ‘you lose weight in the kitchen, but get fit in the gym’, here are six steps that can help you achieve your weight goals by taking food into consideration:

Track what you eat for one week. Whether you use an app, a pen and paper, or take photos of what you eat; keeping a record of what you eat, and how you feel immediately afterwards, will give you some valuable insights. This ‘discovery phase’ is an important step towards making a change.

Forget the five a day. Seven is where the sweet spot is. The University College London recently did a study that showed that people who eat seven vegetables and fruits (five veg and two fruit) per day, were the healthiest and slimmest part of the population.

Prepare smoothies – eating seven fruits and vegetables-a-day may seem daunting for many, so enter the wonderful world of smoothies. I prepare a power smoothie every morning packed with greens, berries and tonic herbs. It sets me up for the day. You’ll need a blender such as the vitamix which I highly recommend. It’s not cheap, but I have used it almost everyday for the last nine years. There are cheaper models on the market too. If you like to follow recipes, visit rawenergy.info where you’ll find a number of energy-boosting, simple to make recipes.

Eat the rainbow. Ever wonder why nature designed plants in different colours? According to Chinese medicine, colour is an important contributor to health, with different colours working together to keep us in balance. In nature there are five colours: black, red, yellow, green and white. Each of the colours have a different purpose, for instance green is all about detox, keeping you clean on the inside. Red represents energy and supports your blood and heart.

Eat organically. An apple grown in your garden is going to be quite different in nutritional content, than a conventional apple. Clearly many of us aren’t in a position to grow our own fruit and vegetables, so the next best thing is to eat organically. As a general rule, organic foods are safer, for the simple fact you’re ingesting fewer toxins. A 2012 meta-analysis by Stanford University confirmed organic foods expose you to about 30% fewer pesticides on average.

Replace fizzy drinks. If you drink lots of these, this could be a quick win for you. Commercial drinks are loaded with chemical additives and have high amounts of refined sugar, typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup which has been linked to weight gain, diabetes and heart disease. The average can of coke, for instance, contains 40 grams of sugar, exceeding daily recommendations. If you feel the desire for a carbonated drink, try sparking water with a squirt of lemon juice, or sweetened with stevia.

In my experience as a health and wellbeing coach, a few strategic food swaps can make a massive difference to your weight. However, I’m also aware that some people require more than know-how to reap the benefits.

From a weight management perspective, December can be a challenging month, packed with lots of great socialising that can take its toll on your waistline, creating a big problem to solve in January. It doesn’t have to be that way, if you know what you’re doing!