Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Calorie Counting vs. Calorie Conscience

My favorite guest blogger is back with a post about that one word that makes us all crazy -- calories! Without further ado, here's Matt ...


By now it’s no secret that Kellie and I eat a whole-food, plant-based diet. We’re also very conscious of not eating foods that are processed or that have added sugar. By eating this way there isn’t any need for us to count calories because the foods we eat are simply not high in calories. They are nutrient-dense, but not calorically-dense. 

As a result, we’re fond of saying that we don’t count calories. This is true. We are, however, very conscious of calories. What do I mean by that?  At the recent Democratic Convention, former President Bill Clinton used the phrase “It’s arithmetic” when discussing tax and spending. The same can be said of weight management, “It’s arithmetic!”

Simple math:
To lose 1lb., you need to expend 3500 more calories that you eat. If you wanted to lose 1 lb. every week, you’d have to consistently expend 500 calories more than you eat per day. Sounds simple, right? To accomplish this, you can either exercise so that you burn an additional 500 calories per day and not change your eating habits; or you can not exercise at all and eat 500 calories less per day than you normally would; or you can do a combination of both.

What does 500 calories look like? To burn that much in a day, you could:
  • Walk briskly for 1hr., 30 min., or
  • Walk leisurely for 2hrs., 30 min., or
  • Run for 50 minutes

The exercise plan seems like the way to go because you can eat as you previously did as long as you add daily (yet significant) exercise to your life.

The biggest challenge for most people; however, is being conscious of the calories in and out. Many “overestimate” how many calories they burn during exercise and will eat more than they burned fairly soon after exercise -- sometimes because of increased appetite or as a reward.

Consider the following calories in some of our more common go-to foods:
  • Two Dunkin Donut Donuts: 740 calories
  • Dunkin Donut Bacon, Egg & Cheese on Bagel: 520 calories
  • Dunkin Donut Chocolate Chip Muffin: 550 calories
  • Big Mac and Large Fries: 1030 calories
  • Chili’s Bacon Cheeseburger & Fries: 1330 calories
  • Panera Sierra Turkey on Focaccia Bread: 920 calories
  • Outback Alice Springs Chicken: 759 calories

And this is just an accounting of calories. We haven't even touched on sugar, fat, cholesterol, etc.

As you can see, it’s pretty easy to not just negate the positive effects of exercise, but to eat entirely more than you burned, which results in weight gain.

My point is that it takes a hell of a lot of effort and commitment to exercise, yet it’s so easy to eat something unhealthful that’s full of calories. All diets are predicated on calorie restriction to lose weight. Therefore, all diets can result in people losing weight. However, it’s proven that most people not only regain the weight they lost on fad diets, they actually gain more weight than when they started. Relying on willpower to restrict caloric intake is flawed. It’s asking A LOT to continually say NO. That’s why popular fad diets don’t work long-term.

Do you want to break out of the diet-regain-diet-regain cycle? Then you MUST change your approach to food. 

Eating a whole-food, plant-based diet is a great path forward. It’s a lifestyle change rather than a temporary diet, and by making it, you become a person who eats healthful foods -- fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans/legumes, good fats (seeds, nuts, avocado, et al) -- that optimize your health. You no longer have to test your willpower at every meal. You can’t eat overeat this way. That’s why this lifestyle is proven to help people lose weight, improve their health and reverse and prevent diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Takeaways:
  1. Exercise is important for being healthy, but it can’t be solely relied upon to lose weight.
  2. Read ingredients and nutritional information when making your food selections: look for whole-food.
  3. Consider making a lifestyle change so you’re not burdened by so many food choices each day. You’ve made your choice already! Now it’s simply a matter of making a great recipe.
  4. Remember this simple fact: You need to run 50 minutes or walk 2 hours to burn off 500 calories of food.
  5. Lean more about health and nutrition. LIKE us on Facebook.

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