One of the most dangerous lies of mainstream weight-loss advice is the notion that a calorie is a calorie, and if the number of calories you consume is fewer than the number you burn, you will lose weight.
Many struggle with their weight, even as they follow this advice. They count calories and exercise, yet the numbers on the scale never budge. Or even worse: the numbers grow higher.
The laws of physics correctly say that if you burn more calories than you consume you will eventually lose weight. This is a scientific fact, but hidden in this fact is your metabolic rate is not a static number and the food you eat as well as other factors can cause your metabolism to fluctuate throughout the day and over longer periods of time.
These and other factors make accurately determining your calories burned very difficult.
When combined with overly optimistic and often incorrect calories consumed as well as thyroid and hormone issues, it easy to see why so many people calculate calories needed to lose weight wrongly.
Fat Storage is a Complex Metabolic Process
The idea that you will successfully lose weight if you eat less and exercise more is continually disproved but is still often repeated as truth.
Fat storage–how much is stored, where it is stored, and how much is used as fuel for the body–is determined by the actions of a variety of enzymes and hormones. How your body processes the nutrients that become fat is based on genetics and the foods you choose.
You can see evidence of this fact in the people around you: A pregnant woman’s hips and thighs increase in size, even if she’s usually slender. One person is thin and struggles to gain weight, while another person is overweight in spite of hours in the gym and skipped meals.
The foods you eat, especially those that elevate blood sugar levels, have a tremendous impact on how much fat is burned and how much is stored. This is why low-carb diets are so effective. These diets eliminate the foods that spike your blood sugar and promote the release of fat-storing insulin.
The Source of Calories Matters
Does it make a difference if you take in 100 calories from a cupcake or the same amount of calories from a chicken breast? Research shows that the answer is a resounding “yes”.
All carbohydrates convert to glucose (sugar), but some are more easily digested. This means that, compared to other carbohydrates, they elevate blood sugar levels higher and for longer periods of time.
Foods like wheat and other grains, sugar, starches, and dehydrated fruits are the easiest to digest and boost your blood sugar levels sky-high. Insulin comes in to bring down those levels by storing the sugars as fatty acids in your fat cells.
Fructose, the sugar contained in table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and agave nectar, travels straight to the fat cells. It is much better at adding to body fat than either glucose or starchy foods.
In spite of its repetition by nutritionists and doctors everywhere, a low-calorie diet and physical activity do not guarantee weight loss. All calories are not created equal. Certain foods, like wheat and starches, stimulate insulin production that leads to fat storage. Sugars not only stimulate insulin but also go straight into your fat cells. Remove these foods from your diet and replace them with high-quality nutrients found in animal proteins, vegetables, and fruits for the most effective way to lose excess pounds. To get started, the next time you go grocery shopping purchase as many whole foods as possible and start reducing your purchase of processed foods.
Taubes, Gary. Good Calories, Bad Calories: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom on Diet, Weight Control, and Disease. New York: Knopf, 2007. Print.
Corbett Dooren, Jennifer. “Not All Calories Equal, Study Shows.” WSJ Health and Wellness. Wall Street Journal, 26 June 2012. Web. 3 July 2012.
Hallfrisch, J. “Metabolic Effects of Dietary Fructose.” The FASEB Journal 4.9 (1990): 2652-660. Print.
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