Part One: What is a Calorie?
Technically, a calorie is a particular unit of measurement. It is “a unit of energy-producing potential equal to this amount of heat that is contained in food and released upon oxidation by the body.” This definition has led to what many consider to be a myth about calories.
The Calories In, Calories Out Myth
If a calorie is a unit of measurement, like an inch or a meter, then a calorie is a calorie, right? A calorie from a Twinkie or a hot fudge sundae is equal to a calorie from an apple or a chicken breast, right?
Many health experts will tell you that when it comes to weight loss, a calorie is a calorie and it doesn’t matter what you eat as long as you pay attention to calories. This just isn’t true. If you spend your days eating bread, French fries, cookies, and drinking soda but you never eat more than you consume you may lose weight at first.
However, your body is going to go through some changes internally. It’s eventually going to stop responding to the sugars and you’ll develop insulin resistance – aka diabetes. As your body’s insulin receptors decrease you’ll start storing the food you eat as fat. Your cells won’t take in the sugar that you ate, because there’s no insulin, so you’ll store it.
However, as you’re storing all of this sugar in the form of fat, you’ll also be starving your cells of energy because they haven’t received the signal from insulin to use the sugar for energy. So you’ll be tired; extremely tired. You’ll also be hungry.
On the other hand, if you eat nutrient rich foods, foods that are low on the glycemic index and don’t cause blood sugar spikes, your insulin receptors will continue to work as they’re designed. They’ll tell your cells to use the food you’ve consumed for energy. The result? You’ll burn energy and lose weight.
Nutrient rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy proteins, are generally much lower in calories and high in nutrients. When you’re counting calories, where your calories come from makes a huge difference.
That’s not to say that you can’t indulge and enjoy a treat. Most weight loss and nutrition experts strongly recommend moderation rather than deprivation. The takeaway is to remember that as a unit of measurement, calories are equal. But your body reacts differently to different foods, even if they contain the same amount of calories.
Some foods produce an optimal response that improves your health and longevity, as well as helps you lose weight. Other foods cause a detrimental physical response that can cause your health to decline and may ultimately result in weight gain in the long term.
So you know that it’s important to fuel your body with nutrient rich foods. These foods are low in calories, which means you’ll be able to eat more and feel full. You’ll have more energy, which also tends to result in better exercise sessions at the gym. You’ll turn yourself into an energetic calorie-burning machine! Let’s talk about how many calories your body needs and how to create a calorie-counting plan to help you meet your weight loss goals.