It’s no secret why people flock to a calorie controlled diet. We hear the misleading ‘sales pitch’ over and over again:
“In order to lose weight you must take in less calories than
the number of calories you expend”.
However, we now know this statement does not reflect the whole truth.
Why? Because there’s actually sound information telling us that aiming for a ‘perfect number of calories’ through a weight loss diet is a waste of time. Plus, it’s a hazard to our health.
So, it’s definitely time to change our weight management paradigm.
Calorie Fact and Fiction
First, to help understand how a calorie controlled diet is misleading, let’s look at what a calorie is, and what it isn’t.
Okay, so you know a calorie isn’t a seamstress, right?
Yet, what exactly is it?
A calorie is a measure of the amount of energy required to heat water. (1 calorie will raise the temperature of 1 kilogram of water 1 degree C.)
Precisely, this refers to heating water in a ‘closed system’. A closed system is laboratory conditions where there is no interaction with the environment.
Hmmm. That doesn’t sound like my life! How about yours?
Do you suspect your body is doing a lot more than heating water? In addition, do you feel like an ‘open system’ interacting with many aspects of life outside a laboratory? You’re absolutely right!
We are breathing, digesting, active systems constantly interacting with our environment.
Therefore, this point alone seriously undermines any credibility of counting calories for weight loss.
Calorie Controlled Diet Cannot Know ‘Calories Out’
Next, let’s see why the idea of trying to calculate ‘calories in’ to ‘calories out’ doesn’t work.
You might think that counting burned calories is as simple as this:
However, you’re always burning calories, not just in the oven and the gym.
Your body metabolism is constantly burning calories to keep you alive and functioning.
One way metabolism burns calories is by digesting food. Yet, different foods require different amounts of calories to be processed.
Here are two ways that digestion shows ‘calories in’ do not equal ‘calories out’.
Calories To Metabolize Different Nutrients
- Firstly, there’s a big difference in the energy used to metabolize protein versus simple carbohydrates.
The process to break protein down requires more calories than that to break down simple carbohydrates.
For instance, say you eat 100 calories of protein. Then, your body converts it for use. You’ll only have about 75 calories left.
Protein: 100 calories in equals 75 calories out
On the other hand, look at a simple carbohydrate like table sugar. You’re not using much energy at all to process sugar. 100 calories of table sugar gives you over 90 calories of energy to use or store as fat.
Sugar: 100 calories in equals 90+ calories out
Therefore, you can see it’s impossible to calculate ‘calories in’ to equate in any true manner to the calories you might burn.
And it doesn’t stop there.
Calories To Metabolize Comparable Nutrients
2. Research tells us that we can also process calories from nutritionally comparable foods in very different ways.
A study in California clearly showed this. Two groups of people were fed two different cheese sandwiches. Each sandwich contained the same number of calories and comparable macronutrients (i.e. protein, fats, carbohydrates).
Yet, one sandwich required many more calories to digest than the other!
- One sandwich was made with multi-grain bread and cheddar cheese.
- The other sandwich was highly processed using white bread and processed cheese.
The outcome was quite startling. Which sandwich do you think required more calories to digest?
It was the whole grain sandwich. In fact, those participants burned nearly twice as many calories digesting their meal! 1
Interesting isn’t it.
Whole Food Exercise
As an aside, feeding our body ‘whole-foods’ obviously makes our body burn more calories. To burn more calories, our body must ‘work harder’. This sounds like exercise doesn’t it? As we know, exercise helps keep us fit!
Do you think this ‘inner exercise’ might be another way whole-foods are helping keep our body systems fit and healthy?
The End of Calorie Controlled Dieting
So now you can easily see how a calorie controlled diet is unhelpful. Next, revel in your new knowledge by letting go of any calorie counting. Plus, share the love by helping those you care about see this too.