Calories - They're Not All Equal

One of the biggest travesties committed against our country was the “calories in - calories out” mantra. It has led to SO many health issues and SO much focus on the wrong thing.

Calories - They're Not All Equal
Photo by Samuel Ramos / Unsplash

I’ve talked a little about calories before, but it’s something that is so ingrained in our society that I think we’ll need to discuss it quite a bit to really understand how unhealthy this obsession with calories is. So let’s dive in…

One of the biggest travesties committed against our country was the “calories in - calories out” mantra. It has led to SO many health issues and SO much focus on the wrong thing.

Our entire body works to achieve homeostasis - and it’s all done without conscious thought from us. Our brain and our hormones are in control of it.

  • We don’t have to think about breathing. Our body needs oxygen to live so we breathe and get the proper amount of oxygen.
  • We don’t have to think about sleeping. Our body needs rest and recovery time so we get tired and we fall asleep.
  • Our body needs to maintain a certain internal temperature and it regulates that without us having to do anything to control it.
  • Our body needs fuel to function so we have hormones that tell us we’re hungry when it needs something.

So why would we assume that our bodies need us to control, down to the calorie, how much we’re eating? It’s absurd.

“The average human consumes one million . . . calories a year, yet weight changes very little,” says Jeffrey M. Friedman, MD, PhD, head of the Laboratory of Molecular Genetics at Rockefeller University in New York. “These facts lead to the conclusion that energy balance is regulated with a precision of greater than 99.5 percent, which far exceeds what can be consciously monitored.”

Bailor, Jonathan. The Calorie Myth (p. 18). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

It’s not about how many calories but about what type of calories we’re eating.

“A calorie is a calorie, so eat whatever, just not too much” is about as accurate as saying, “Liquid is liquid, so drink whatever, just not too much.”

Bailor, Jonathan. The Calorie Myth (p. 9). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Can you see how silly that statement is? Calories matter in the quality of the food - not the quantity.

Ask yourself this question, when you overeat and feel a little miserable after, what are you eating? I would guess you’re eating things that are starchy, sugary, and carb-heavy - like chips, popcorn, fries, desserts, pizza, pasta, etc. When was the last time you sat down to eat broccoli, cauliflower, salad, or something healthy and nutritious and you just couldn’t stop yourself from eating? It doesn’t happen does it. Because the quality of the food matters and when we’re eating high quality foods, we stop eating when we’re full. But when we eat low quality foods, we don’t feel satisfied and we keep eating until we’re miserable. (There’s a lot more science to be shared about that statement but that’s for another day.) Before you think that means it is about the number of calories and you’re just able to keep them low enough with healthy foods, read on.

There are many studies that have been done to test the calories in/calories out theory and they have proven it to be wrong. In fact, these studies show that calorie counting fails 95.4% of the time. What?! If it’s failing that much, why are we still doing it this way? If it’s all about calories, why was obesity very rare before we even knew what calories were? If it’s about a balance between burning more calories with exercise than you’re consuming, why are there more obese people today when exercise is at an all time high? Take a look at these stats…

To illustrate the rise of aerobic exercise, between 1972 and 2005 health-club-related revenues have increased an estimated 15,000 percent after adjusting for inflation. The first Boston Marathon in 1964 had 300 runners. In 2009, more than 26,000 people ran. The first New York City marathon in 1970 had 137 entrants. In 2008, about 60,000 entered.

Bailor, Jonathan. The Calorie Myth (p. 59). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

If we’re exercising at such high rates but obesity is becoming more and more of a problem, could it be that eating less and exercising more isn’t the solution?

Spoiler alert. It’s not.

Our Standard American Diet - which ironically is SAD - is full of things that are harmful to our bodies and are causing our health issues today. As mentioned above, it’s not about how much food we’re eating but about what kind of food we’re eating.

A “normal” diet in this country today consists of extremely high levels of sugar and carbs. And while not all carbs are bad - most of the carbs being consumed are the starchy, empty carbs that have very little or no nutritional value. Because of these poor diet choices, we’ve caused our hormones to go all out of whack, we’ve caused our “normal” weight to rise, and we’ve created a plethora of health problems for ourselves.

And most of these issues could be eliminated or reversed with a proper diet.

So, will you join me in ditching the counting of calories? Will you agree to stop worrying about how many calories you’re eating and instead worry about what type of calories you’re eating? Your body will thank you for it!