Why calorie counting doesn’t work

The problems with calorie counting

Calorie counting was very handy a few decades ago, but unfortunately it has now had its day.

First of all, a calorie is a unit of measure, and with all units that are used to measure it depends what you put in to it.

For example, you would all agree that a cup of gold is different from a cup of water, or a cup of fuel is different from a cup of sand.

As a unit of measure the cup remains the same, but the ingredients inside have changed. The contents of the cup determine the value of the cup itself.

The same applies to calories, they are a measure of energy.

If you apply the same lateral thinking to a calorie, whether it is made up of protein, fat, carbohydrates, cooked food, raw food, organic food, conventional food, refined food, whole foods and even fresh foods, whatever the calorie is made up of truly changes the value of the calorie as a food value.

An example

If we were to choose refined, processed food to make up the calorie value you are trying to reach in a day, for the average person lets say its between 2000-3000 calories.

Now if we add in some artificial ingredients like artificial sweeteners, we end up with a diet plan that is by no means nourishing, yet still enables you to keep your calories low.

If we pick on a food such as the good old twinkie, you laugh, but I saw these at a shop today. When I asked the owner if anyone actually bought these, he said "Yes, especially in the weekends and that he couldn't bring himself to try one as they never ever go off, they have no expiry date"

If we sweeten these twinkles with artificial sugars we can keep the calories almost non-existent, as these new factory made sugars now contain almost zero calories.

If say, for breakfast you ate 3 twinkles, a low fat packet of chips, a low fat chocolate bar and washed it down with a zero carb coke, you could tally in under 300 calories.

As you normally eat 3 meals a day and I don't want you to go hungry, I'll let you eat this meal 5 times. If you do the math the grand total is 1500 calories for the day.

That adds up to a win, thats 500-1500 calories less that you need in a day,  so you will lose weight right?

Wrong, this is a nutritional disaster.

This diet will very quickly cause health problems and lead to disease.

The amount of teenagers that eat like this at high school is astounding, they believe that this is the best way and only way to stay slim and maintain the healthy weight.

The weight that is deemed to be acceptable on social media.

The problem is that the calorie itself has no regard to where the food came from.

When we analyse the diets of healthy people we learn that their diets are low in calories and high in nutrients, ornutrient dense. Our diets on the other hand are high in calories but low in nutrients.

If you are in the pursuit of health, your main aim should be getting as many nutrients into as lower calories as is possible, while still satisfying your basic energy requirement to keep your body running.

After all in needs energy to maintain organ fuction, fuel the brain, repair the muscles, joints and bones, to keep your immune system primed. You get the idea.

So how do we eat more nutrients while keeping the calories low?

This is how it's done

By eating foods that grow as close to nature as possible, nature has put together over hundreds of thousands of years, foods to which our bodies have become genetically adapted to eat.

When we stray from this ideal, disease and suffering are the consequence.

We once again should  full our pantry with the abundant array of foods grown in nature's garden, not the foods that humankind builds in a lab.

Our satiety index

Our bodies are equipped with mechanisms, these mechanisms are supposed to naturally tell us in advance when we have consumed our daily quota of energy from food. Now this mechanism treats a calorie from a protein entirely different from a calorie from a fat.

Only your body can tell you when you have had your full, but there is a catch and you won't want to hear this, you MUST CHEW YOUR FOOD. (For those of you who haven't, please read my blog on smoothies)

Yes, not only will your body register what you are eating, but the more you chew your food, the better it will digest, as your bodies feedback mechanisms pick up what you are chewing they shut your hunger off accordingly.

Now, the body uses a tremendous amount of energy to convert a lot of the foods we eat from their complicated starches, proteins and fats into the simple sugars, amino acids and fatty acids. Foods do not digest in their whole form.

This conversion uses calories in itself, and if I was to pick a random figure, I would  say roughly 20-30% of your daily energy is used for digestion. Simply by eating foods, ideally slowly, you are making your body work,  burning 20-30% of your daily calories or energy from which you gain from food.

It gets better

When you eat raw food, the body has an even harder job, which means it uses more energy on your behalf to digest food.

If you eat a lot of raw starch,  your body once again must convert that into simple sugars, before your body has access to that sugar, it can't use starch in its original form. Cooking breaks these starches down, simply by the act of cooking. This means your body gets a little holiday, not needing to work as hard, which means you burn less calories. These calories have not been earnt, they are like presents at Christmas.

We all know what happens at Christmas!

As a rule in the retreat in the kitchen I was managing, I set a benchmark of at least 50% of the diet had to be raw, not in quantity but in calories. This means if you ate a gigantic raw fruit salad for breakfast, a giant raw salad at both lunch and as the evening meal, you failed!

But why?

If you add up these calories you will find that they come out to 600-700. If you eat 2000 calories a day, thats only 30% raw. So I repeat, its not the quantity of raw volume, its the quantity of raw expressed as a calorific value.

Now if you added in some raw muesli at breakfast, a dressing on your salad at lunch made with a few egg yolks and some olive oil and some lightly cooked fish at dinner, you mastered it.

These are the foods that contain a higher energy amount that the salads, hence got you to where you needed to be, on the winning side.

Now what is the point?

Weight loss, as a health retreat we specialised in weight loss, it was common to see women lose between 1.7- 4kg per week and men anywhere from 4-6kgs a week. Multiply that out by a few weeks and you quickly see 5-10kg losses.

I constantly meet people who would talk about the success of their diet, I would always ask how much have you lost? and often the reply would be "8kgs over the year". I admit, any loss is a win but how hard was it?

The easy way

This is natural, easy, requires no fasting, deprivation, will power or pain.

That is why we had so much success, its easy, very implementable and everyone loves eating the food.

So try it, aim for 50% raw minimum in your daily meals, chew your food, don't drink liquids with meals (sip if you must) and STOP once your body tells you, its not hard.

If anyone needs a little help structuring this please contact me, and we'll get it sorted. (You and I)



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My name is Blair Harvey and I have had the pleasure of working at one of Australia's best Health Retreat's for the past fourteen wonderful years. Over those years I have had the delight of working with a spectacular kitchen team, we all have an immense passion for cooking good healthy food that is unique and tantalizing to your taste buds. Together we have not only developed our skills in cooking wholesome, nourishing and out right delicious foods, but we have been committed to broadening our knowledge of healing with whole foods and exploring the beauty of healthy living. Because of our enthusiasm in the benefits of foods and there healing properties I developed a blog to help us SHARE what we have learnt with the rest of the world.

You will find tasty gems of wisdom on health, food and healing, helping to expand your mind and revitalize your knowledge of healthy eating.