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I HATE CALORIES: Part 1

Before we get all negative, let me start by saying, I LOVE the energy I get from calories. That said, although I’ve always been a math whiz, I hate counting things. But most of all, I HATE counting calories. This is because I hate the flawed concept that your weight is a matter of balancing calories in and calories out. Time and time again, clients come to our coaching program who have been counting calories to a “T”, yet, they can’t seem to lose weight. They even sometimes gain weight in the process. Or they lose weight and then gain it all back when they finally eat again (because we can’t starve ourselves forever!). Maybe this is starting to sound a little too familiar to you. Let me explain why this happens.

A Flawed Theory.

“Calories in and calories out” is a fundamentally flawed view. One obvious reason is that this theory treats all calories equally, regardless of source, and calories are not created equal. Your body does not metabolize and process all calories in the same way. For instance, some calories consist of chemicals your body doesn’t recognize. With the calorie- counting concept, diet soda is equivalent to WATER. Does that make sense? No way! Your body doesn’t treat diet soda the same way it treats water! Research repeatedly shows that artificial sweeteners can cause weight gain; they hinder your metabolism since your body doesn’t recognize them. 

 Another flaw with calorie counting is that it treats all calories equally and when counting calories, your body is unlikely to obtain what it needs to run most efficiently. The macronutrients, protein, fat and carbohydrates are processed very differently in the body. Fat, which is the most calorie-dense macronutrient, is essential for long-lasting weight loss. There is a sad irony to how fat is treated in the calorie-counting community. Fat supports metabolism and actually helps us lose weight by buffering the effect of sugar on our bloodstream. Unfortunately, it is the first macronutrient to be eliminated on a calorie-counting diet simply because it has more calories per gram than the other two macronutrients. (Fat has 9 calories per gram, whereas protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram.) Therefore, diets that focus on counting calories are almost always high in carbohydrates and low in fat. It’s true that if it were all about counting and restricting calories, it would make sense to eliminate fat to lose weight. However, as you may already know from experience, it’s not just about calories. The amount of calories you burn is controlled by your body and is dependent not just on the quantity, but also the quality of the calories you consume.

So, your biology doesn’t operate like a single, simple math equation—it’s so much more complex. Everything needs to be in balance for you to lose weight. Calorie restriction is not the best way to achieve the long-term weight loss you’re looking for because the only thing it takes into account is the amount, not the quality and not the impact it has on your body, hormones, and metabolism.

Big Food Influence.

Big food companies, especially the ones selling soda, want you to believe it’s all about calories. If it’s all about calories, then their sugar-laden soft drinks are perfectly acceptable for you to drink as long as you stay within your allotted daily calorie amount, or exercise for an extra hour to “burn it off.” (What a clever scheme! Leave it up to the people selling you their product to tell you the truth.) Your body knows the difference between 300 calories of high fructose corn syrup and the 300 calories found in an avocado and differentiates between the quality of calories…so we should, too.

A Short Term Fix.

Your body is complex and trying to oversimplify by tracking a single substance, like a calorie, is ineffective and frankly, degrading. Counting calories leaves you feeling deprived, dissatisfied, and hungry and eventually, right back where you started (or worse). Not only do you feel lethargic and empty as you restrict your body of what it needs (energy in the form of calories), but any weight you do lose ends up coming back anyway once you start eating again. It’s a lose-lose situation. Not only do you not attain the desired result, but you also feel awful in the process and horrible about yourself! To make matters worse, you end up slowing down your metabolism—actually damaging it, which makes your next attempt at shedding pounds even more difficult. Calorie counting isn’t just ineffective; it sets you up for yo-yo weight loss and gain for years to come. It’s a battle you are destined to lose.

There’s much more to metabolism.

Metabolism isn’t about calories. It’s about getting our hormones in balance, the hormones that regulate your appetite and metabolism.We need to support our underlying biochemistry and the way our bodies work instead of trying to oversimplify things and assume they will work better if we are restrictive. Cutting calories doesn’t address the underlying reason for any lack of weight loss. So, I’m telling you to stop counting calories. It’s time to “un-brainwash” yourself from thinking quick fixes are the answer and dig deeper to get to the root cause of your weight concerns.

You may have heard of insulin, better known as your “fat-storing” hormone. Any time there’s a surge of sugar in your blood stream, your pancreas secretes insulin to take that sugar to your cells for storage. (Any guess as to what this sugar is stored as in our cells? Hint: starts with an “F” and ends with an “at.”) Let’s work backwards: to prevent these fat cells from multiplying and growing, it would make sense to decrease the insulin response, and to do this, we would need to decrease the rapid spikes in our blood sugar levels. What spikes these blood sugar levels? You guessed it: sugar and carbohydrates (which are metabolized as sugar as soon as they reach the blood stream). Wouldn’t it make sense to decrease our sugar and carbohydrate intake to prevent our pancreas from secreting insulin, which takes the sugar to our cells to be stored as fat? Whew. My thoughts exactly. (It’s really not that complicated. The truth is it’s the money-making companies who tend to make the simple things hard! That’s how they can deceive you into buying their food.)

Carbohydrates are what cause the insulin response in our body, whereas fat does not cause any at all. On a positive note, when fat is consumed with a carbohydrate, it actually buffers the negative affect carbohydrates have on our blood sugar levels by slowing down the assimilation of the carbs into our blood stream. It would make sense then to reduce carbohydrate intake and ensure adequate consumption of healthy fats when on a quest for weight loss, wouldn’t it? Calorie counting doesn’t support this approach because the calorie theory doesn’t distinguish between quality of calories at all. Calorie counting focuses on quantity and quantity alone. When we take a look at how the body works, you can see how this flawed system can be damaging for our bodies to be on these low calorie, high carbohydrate diets. Maybe you’ll agree with me… that CALORIE COUNTING is absolutely ABSURD.

For more on Why Calories Don’t Count, watch this video made by my friend, Sam Feltham and since the publication of this article I have now published I HATE CALORIES: Part 2.

Now, go learn how to BOOST your metabolism WITHOUT going hungry or counting a single thing, by clicking the pink button below!

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Leave a Comment
  • Christina

    Great explanation!

  • Lana

    awesome job explaining!!!

  • Ketastic

    Great article and great videos

  • Lori

    Great post, totally agree with you Cassie! Very eloquently stated.

  • Kimberly McKinnis

    Calorie counting can also make you neurotic. One of the things I liked about my experiment with MyFitnessPal was that I could set the ratios of calories I wanted to acheive, and this at least helped guide me toward the right things, esp based on what I’d already had in the day. One can eat PFC meals that aren’t always perfectly balanced 🙂 It also helped me make sure I was getting the right kind of nutrition, and not just a certain number of calories.

  • Adam Kosloff

    preach on Cassie!

  • Louise

    Best explanation I’ve ever read! Easy to read, easy to understand.

  • Looks like we’re all hammering on calories at the same time 🙂 http://rebootedbody.com/calories — can’t wait to hear your follow up parts. Preach on.

  • Mary C.

    would you suggest calorie counting for a week for someone just starting his/her journey just to get a baseline of what and how much they are consuming? Do you like myfitnesspal?