The Myth of Calories In and Calories Out

This was the topic of our monthly nutrition workshop we provide to our members.  I could tell, that everyone left a little rocked because we have been told so many nutrition and fitness myths over and over again, that it’s hard to think any different.  One of the biggest myths is calories in and calories out.  Counting calories and tracking exercise to make sure your output is more than your input.  Yes, we need to be at a deficit.  But counting calories is the worst way to go at it.  Why?  Because there are so many variables to this overly simplified equation.

To prepare for this, I went online to numerous caloric needs calculators.  To maintain my weight I had numbers from 1638 to 3125.  Wow!  Where would one start to calculate caloric deficit?

Think about gaining 40 pounds in 20 years.  For example, at 25 you weighed 125 and at 45 you weighed 165.   That is a 40 pound gain in 20 years.  That is 2 pounds a year, an extra 7000 calories a year.  Break that down even further and that’s 19 extra calories a day.  So people that gain 40 pounds in 20 years had an extra 19 calories a day.  A small carrot is 21 calories.  Are people who don’t gain 40 pounds the ultimate mathematicians that have the equation right and never overeat by 19 calories?  I highly doubt that.  It’s foolish to believe this.

Think about the person you know that is thin and has always been thin despite eating tons of food.  Whatever they want, they can eat it and not gain weight.  On the other hand, look at the person who has 80# to lose.  They are eating 1200 calories a day and not losing any weight.  What is the problem here?

The most important question we should be asking is WHY?  Why does a person overeat?  Why do some people stay thin?  Why do we crave the foods we crave that cause us to consume too much food?

Oversimplifying weight loss to just calories in to calories out is observed.

First of all calories are not equal.  To explain this, I’ll use my campfire analogy.  Out metabolism is like a campfire.  There are different macronutrients carbohydrates, protein and fat that we put into our body and will affect our fire.  Simple carbohydrates like sugar, wheat, and some fruits are like throwing small twigs on a fire.  They burn up fast without giving you lasting burn.  Then you have complex carbohydrates like squashes,sweet potatoes or other root vegetables.  These are small sticks (not twigs) and they burn a bit longer than the twigs.  But just a bunch of small twigs will not sustain the fire.  Protein is medium sticks and can burn for a while.  When eating protein 30% of the calories is used to actually break down the protein  Last but not least is fat and fat is a big log on the fire.  The will burn long and slow.  So as you can see cheerios and cheese don’t burn the same way in the fire.

All exercise is not created equal either.  Chronic steady state cardio burns alot of calories.  That’s it.  It also raises cortisol which is a stress hormone that causes your body to hold onto fat and lower metabolic rate.  It’s the famine stress response, which is hold on to fat because of the long stressful periods.  Yes, you may burn that 852 calories in an hour, but your metabolic rate just got slower too!

Lifting weights increases lean body mass and promotes hormones that stoke metabolic rate like growth hormone and testosterone.  You may burn 643 calories in a weight lifting session, but you will also burn calories at a higher rate after the workout.  This is called EPOC, exercise post oxygen consumption.  For the next 24 to 48 hours you metabolic rate is higher, meaning you burn more calories.

Interval cardio is the way to go.  This can be done 2 times a week for most people in conjunction with a strength training program.  This too will have an EPOC effect after the exercise is done.  Lifting weights and interval cardio create a stress response like being chased by a Tiger.  It’s a short chase, you want to be lean and light to not be the tiger’s meal.

Speaking of stress, that to will also effect your metabolic rate.  Stress is an important part of growth and development.  Unfortunately, the world we live in is a high stress lifestyle.  Working long hours, exposed to many chemicals, eating processed foods, not enough sleep, hating the jobs we’re working long hours at, thinking negative thoughts and the list goes on.  What we don’t realize is that all stress is funneled into the body and it does not differentiate a hard workout from only getting 5 hours of sleep.  Stress accumulates in the body.

If the stress is more than the body can handle, it overstimulates the sympathetic nervous system.  This leads to inflammation, slowed metabolic rate, fatigue, lack a muscle growth and other negative symptoms.  We need a balance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.

So if you are using your i-phone app to count calories to lose weight, ask yourself one question.  “How long can I do this for?” If you can count calories in your i-phone for life then keep at it.   If you can count points for life, the do weight watchers for the 8th time.  (Because nobody does weight watchers just once) But realize that limiting your calories to 1200 calories a day has a negative long-term effect on your body.  Food and weight loss does not have to be this life long prison.

So what do you need to do to start losing weight?  Change your focus.  In my book. extra body weight is a symptom.  A symptom that the body just needs to get healthier.  So focus on health.  Not the numbers on the scale.  Focus on feeling good and taking the best care of your body.  How do you do that?

1) Eat a Wild Diet that optimize your hormone response to food and limits toxins.

2) Get enough sleep and quiet time to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system.

3) Minimize toxins and stress.

4) Live a life that enhances your happiness!

Sounds too easy, takes too long, ect., ect., Well that’s just old programmed head trash that is holding you back.  Has all the counting calories worked?  I mean really worked, like kept the weight off forever.  Most of us will answer no.  Maybe it’s time to have a leap of faith and try something new.  The day I stopped food logging, counting calories, eating diet foods, was the most freeing day of my life.  It can be for you too!