I want to introduce someone to you. You actually might know her. She’s always on a diet. She buys low-fat chips, avoids butter like the plague, and studies nutrition labels like she’s preparing for the SAT. She keeps a diet journal… I repeat, a diet journal. And if the numbers don’t add up (or rather, add up too much) by the end of the day, she feels guilty.
Her name? Carla, the Calorie Counter Countess.
Here’s the thing. Carla still struggles to lose weight. If counting calories were all it took, why are so many people still facing weight issues?
Maybe It’s time to rethink weight loss.
A new study, featured in the New York Times, “…found that people who cut back on added sugar, refined grains, and highly processed foods while concentrating on eating plenty of vegetables and whole foods — without worrying about counting calories or limiting portion sizes — lost significant amounts of weight over the course of a year.”
So, it’s not all about the numbers. In fact, it may help to take a step back and remember what a calorie actually is. Merriam Webster defines it as: “The amount of heat required at a pressure of one atmosphere to raise the temperature of one gram of water one degree Celsius that is equal to about 4.19 joules.”
That’s all good and well. A calorie is simply a unit of measurement. What does that have to do with your body? Dr. Jason Fung MD, from the Diet Doctor, puts it nicely, “Your body doesn’t give a hoot about calories. Calories are not an accepted currency in our body. It does not count calories so why should you?
A calorie is a calorie. So what? Who cares? Certainly not your body.
Consider two foods of equal caloric value. On the one hand, you have a bit of sugary soda, and on the other is a plate of lettuce. Calories are identical. OK. So what? When you eat those two foods, does your body somehow measure these calories? No….Your body doesn’t weigh the food coming in, and doesn’t care. The key is that eating a pound of lettuce and a pound of sugar produces completely different metabolic responses. In one case, the body may burn off that energy, and the other case, it may decide to store that fat.”
So, it’s less about how much you eat (calories, unit of measurement) and more about what you eat (nutrition, & your body’s response to it.)
The New York Times continues, “The new study stands apart from many previous weight-loss trials because it did not set extremely restrictive carbohydrate, fat or caloric limits on people and emphasized that they focus on eating whole or “real” foods — as much as they needed to avoid feeling hungry.”
Eat whole foods. Whole foods are foods that haven’t been processed and are as close to their natural state as possible. For example, you’d want to eat a whole apple with its peel, versus drinking a glass of apple juice. The whole, unprocessed apple contains fiber that will slow down your sugar absorption and ensuing insulin response. You’ll feel full longer and your body will get more nutrients.
Cook your meals at home. When you cook yourself, you’re in control of the ingredients. You’ll be able to avoid unnecessary additives and can even sub unhealthy ingredients with better options. For example, you could use honey in place of refined sugar in a recipe.
Maybe we’ve made weight loss more complicated than it needs to be. Eating shouldn’t be a ritual of number crunching and shame. Avoid processed foods. Eat whole, real foods. Prepare them at home.
Sound simple? It is. Put away the calculator, Carla. 🙂