I’m glad many of you are as excited as I was to learn about the many topics presented at the IIN conference. I’m starting with one of my favorites- calorie counting.
Mark Hyman gave a fantastic talk explaining why we should no longer worry about calories in vs. calories out for weight management. I rarely ask my clients to track their calories. I find it is dangerous for several reasons: It can become a crutch, so that they no longer trust their own bodies or their hunger and fullness signals. It can also be addictive and become obsessive. So much so, that I have a few clients now who are wanting help BREAKING the calorie counting.
Who wants to track food for the rest of their lives? Not me! And there is no need to. (Although it can be helpful for short periods of time.)
So why are the calories no longer the real issue?
1) Food affects us energetically in different ways
I’ve mentioned this before in my discussion on cravings. If you start your day with a processed carb/sugar (donut, bagel, cereal) you are spiking your blood sugar and raising insulin. Your food is digested very quickly and you’re ready for a snack in two hours. And not just any healthy snack- typically it sets up an addictive cycle where your body is requesting more refined carbohydrates and more sugar.
You can eat the same calories in a higher protein, higher fat breakfast (such as eggs, cottage cheese, or any of these protein breakfast ideas) and remain satisfied until lunch time. Because your blood sugar didn’t rise and crash, you are not craving processed, quick energy foods and sugar- you have a better chance of choosing healthier options.
Bottom line: The food you choose will set you up for more or less cravings for unhealthy foods.
2) Metabolic rate, fat storage and hunger are dependent on dietary composition
(This is a Mark Hyman quote from his recent research, similar to the results found in this NYTimes article on why some of us are always hungry.)
This idea takes the first thought a bit further. Not only does our diet impact our cravings, our choices can have a direct impact on our metabolism and fat storage.
This is largely due to the overabundance of sugar in our diet. The average American consumes dangerous doses of sugar- over 150 pounds per person per year!
Sugar has dopamine effects on the brain and acts like an opiate, similar to heroin or cocaine. Sugar is stored as fat in the body, and as more fat cells are created, they demand to be “fed” sugar and simple carbohydrates. This makes willpower very difficult in overweight individuals!
When we have belly fat or excess fat and consume sugar and processed carbohydrates (which break down like sugars), the latest research shows that the fat cells vaccuum them up, leaving the body still hungry and craving nutrients, or more food. This causes overeating (constant hunger) and more weight gain.
Increasing proteins, vegetables and small amounts of healthy fat sets us up for fewer cravings, less hunger and allows our body to starve and shrink the fat cells while better nourishing our bodies with the nutrients they really need.
Bottom line: Some foods make your fat cells hungry, demanding more food which can cause you to overeat and gain weight.
3) Quality matters! The calories in soda are not equal to the calories in broccoli
We can all agree on this right?
Drinking soda (with over 15 teaspoons of sugar per serving) increases inflammation in the body, while broccoli decreases inflammation.
Inflammation causes weight gain, as do toxins, chemicals and nutrient deficiencies- all of which can be related to a poor diet.
Weight loss around calorie restriction will work short term, but it suppresses metabolism and will lead to more weight gain in the long term when the body comes out of the starvation mode and begins to overcompensate and store fat to be better prepared for the next “famine.”
In contrast, you can eat real food and be comfortably full every day while maintaining or losing weight to find your body’s “happy point.”
Bottom line: Eating real, high quality food is better for health and weight management than eating whatever you want within a set limit of calories.
Tweet this: “Why Calorie Counting is Outdated and Unhelpful”
There is always so much more that could be said on this topic, but I’ll leave it there for now.
Do you or have you ever been a calorie counter?
Have you experienced any of the above points personally?