Adrien Cotton, MASTER Menopause NOW!

The Myth Of The Calorie

Do you actually know what a “calorie” means? Do you truly know what 500 versus 750 versus 1,000 calories really means – to you – to your loved ones – to anyone?

There are many messages about food surrounding calories, timing, metabolism, and much more. I could spend hours on just this topic. The food we eat is popularly defined, either positively or harshly, in terms of its calories. I could for sure give you a list of “good” foods and “bad” foods and then you’d go to the store, tell a friend/colleague, or simply let that message sink into your soul. Because this is precisely what messages about calories do to men and women across the globe.

Nearly everything we’ve been “fed” by the media about calories so far has been a myth! Let’s look at the science behind calories and not the hype.

The term “calorie” is a measurement of energy and has been overemphasized as a mechanism for determining the overall “healthiness” (another overused term) of food for weight maintenance and management. Let’s face it, we love to count and the multitude of food and exercise companies prey on our love of counting!

The most popular calorie equation referenced today, the Harris-Benedict Formula, uses the variables of height, weight, age, and gender to calculate daily calorie requirements. This formula was developed 100 years ago and was based on a sample size of 300 people. This is hardly the sample size to measure an entire population! Furthermore, it didn’t consider the crucial role hormones, like leptin, insulin, and ghrelin play to control appetite nor how much body fat we need to store.

Here’s the skinny (pun) – For over 100 years, we have been counting calories to reach a level of satisfaction with our bodies. I used to do the same. When I was a teenager, I convinced myself that a 1,000-calorie day would lead me to fit in my jeans or head to the beach in my bikini with a group of buddies after school with confidence. When we focus solely on calorie counting, we are ignoring a host of other considerations, such as appetite, environmental factors, age, hormones, psychological factors, and the fact that food processing and absorption are different for every individual.

We are all built differently and how our bodies process calories is as well. So, I’d pause when you hear someone say, “Calories in, calories out.” It is not that simple.

Not all calories are the same. For example, are these three daily intake options going to have the same effect inside of our bodies just because they are all the same number of calories? (Of course, you know the answer.)

  • 2,000 calories of candy
  • 2,000 calories of chicken and vegetables
  • 2,000 calories of an alcoholic beverage

Calories Nutrition Facts And A Tape Measure

The options above would result in vastly different results in energy levels, satiation, quality of sleep, cravings, bloat, and so on.

The number of calories we need daily fluctuates. If we only allow ourselves a set number of calories each day, what happens when we do a heavy strength training workout, travel across time zones for work landing to lead a meeting, and need more calories for energy? What if I’ve not slept well the night before and am craving a donut? I am craving the donut because I didn’t sleep well, which causes my hunger hormone, ghrelin, to elevate. Sadly, most of us don’t crave a bowl of broccoli when we are tired.

Our bodies need calories (or energy) from food to function. Restricting our bodies of what they need can lead to overindulgence, guilt, and shame later. Inversely, when we have a pesky injury and can’t engage in as much physical movement as usual or have a long work week where much of our time is spent sitting at a desk, in meetings, or in traffic, our energy needs will be different. It is more important to LISTEN to your body and remain flexible with how you nourish it.

Dieting and solely counting calories doesn’t work. Look at the overall obesity numbers in our country. Most Americans have tried dieting and haven’t had lasting success. Why? There is a lot of literature on this topic that points to this fact: restricting calories is a stressor on the body. It increases our stress hormone cortisol and is also a psychological stressor and eventually leads to “I deserve this” eating.

It’s time to reframe our mindsets. Instead of restricting ourselves to X number of calories per day, we can shift our focus to what do we truly need that day. The day you can stop counting calories, or stop stressing about them, is the same day you will begin a refreshing and renewed relationship with food and its impact on your body. This is what happened to me!

Now that we’ve myth-busted calories, you can receive even more eye-opening food facts and tips in my weekly curated newsletter! With my exclusive tips and strategies sent right to your inbox, you will gain food freedom through the knowledge that food is fuel for life, and definitely not the enemy. Reframe your food mindset and up-level your overall wellness by joining my email community, today!

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