The purpose of this post is to debunk the myth of calorie counting. Yes that is correct…I said the myth of calorie counting. Whoa, whoa, whoa you say, but everyone believes in calorie counting! To which I say yes, that’s true, but who has taken a look into the science of calorie counting…and who has looked at the success/failure rates of programs based on calorie deficits?
This is what I’m doing in this post because my belief is that calories have nothing to do with sustained weight loss or positive health outcomes. To substantiate this claim I will share information & documentation in the form of an audio presentation, a research study and just plain common sense.
To start I need to describe the theory of calorie counting, or reduced calorie diets. Calorie theory postulates that our weight or mass can be reduced or increased via the manipulation of calorie intake and/or calorie burn. Calorie intake happens when we eat/consume foods. Calorie burn is when our body’s “use” calories for energy. It is continuous and can be increased during more strenuous activities such as exercise/workout.
The theory suggests that if a person wants to lose weight they would simply consume/eat fewer calories than they burn over time. Conversely if a person wants to gain weight they should consume/eat more calories than they burn.
So that’s calorie theory. Now I need to define what a calorie is. As it relates to food a calorie according to Wikipedia is:
Dietary Calorie (symbol: Cal): approximates the energy needed to increase the temperature of 1 kilogram of water by 1 °C. This is exactly 1,000 small calories or about 4.2 kilojoules.
To put in simpler terms, a calorie is just a unit of measure, which measures the amount of heat, work or energy needed to increase the temperature of one kilogram of water, one degree celcius.
Now that everyone has an understanding of calorie theory and the definition of a calorie I can start to debunk the claim that calories have anything to do with sustained weight loss or health.
Raw Version Audio: Todd Swain & Chris Bond:
Recently my friend and mentor Todd Swaine sent me the raw version of an audio he created, titled “Calorie Deception”. In it he details the history of calories and how they have no relevance to our health or weight loss. The audio is tremendous. He and another colleague of ours, Chris Bond are the narrators, researchers and presenters of the material in the audio. To help you understand our shared position, I am going to provide bits of information from the audio and my thoughts regarding it.
An item to note regarding the audio is that Todd has not yet released it, so I am not able make it available, in it’s entirety yet. In the near future I will make it available to members of this site.
Before I get into the content of the audio and my thoughts about it I should tell you a bit about Todd and Chris. First is that they are both brilliant, meticulous practitioners who maintain vast knowledge and expertise on the human body.
In all of their work, including this audio they engage in exhaustive scientific research, which they then evaluate before reaching conclusions and developing suggestions to be shared publicly. In fact they consider all potentially effected body systems down to the atomic level, before they develop and share any suggestions.
They are also both Survival Operating Systems Manual Therapists. Todd is the creator, and Chris is a manager. They work together to take the information they learn, then create and apply manual therapy techniques that enable the body to heal itself. They also consider how nutrition and other internal and external factors can aid in healing and wellness.
Finally they are true professionals and caring people, who apply what they learn to their own lives. To me these are attributes that separate them from most practitioners in the wellness field. They want to see people live better lives. They want people to experience the freedom that comes with optimal health. They want to help people realize the best version of who they are.
Now that you know more about them I’m going to focus on two segments of their audio presentation and relate them to my thoughts on calories, calorie counting, weight loss and their relationship to health. The segments of the audio I will share regard:
1. Weight loss regardless of calorie consumption.
2. Inflammation, the real cause of almost all weight gain.
Earlier I gave the definition for a calorie is as it relates to nutrition. To remind you, it is the amount of energy/heat/work it take to raise one kilogram of water one degree celcius. In order to create the perception calories have any relevance on weight loss or health, someone had to assume calories had specific applications to the human body. I’m not sure who did this or when it happened as, neither Todd, Chris or I have found any information on who created this assumption but it had to happen at some point. If/When I come across this information I will share it with you.
Weight Loss Regardless of Calorie Consumption
The body uses vitamins, nutrients, enzymes and elements to fuel itself. Food has become the preferred delivery method for these items, even though it does not have to be. We can find these items in many other forms in nature. Forms like the air we breath (oxygen), herbs, spices supplements, ect…These forms have virtually no calories, yet they are used to create fuel at the cell level of the body.
It’s not often considered, but each of our cells work within a group of cells creating functional units or systems of cells. These functional units or systems have a task(s),that are necessary for proper function of the body. To illustrate this let’s use the example of the liver. The liver is made up of a group of liver cells. As a unit, they are capable of completing the tasks of the liver as long as they are provided the materials needed to energize the cells that make up the liver.
The materials needed to energize each cells comes from vitamins, nutrients enzymes and elements. The source of these items doesn’t matter, as long as they are present the liver will we healthy and functional.
The liver is just one of the systems within in the digestive system. When all of the systems in the digestive system have the material they need to complete the task of digestion our body will better be able to clean, heal and detoxify itself. When the body regularly and efficiently cleans, heals and detoxifies itself we will lose we lose weight.
You may have already heard of people who have lost significant amounts of weight from a detoxification programs. Yet very few if any detox programs focus on limiting calories. They focus on providing the body what it needs, to cleanse toxic materials from it. I propose your body can become an efficient detox machine if you focus on learning what vitamins, minerals, enzymes & elements your cells need to function and limit or eliminate consuming toxic materials regardless of how many calories you intake.
If you were to use this approach to nutrition you would lose weight, maintain your weight loss and realize many more positive health benefits.
Inflammation The Real Cause of Weight Gain
By definition maintaining long-term calorie deficits over time puts your body in a long-term debt position. This debt position invariably leads to nutrient deficits, which ultimately lead to energy deficits, since the cells of the body will not have the fuel they need to produce the energy needed, to complete their tasks. If the cells are not able to complete their tasks due to a lack of energy then the body will have inactive or partially inactive systems. Inactive or partially active body systems leads to the body’s inability to clean, heal and detoxify itself. A body that is not able to clean, heal and detoxify itself becomes toxic. Toxicity in the body results in inflammation and stored metabolic waste in the body resulting in weight gain.
During this process the body’s stress response is activated. The stress response is your adrenal gland’s response to any stress experienced by the body or mind. During this response your body sends a disproportionate amount of blood to your limbs. As a result your limbs begin to swell. If the blood stays in the limbs then metabolic waste material is unable to exit them. This leads to inflammation, weight gain and pain in the limbs and joints. In many cases this inflammation is mistaken for fat, which it is not. This cycle continually perpetuates itself and leads to long-term weight gain and chronic disease.
There are several more segments of Todd’s audio that debunk the Myth of Calorie Counting. As I mentioned earlier the audio will be available here in the members area in the very near future.
For now I want to turn your attention to a recent weight loss study based on reduced calorie intake.
Recent Weight Loss Study
In doing research for my practice I came across a study that shows success rates (or in this case lack of success) of calorie deficit protocols in producing long-term weight loss. The study is titled “Long-Term Weight Maintenance after an Intensive Weight-Loss Program”. To illustrate my point I have provided the quote below from the results section of the study:
“Subjects regained an average of 2.5% per month of their lost weight during the first two to three years of follow-up; however, their weight stabilized over the next four years. Subjects regained an average of 73.4% of their weight loss during the first three years”.
In my opinion an average 2.5% weight gain per month, and an average of 73.4% weight gain over 3 years does not equal long term weight loss success. Therefore I choose not to accept calorie reduction/deficits as a valid methodology for long-term weight loss, nor do I choose to invest myself or my clients into it.
Ultimately, every person who wants to lose weight or maintain a healthy body will have to reach their own conclusion about which weight loss or weight maintenance methodology to employ. My interest in writing this was to offer some alternative thoughts for you to consider as you decide which actions to take in your efforts to lose weight.
I hope this helps you!
Survival Operating Systems ™, Level I Manual Therapy and Awareness Education Workshop; August 2011, Todd Swaine, Owner/Creator.