To get the skinny on weight loss we first need to discuss what calories are and how relevant they are to a weight loss program.  In short, a calorie is a unit of energy; scientifically measured as the amount of energy in a food that can raise the temperature of one gram of water by one degree.  In studying animals in the wild who have a fixed diet of few foods, calculating daily caloric intake is a useful measurement to determine if that animal is obtaining an adequate amount of nutrition.  This concept becomes worthless when applied to the modern human diet as food scientists have engineered all sorts of food-like substances that are calorie rich but lack nutrition – something mother nature never intended.

Nutrients are the building blocks of your body and nutrients are what your body is looking for when it gives you a legitimate craving for certain foods.  I say legitimate because most of us have lost touch with what a true craving is.  What is an attempt by our body to communicate a nutrient need has been warped by industrial foods to satisfy a drug-like need for satiation.  Addictions to processed carbs, sugar, and alcohol (which are all the same addiction with different delivery methods) are the most tortured form of this ancient feedback mechanism gone haywire.  The abundance and overconsumption of sugary foods send us on a physical and emotional roller coaster of cravings as our blood sugar spikes and crashes. On the contrary, if you need an example of a legitimate craving for nutrients, just talk to a healthy pregnant women in her second or third trimester.

Nutrients underly our feelings of hunger and satiety.  Eating a meal of empty calories will leave you malnourished, in response to which your brain signals your stomach to try again and eat soon because your body hasn’t gotten the nutrients it needs to keep the boat afloat.  Meanwhile, you keep filling your stomach while the rest of your body starves.  It is not a contradiction then to speak of obesity as a condition not of excess but of lack.

Calories then are an imprecise means to measure the healthiness of a diet, and having a healthy diet (not weight loss) should be the real reason why you eat better.  If you eat to create and sustain health, weight loss is a side effect of your good habits and consciousness around food.  If you don’t concede to this point, you will be very vulnerable to fad diets that will strip pounds at the expense of your health.  Anyone who developed a sluggish metabolism courtesy of a yo-yo diet knows exactly the damage you can do to your body via the starvation response triggered by calorie restriction.

It is for these reasons (and a few more which we will get into in future posts) that calorie counting is an incomplete tool for achieving weight loss.  Counting calories is not nearly as effective a strategy as being cognizant of supplying your body with the nutrients it needs to feel full, satisfied, and nourished at the same time.  When all is said and done you should have a good background in the concepts that will help you achieve optimal health without expensive diet programs or gym memberships.  Cheap weight loss is all about being empowered with an understanding of how your body works so that you will be able to make the best choices that cost nothing to implement.  The next post on weight loss will dive deeper into the concept of nutrient density, advise the reader on which foods fall into this category, and explain how they encourage weight loss. Until then, keep your paws out of the cookie jar.  Thanks for reading.

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