The Top 10 Reasons the Calories In/Calories Out Paradigm is a bunch of Crap.


The Top 10 Reasons the Calories In/Calories Out Paradigm is a bunch of Crap.


The Calories In/Calories Out paradigm states that weight gain is solely a matter of over eating energy and/or not expending enough energy. By its nature it gives little to no regard to what foods provide that energy. It relies on the imperfect laws of thermodynamics. It focuses on overeating or lack of activity without every asking the question why we over eat or why we don’t exercise. Nor does it address why we chronically seek out foods that cause weight gain.

The list below begins with number 10 but honestly, this order is not all that important. It is also not a complete list but 10 seemed like a nice round number. 🙂

10.  It doesn’t distinguish between good and bad calories. I think we can all agree an apple is better than a cookie no matter how small the cookie is. An apple will keep you fuller longer than a cookie will. Even though the apple and cookie both contain sugar, the sugar in the apple is wrapped up in a ton of fiber and comes packed with vitamins and antioxidants.

9. It doesn’t emphasize nutrient density or macro-nutrient ratios at all. The Calories In/Calories Out argument states as long as you expend more energy than you consume you will be thin and healthy. You might lose weight at first but you will be far from healthy and the weight loss rarely lasts without further restriction. Most of the weight lost will be water and muscle tissue if your protein/fat/carb ratios are off.

8. Deprivation does just as much damage psychologically as is does physiologically. Feelings of deprivation can lead to emotional tendencies to over compensate in other areas. One classic example is people who reduce caloric intake but drink more caffeine or more artificially sweetened foods or beverages. It also leads to self image problems.

7. Caloric deprivation leads to cravings for the foods we should be eating the least of, namely sugary or starchy foods.  If your body and brain are used to burning sugar for fuel and you are eating less of it, you will crave more.  We need to train our bodies to burn fat, not sugar.

6. Low calorie diets work until they don’t work. You either have to continue to reduce calories as you plateau or the weight loss stops. Your body will actually require less calories as you lose weight thus forcing you to further reduce calories just to keep it off!  The minute you return to a more appropriate and sustainable calorie level you will gain weight back.  This is obviously not something you can sustain for life. How can caloric restriction work for life without sacrificing energy levels, blood sugar and hormone balance, muscle tone, and immune function?

5. Some of the poorest people in our country are the most likely to be obese and suffer from type 2 diabetes. Does it seem at all logical that poor people eat more than those who are not poor? I argue it is more likely what they are eating rather than how much they are eating that is causing the higher rates of obesity.

4. Gaining weight is a problem with over-storage, not over-eating. How else do you explain why 2 separate people can eat the same amount of calories, yet one gains weight, and one doesn’t? The only explanation is that one person is storing the excess calories the other is not. The answer isn’t eating less, it is storing less. This is a metabolic phenomenon beyond this little post, but basically, many people need to eat different food in order to not store fat, not less food.

3. The Calories Out side of this is interesting. When we increase our energy expenditure through physical activity, our appetite tends to increase. But if we increase our calories because we are hungrier then how does the weight loss happen? Hmmmm interesting…. Perhaps exercise provides other benefits that lead to weight loss, not just calorie burning. Benefits like, increased oxygen to the brain, more muscle mass, stress reduction, an endorphin rush, lower blood pressure etc.  All of these impact whether we store fat and what foods we crave .  Exercise is important to our health but it is not just for the sake of the Calories In/Calories Out paradigm.

2. When you eat the right foods that burn slowly and provide long lasting energy, you do not need to count calories.  You will naturally only eat as much as you need to and will be more likely to only eat when you are hungry. Treating all calories the same with little regard for anything other than calories and fat, leads to faster energy burning and requires more frequent meals and even more exercise to keep weight off.

1. And Number One…..You are always hungry! You always think about food because your body and your brain want more of it! You need more food to maintain energy balance.

Looks folks, get off the dang hamster wheel! We do not need nearly the amount of carbohydrates the USDA indicates. The latest USDA pyramid recommends 6-11 servings of starch a day!  You have got to be kidding me! No wonder there seems to be little room for anything else. Contrast that to other sources of carbohydrates like fruits and vegetables. The recommendations for those are 2-4 for fruit and 3-4 for vegetables. This is completely crazy! Starches have little to no bio-available nutrients. We do not need it, we eat too much of it, making little room for the foods that provide real energy and real nutrients.

This is where the Paleo/Primal lifestyle provides the fix. If you stick with proteins, good natural sources of fat (and plenty of it), vegetables, some fruit, nuts and seeds, you will rarely be all that hungry. You will have more energy than you’ll know what to do with and will actually want to exercise because you have energy to spare. You will lose unwanted weight and keep it off effortlessly. You will have better skin. You will get sick less often. You will feel less stressed out and anxious. You may find your allergies are gone, like I did. You may find you are in a better overall mood. You may find your sex drive increases. The list of positives goes on and on. The negative is only one. It is not convenient at first. YOU MUST DO IT ON PURPOSE.  There is a bit of a learning curve to figure out how to incorporate this Paleo lifestyle into your modern world.

Just because something is edible, doesn’t make it food. It certainly doesn’t mean you should eat it, let alone eat 6-11 servings of it! Don’t worry about the calories, worry about the nutrients. Let’s get you to that slow burn baby! The calories over all will take care of themselves. For more details about this concept please look to Dr. Gary Taubes. He has written 2 great books. Why We Get Fat and Good Calories/Bad Calories. 

Until Next Time,

Laura, Mom Gone Paleo

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