You can thank your lucky stars: science says there’s flawed logic behind counting calories to lose weight and gauge how satiating foods are. Here’s why you need to stop counting calories to lose weight. Say bye-bye to deprivation and hello to enjoying food again!
So why haven’t you heard about this life-changing morsel of nutrition wisdom? Sadly, there’s generally a ten-years-minimum lag between research and mainstream medical/public health recommendations.
Why your doctor won’t tell you to stop counting calories
Chances are your doctor won’t tell you to ditch calorie number-crunching because medical doctors are not trained to be nutrition experts. A comprehensive study conducted by the Nutrition in Medicine Project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill from 2008 to 2009 concluded “[t]he amount of nutrition education that medical students receive continues to be inadequate” (1).
What exactly are calories?
Calories supposedly measure the amount of “energy” in a gram of food. In theory, caloric values should reveal universal energizing and satiation properties of different food components (think: carbohydrates (fiber, starch, sugar, sugar alcohols), protein, and various kinds of fat). Alas, not all calories are created equal.
How variable are calories?
Just how variable can calories be?
- Carbohydrates are valued at 4 calories per gram. However, there are different kinds of carbohydrates (fiber, starch, sugar and sugar alcohols). In nutrition-science-reality, fiber (a kind of carb that makes up the bulk of many veggies) runs anywhere from 0-2 calories per gram, though it is generally valued at 4 calories per gram in Nutrition Facts charts, and provides short-lived feelings of fullness (yes, short-lived).
- Starch and sugar are each valued at 4 calories per gram, yet destabilize blood sugar and insulin, leading to blood sugar highs and lows that trigger hunger and cravings for more starch and sugar soon after consuming.
- The caloric value of sugar alcohols vary from around 1-3 calories per gram (xylitol, for example is approximately 2.4 calories per gram), though many Nutrition Charts don’t count them at all, or count them as 4 calories per gram because they are lumped into the general “carbohydrate” category. These can and often do come with unwanted digestive side-effects that can lead to more problems in the long-run.
- Protein, valued at 4 calories per gram, will make you feel satiated quickly, for longer than carbohydrates, and also requires greater energy (read: calories) to digest.
- Fat, valued at 9 calories per gram, will make you feel satiated the longest and most intensely of any foot-part, and least likely to overeat (contrast to starch and sugar’s effects). Because it is incredibly energy-dense (ahem: 9 calories per gram!), fat is an exquisite storehouse of energy (this is a good thing). Plus, dietary fat stimulates lipolysis (the burning of the body’s fat stores). It is impossible to compare the same amount of calories from fat to those of carbohydrates because carbohydrates stimulate insulin, thereby slowing down metabolism and increasing fat stores. Read more about why saturated fat is healthy here.
- As biochemist Dr. Mary Enig says in Know Your Fats, shorter varieties of short- and medium-chain fatty acids (i.e. those found in coconut and palm oils, and butter) are metabolized more like carbohydrates, putting their true values closer to 4 calories per gram instead of fat’s usual 9, even though these fatty acids provide the same satiety-factor of longer-chain fats. In Nutrition Facts charts, these fats are nevertheless valued at 9 calories per gram.
Stop counting calories to lose weight
In short, counting calories to lose weight can be a royal misleading headache.
In my real food program, I always say, don’t number-crunch. Instead, eat for satiety. There is a delicious art and science to this practice.
Skip the headache. Kick counting calories to lose weight to the curb. Science doesn’t support it.
If you’re interested in the real food cleanse to end all cleanses (featuring delicious nutrient-dense foods, rich in saturated fat, all customized to your unique needs), sign up for updates about my proven system, TOTAL CLEANSE BOOTCAMP. This is how to do a cleanse. No juice. No wacky tactics. Just real food – tailored to your unique needs. And real results. Because you’re unique. Your diet should be too.
If you feel like you’ve already got the food-component down, but you’re still spinning your wheels and can’t lose weight, your situation may be more complex. We must always start with food, but the 80/20 rule applies when it comes to nutritional healing.
You may also be suffering from other imbalances that food alone can’t heal, whether it’s to do with hormones, your thyroid, or blood sugar axis (yes, you can have problems along this “axis” that food alone cannot fix!)–the list goes on. In these cases, you have to go deeper–and deeper than a lot of the information out there tells you to go (a lot of that still only scratches the surface).
For about 80 percent of people, strategically updating your diet (like you do with TOTAL CLEANSE BOOTCAMP) will resolve your health issues (including stubborn weight). But what do you do when food changes aren’t enough? What do you do when you’re the other 20 percent?
If you’re part of that 20 percent, there is hope! This is where you need need to roll up your sleeves and “get under the hood,” as I like to say. This means digging in to your unique biochemistry, assessing root cause (which goes beyond food, and deeper than many “experts” our there go), and getting bio-individualized.
Learn more about how my Custom Coaching can help, if you’re part of the 20 percent, and take the reins with your health!
And if you’re not on my list for FREE updates, be sure you sign up in the box below!
DISCLAIMER: This website, and the contents published herein, are intended for educational purposes only. They are not intended, nor should they be used in any way to replace sound consultation, diagnosis and treatment by a licensed medical practitioner. This website and its contents are not intended as, nor should they be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or prescriptions. Always consult a qualified licensed medical professional before making any dietary, supplement, exercise, or lifestyle changes. Read full disclaimer HERE.
“Numbers on the Plate” background image copyright of Fabio Berti at Dreamstime.com
Arner, P. “Obesity – a genetic disease of adipose tissue?” British Journal of Nutrition 83(1), 2000: pp. 9-16. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10889786
Enig, Mary. Know Your Fats: The Complete Primer for Understanding the Nutrition of Fats, Oils and Cholesterol. Bethesda: Bethesda Press, 2000. http://www.bethesdapress.com/
Forsythe, C., et al. “Limited effect of dietary saturated fat on plasma saturated fat in the context of a low carbohydrate diet.” Lipids 45(10), 2010: pp. 947-962. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20820932
Howe, H., et al. “Increased adipose tissue lipolysis after a 2-week high-fat diet in sedentary overweight/obese men.” Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental 60(7), 2011: pp. 976-981. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21040937
Klein, S. and R. Wolfe. “Carbohydrate restriction regulates the adaptive response to fasting.” American Journal of Physiology 262(5), 1992: pp. 631-636. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1590373
“…metabolic adaptations induced by carbohydrate restriction , notably less stimulation of insulin. Lower insulin levels result in increased lipolysis and fatty acid oxidation while simultaneously decreasing activity of key enzymes in de novo lipogenesis. From a mechanistic standpoint, restriction in dietary carbohydrate is the dominant dietary manipulation that accelerates fat mobilization and oxidation.”
Leas, Connie. Fat: It’s Not What You Think. Amherst: Prometheus Books, 2008.
Montmayeur, J. and J. le Coutre. Eds. Fat Detection: Taste, Texture, and Post-Ingestive Effects. Boca Raton: CRC Press, 2010. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK53541/
Schwarz, J., et al. “Short-term alterations in carbohydrate energy intake in humans. Striking effects on hepatic glucose production, de novo lipogenesis, lipolysis, and whole-body fuel selection.” Journal of Clinical Investigation 96(6), 1995: pp. 2735-2743. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC185982/