Last week I asked the folks in my YardStick meetings what topics they would like to talk about in the coming weeks and the idea of calorie counting was mentioned. Should you or shouldn’t you?
I’m not claiming to know the right answer. Actually, I’d argue there is no right answer but while researching I learned a few things, so I thought I’d share for today’s Tuesday Ten Post.
10. A calorie really is a calorie when it comes to weight gain/loss. When people create a caloric deficit they always lose weight. When people eat more calories than they need they always gain weight. This has been shown consistently. No, really, It has. This isn’t to say other variables aren’t involved but it’s the bottom line.
9. Not all calories are created equal. Hold the phone. Didn’t I just say a calorie is a calorie? Yes, I did, BUT let me propose two possible daily menus based on the ever popular 1,200-calorie diet assumption. (I’m not saying you should only eat 1,200 calories a day, I’m just using it to prove point.)
Sample Menu 1 – Nutritional information from the Pizza Hut website
- 3 slices of Pepperoni Lover’s Pizza = 1,200 calories
Sample Menu 2 – Nutritional Information from the LoseIt website
- Whole Wheat Toast with 2 tsp butter = 137
- 2 Eggs, Hard Boiled, Whole, Large = 155
- Apple, Small = 77
- McDonald’s Southwest Salad w/ Grilled Chicken with half a packet of creamy Southwest dressing = 340
- 1 Chicken Drumstick, Grilled = 70
- 1 Chicken Thigh, Grilled = 150
- 1 Potato, Russet, w/ Skin, Baked, Small, 1 3/4 – 2 1/2 = 130
- 1 cup Green Beans, Blue Lake Cut, Jumbo-Can = 40
- Fudge Bar, Premium = 100
Total: 1,199 calories
Umm, yeah. Do I even need to list which day had more nutrients? Protein? Fiber? Stuff like that? Not to mention which day you would feel satisfied?
I didn’t think so.
8. How many calories you need? More calories than you need — gain. Less calories than you need — lose. But according to WebMD, 9 out of 10 people have no idea how many calories they even need even though 67% report taking them into account when making food decisions. I definitely fall into this category.
7. It is extremely difficult to count calories accurately. Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD showed 200 dietitians five different meals served in restaurants and asked them to estimate of the number of calories in each meal. They were so inaccurate that some meals contained double the calories they predicted. Just think: if they are underestimating we probably are too and grossly.
6. Be aware of calorie density. According to ForksOverKnives.com, calorie density is simply a measure of how many calories are in a given weight of food, most often expressed as calories per pound. A food high in calorie density has a large number of calories in a small weight of food, whereas a food low in calorie density has much fewer calories in the same weight of food. Therefore, one can consume a larger portion of a low-calorie dense food than a high-calorie dense food for the same number of calories. See No. 9 above.
5. The 3,500 calorie myth. It’s true that 3,500 calories roughly equals a pound of body fat but that does not necessarily mean you will lose a pound by creating a 3,500-calorie deficit. According to Dr. Sharma, significant and ongoing weight gain or weight loss requires a substantially greater level of daily caloric excess or restriction that may have to incrementally increase over time to sustain continued gain or loss. Bottom line: The human body is way more complicated than that.
4. Negative calories? Admit it, you tried the negative calorie diet. I did! I first remember reading about this in the late ’90s. The idea is to eat more super low calorie foods because your body take more energy to burn them then they contain. According to MayoClinic.com, about 5 percent to 10 percent of your total energy expenditure goes to digest and store the nutrients in the food you eat. Foods that contain few calories, such as celery and other non-starchy vegetables, provide a small number of calories but still require energy to digest. That means it is theoretically possible to have a negative-calorie food, but there are no reputable scientific studies to prove that certain foods have this effect.
3. Liquid calories count! According to the University of Rochester, Americans drink about 1.5 cans of soda per person per day. For regular soda drinkers, that adds up to 240 empty calories per day. I don’t know about you but I’d rather have a glass of water and a couple of cookies At least my body will register the cookies! According to Madelyn Fernstrom, when it comes to weight loss and gain, it is all about calories in and calories out (we covered that already). But a large problem with liquid calories is that they are not perceived as “calories consumed” by the body.
2. Reducing calories is easier than using them up. I’ve learned over the years it’s WAY easier to eat 250 fewer calories than it is to burn 250 calories through exercise. Let me put it another way: You can either skip the Tall Pumpkin Spice Latte OR take a 30-minute run. It all comes down to choices.
1. Calories are just a unit to measure energy. Sometimes I think we forget that. They aren’t some evil device sent from the devil to torture us, they are just a measure of energy. They aren’t good or bad. They just are.
More thoughts on calories in tomorrow’s weigh in post. See you then! :)