Why you should not count calories

Don’t you agree counting calories is a headache? When it comes to weight loss, people always talk about the ‘calories in and calories out’ approach. I used to advise my patient the same thing since that is what in the nutrition guidelines.  Some belief in ‘All calories are created equal’ and all you have to do to lose weight is to reduce calories.

It sounds simple, yet it tends to get more complicated and confusing.

Humans body is far more complicated than we imagine.

The thing is, our body is not a calculator machine. 

Say, if I ask you to eat 1000 calories of broccoli, will it be the same as eating 1000 calories of candy? If you ask your children which one is better, they will say broccoli is better. But if you ask them which one they want, they probably will choose candy. Make sense?

The problem with common sense is that it is not too common.

– Mark Twain

How many calories do carbs, protein, and fat provide?

Each macronutrient provides a specific amount of calories:

  • Carbs: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

Fat seems to have more calories, so do we have to ditch fat from our diet?

As the first law of thermodynamics states that the energy of an isolated system is constant, it’s true that when burned in a laboratory setting, 1,000 calories of broccoli and 1,000 calories of candy would certainly release the same amount of energy.

But, we are living things that breathe, walk, eat, and sleep. We are not an isolated system in laboratory settings.

Perhaps that is why the medical professionals, nutritionists, our government, the food industry, and the media are all still actively favoring the outdated, scientifically disproven idea that all calories are created equal. 

Some food may have same amount of calories, yet they are different in many ways.

Even though fat provides more calories than carbs, you may have noticed that it’s much more filling. 

Even though certain amount of eggs provides more calories than certain amount of candy, they are not the same. Eggs are more nutritious than candy, thats for sure. 

Carbs stimulate way more insulin than dietary fat. The more insulin, the more fat will store. The high insulin not just increases storage of belly fat, but also increases inflammation, raises triglycerides and lowers HDL, raises blood pressure, lowers testosterone in men, and contributes to infertility in women.

High carbs, low fat and highly processed food are not equal to high fat, low carb, natural and whole food. So 1000 calories of eggs or broccoli are way much better than 1000 calories of candy or soda. 

Certainly, whether counting calories is actually helpful for losing weight is debatable. Our ancestors appear to have regulated their weight effectively for millennia before anyone even knew what a calorie was.

Instead of counting calories, eat nourishing, well-balanced low-carb meals.