The Myths of Calories & Weight Management

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” Though highly debatable the general premise of this well-known and oft-quoted cliché is that it is hard to break old habits and learn new ones. The same principle also applies to ideas. We have a tendency to hold onto old ideas and reject those that challenge our paradigm. Weight loss and calorie counting seem to be an old idea resistant to change for many despite new literature proving the idea to be both unscientific and ineffective. Sadly the most obese individuals are often those who staunchly hold onto the idea of calorie counting. Despite the frustration and failure, calorie-counting produces the idea of consuming more calories while attempting to lose weight is a fearful idea. How many times have we discovered when reviewing patients’ diet diaries a trend revealing that the most obese individuals are consuming the fewest calories and meals? In an era where weight management is desperately needed in order to curtail the subsequent health challenges, re-educating patients about the null relationship between calories and weight loss is vital.

Teaching patients the different and distinguishing metabolic impacts of protein fat and carbohydrate on weight management is vital in order to successfully help them let go of the old idea that calories reign in weight loss.

Protein consumption not only produces favorable outcomes for weight loss but also plays a significant role in long-term weight management. Dietary protein has been shown to produce higher levels of satiety compared to fats or carbohydrates on an equal calorie basis. This will not only curtail overeating but will curb the food cravings that may direct individuals to snack on weight-promoting carbohydrates. Additionally, proteins stimulate diet-induced thermogenesis which promotes energy utilization. Finally, protein protects the gut from microbiome imbalances which also contribute to sugar cravings and long-term weight gain.

In the past few decades fat has taken the biggest beating of any food group resulting in a misinformed population of obese individuals. The low-fat diet craze inevitably resulted in one of the largest spikes in obesity ever witnessed. The easy explanation for this phenomenon is that the fat previously found in foods was replaced by sugar in their low-fat or fat-free counterparts.

Unarguably in the weight loss arena, this has been a buzz topic of the decade leading to a trend toward low-carb Paleo-type dietary patterns. Not only is the anecdotal evidence strong among practitioners using these dietary patterns for health support but literature is verifying the success that many practitioners are witnessing.

For the obese individual who may not understand how high carbohydrate foods could promote weight gain, it is important to educate them about the low energy cost of carbohydrate metabolism (digestion absorption and storage) which often leads to a faster energy deficit and therefore an increased appetite and metabolic shifts that favor energy storage. The cycle is vicious and counterproductive for weight loss or weight management.

Patients attempting to lose weight according to the traditional recommendations for a low fat diet are more likely to consume a higher level of carbs leading to a frustrating yo-yo type weight loss journey. The enduring “old school of thought” that promotes a low-calorie low-fat diet for weight loss can only be changed through proper education in macronutrient distribution.

Source: © Designs for Health