Stop Counting Calories

I will say it again for the people in the back, STOP COUNTING CALORIES. Relying on calorie counts may actually be why you are gaining weight. Because calorie counts are inaccurate and the 2,000 calorie per day diet that you’ve been told to live by your whole life is a lie. I didn’t even know this when I first started paying more attention to what I ate. I was slightly focusing on calories to make sure I was in a “calorie deficit” because everything you read tells you, you will not lose weight unless you are in a calorie deficit.

But, how do you know you’re in a calorie deficit when everything you’ve been taught about calories and everything you use to track calories is a lie?

The first time I heard of calories being a scam was my favorite show “Adam Ruins Everything.” (highly recommend everyone watch this show) Adam starts by explaining why the 2,000 calorie a day diet is a broad generalization that doesn’t take in to account loads of individual factors and the different ranges of calorie intake for men vs women vs children. He cites an excerpt from Marion Nestle’s book “Food Politics” in The Atlantic that briefly looks into why the FDA chose the random number of 2,000 for everyone. In summary Marion explains that it’s too difficult to know and track how many calories an individual needs in a day, you will know you’re overeating if you’re gaining weight.

If you aren’t already totally disappointed that the amount of calories you’re supposed to eat in a day was a lie, just wait there’s more. The show then goes on to cite articles explaining that the calorie counts on nutrition labels and the calorie counts you see at restaurants are highly inaccurate. And, they are allowed to be. The first article the show sites is a New York Times article about how calories are measured and how this can cause the calorie counts to overestimate the amount of energy provided to the body from foods high in fiber or protein, or nuts. So, for someone like me who eats a lot of these foods I could be hundreds of calories off if I was tracking them throughout my day. The most interesting line though in the whole articles has to be, “The Food and Drug Administration is responsible for the calorie labeling on most foods, but the task of making the actual calculation is delegated to the manufacturers, Theresa Eisenman, an agency spokeswoman, said. The companies are responsible for the accuracy of the estimates.” The basis of what we have been told to think about when choosing what we eat and deciding what is healthy relies on massive corporations telling the truth about how many calories are in their products…just let that sink in.

It isn’t just calories that are allowed to be inaccurate. The US News & World Report article cited in the show explains that nutrients are allowed a margin of error of up to 20% for the stated values vs the actual values of nutrients. And, that includes carb counts, which can negatively affect diabetics tracking carbs and sugars. The show also cites an article from Motherboard following three people trying to lose weight and why calorie counts being inaccurate, but also the basis for weight loss, is making hindering their ability to lose weight.

I won’t go into much here because this has already become lengthy, but the show also goes into why your calorie counters and fitness trackers (looking at you FitBit) are wildly inaccurate. (you can read about that here and here for all of you still trying to get your arbitrary number of steps in). The episode also starts out talking about fats (my favorite subject), but we will dive into that more next week.

In this post I have really just used the information I got from the show, but this information isn’t hard to find. It’s all over the internet. This is why I stress so much that everything is about how you feel. Our entire way of thinking about how we eat and what is healthy has been dictated by the major corporations producing the food. In this new wave of body positivity and wellness, we need to take back nutrition from major corporations and remember how individual it is. You are not going to need the same fuel as another person and your vision of health is not going to be the same as another person, so your nutrition should not be the same as another person. Focus on what makes you feel good, that is your health.


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