Why Calories Don’t Matter

by | Jun 14, 2017

Every so often in my practice I will come across a patient or two who are still caught up in the calories  in vs calories out fallacy. They will show me their macros and calorie expenditure on My Fitness Pal that demonstrates a severe caloric deficit and wonder why they’re not losing weight. My answer is typically ‘Because Calories Don’t Matter

“Of course they do,” you may be thinking, and while to a certain extent that remains true, you might be surprised to hear just how much you can get away with when it comes to real food.

For years we have been told to avoid fat, especially saturated fat due to its high caloric density and that these calories will work against us if we are trying to loose weight. But what if I told you that this simply wasn’t true? And that eating a diet high in healthy saturated fats and exceeding your daily caloric intake may actually be beneficial?

World famous Bio-Hacker and author of The Bulletproof Diet Dave Asprey tested this theory, he wanted to see the affects of eating more fat on his waistline. Calorie counters predicted that he would gain a pound of fat for every extra 3,500 calories he ate. And so on August 6, 2009 he stopped exercising, cut his sleep to less than 5 hours and started eating between 4,000 and 4,500 calories a day, with around 70% of his calories coming from fat. His results were surprising; he describes increased brain function, alertness, weight loss and an overall reduction in inflammation in his body. After two years of the diet he had dropped body fat and gained a few pounds of muscle, while calorie counters looked on shocked that he hadn't weighed the 600 pounds that they had predicted.

The simple fact of the matter is fat is essential to human health; it is the building block of healthy cells and hormones within our bodies that keep us fertile, warm and durable against injury, it even helps us absorb the benefits of what are called fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamins A,E,D and K.

Traditional health models and popular diets have over-stressed the importance of calorie counting in an effort to sell fad diets, meal replacement shakes and low-fat foods, but there is a reason that these methods have failed so many people and continue to make us feel foggy, tired and may have even caused us to gain weight.

While I am not endorsing a diet consisting of levels as high as 70% in saturated fat, I find Asprey’s self experiment a great example of real-life evidence that fat doesn’t make you fat.

As most of my followers are well aware, my endorsement of a Mediterranean diet is one that includes a large portion of dietary fat from healthy sources such as Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Avocado, Nuts, Seeds and Fatty Fish.
Recent studies have also found that those who track their calories will actually tend to eat more than those who focus on eating a whole foods diet. This is because a diet rich in whole, real foods achieves satiety, regulates appetite and encourages us to really feel when we’re hungry, eat and move on to the next; whereas calorie counters are more likely to restrict themselves at meal times in an effort to ‘allow room’ for a snack later on. Not to mention that most meals and snacks a part of a calorie counting diet are typically low-fat and largely devoid of essential macro and micro-nutrients required by the body and therefore make that next snack feel like a need instead of a want.

If you’re stuck in a calorie counting cycle I plead with you to take a day off, or if you’re feeling adventurous a week, and instead focus on stocking your kitchen with nutrient dense whole foods such as healthy fats, plenty of fresh vegetables, quality meats and fish and gluten-free carbohydrate alternatives if you are newly transitioning to this way of eating. Plan three main meals for each day of the week ahead and eat when you are hungry, increase or decrease your portions sizes if you’re not and try to listen to what your body is telling you, and not My Fitness Pal.

Should you need some further assistance, reach out to me here or over on Facebook or refer to my recent articles ‘My Day On A Plate’ and ‘What The Heck Should I Eat?’

And last of all, enjoy the journey - plant-based meals don’t have to be boring, in fact they can taste amazing when you have a little fun with it. So google some recipes and try creating your own delicious and nutritious meals at home; it’s time to get back into the kitchen.

Damian Kristof

Damian Kristof

Chiropractor | Naturopath | Nutritionist

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