Author: Chelsea Caito, RD, LD
Calories do not matter!
My Case against Calorie Counting
I LOVE the nourishment and energy I get from food, but I do not like calories! The daunting math equation that comes with each bite makes eating a hassle. I learned in dietetic school that weight loss was a simple math formula, “Calories in vs. calories out.” Wait, so if I plug in someone’s height and weight into this magic formula… I could tell them exactly how many calories they needed on any given day? That makes zero sense! How does a math equation account for the TYPES of calories someone needs, exercise, stress, hormones, and muscle mass? It doesn’t. Here is my case against calories:
Not all calories are created equal. A calorie…is not a calorie. Living under the mantra that all calories are the same couldn’t be further from the truth. Is drinking a diet soda equal to drinking water? According to the calories, yes, but they are two totally different liquids. The artificial sugars in soda lead to weight gain, sleep deprivation, and actually make you crave MORE sugar! Whereas water, does quite the opposite. If you are still not convinced that not all calories are not equal- try eating 1,000 calories worth of donuts and a 1,000 calories worth of grass-fed steak. For most of us, eating 1,000 calories of beef would be near impossible because protein is incredibly filling. Eating 1,000 calories of donuts (about 4 donuts) wouldn’t be a hard task. The donuts, loaded with sugar, tell your body to store fat, and EAT MORE SUGAR! When you eat donuts, your insulin surges. Insulin is the hormone that is in charge of lowering blood sugar, and it’s also the hormone that tells your body to stop burning fat. Insulin, however, is NOT released when you eat protein and vegetables.
Low calorie foods are often low-nutrient foods. In any effort to sell a food product, the food industry loves to slap on “low calorie!” or “zero calories!” to their label. The reality is, most “low calorie” foods are loaded with artificial sugars, processed carbohydrates and sugar. Check out these ingredients for a 100 calorie snack pack: Ingredients: Unbleached Enriched Flour, Sugar, Palm and/or Canola Oil,Corn Flour,Dextrose,Salt,Baking Soda, Soy Lecithin,Cornstarch,Artificial Flavor,Natural Flavor. Pretty much just wheat and sugar, right? Nothing that is going to actually nourish the body and boost metabolism.
My mission as a dietitian is to help people build a healthy relationship with food that nourishes the body. I was at dinner with a friend the other day, and she focused her entire dinner on trying to figure out how many “points” she was allowed to have. She was trying to figure out what she could have in order to have more wine. “Hmm… if I get the turkey sandwich, it will be less points (calories) than the salmon salad…and I can have more wine!” It broke my heart to see her so stressed about the points and calories, and it was evident that this wasn’t going to last long. I urge my patients to LISTEN to their body while eating mindfully. When you eat real foods, the calories really do not matter.