Obesity and the Calorie counter:
It really was not a very long ago that seeing a real life, morbidly obese person in public was not a common occurrence. Now, it’s nothing to go out to run a few errands and see multiple people that are morbidly overweight and no doubt, very sick.
While I was never an extreme case like so many people today, I was not a thin guy by any means. At 230 pounds I was fat and I almost never felt good, which I never even realized. I really wanted to change my appearance and my health though, so I did what millions of people are told to do every single day.
I counted calories. I remember being so confused at figuring out how to lose one measly pound a week and all of the math I had to do. But I learned it, and I counted those calories. Not to be one to feel lazy, I also took up running and even some weight lifting in an effort to drop a few pounds.
Does counting calories really work?
After several months of running anywhere from one to three miles a day, I weighed in at a not-so-healthy 230 pounds, just like I did when I never exercised. I also was not a gluttonous person who eats piles of food. I would say that I eat no more than most any average person who may out there is eating in a normal day.
The truth is, counting calories is one part of a much bigger picture. So, am I saying that counting calories doesn’t work? Well, it didn’t for me at all, but I do realize that many people lose weight by doing it, so clearly it works.
But what is important to me is my definition of “works”. For some weight loss or any other method to work for me, I do not want to have to spend every minute of my life being consumed with it. Who has time to spend hours and hours at a gym and even more hours counting calories? And for what? The second you go back to “regular” eating, the weight just comes back on anyway.
To me, that is the polar opposite of something that works. But like I was saying, there is a much bigger picture here. And that is this laser focus that people have on calories, calories and nothing in the universe but calories.
The magical calorie formula?
It is suggested that for a moderately active 25 year old woman to lose weight she would want to consume in the area of 2,000 calories per day in order to maintain her weight. For a 7 day period that is 14,000 calories, and therefore to lose 1 pound a week she would want to consume only 10,500 calories.
That is a pretty standard mathematical formula that you have no doubt seen somewhere before.
But where is the conversion of a calorie to some unit of health? I simply do not see anywhere in that equation where it states that there is some set number of calories that can be converted into a lower triglyceride level or reduced risk of heart disease.
You already know that losing weight in and of itself can be a great head start towards better health, but it is absolutely no guarantee of better health – only better odds. But what if those 2,000 daily calories consumed come in the form of unhealthy foods? I would be willing to bet that 2,000 calories a day in pure ice cream and soda for the same woman would lead to a wide range of health issues.
The real fact is that many people, when told that they must count calories in order to lose weight and be healthier, will only hear that sentence and nothing else. This leaves so much room for interpretation and can lead to a diet filled with added sugars and a wide range of other unhealthy ingredients.
The healthy calorie balance:
I just read the other day about a man who ate nothing but McDonalds for a month and lost weight. But what do his lipid panels look like? How long would he live if he continued to eat nothing but McDonalds for every single meal. When would he collapse in a diabetic coma and die at an early age?
I do not know the answers to these questions, but I have a hunch he would not live a full and happy life eating food like this. By focusing on calories and nothing but calories a person could eat nothing but pure junk food and possibly lose weight, although I do not think this is likely.
Would you be willing to bet your health and your life on a diet like this? If counting calories is the one and only important factor in weight loss and health, then I would love to see the conversion table that takes a Big Mac and converts it into some level of health that I can understand.
Until that time, I think a really great way, for me at least, is to focus on nutrition from the point of view of the trillions of cells in my body. When I feed them properly without any regard to a calorie or a gram of fat my body has already shown me that it will do exactly what I want.
And perhaps yours will too.