Calorie counting has wreaked havoc in humans for a century. Instead of making people healthier and thinner, four misconceptions about calories have achieved exactly the opposite.
In the late 19th century, French physicist Nicholas Clément coined the term “calorie” as a unit of measurement in heat engines. He defined it as the heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 kg of water from 0 to 1°C, but the word “calorie” didn’t become popular until 1918, when the American columnist Lulu Hunt Peters popularized calorie restriction in her book Diet and Health.
Lulu’s idea was simple. If we burn more than we take in, we lose weight.
Lulu was wrong.
One hundred years later we’re still counting calories, but most of the thin people have disappeared. Today, two-thirds of the people in the US are obese or overweight. Neither of these categories signifies a healthy body type. They’re a form of metabolic distress that has a tendency to accumulate to chronic disease and early death.
Calorie Counting Fallacy #1 – “Calorie restriction leads to weight loss”
The first calorie control experiment was made by Francis Benedict in 1917. All of the subjects who lost weight gained the weight back within a few weeks – with extra pounds. A 2007 study that compared 80 studies and over 26,000 people came to the same conclusion: Fewer calories have zero correlation with long-term weight loss.
One of the reasons for this odd phenomenon is the body’s tendency to adjust to external stressors and energy consumption with its own intelligence. Calorie restriction and treadmill hours can signal a survival need, comparable to crossing the plains with limited supplies. The first reaction is for the body to lower thyroid function, affecting our metabolism, fat burn and hormonal production. The calorie reduction leads to lower relative fat burn, which then undermines the weight loss protocol. But it also leads to other damaging effects.
When we starve ourselves, our biochemical sensors downgrade the reproductive system to save energy. In survival mode, we don’t need to get laid. Women may experience irregular periods, and men impotence, although they rarely report it.
Then there is the brain, which is only two percent of our total body weight but uses 20 percent of our Base Metabolic Rate (BMR), the energy we need for minimal activity like watching TV. Have you ever tried to study for an exam, while starving? The fog. That’s what the brain does to us during a calorie-restricted diet.
The very last thing the body wants to give up when it’s stressed is fat. Fat is our primary survival nutrient.
Bottom line. Calorie-focused weight-loss programs, even when combined with extensive exercise, marathon runs and daily gym routines, are ultimately programmed to fail.
Calorie Counting Fallacy #2 – “Calorie is a calorie”
“A calorie is not a calorie,” says Zoe Harcombe, a mathematician and Ph.D. in Public Health Nutrition from Cambridge University. That’s because the type of foods we eat have a much bigger impact on our health and weight than the amount of food we eat.
The primary reason why obesity rates have tripled since 1975 is the second law of thermodynamics, which states that in an open system, like the human body, energy gets used up to create energy. Because carbs only use six to eight percent of their total energy to become available to the human body (proteins need 25 to 30 percent), most carbs become excess energy that converts into fat.
Since our Base Metabolic Rate primarily burns fats and proteins, carbs are only needed for energy requirements that go beyond the BMR rate, like exercise. When we feed a sedentary lifestyle with carbs, the results are predictable.
Dr. Harcombe demonstrates the difference between two women who eat 2,000 calories per day. One winds up fat and sick, the other slim and healthy, despite identical calorie intake and exercise style. How is that possible?
The critical difference is the intake of carbs, which is set at 10 percent for the slim woman, and 55 percent for the fat woman. Both are burning 500 calories above their average 1,500-calorie BMR.
The energetic difference in calorie types explains the bulk of the modern obesity phenomenon, and why excess carbs are anathema to health. The slim woman ends up burning her fat reserves, while the fat woman ends up storing more.
The Standard American Diet also leads to a downward spiral because it induces cravings for more processed carbs – with the addictive power of crack cocaine.
Calorie Counting Fallacy #3 – “Avoid fat”
According to Einstein’s relativity equation (E = mc2), if we could directly convert fat into energy, we’d blow up into a supernova. Fortunately, there is a much more benevolent way to burn fat. The natural metabolic process of burning fat requires eating more fat, until the body reaches equilibrium.
The unfortunate fact is that the Standard Diet, which excludes fats, confuses trans fats with saturated fats.
Trans fats are industrially engineered poisons promoted as vegetable oils. They’re the reason why roughly 40 percent of the products on supermarket shelves usually end up killing us with a heart attack or other complications. Trans fats can be found in crackers, cereals, candies, baked goods, cookies, granola bars, chips, snack foods, salad dressings, fried foods and most processed foods.
The Standard American Diet tells us to reduce fats that are essential to our health, like saturated fats. Healthy fats can be found in meat, fish, egg, dairy, salmon, nuts, avocados, coconut oil and olive oil. Even without the benefit of ketones, saturated fats help to:
- Reduce lipoproteins (correlated with heart disease).
- Increase HDL (aka the good cholesterol which, contrary to the cholesterol norm, is also essential to our health).
- Feed the brain (which is made out of fat), thereby also influencing proper functioning of metabolism by enhancing nerve signaling.
- Improve the immune system by fueling white blood cells that fight invaders like pathogenic bacteria, viruses and fungi.
- Reprogram liver cells to dump their fat content.
Most importantly, when used in conjunction with low-carb intake, healthy fats help us burn off excess fat reserves, because they act as a solid fuel for both BMR-type energy and the energy we need for other extracurricular activities, like moving, thinking and procreating.
Calorie Counting Fallacy #4 – “My calorie is the same as your calorie”
Last but not least, a long list of processed carbs and junk foods has undermined our ability to sense which foods we actually need, which always happen to be individual. One man’s food is another man’s poison, because nature designed us to protect the species from food scarcity and environmental disasters.
We’re individuals, hiding in a mass population, driven by generalized diets.
When we don’t eat according to our individual body type, we also don’t burn foods properly and distribute energy efficiently. Ergo, fat reserves and fatigue.
Our individual body type can today be measured with precise molecular tests that help us patch up any deficiencies in our metabolism. The basic metabolic dilemma is easy to evaluate with a simple Q&A test, that looks at symptom patterns.
Eating according to our type helps us reach our natural energy potential and ideal weight in a relatively short time, without calorie counting.
It’s never about how much we eat but about what we eat that defines the human equation, including our diameter.
Founder & Energy Counselor
Energy For Living