The Calorie Myth
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Hey! I'm your host Kay Dorelus and today we are talking about the calorie myth. I want to and felt the need to address this topic because I get many people asking me if I eat at a caloric deficit ALL THE TIME. If you follow me on IG or Facebook, I post my photos weekly and people will comment and ask me what I'm eating and if I'm eating at a caloric deficit. And my honest answer is, I don’t know. I assume that on some days, ironically the days when I do OMAD I tend to feel full faster and I would think that naturally, I’m not hitting a calorie quota. But I can’t say for sure, I don’t pay any attention to calories. I think a lot of people ask me that because they may think that if they follow what they think I’m doing they’ll achieve the same results. So I think a lot of you want to believe I’m doing OMAD with keto and eating at a caloric deficit… I’m not. My little method has been working for me so I’m not compelled to change anything but I’ll let you know if I do, for sure.
Despite our best efforts, why does it feel like the more we work, the less we lose? It feels like no matter what your goals are or what your medical history is, every industry professional you ask will always prescribe to you, “decrease calories, increase activity” also known as “eat less and move more”. And that makes sense, we’ve been hearing for years that we should monitor out calories both coming in and going out and it’s not an impossible notion either. Nowadays, whether you are ordering from the Chick-fil-A menu like I do , shopping in your local grocery store or ordering food from an app, everywhere includes the calorie count of food. Everything has nutritional information attached to it. And now, we also have smart watches, fitness trackers and Apple Watches that can measure our activity and calorie burn throughout the day and night.
So we have these companies providing us with the caloric information of our foods and we have watches that tell us our calories burned, so what’s the problem? Why aren’t we able to lose weight? Why can’t we just tally up the calories we eat and track the calories we burn and TADA! Weightloss! We know better, that’s why. We know the calories in vs. calories out theory doesn’t work. We know it doesn’t work but the problem is is that we don’t want to admit that we DON’T know how it does work.
I mean, we’ve been hearing and following this theory for so long that we don’t want to believe that what’s so familiar to us is a lie. It’s a lie ? Can we all just agree right now that its a lie? I mean all of us of at least one person… if not ourselves, or maybe you know a tribe of people that are trying to lose weight. If you don’t know one person in your life, then you do now, you know me. I’m trying to lose weight right? Why can’t you genuinely just tell me, or your friend to take 500 calories out of their diet every week and they’ll lose at least 1 pound a week? If a pound is equal to 3500 calories and you trim 500 a day from the food you eat over the next 7 days, you’ll be one pound lighter at the end of the week. So let’s just play this out… if I am looking to lose 10 pounds, all I have to do is cut out 500 calories for the next 2 and a half months and BAM! I’m done.
Why can’t any of us do that? Perhaps it works for some but it doesn’t work for most… the issue is when we try to apply a method to our lives because we think it works for all. Give me a chance to indulge in this topic a little bit because it hits so close to home because for 4 years, I was trying to force this idea of calories in vs calories out to fit into my life, like a round peg into a square hole. So if you layer on the amount of access to information we have about our food, along with our own instinct and by instinct I mean I think most of us know to stay away from Twinkies and triple layer burgers and supersize sodas… and then layer on that between our watches and phone we can track our activity to burn off calories… WHY in the hell is obesity up 250% in the last 50 years? If knowledge is power, why has the diabetes epidemic tripled since 1980 along with other chronic diseases such as insulin resistance, fatty liver disease, cancer, asthma, Alzheimer's… and I know when I say 1980 that sounds like ages ago, but listen… some of us are 38 years old or have a 38-year-old child so if you draw the correlation between the hyper-acceleration of these diseases that we are living with to our probability of living a healthy life…. we don’t have a snowballs chance in hell to live a life without suffering if we don’t get clear about what we pass off as conventional wisdom!
Calories in vs. calories out is meaningless! This might sting a little bit too but exercising more doesn’t work either! I know! I love y’all though. I’m a different type of health coach and I can’t have my people walking around wanting a new lifestyle with old ways of thinking. Because if you believe the calories in vs calories out theory, what they are saying is that it is possible to balance energy. Calories are just a measurement of energy. So you believe you have all the tools that you need to balance your own food energy? I believe 100% in energy and energy transference, Namaste, good vibes and all of that… but there are sometimes where something will throw me off, whether its people, sickness, some other situation... So I always wonder if I can’t control my energy with these external factors, why do we think we can control our energy internally?
Anyway, let’s look at a typical American diet. Let’s say you typically eat 2700 cal/day, that is 1,000,000 calories a year which equals to 10,000,000 calories in a decade which is about 10 tons of food in a decade or 20 pounds in a decade. So now that you know that this is the formula on weight gain over the course of 10 years, the question becomes how accurately do you have to calculate your calories to make sure you don’t gain those 20 pounds in a decade? The answer is within 20 calories. That is basically .8% accuracy.
No human can be this accurate with counting calories but let’s not be so discouraged, if the accuracy is so precise that this 20 calories is the target of gaining gain 20 pounds… then what does that say about the people that didn’t gain 20 pounds in a decade? Are they better mathematicians? Do they have better apps to track their activity? Do they practice balancing their energy better? The truth is its not generally explainable but we believe it’s still true… while some of us can track our calories to a T and not lose a pound there are others who can eat whatever they want, workout less and get in shape. Do we know somebody like this? Do you want a hint? She doesn’t track calories, she doesn’t wear a Fitbit, she commits to working out on Saturday and Sunday…. it’s ME!
I didn’t sign up to be a mathematician when I decided to lose weight, I’m not counting calories, counting steps, tracking macros… I don’t trust my own math. I’m in the creative industry, I’m in the health, wellness and fitness industry, not calculus and algebra.
Also, It’s not a proven science! Let me tell you how I know NONE of the nutritional information you’re given is worth a crap! It's not, I don’t need a c-suite position or some fancy lab coat to tell you this!… The standards for the nutrition labels allow for a certain tolerance on inaccuracy. In the United States, there is a 20% margin of error allowed between what is stated and what is actual. So you don’t know if the snack that you’re eating is 200 calories, 240 calories or 160 calories. WHAAATT!
A) There are different methods that determine calorie count. Measure food by a calorimeter or by multiplying the number of calories by grams of contained macronutrients will both give you different results.
B) Food preparation can alter your calorie yield.
C) The FDA like for nice whole numbers which means your snack that is 184 calories can be actually labeled as 180 calories and its allowable across all the nutritional content seen on a label
Now don’t assume that because I’m saying that you’ll never be precise in counting calories that you shouldn’t… I’m just saying that you probably want to rethink committing to the calories in vs. calories out theory as a means for weight loss.
I also have trust issues when it comes to the transparency of the food that is being sold to us. In this past summer, two major food and beverage companies experienced a newsworthy crisis. Almond Breeze almond milk recalled over 145,000 cartons of almond milk because it contained real milk. Jamba Juice has a class action lawsuit filed where they’ve been accused of using cheap concentrates instead of whole food ingredients. My point is not the ingredients so much as the deception from these companies that we are supposed to trust. And if we can’t trust them with the ingredients that they promise to deliver to us, can we really trust the information that they put on the label of their product?… maybe but maybe not. That’s all I’m saying.
Here’s what I believe in about energy. Food is energy but it is not only energy. Twinkies have energy but it is crap for your body. So quality does play an important role. In my previous episode, Rethink Your Food, I dive deeper into reconsidering the calorie labels as your guide and really embracing your food as information. Your body uses food to power all of the systems inside of it so we totally miss the point when the only thing we think about when it comes to nutrition facts are calories, sodium, sugar, cholesterol, and protein. We are lacking in food information. We’ve been trained to pay the most attention to calories but what we need to know about our food is the glycemic index, inflammatory responses, nutrient density…
And let's just tackle this notion of calories and eating a little bit more. Do you realize in our society, when people look to lose weight the common advice that they are given is to eat more? They'll tell you need to eat 6 times a day, eat more vegetables, eat more protein, eat more low-fat snacks, eat breakfast, eat more whole grains. Can you see why people are confused? They might not be able to articulate it but they are trying to make sense of the idea that too many calories us fat, with the idea to eat more of everything else.
And also, let's talk about this idea that you can exercise and burn off what you eat, as if it is some transactional exchange within your body. Personally, any one of you that knows me, knows that I love working out. I just love being active, always have ... that love for being active was sucked dry when I was on this hamster wheel for weightloss because I felt like the effort that I was putting into the gym wasn't showing up on my body, and thats was when I was working out multiple hours a day, 6 days a week. I am so glad to say that because of intermittent fasting, I've taken that burden off of my workouts. When you see me working out, it is really for enjoyment and obviously working out my heart.
So many people would like to believe that our bodies are like a fireplace with the whole calories in vs calories out theory. For example, you put your wood into your fireplace. In this case the wood would be the food, you light your fire, the fire represents your body and eventually, the wood gets burned and turns into ash. So the idea here is that the less wood you put into the fire, the less that gets burned... OR you put less wood into the fireplace but you start a big fire, that wood should burn up in minutes! But the problem is that your body is not like any of this machanics. There is a theory that says that instead of your body being viewed as this balance of energy, your body is more like a thermostat. So going back to human biology and the principle of homeostasis, your body is actually set up to resist drastic increases and decreases in weight. For example, if our body set weight is at 200 pounds or 90 kilograms by restricting calories over time we dropped down to 180 pounds. If our body's thermostat is set at 200 pounds what will happen is that your body will try to regain that weight that we lost so it'll respond by stimulating appetite, our ghrelin levels are increased, we no longer feel satisfied and we regain this weight back. So sometimes we think when we overeat that its a personal choice or a lack of willpower. It's not that you are a failure but this way of thinking, this calories in vs calories out is not set up for you to be successful, your hormones are causing your behavior...a registered nutritionist might not tell you that but I will.
I have this book called The Obesity Code by Dr. Jason Fung that really brings this idea home:
Then he dives into leptin resistance being the answer on how do we actually get fat and lose weight under this theory . But the thing to take away is that when you really think about it, calories are not specifically our enemy but our own fat is causing us to be fat... and that's what we have to wrestle with.
The thing I love about intermittent fasting and the reason why it works is that it's intermittent! Given everything that we just talked about regarding your body and homeostasis, the one thing that we want to avoid on our journey in weight loss is consistency. And most diets are consistent. Eat 6 meals, at these 6 times, eat 1700 calories... your body is going to recognize this pattern and meet with resistance and by resistance I mean plateau. Intermittent fasting is more effective for people vs. other diets because of how it effects our insulin levels and it does that by being inconsistent. So a lot of people ask me if I am going to continue with intermittent fasting and my first response is ... YEAH! but secondarily I respond with I don't think we are designed to eat around the clock.
Fasting should be apart of everyone's life, just like eating.
That's all for today's episode. Please share this episode with someone that you know that may need to think differently about their food and their goals. As always, I'm here for questions and feedback. I want to know if you all follow a specific diet or if you've been tracking your calories... or are you like me and ditched counting all together?Reach out to me on goodgirlgoneomad.com or IG or Facebook @goodgirlgoneomad and let me know what you think about this episode. Bye for now.