Don’t Starve Yourself To Lose Weight, or Why Counting Calories Doesn’t Work

food pyramid

For years it has been a common misconception that a calorie is a calorie. If you eat one type of food that is 300 calories, it will affect you the same as any other type of food that contains 300 calories, was how food was looked at.

If this hypothesis were true, then a 300 calorie cookie would affect our body the same as a 300 calorie salad. We know that a cookie will not affect the body in the same way that a salad will.

This calorie is a calorie argument is the basis behind the processed food industry’s stance that the food they produce is fine, if eaten in moderation. They feel it is up to the consumer to regulate themselves and stop themselves from overeating. This is assuming that the only thing that affects our obesity rates are how much we eat versus how much we burn off. This is just not true.

This, along with other information, has lead some nutritionists to have the perspective that our bodies have a set point concerning weight. This means that even if we lose weight on a diet, eventually we will end up gaining the weight back over time, putting us back at our weight set point.

If this were true, then our obesity rates would not have skyrocketed over the past 2 decades. The chemistry and biology of our bodies have not changed within the last 20 years. So why have our obesity rates changed so much? If a calorie is a calorie were true, then diets would work better.

Diets don’t work. One in six overweight or obese adults reported ever having maintained a 10 percent weight loss for at least 1 year, following a diet. 95% of all diets fail.

In a recent article published in the JAMA, the Journal  of the American Medical Association, researchers are taking an alternative view of obesity. This view takes the perspective that factors in our environment have stimulated the body to store large amounts of energy in fat cells. This takes fuel out of circulation. This lack of energy now stimulates the brain to crave more energy (we get hungry) and to store more energy (metabolism slows down). Eating more will only temporarily solve this problem, but it increases calorie intake and increases weight gain. Cutting back on calories can reverse this trend temporarily as well. This will help us to lose some weight initially. But eventually the result is increased hunger, slower metabolism, and weight gain.

A study conducted by Dr. Rudolph L. Leibel of Columbia and his colleagues looked at lean and obese subjects when they were underfed. The subjects were underfed enough that they lost 10 to 20% of their weight. When this happened, their hunger increased and their metabolism slowed down. They discovered that the opposite was true as well. Subjects that were overfed resulted in speeding up their metabolism.

It is being discovered that there are many causes of obesity. Looking at the obesity epidemic as an effect of having no self control, is not looking at it accurately, and not looking at the whole picture. Factors such as genetics, physical activity, stress, sleep, and even education will affect whether someone is obese or not.

One factor that has been scrutinized recently is the effect of insulin on our weight. We know that excess insulin treatments for adults with type 2 diabetes results in gaining weight. Conversely, insulin deficiency results in weight loss. Highly refined, rapidly digestible carbohydrates cause the largest surge insulin. These types of carbohydrates are what constitute processed foods.

Processed foods affect our insulin levels because they are so quickly digested and processed in our bodies. These foods will breakdown quickly in the gut and spill large amounts of sugar into the blood stream. The body has to release insulin to process and breakdown the sugars into glucose and fuel.

Since the 1950’s, processed food consumption has increased. Within the last 20 to 30 years, consumption has skyrocketed. It can’t be coincidental that as processed food consumption has increased, so have our obesity rates. The increased amounts of processed food consumption has increased insulin levels, caused fat cells to store any and all available fuel, and elicited obesity promoting biological responses. High consumption of processed foods has increased obesity rates throughout the population.

Starting in the 1970’s, fat became demonized. It was thought that the more fat in a food, the fatter it would make the person eating it. In the 1970’s, there was a push to reduce fat. So the processed food industry replaced fats with carbohydrates, in order to keep the foods tasting good.

As many studies have since shown, there is no correlation between eating a low fat diet and losing weight. A recent study published in JAMA by Dr. Ludwig, looked at the difference between low fat and low carbohydrate diets. Each participant was given a low fat or low carbohydrate diet, each containing the same amounts of calories. Those who ate the low carbohydrate diet burned 325 more calories per day than those who ate the low fat diet.

Dr. Ludwig produced another study that concluded that a diet of poor quality foods, even if low in calories, can result in obesity. He studied rats who were fed a diet of high glycemic foods (foods that are digested and processed quickly). Rats who ate a high glycemic foods diet gained 71% more weight than their counterparts who ate more calories overall, but in the form of slowly digesting foods (low glycemic foods).

It is an interesting concept that we overeat because we are getting fat. The processed food industry has millions of dollars invested in keeping the general public thinking that a calorie is a calorie. They say that there are no bad foods. Any food is fine if eaten in moderation. It is an issue of portion control, and self control. The fact that diets don’t work and portion control doesn’t work is taken as evidence that obese people lack the will power to lose weight.

By doing this the processed food industry is putting the responsibility of the obesity epidemic on the shoulders of the public. Even though the processed food industry spends millions of dollars each year trying to make their foods as “crave-able” as possible. Crave-able is another way of saying addictive. The processed food industry makes their foods almost irresistible. The spend millions researching the exact amount of salt, sugar and fat to put into each and every product to make them as hard as possible to pass up in the grocery store. If you buy them, then watch out. These foods work with our neurology and body chemistry to make them very hard to eat only one. In a way, the processed food industry has set us up to be obese. The more of their food we eat, the more money they make.

The Pain Free Lifestyle nutrition program is set up to be easy to follow and easy to incorporate into your lifestyle. It slowly helps you to reduce your intake of fried foods, processed foods, sugary and sweet foods, and other bad for you types of food. It is designed to go along with the Pain Free Lifestyle exercise program. Studies show that the most effective strategy for weight control and weight loss is coupling exercise (aerobic exercise, strength training, stretching,) along with a healthy and sensible diet.

It is hard enough to manage your weight and to lose weight. Don’t make it harder on yourself than it has to be. If you are smart about it, then weight loss, weight management and maintaining health can be easy.

Be smart about what you eat. Educate yourself about what you are putting into your body. Know the effects of the foods you are eating. Eat smarter, don’t just eat less. This is the Pain Free Way.

Here is another article that I wrote about calories:

All Calories Are Not Equal



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *