Top 7 Nutrition Myths: Number 6

Myth: Counting Calories

Myth 7: A Plant-Based Diet is Healthiest
Myth 6: Counting Calories
Myth 5: Government and Nutrition Organizations Provide Healthy Advice
Myth 4: Eating carbohydrates, especially complex carbs, is vital for health
Myth 3: Grains are Good for You
Myth 2: Exercise is Integral to Health
Myth 1: Saturated Fat Causes Heart Disease

Have you ever wondered why people generally have a set weight? I know some people who are significantly overweight, and they’ve been that size for as long as I’ve known them. Do people magically balance out their calories when they reach a certain weight? My overweight friends don’t get bigger and bigger, and my skinny friends don’t become skin and bones. And why can naturally skinny people eat five desserts and never gain a single pound?

While the calorie in/calorie out model of weight loss/gain is technically true, it’s MUCH more complicated. Let’s start with two scientific studies. Ready? Take two groups of people, and put them on a diet. Feed them both the same amount of calories (1570 and 1560 a day). What happens? Well, the first group lost weight, obsessed constantly over food, and began to starve. The second group did not lose weight and thrived, and their calories were not even restricted! Read here. The difference is the quality of the calories; one group did not receive adequate amounts of nutrients, one did. But what about weight loss? Why do some people seem to struggle to lose weight when they reduce their caloric intake? I’ll use an analogy.

If your electric bill goes way up, do you dip into your savings account, or do you turn up the thermostat, open windows, use fans, take shorter showers, turn off the lights, etc? The first thing your body does when faced with a calorie shortage is reduce the amount of calories it uses (or raise the amount if there’s a surplus).  Have you ever felt groggy, cranky, or tired on a low-calorie diet? That’s your body reducing the amount of calories it uses.

The difference here is what your body decides to do with the calories. To radically simplify, carbs generally get stored as fat. In a low-calorie diet based on carbs, it’s very typical that your body simply lowers the amount of calories it burns, and continues storing carbs as fat. The result for many people is that they end up cranky, hungry, and still fat. The book Why We Get Fat, and What to do About It by Gary Taubes covers all this fabulously.

And if you’re still skeptical, the consumption of calories in the US has been declining for decades–as the rates of obesity have been increasing. Read about it here.

If you’re into a bit of science, read this lovely post by the guy over at gnolls.

Please share your thoughts below!

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5 thoughts on “Top 7 Nutrition Myths: Number 6

    • You might like his book Good Calories, Bad Calories more. It goes more into the science and politics modern nutrition. The other book is more for the average reader who just wants to do something about their weight. It’s an easier read.

  1. This is great. I want to lose weight but I’ve always turned to low cal substitutes that I know are not filled with proper nutrients. Thanks for the post!

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