Calorie Counting – Call for A Recount

The Calorie Counting Myth – Part 2

I don’t eat calories – I eat food! I don’t want to be a mathematician at meal times. Part 1 explained that food labels are not precise… in fact Dr Jonh Bernardi of Precision Nutrition states they can carry up to a 20-30% error rate. Energy expenditure calculations can also be 25-30% inaccurate. So, even if you are extremely conscientious, meticulous and take the time to painstakingly calculate all these numbers you could be 60% inaccurate!!

Counting calories can raise awareness about portion sizes but there are much easier methods that require much less time and difficulty. Furthermore, the calorie theory has never been proven. Francis Benedict, in 1917, was the first person credited to conduct calorie deficit experiments. Researchers have shown that the Francis Benedict study, and every subsequent study where a calorie deficit has been created in a human, the outcome has been “some weight loss, accompanied by immense hunger and tiredness with an overwhelming desire to want to eat more and do less”. These studies show that “weight loss has never matched the 3,500 formula – over even a short period of time. It has never even come close and weight regain has been observed every time,” comments Zoe Harcombe, one of the UK’s leading dieticians.

Controlling hormones that effect craving and hunger, managing nervous system and ensuring optimal cell function will deliver much better results and make people feel incredible.  Research clearly shows that providing the right macronutrient profile decreases appetite and makes people lose weight without having to control portions or count calories. The graph below shows a low-fat diet group that has been calorie restricted and a low-carb group which was allowed to eat until fullness.

The low-carb group automatically starts eating less calories, while remaining “full and satisfied” because they naturally satisfy their hunger hormones and appetite. These studies show that there is no need to consciously focus on calories in order to eat less of them. Once hormones are in balance this happens automatically, simply by changing the types of foods you eat.

Harcombe’s research further supports these studies by pointing to the The Minnesota Starvation Experiment, in 1945, as being the definitive study. “36 men were put on a 1,500-1,600 calorie a day diet with a moderate walk scheduled each day. They lost a fraction of the weight that the 3,500 formula would have predicted. The men turned into hungry, miserable, food-obsessed shadows of their former selves. Within six months, researchers found it increasingly difficult to induce any further weight loss, even dropping calorie intake to around 1,000 calories a day. Some men started regaining at a calorie level that should have seen them continuing to lose weight. Within weeks of the conclusion of the experiment, the men had regained all weight loss, plus about 10%” states Harcombe. Does this resonate with anyone?!

Unsubstantiated Theory:

The numbers make sense but our body is simply not a number cruncher! Ms Harcombe asked the British government and health authorities to explain the theory and the responses are amazing:

The British Dietetic Association commented that they do not hold information on the topic. Likewise, the National Obesity Forum didn’t know anything either yet they quote the 3500 formula on their website. The Department of Health responded that they are “unaware of the rationale behind the weight formula”. Now if this doesn’t prove that the calorie formula is an unsubstantiated myth, I don’t know what will. No leading agency has any idea where this founding piece of diet advice comes from or supports its validity yet it’s in all their literature!

The fact is there is almost a century’s worth of crushing evidence that the calorie theory doesn’t work. The mantra of “do more, eat less” for weight loss seems to be only making society fatter. It’s time for a recount… more crucially to start counting more important dietary and lifestyle elements. So before you sign up to a body transformation programme you should really ask some questions regarding their method or theory. You might end up in a worse position than you started.

Being aware of your calorie intake is NOT necessary to lose weight, as long as you eat in a certain way. The fact is eating behaviour is largely subconscious, controlled by hormones and neural circuits. If you eat in a way that reduces cravings, improve satiety, boosts energy and balances hunger you with effortlessly lose fat and feel amazing in the process.

For more reading on the calorie myth (if you didn’t see Part 1) and hormonal function of the body see these articles:

  1. House of Hormones – the essential hormones of fat loss
  2. Call for a Re-Count – Part 1 – the calorie myth

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