Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Calories: do they count?


3500 calories equals about 1 pound. Therefore, if a person wants to lose a pound, she would need to burn 3500 more calories or consume 3500 fewer calories than the number of calories required to maintain her current weight.

Sounds easy? So why doesn’t a diet based on cutting calories work?

First, in order to know how many more calories we need to burn or how many fewer we need to consume, we need to know how many calories are required to maintain our current weight. How exactly are we supposed to find this out?

There are all sorts of charts and calculators available to help. Some of these charts and calculators are more precise than others. Most ask our sex, weight, and activity level. OK the sex and weight parts hopefully you can answer. But activity level? What does that mean exactly?

Most of us are in the middle somewhere. On some days we are “very active”, on others we are “inactive”, and most days we are “moderately active”. What should we plug in to the calculator? Should we determine every day how many calories are required to maintain our current weight based on our level of activity for that day?

Let’s say we go for the average and put down “moderately active” so we can move forward.

We’ve all heard that muscle weighs more than fat. And if you’ve really been paying attention you know that muscle cells require more calories to maintain than fat cells. So a competitive body builder or world class athlete would require more calories to maintain his weight than a less muscular person. Why isn’t this taken in to account in the charts and calculators?

We’ve also heard that our metabolism slows down as we age. This likely means for most of us we require fewer calories to maintain our weight than when we were younger. Shouldn’t the charts and calculators factor this in?

And what about the clinical studies that have shown that some people just burn more calories than others all else being equal? Studies have proven what we anecdotally know is true – your skinny friend really does eat like a horse and never gains an ounce, while your chronically overweight friend seems to gain weight eating celery.

The bottom line: it is very difficult to know how many calories are required to maintain your weight.

By now you may be starting to understand why counting calories has never resulted in sustained weight loss. But there’s more.

Let’s say for argument’s sake you were able to determine exactly how many calories per day you needed to maintain your weight. So now all you need to do is reduce that daily requirement by 500 calories per day and you will lose a pound a week! We have all read that a pound or two per week is a healthy weight loss goal.

There are all sorts of websites and books you can use to look up the number of calories in the food you are planning to eat or have eaten. Some are very precise. But even the precise ones require that you know serving sizes.

Was that piece of chicken you just ate 3 ounces or 5? Did you count how many peanuts you ate at the baseball game? Does it matter if they were dry roasted, salted, or in the shell? Don’t forget about the double soy latte you had this morning. While coffee has no calories, what you put in it most certainly does.

And the worst part is even if you knew exactly how many calories there were in everything you ate, you would have to keep meticulous records in order to be accurate. Wouldn’t that take some of the fun out of eating and make you feel just a little obsessive? Haven’t we all heard that part of the reason we are fat is we have “issues” with food? This exercise of writing down everything we eat and totalling up the calories does not sound enjoyable.

Let’s say for argument’s sake that you were able to determine exactly how many calories per day you were consuming and you were highly motivated to keep the required records. We’ve all heard that exercise needs to be a part of your life in order to sustain weight loss over the long term. Not to mention you can eat more calories per day if you increase your activity level. So now all you have to do is figure out how many calories per day your exercise level is burning.

There are lots of charts that provide the number of calories burned for different activities. Let’s say you were really good and you got up early and walked for 30 minutes before breakfast. You see on your chart that 30 minutes of walking at 4 miles per hour burns 300 calories. But were you walking 4 miles per hour? What if there were lots of hills? What about your spouse who was walking with you and weighs 50 pounds more than you…does it make sense that he burned the same number of calories as you for this walk?

If you are still reading then you get the idea. Keeping track of calories in order to lose weight makes perfect, logical, scientific sense in the abstract. However, from a practical perspective it just does not work. And chances are you are living proof of that since most of us serial dieters have tried to lose weight at some point by keeping close track of calories. We either end up erring on the side of consuming too little in order to be conservative which is not sustainable, or we inadvertently consume too many and don’t lose much weight! Not to mention that it’s tedious and takes the fun out of eating.

So what’s the answer? The diet described in this site does not rely on calories. Instead, by purifying your body to rid it of toxins, eating the foods your body craves, moderately exercising, and dealing with the emotional issues that likely contributed to your weight gain in the first place, you will naturally lose weight in a healthy way and at a sustained pace.

My name is Bella and I am a weight loss retreat leader who runs retreats around the world. Often working alongside well-known retreat leader Sophie Jones. I lost 30 pounds and have kept it off by adopting a whole food, plant-based diet. My blog posts are about how I did it. Please note I am not a medical doctor and my advice is what has worked for me and my retreat clients, try it out, maybe it will work for you too! Contact me on:

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