Why counting calories doesn’t make sense
We’ve all been told that calories are calories. Fat has lots, carbohydrates fewer, and if you want to lose weight, the best way is to work out how many you need a day and then reduce it.
Could this oversimplified theory be the reason so many people are overweight?
The calorie in/calorie out theory seems logical but in practice it just doesn’t seem to work very well. Low calorie diets – known as semi- starvation diets up until the 1970s – simply don’t produce long term results. And the reason for that? We aren’t machines, we’re biology.
FACT: low calorie diets = semi starvation
If you put energy into a machine, it’s easy to calculate what rate of production that will produce. For instance, if you know the size of your engine, you can quite accurately predict how many kilometres you will get from a tank of petrol. The “calorie in, calorie out” theory applies this same principle. If you control the number of calories you eat, you should be able to calculate how much weight you gain, or weight you lose.
But we all know people who eat huge amounts of food and are whippet thin, and there are plenty of people who eat very little but still can’t lose weight.
FACT: it’s impossible to accurately calculate how many calories you burn
So why is this? The reason is pretty simple: when we eat food – or calories – it triggers a hormonal response which determines what happens to those calories. Or put another way, it’s not the calories themselves, but what happens to them which determines whether we gain or lose weight.
FACT: it’s the hormonal response generated by food which matters – not the calorie content
Eating sugar or carbohydrates triggers the pancreas to release the hormone insulin into the blood stream. Insulin tells fat cells to open up and receive calories from food which has been converted into fat. This means that the calories from carbohydrates will trigger a hormonal response that leads to fat gain. Eating fat doesn’t have this response, which is why the calories from fat (despite there being plenty of them!) seem to actually result in weight loss.
FACT: carbohydrates trigger a fat storage message
A good example of this is research comparing the effect on weight of different sorts of snacks. Even when the calorie intake is the same, people who eat high fat snacks such as nuts, tend to lose more weight than those who eat high carbohydrate snacks. This could be explained by the different hormonal response the foods produced.
FACT: eating fat can help with weight loss
Humans are incredibly complex systems and our bodies each respond differently to food. Trying to simplify us down to simple machines which burn calories has done us an enormous disservice and is quite possibly one the main reasons why overweight and obesity are so prevalent today. This quote from the lead researcher of a study on diets says it best:
“Dieting…may in part be responsible for the current obesity epidemic”
(Does dieting make you fat: a twin study Int. Journal of Obesity)
FACT: diets make you gain weight
At W8less, we know that changing your diet, not going on one, is what leads to healthy and permanent weight loss. The 40 Day Challenge will teach you what foods work best for your body without counting a single calorie.