Calories in versus calories out were the de facto weight loss equation for decades. To lose weight, you simply reduce the number of calories consumed while increasing the number of calories used. However, the simple equation that we have adhered to as part of a healthy lifestyle may have actually been hindering our weight loss efforts. As our understanding of health and nutrition improves, so does what we know about the simple calorie equation – and this knowledge is changing the plate of the modern diet.
1. Not all calories are created equal. One reason why strictly counting calories can be an ineffective way to lose weight is that not all calories are good calories. While the energy content of calories is essentially the same in that they are an equal unit of energy, calories derived from whole foods are more effectively processed by the body than those found in processed foods. In other words, where a particular calorie comes from will have varying effects on hunger, hormones, and weight.
It is not just processed foods that can determine the value of a calorie. Calories obtained through healthy fats, proteins, and whole foods, like fruits and vegetables, can positively impact metabolism, curb hunger, and help optimize hormones. However, the same quantity of calories obtained from processed foods or sugar is metabolized more quickly and less effectively, resulting in increased hunger and hormone imbalance. 2. Food labels do not tell the whole story. The second reason that we do not see significant weight loss results from calorie counting comes down to the science of determining caloric content. For instance, in the United States, the Federal Food and Drug Administration allows manufacturers a fair amount of latitude in labeling precision – up to a 20% margin of error. What this means for consumers is that the food we eat may have more calories than is indicated on the label. 3. How we digest calories differs from person to person. The third reason that solely monitoring how many calories we consume is ineffective comes down to how calories are processed by the body. Historically, it was believed that we all used calories the same way and that is partially true. However, an individual’s basal metabolic rate (BMR) – the number of calories one needs simply to maintain voluntary and involuntary bodily functions, like respiration and circulation – will be greatly influenced by factors such as age, weight, and overall health. Hormones may also play a key role in how we digest and use calories. Insulin resistance, for instance, plays a crucial role in whether we store or use the calories we consume. Men and women also process calories differently – a factor often overlooked by conventional weight loss guidelines – which means that blanket recommendations may be ineffective. For more information and guidance concerning your metabolic health and wellness, please contact your Toronto naturopathic doctor, Courtney Holmberg, ND, at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation today.