Saturday, March 19, 2011 Post By: Grayne Wetzky

The Great Calorie Swindle

Trying to lose weight is a common struggle for many people. It can be a  frustrating struggle that is made even worse by all the conflicting information in a overcrowded marketplace. There's a diet expert on every corner, and they all contradict each other and claim to have solutions that will help everyone.
In all this confusing there seems to be one truth that most people hold up when it comes to weight loss: the calorie equation. Basically, to lose weight is ultimately a question of consuming fewer calories then you use. Sound reasonable, but unfortunately it is not really that simple.

The major issue I have with this theory is that it assumes that every calorie you eat is used as energy in the body. If we think about this for a little bit, it is obvious that this is not true. We all know that two different people can eat the same exact foods, and react totally different. Some people can eat things that makes other people fat. This simple truth seems to indicate that there's more to weight control than simple calories in vs. calories out thinking.

Some might dismiss these differences to different activity levels and differences in metabolism and say that people who gain weight easier just have to eat even less. This is the advice that is most frequently given to people who struggle with their weight. Usually its advice given by people who are normal weight and can eat 'normally' without gaining weight. I am sure they mean well when giving this advice but the flip side is that it can lead people to think of themselves as failures when they fail at various restrictive diets. They blame themselves when it is in fact the weight loss advice they are following that is the problem.

Our bodies crave the things it needs, or the things it thinks it needs in some cases. For overweight people who go on very restrictive calorie counting diets, the diet often becomes an unbearable struggle, a constant battle with your will power. For someone who has never experienced starving themselves to try to get under the magic calorie threshold for losing weight have no idea how impossible it is to live like that for any prolonged period of time.

When your body protests against your diet, you can be pretty sure that you're not eating healthy.

So, what is the problem with calorie restriction? Restricting calories makes the body respond by using less energy, as many people can attest to, it's possible to eat very few calories and still gain weight. The problem is more often a function of what we eat than how much we eat.

Going back to the calorie equation: using more calories than you eat. This axiom is very harmful to many overweight people trying to lose weight. It suggests that eating less is the solution when eating differently is often a much better approach. In particular, calorie restriction most commonly goes hand in hand with reduced fat consumption, which is not a good thing. As a population the fat in our food keeps going down, the obesity problem keeps getting worse. Seems like eating calories from fat is not really the reason why more and more people get overweight.

Blindly trusting the calorie equation fails to take into account all the various functions our food has in the body. Food is not simply fuel, it also provides all the building blocks for a healthy body. For example, body lotions against dry skin and lip balm for dry lips are relatively new products that many people can't live without. On the other hand, one of the effects people report when they increase their fat intake is that the skin and lips become less dry. In addition, fat is used to lubricate joints, oil the hair and many other functions in the body. So, many of the calories in fat are never used for energy or stored as fat deposits, instead the fat is used in many different ways to keep our bodies healthy. On a strict calorie counting diet, these functions of fat are ignored, and people are instead encouraged to eat as little fat as possible.

The weight control advice skinny people give overweight people are often counter productive. The next time someone tells you that losing weight is a simple matter of calories used vs. calories consumed, stop to think about all the different functions food have in your body before you fall for that simplified formula.

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