Calorie counting has been around a long time, and unfortunately it’s going to take a long time to disappear. Counting calories is a waste of time, and it's simply inaccurate, and irrelevant to the status of our health. Weight loss and health isn’t a math’s problem; numbers don’t matter, hormones and metabolic affects do! Here's why:
The calorie model fails to take into account quality and only addresses quantity.
100 calories of organic grass fed beef, will have different results in the body to 100 calories of hormone and antibiotic laced, grain fed beef. Factory farmed animals are fed food laced with antibiotics to improve feed efficiency and fatten the animal to make greater profits. This means they can feed an animal less calories, but make it fatter. When we eat these meats, we suffer the same effects.
Food is information and we need to consider what the food is telling our system, not how much we eat. Calories from refined carbohydrates and sugar break our body down, disrupt hormones, and tell our body to store fat. Calories from quality vegetable/meat/fat will build our body up.
100 calories of the same food will be used differently in each person.
How calories are digested, stored or used is unique to the individual based on their metabolism, gut health, body composition, toxicity levels, nutrient and hydration status etc. For example an obese persons calories would be prone to being sucked out of the blood stream and stored in the fat cells, compared to a thinner person.
Another great example can be found in our gut; certain bacteria are better at extracting energy from the food we eat than others. The composition of your gut bacteria, will determine how you use calories.
Obese people have higher levels a bacteria strain called Firmicutes and small amounts of another strain called, Bacteroidetes. The opposite is true in those who are lean. In lab studies, when skinny mice were given bacteria from obese mice, they gained weight, and when obese mice were given bacteria from a skinny mouse, they lost weight despite being fed identical calories.
Our bodies adapt to calories.
When we restrict calories, our metabolism slows and we feel tired, foggy and heavy. Restricting calories causes the fat cells to suck up the available glucose in from the blood stream, and store it. Conversely when we eat more calories, particularly from saturated fats, our metabolism speeds up and the fat cells open up to circulate calories throughout the body. The result is that we feel energised and nourished.
The type of calories in, alters calories out
A human study of 3 types of diets with the SAME calorie number, indicate that the type of calorie dictates how much energy we have available to use. The diets with the most saturated fat, and least carbohydrates created the least drop in energy expenditure and slowing metabolism.
Low-fat diet: 60% of energy carb, 20% fat, 20% protein
-glycemic index diet: 40% from carb, 40% fat, 20% from protein
-carbohydrate diet: 10% from carbohydrate, 60% fat, and 30% protein – least energy expenditure decrease
Counting Calories is not an exact science.
Even the world’s best Olympic calorie counter cannot accurately tell you your exact calorie intake from your food, or your precise energy expenditure. There are far too many variables and if you miscalculated even a few hundred calories a day, it's enough to make a difference. If you wrong by 100 calories a day, it would mean that over the course of a decade you would gain over 20kg.
Another example of how calorie counting isn’t precise is found in Resistant Starches which are not digested by us, but rather by our gut bacteria. Conventional calorie counting certainly doesn’t factor this in! Rice and potatoes can be converted into resistant starches by cooking, and then cooling them before you eat them. So it’s the same food, but it’s calories are used differently based on its temperature and your bacteria composition. Interesting to note here that resistant starches won’t spike blood sugar much because the bacteria digest it.
Focusing on calories means that you have to omit healthful foods like fats (high in calories) from your diet. Not eating enough fat has dire consequences in the body and the brain. More on fat later. Here is a great quote by Dr David Ludwig that sums it up:
'Even though we think of obesity as a state of excess I think it’s physiologically more akin to a state of starvation. The brain and the rest of the body is starving because fat cells are hoarding more than their fair share of calories. The only way to solve that problem is to change what you're eating in order to lower insulin and calm chronic inflammation. You can’t do it by cutting back calories. That makes the fundamental problem worse. What then happens the fat cells open up, the body floods with calories. The brain says, “Wow.” I mean in some cases it’s like the brain gets a sense of sufficiency and satiety for the first time in years. It then allows metabolism to speed up and you naturally will eat less but this way with your body’s cooperation, rather than with your body kicking and screaming.’
– David Ludwig Takeaway points
Focus on quality and then quantity will naturally take care of itself! Every single person is unique, there is no one size fits all approach. To get results you need to reconnect with the best doctor in the world – YOU! If you can learn to listen to your body, you will gain valuable feedback. Symptoms are powerful information and help you play detective in figuring out what works best for you. If you don’t feel great, question why!