Calories – Should We Count Them?
Ever wonder how and when calorie counting came about? Just what is a calorie to begin with? Further, is weight loss a matter of calories in and calories out? Will we lose a pound every time we burn 3500 calories?
Let’s tackle these one at a time. First of all, for thousands of years of human existence, we were NOT calorie counters. In fact, calorie counting is a relatively new phenomenon. (Not to mention, we are the only species on the planet who perform this ritual.) The actual definition of a calorie is: “the amount of heat needed to elevate by one degree centigrade one kg of water.” What does that have to do with humans eating food? Here is an article that discusses how the calorie was originally defined, how it was applied to food consumption and how this thinking has contributed to the obesity crisis. HERE
So let’s tackle the 3,500 calorie issue with some common sense. Say you weigh 150 pounds. The theory states that if you reduce calories by 500 per day, that is 3,500 per week, or one pound. So does that mean if you keep this up for two years, you’ll weigh under 50 lbs? How ridiculous is that? The FACT is, (and this is explained very well in Dr. Jason Fung’s obesity lectures), that when you reduce calories, your body will adjust by reducing metabolic demand. In other words, you will slow down your metabolism. In other words, if you eat less calories, your body will just burn less by slowing some of its functions. Why would you want to do that? Consistent reduction in calories is not beneficial. This explains why those who restrict calories, lose a little bit of weight at first, then stall. Later, when returning to their prior caloric intake, they will regain the weight back plus more, because the amount they are burning has been reset to a lower amount. The net result is weight gain, after a miserable, hunger-filled diet attempt. This is why our diet industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. It is counting on your failure, so you keep doing it over and over, paying more money each time. Why do we keep doing the same method that fails us every time?
But does that mean that calories DON’T matter? I’m not saying that either. In the end, to lose weight, there needs to be a calorie deficit. But the key is NOT particularly in EATING less calories, but rather, finding out why your body is STORING those calories instead of BURNING them. In this case, we find that it is much more important WHAT we eat than HOW MUCH we eat.
Calorie counting is not sustainable. Most people are constantly hungry on calorie counting diets. That is your body’s way of telling you something is wrong. I continually tell folks I work with that whatever lifestyle you choose, if you want long-term success, you need to choose something that is sustainable for you, something you are willing to stick to for a long time, or permanently. Calorie counting diets are temporary and produce temporary results. That is why I do not endorse long term calorie counting as a way to permanently lose weight (occasional calorie restriction can be beneficial for some. See my page “fasting” HERE.)
Here is a post I made earlier in the year. This explains my opinion on calorie counting and weight loss.
“Often times, we hear that we don’t need to count calories or watch portions on low carb, that we can eat to fullness. I believe that to be true, IF you use this information in the right way. The reason we don’t count calories or watch portions, is because having adequate protein and fat in the diet causes us to be satiated. So if we eat until we are satiated, learning to listen to the body and eat only when we are hungry, stop when we are no longer hungry, this works well. But some misconstrue the no calorie-no portion watching to mean that you can be a glutton on low carb food just because it is low carb. It doesn’t mean that either. Constant overeating will cause weight loss to stall, even if the food is the right proportion of macronutrients. So our meals should be proportioned to allow us to eat to satisfy our NEEDS, not our WANTS. Remember, our stomach is the size of our fist. How much should it take to fill that up? So stop eating when you are no longer hungry, not when you need to loosen your belt. In this way, your body will naturally tell you how much nutrients and calories you need, so you don’t need to stress over it. We have lived on this earth as humans for thousands of years without ever counting calories. No other living creatures on this planet count calories. They eat what they need to function and to survive. They don’t eat due to stress, they don’t eat for boredom, they don’t eat for entertainment or for social reasons. Food should be to sustain us. While it is a pleasurable activity, it shouldn’t ever be an addictive one.
I particularly love this quote…
Really folks, if you heal the body with real, whole food, keeping your carbs low, making sure your carbs are high quality, having adequate protein and are generous with healthy fats, don’t fret over the numbers. Your body will tell you what it needs. Hopefully, you’ll never have to count a calorie again. Now I know there are those that will not be able to let go of this practice and will defend it to the death. But for most of you, I hope that you can feel freed from this unnecessary burden.
So how do I personally feel about calories? Simply put…I do NOT believe that calorie counting is the key to weight loss. But that doesn’t mean that with a healthy low carb diet that we can eat unlimited amounts of food. I became obese being a calorie counter for years, and I was still hungry all the time. I lost 80 pounds while NEVER counting a calorie, and never being hungry.
Enjoy This Informative Video
“Separating Fat From Fiction”
Here are some great articles from Zoe Harcombe, an obesity researcher, who debunks conventional calorie counting “wisdom.”
“You will not lose a pound every time you create a 3,500 calorie deficit” HERE
“One pound does not equal 3,500 calories” HERE
“Energy in does not equal energy out” HERE
“Eating less will not make us weigh less” HERE
Video: Dr. Aseem Malhotra “Stop Counting Calories and Start Eating Whole Foods” HERE
Authority Nutrition “Debunking the Calorie Myth” HERE
Authority Nutrition “Six Reasons Why a Calories is Not a Calorie” HERE
Intensive Dietary Management – Calories Series
“How do we gain weight? – Part 1” HERE
“A calories is a calorie – Part 2” HERE
“Key assumptions – Part 3” HERE
“Why caloric reduction doesn’t work – Part 4” HERE
“The biology of starvation – Part 5” HERE
“How caloric reduction wrecks your metabolism – Part 6.” HERE
“Why diets don’t work in the long term – Part 7” HERE
“How dieting makes us hungry – Part 8” HERE
“The Cruel Hoax of the low fat diet – Part 9” HERE
“The astonishing overeating paradox – Part 10” HERE
“Smash the Fat – Part 11” HERE
You may find this book interesting. In his self experiments, he had extremely high caloric intake. See how his weight fared with the different types of foods, even when the calories stayed the same.