Well, along with calling a small candy bar “Fun Size.” When I was a kid, a fun-sized candy bar would’ve weighed 8 pounds. They should call them “Depressing Size.” But now I don’t eat candy bars and I guess some people would find that depressing.
But alas, the food industry likes to make money for some danged reason, so they mislabel things left and right.
Oh yeah, back to calories. Our bodies need a certain amount of calories to keep ourselves running at full capacity.
We know that if we’re someone who likes to run marathons, we need extra calories. Someone sitting on the couch all day needs less.
I’m 6-foot 5, so I probably need more calories than you do just to survive.
The problem with calories is that the FDA wants to make everything as “simple” as possible. Most Americans won’t take the time to get super-educated about food. The FDA’s response to dealing with our diets is to come up with an over-simplified “solution” – but it actually promotes laziness and obesity.
Take the Food Pyramid. Growing up, I learned that I needed 7-11 servings of grains per day. Never once did I learn what a healthy grain was. Those 7-11 servings were usually sugary cereals and white bread, and I ate it thinking I was fulfilling an important health requirement.
Another example: The FDA’s illogical 2,000 calories per day guideline. They give us an easy solution to a very, very complex problem, devaluing the worth of educating ourselves on the issue.
Here’s why the 2,000 calorie benchmark has caused many, many more problems than it will ever solve:
Everyone’s body uses calories differently
The FDA treats our bodies as if we’re a giant scale – no matter if you set 10 pounds of steak or 10 pounds of ice cream on a scale, it still weighs 10 pounds.
But the reality, obviously, is that your body would treat 10 pounds of ice cream much differently than it would treat 10 pounds of steak!
When you put food into your body, your body breaks it down into its basic parts and distributes them to where it’s needed. Some of it goes to your cells, some of it goes into storage, some is burned as energy, and some goes to places I bet scientists don’t even know yet.
It’s impossible to know exactly how your body is going to use every last calorie in your body. Things such as your metabolic rate, gender, muscle mass, natural body weight, and activity level all change how many calories your body needs.
How can 2,000 calories possibly be the same for your body as it is for mine?
Tell me, would you ever let your child skip his 2 eggs for breakfast in favor of ½ cup of ice cream? They’re roughly the same amount of calories, but we know that one of those is MUCH healthier than the other.
I’ve been on “calorie count diets” before, and I know the tendencies that people develop. For one, it’s ok to have a Snickers, as long as I burn it off later. The only thing that matters is the net calories at the end of the day, right?
When I Googled “calories in Snickers bar,” many of the responses said something like this: “250 calories in Snickers Bar – 69 minutes of walking to burn 250 calories.”
And then I got mad and punched my computer in the face.
This goes back to the anti-logic the FDA uses – that everyone can somehow, magically, understand every process in their body, calculate how many calories they need, add up calories consumed, subtract calories burned exercising, and voila! We’ve just solved the entire obesity crisis.
If I were to eat Snickers and go for a 69 minute walk, I don’t automatically burn off that Snickers. “Oooh that last hill just burned off the rest of the chocolate coating. COOL!” Our bodies are more amazing than I thought – it apparently can know what I want to burn, and all the broken down fats and sugars from that Snickers Bar are miraculously lifted from my bloodstream. Those exact 250 calories. Right.
And even if you did burn off those 250 calories, eating a Snickers causes way more problems than just calories. You’re eating refined sugar, which is WAY worse than eating, say 250 calories of grass-fed beef. Eating something as fake and processed as a Snickers leads to all sorts of damaging crap, especially to your hormones.
Burning off the calories a Snickers provided doesn’t free you from the health problems that eating an unhealthy, processed candy bar causes your body.
Low calorie diets don’t mean healthy
I fell under this trap sooooo many times – if 3500 calories equals 1 pound of fat, then if I’m under by 500 calories a day, I should lose 1 pound a week, right?
I’m hoping you’re getting the point that this is 3rd grade science, meant to wrap something very, very complicated in an easy-to-understand package.
Your body needs a certain amount of calories to survive. We’re extremely complicated. Our heart needs to pump blood every second. Our lungs breathe in and out without stopping. Our digestive systems require massive energy to break down and absorb. Every single cell in our body is doing something right now that requires energy.
Our metabolism (all the chemical processes in our body) requires calories.
When we don’t get the calories we need, our bodies get super-stressed out. Sure, you might lose some weight at first.
But then our bodies figure out what’s happening.
It goes into starvation mode. It wants to store every last calorie as fat. Our amazing body realizes it’s not getting the energy it needs, and tries to build up a store to help over the long haul. Just like how a bear realizes it’s going into hibernation soon and stores up extra fat to help during a time of potential starvation.
One of the biggest sources of stress our body can possibly experience is not having enough fuel to maintain all those complicated processes. Our energy-deprived bodies release cortisol and adrenaline to help us deal with the stress. In the short run, pumping this out burns energy and may create some weight loss. In the long run, adrenal fatigue sets in, causing weight gain and a whole bunch of other stuff.
Have you every known someone on a permanent super low-carb diet? It’s not natural, and definitely not healthy – you’ll begin to feel the effects pretty soon.
To make it simple – you’ve heard that being stressed causes weight gain. Not eating enough is an enormous stressor for our bodies.
Counting calories turns us all into obsessive-compulsive monsters
Have you been on a calorie-counting diet before? It’s all you can think about. It controls you.
We eat 3 meals a day, and usually a couple of snacks – and before you eat, you have to figure out if it can fit into your arbitrary calorie limit. Then after you eat, you have to track it out somewhere.
It creates an unhealthy relationship with food. Before you know it, food is no longer tasty and delicious, but rather a number sitting on a plate. You can’t enjoy a steak with butter on it because it has 600 calories. An egg is no longer a supremely nutritious meal, but a number you have to tally as soon as you are done eating.
Did people 200 years ago, who were very healthy, have to count their calories? They’d probably laugh. What about current indigenous tribes who subsist off of natural foods in their environment? They’ve never heard of a calorie.
Counting calories turns us into stress balls, not to mention that it absolutely contributes to eating disorders like Anorexia or Bulimia. Trust me, there’s a better way to watch your health than counting calories.
People survived for thousands of years before they knew what a calorie was.
They didn’t know about metabolism, adrenal fatigue, fats, carbs, proteins, or, (SHOCKER) the FDA!
And they didn’t have heart attacks or diabetes.
Our bodies are miraculous machines that are built to adapt and survive. We naturally know how much we should be eating, but processed foods mess with our internal mechanisms and hormones, causing us to never feel full.
If you’re eating real foods, you’ll get fuller faster and for longer. Your body is getting the nutrients it needs, so it won’t continually signal to you “Hey I need nutrients, eat more!”
Have you noticed that eating a bowl of cereal doesn’t keep you full for very long? Or that you feel like you could eat 2 cans of Spaghettios and still be hungry?
Focus on eating real foods, not on the calories. Your body will function at full capacity, keep you from overeating, and generally relieve you of insane amounts of stress.
What do you guys think? Ever hated your calorie-counting diet?