Calories count but you don’t need to count them. If you severely restrict the number of calories ingested, you could eat nothing but fried doughnuts and still loose weight. There is a better way and it does not involve dieting, calorie math or doughnut binging.
It’s no secret, most people have tried and failed when it comes to dieting. The simple reason is because diets rarely address cravings, hunger, daily activity levels and most importantly easy long term maintenance. Imagine a world where diets were truly successful over the long haul: non-existent obesity rates, tons of skinny people running around, much shorter lines at Shake Shack and I just might be out of a job. According to grim statistical predictions, the world population is getting fatter and thus obesity related diseases are skyrocketing along with all of our health care costs. This is a dire situation, to say the least. I believe we need to get back to our ancestral roots: forget about counting calories, eating low-fat foods, using diet supplements and buying nonsense infomercial weight loss equipment. Our great grandparents didn’t do any of these things and never dieted or worried about the fat/calorie content in the foods they ate. They also weighed about 30 lbs less than the average American adult today. Although they moved more, they also ate lots of fatty foods – steak, butter, eggs, chicken fat etc. and never counted calories. Most people did not even know what a calorie was, let alone count them, until the mid-1960’s. If we can shift our focus away from calorie counting and towards controlling biological drivers (hormones) through quality macronutrient meal planning, we will do wonders for our health and happiness.
I don’t know anybody who likes calorie math and the good news is you don’t need to do it in order to lose weight. Think of the human body as having an internal temperature gauge controlled by a wide range of biological functions. Your body weight control system is extremely complex and has less to do with willpower and calories than previously thought.There is a multitude of factors at play when attempting to accurately measure the calories you are consuming and there’s currently no way to precisely account for all the calories a human body takes in and utilizes.
Why Calorie Math Does Not Add Up:
- Our bodies crave homeostasis and counterbalance low amounts of energy taken in by decreasing its metabolic rate. Eat less food and you will slow down the rate you burn fat.
- Calories are created differently and modify your hormones unequally. Sugar (most carbs) will make you hungrier whereas protein/fat will sate you.
- Digestion is a mechanical and chemical process which differs depending on the micro/macro nutrient ratio of the food you are eating. Your body will extract different amounts of energy from carbs, fat, and protein. i.e When you eat a 100 calorie snack your body may only utilize 75 of those calories – the rest will be undigested.
- Fiber in food can block absorption of some calories. Just eat more fiber….25 to 50 grams per day!
- The microbiome (the unique bacteria colony living in your digestive system) drastically affects the absorption rates of foods. Obese individuals tend to have lots of bacteria which are quite efficient at absorbing calories. Whereas slim people don’t have a high density of similar gut bacteria.
- Thermic effect of food (TEF) – the amount of energy required to process and digest food. Protein takes 5 times more energy to process than carbohydrates or fat.
- It takes a lot of energy for the body to convert protein into fat or glucose (up to 30% of the calories in a protein based food is used up in the conversion process).
The macronutrient content of your food drives many powerful hormonal responses within the body. Control these and you will never need to count calories or worry about weight gain again! Limiting calories for a lifetime is a Sisyphean feat and not recommended:
“Restricting calories to lose weight over the long term is more detrimental to your metabolism because it will turn your body into a hormone-induced hunger machine. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that after putting overweight individuals on a ten-week calorie-restricted diet of 550 calories a day, they experienced elevated levels of the hormones ghrelin, which stimulates hunger, and gastric inhibitory polypeptide, which promotes fat storage. Leptin, a hormone that suppresses hunger and boosts fat burning, was profoundly reduced after the ten-week diet and stayed that way for the duration of the one-year study.” – Poliquin Group
Consistently eating whole foods that supply the body with the vitamins and minerals it craves will not result in weight gain. In twenty years of helping people get into better shape, I’ve never encountered an obesity problem driven by over-consumption of vegetables, fruits and organic whole food proteins (like wild salmon and grass-fed beef). Eat as much of this healthy stuff as you’d like, just don’t pair it with processed crappy foods or insulin spiking carbohydrates. Years of eating sugary, overly processed, chemically laden, empty calorie foods will exhaust and prevent the endocrine system from properly working. Getting back on track may take a few months but eventually, your body will re-learn how to regulate your food intake (hunger) and develop a stable hormonal response.
- Fill up on non-starchy vegetables (6-10 servings per day!)
- Stay way from foods with added sugar
- Cook and eat unprocessed (not packaged) whole foods as much as possible
- Do not drink any juice, soda or smoothies – stick with water, coffee, tea and occasional glass of wine
- Eat healthy fats (4-5 servings per day) with every meal – avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, coconut oil, grass fed beef, sardines etc. Some fats actually stimulate the burning of calories (specifically medium chain triglycerides)
- In situations you might be tempted by bad food – bring a healthy snack or eat before hand
- Pay attention to how you feel after you eat good versus bad food – embrace those feelings so that they may stimulate you to eat better in the future
- Don’t diet and/or eat low-fat foods – this will likely raise your set point body weight and leave you hungry all the time
- Eat foods that have the least impact on blood sugar (insulin drives fat storage): fiber, fat, protein and non-starchy vegetables, low sugar fruit (berries)
Calories count but you simply don’t need to count them….in any event stay away from donuts!by