7 Common Calorie Myths We Should All Stop Believing

Many people think weight loss is simply about cutting calories. They believe that to lose weight, you must reduce calories (either eat less or burn more), to gain weight you must add calories, and to maintain weight you keep calories constant. To these folks, calories in, calories out is the only thing that matters. They usually oppose the Primal Blueprint because they assume that we “deny” the importance of calories in weight loss. Well, they’re wrong. I don’t deny the importance of calories. Calories absolutely count. And if someone has lost weight, they have necessarily expended more calories than they consumed. That said, there are some major misconceptions about calories, body weight, fat loss, and health. These calorie myths are often rooted in truth but presented in black-or-white terms that are useless at best, harmful at worst, and do little to help the average person lose body fat. Let’s dig right in. Calories in, calories out is all you need to know. Simple is nice. Simple is good. But overly simple is dangerously inaccurate, so let’s break this statement down. What does “calories in” refer to? Calories in — what we eat. We can’t metabolize sunlight or oxygen. We can’t feast on the souls of the damned. The food we eat determines “calories in” entirely. Simple. “Calories out” is where it gets confusing. There are several components to “calories out”: Resting energy expenditure — the energy used to handle basic, day-to-day physiological functions and maintenance Thermic effect of food — the energy used to digest food and process nutrients Active energy expenditure — the energy used during movement (both deliberate activity like lifting weights, jogging, and walking, plus spontaneous activity like shivering and fidgeting) Not so simple, is it? There are a lot more variables to consider. Oh, and about those variables… Calories in and calories out are independent variables. That would be nice. You could drop energy intake and maintain your resting metabolic rate while burning the same amount of energy digesting food (even though you’re eating less of it) and working out. The fat would melt off at a predictable, constant rate. Anyone with basic arithmetic skills (or a calculator) could become a successful weight loss coach and very few people would be overweight. In reality, the amount and type of calories we eat affect the amount of energy we expend: During calorie restriction, the body “defends” its body weight by lowering resting metabolic rate and reducing spontaneous physical activity. To keep weight loss going, you often have to lower food intake even more (to counteract the reduced metabolic rate) and remind yourself to fidget, tap your feet, twiddle your thumbs, and shiver (to recreate the missing spontaneous movement). And you have to do it again when the body readjusts. Whole foods take more energy to process and digest than processed foods. In one example, subjects either ate a “whole food” sandwich (multigrain bread with cheddar cheese) or a “processed food” sandwich (white bread with cheese product). Both meals … Continue reading 7 Common Calorie Myths We Should All Stop Believing